The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Sun. Jun 03, 2007

PhotoDude Labs Rebooted

In September of 2000, I began posting photos online in “Pixel Pile,” a photoblog. In May of 2003, I launched PhotoDude Labs, selling archival prints online. Today, I’m “retiring” Pixel Pile after nearly seven years and over 2000 images, and “rebooting” PhotoDude Labs as my repository for newly posted images, which will be available as prints from Day One.

They’ll be appearing at the top of each page, just as they did with Pixel Pile, and when you click to view the enlargement, you’ll also have the option to buy an archival print. Overall pricing in the print store has been reduced about 25%, and each month four images will be available at even lower sale prices. Here’s four for June.

That’s probably all you really need to know. But, as always, there is more geekish detail.

As you can see from the archives page, Pixel Pile has been through a lot of changes over nearly seven years. I started using a Nikon 990 and Blogger to post the photos online, eventually moved on to Greymatter and a Canon D60, and finally Movable Type 2.x and a Canon 5D. In the approximately 2450 days since it was launched on Sept. 3, 2000, there were a total of 2051 Pixel Piles posted. Not quite an average of one per day, but close to an average of one per weekday.

Meanwhile, PhotoDude Labs was launched on May 5, 2003, and never grew beyond 91 images. Plus, both Pixel Pile and PhotoDude Labs were setup with Movable Type 2.x, and I dropped out of the MT Cycle years ago. In other words, this was a change that was long overdue. And it had to be done in my “spare” (HA!) time (the first test images were posted back in January), as I’ve had a very busy year. Clients come first, and the cobbler’s children can walk around barefoot. But, dang, baby needed some new shoes!

However, I didn’t want to simply take the existing print store and/or Pixel Pile and convert it to Textpattern. I wanted to expand my options, have a print store that grows regularly, and have newly posted images available for sale as prints from the first day they are posted.

I also wanted to break out of the self-imposed restraints that had kept me from posting anything other than a horizontal image of limited proportions. I wanted to be able to add a vertical or square image just as easily as a horizontal. Another self-imposed constraint was posting sets of three new images at a time. That may still happen when it is appropriate, but one new image at a time will be the most likely scenario. I tend to put a lot of images on my flickr page (1,312 since Nov., 2005) that won’t necessarily be added to PhotoDude Labs. However, I have added the capability to put images in PhotoDude Labs and have them “not for sale,” for example, photos at the Georgia Aquarium, from which I am not legally allowed to profit.

And I wanted the option to be able to sample colors from the image to use as the background color and border/text color on the page (inspiration: Noah). I only did it about 30-40% of the time with these first 171 images, as the more neutral colors work better sometimes. But when there’s an image where it is appropriate, I wanted the option (it’s merely two Textpattern custom fields, background color and border color, plus the use of the plug-in chh_if_data to check and see if the fields have a hex number, plus the Firefox Add-on ColorZilla to select colors from the online image).

I also was inclined to abandon “dated based” posting. By default, most blog tools tie you to a timeline of posts. Sure, you can add categories or tags, but the core archives are dated based, often right down to the permanent link structure. While that makes some sense in a text-based blog, images do not tie well by date, they tie better by type.

So in the new PhotoDude Labs, when you go to the section “Nature” and click on an enlarged view, you will find “previous and next” navigation (with nifty pop-up thumbnails), but it is the previous or next image in the “Nature” section, not in the timeline of all images. If you go to a category page like “Trees,” the oldest image posted is first, not last. That’s because I started by populating the new store with the images from the old store … they are the cream of the crop. They appear first, with newer images falling in line behind them.

There’s also no traditional archives page, with all images listed in the order they were posted. There are section pages, and category pages, because that’s how people will look for images they want to browse. No one comes to your site saying “I only want to see images shot in March.” And if you do, try the category “Spring.”

You can also once again leave comments on images (I had to turn that off in MT back during the big spam scare). Currently all 171 images are open for comments, but come the end of June I’ll revert to having comments open for six weeks after an image is posted.

While Textpattern provided a great foundation for what I wanted to do, this new version of the store simply would not have been possible without the fine plug-ins asy_wondertag, chh_if_data, and rss_unlimited_categories. As well as some <txp:php> voodoo to pull out attributes not available in the core tags (like showing an article image thumbnail as the “previous/next” link). Many thanks to all those authors.

Even so, it took a long time to work out the functionality the way I desired, especially since it was a “spare time” project. I spent half of January and all of February and March figuring out that functionality, building templates and forms. By mid-April, I was adding images in earnest. I started by adding the 91 images from the old store, and then culled out another 80 Pixel Piles shot between January, 2003 and today. It took a while, with some tweaks along the way as content built up, but Saturday night I finally “caught up” by adding the latest Pixel Piles.

Then at the last second I decided to switch over to all serif fonts, something I’ve been reluctant to do on predominantly text sites. But on a photo site, why not?

As I said, it took a long time to get done, and it was long overdue. But hopefully built to last. And grow.

Peanut Gallery

1  Lady Niniane wrote:

It looks nice.

“I decided to switch over to all serif fonts”

Just as long as you leave it on the photo portion. We’ve already had that discussion about massive amounts of text and serif fonts.

2  Reid wrote:

“We’ve already had that discussion about massive amounts of text and serif fonts”

Yes, and I agree. In this case, I realized it was already 60% serifs, since I was using them in the navigation, so at the last minute I just removed all remaining uses of Trebuchet … and decided to let it fly.

3  rturner wrote:

It looks pretty damned nice, and I like the appearance of the thumbnail when you mouse-over >> (next) and << (previous). And no, I’m not here looking at pic-shurs instead of mowing the lawn at 6:30 on Sunday.

4  emcee fleshy wrote:

At first glance, my favorite new item – the word balloon coming from your photo.

Personalizes the place a bit more.

5  Reid wrote:

Richard: “And no, I’m not here looking at pic-shurs instead of mowing the lawn at 6:30 on Sunday”

It’s just gonna die, anyway. Unless you’re one of those water hoarders. And then your neighbors are gonna turn you in.

So go look at pictures.

Sir Fleshy: “the word balloon coming from your photo”

I’m just trying to find a demi-constructive use for twitter. I decided it was just another medium of expression, and therefore needed to be incorporated here so it could be inflicted on others.

We’re here to serve. Most anything, apparently.

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