Chatbooks review

There is a lot of lament in some circles about the age of digital photography relegating nearly all photos to hard drives and only screen viewing rather than actual prints. While the argument can be made that more photos are shared now than ever before, there is something to be said about the print as a physical object that no amount of screen viewing can replicate. Working with prints is also a great way to evaluate and edit your work.

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There are times though that individual prints can be a bit of a burden when your objective is to share them and not to cover your walls. We no longer need to assemble all our prints and insert them into photo albums with stripes of adhesive and then cover them with cellophane sheets. Printing on demand has changed all of that. There are many, many services for printing your photos in book form. Most are relatively inexpensive so I’d suggest trying a few to find what you like. Today I’ll review a service called Chatbooks which puts your photos into 6i x 6i book form.

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I decided to try them to create a compilation of the photos in my Familiar Strangers show. Chatbooks is first designed as a way to get your Facebook or Instagram photos into book form. Their entire app interface goal is to make this as easy as possible directly from your phone. You can also access them through a web interface which gives you somewhat more control over the images, text and layout.

Learning from a friend who had tried this service already, I went directly to their web interface to begin the book creation. Uploading images was straightforward. I wanted to have a text page opposite each photo and achieving that layout was a bit tedious. It was also not obvious how to turn off the on by default page numbering, photo date and caption options. Once I figured that out, I rearranged to the order I wanted and added the text on the opposite page (Location/Date).

Chatbooks does not offer an option to adjust font or size. If you add a text page, it will center the words (horizontally and vertically) on the page.  If you use captions, it will vary the font size to fit your words into up to three rows below your photo. This make sense in theory but if you have varied amount of words, you can end up with facing pages that have three lines of text in different font sizes. I was going for a fairly minimalist layout so I turned off the date and page numbering options and did not add any captions.

It took me a bit more than 45 minutes to upload the photos and finish the layout that I wanted. From there I previewed the final form and once satisfied, finished the order and uploaded the design to Chatbooks for printing. I chose the cheapest/slowest shipping method and 7-10 days later, my book arrived in the mail. I did get an email confirmation after uploading, a thank you email from the founder and his family, and an email again when it shipped. The tracking number provided upon shipment did not work for me.

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The finished book was a total of $14 ($12 + $2 shipping) and for that price, I am quite satisfied. The cover has a very nice, almost velvet feel. The printing is good for the money and the book looks just as I had hoped when designing it. The black and white images I used had just a slight color tint to them which is common in print on demand services. If you are using color photos you should not have this problem at all and the color examples I have seen look quite nice.

Pro’s: Inexpensive (starting at $8 + shipping), good print quality, encourages getting digital images into physical form, great for gifts

Con’s: Layout design is not intuitive, limited layout options, black and white images have slight color tint

Collaborating with Chance and the Essence of Street Photography

I subscribe to more podcasts than I can keep up with. This past week I’ve been working on catching up on some from B&H Photography. One episode that I thoroughly enjoyed is this conversation with Amy Touchette and Gus Powell.

Collaborating with Chance and the Essence of Street Photography

“I’m trying to say yes to something” is how Gus described each press of the shutter when shooting on the street. This is such a wonderful way to explain my favorite part of the process.  Amy shared a great statement from Diane Arbus who talks about photography as”being a condition of being on the brink of conversion to anything.”The combination of both, trying to say yes while being open to whatever you may encounter is so crucial to success as a street photographer. We do not and cannot know what is going to happen but we have to be open and willing to see, engage, and embrace what we are given.

These ideas combined with the patience to let things come to you are so important to finding success on the street. Whenever I have gone out looking for a particular photograph I am nearly always frustrated and disappointed. Choosing to enjoy the experience and knowing that getting is all about giving has helped me see and accept what happens. I can’t make things happen. It is my job to release enough to be able to see and then I can make my photos.

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Familiar Strangers opening reception

The opening reception for my Familiar Strangers show at Studio 224 was last Friday. There was an excellent turnout and it was a great night. The Shepherd Express in Milwaukee also had a nice preview of the show in their issue last week (below). A big thank you to Jane Suddendorf, Director of Gallery 224 and Studio 224, for her efforts to help artists and their work to flourish in Port Washington. Thank you as well to Martin Morante, Studio Director, for his interest in showing my work, his feedback and guidance through the editing process, and his hard working getting the prints on the walls. I appreciate all the friends and family that made it out and the new faces too. If you couldn’t make it, the show will be up until early January and Studio 224 is open every Saturday, 9am-1pm. Let me know if you’re stopping in and I’ll make sure I’m there. Directions here.

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Familiar Strangers

I’m thrilled to soon have a selection my street photography displayed at Studio 224. The exhibition Familiar Strangers will be up from October 28, 2016 to January 7, 2017 with an opening reception from 5-7pm on October 28th.

The studios are typically open every Saturday, 9am-1pm. Beyond that, if the sign is out, stop in for a visit.
211 N. Franklin Street (north alley entrance, below Daily Baking Company)
Port Washington, Wisconsin 53074

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