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UX For #togs – Shortcuts and Consistency

Friday, December 20th, 2013

The brain is truly amazing. At any given second, it receives millions of signal inputs with the current research suggesting an approximation of 40,000,000[i]. Impressive, eh?

 Dealing with such a massive amount of information at once, the brain has a couple of tricks to deal with that volume. One such method is the utilization of shortcuts, or rules. These shortcuts are established based on your own experiences. Thus giving additional credence to the notion that experience can make you wiser.

 Shortcuts are efficient because it denotes which signal inputs can be handled by your subconscious, or hidden brain, and which ones require cognitive processing cycles found in your conscious brain.

 It is important to note that the terms conscious and subconscious portions of the brain are used for illustrative purposes. The dichotomy (or trichotomy) of thought patterns is also referred to in the literature as System 1 and System 2[ii] [iii], Active and Hidden[iv], New Brain/Middle Brain/Old Brain.[v]

 Shortcuts tend to be funneled through the subconscious brain because shortcuts are rarely questions and so they do not require much (if any) thought. Although we know

Tips To Make Your Fireworks Photos Stand Out

Monday, July 1st, 2013

The grill is hot. The burgers are sizzling. The brats are almost done. The kids are having a watermelon seed fight. It’s time for the Fourth of July. 

If you are like me, this time of year means getting ready to cover one (or more) fireworks shows during the holiday. This article will take you through the technique I use, tips on finding the best location, and advice on execution for making wonderful fireworks photographs. 

Photography Is A Toolbox

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Every photographer seeks to improve along their journey. For most, they hope that this improvement is closer to what can only be described as instant gratification. Although improvement paths are unique to the individual, some are of the opinion that a new camera body, a new lens, or a new piece of software will result in this immediate improvement. At a recent gallery opening, I overheard someone say, “I really want to improve my photography but I can’t afford the 5D Mark III.” 

 Pure hogwash. 

UX For #togs – Believe What They Do. Not What They Say

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Ever been in this situation? You ask someone a question. They answer. Yet, something about their body language leads you to suspect something is, well… off. The fact is that is it much easier for a person to provide you with an answer they think you will want to hear than to hide their body language.

This is not to suggest that people lie. Rather, it highlights the differential in what someone speaks and what someone’s body language indicates. One is more telling than the other.

Holiday Wish Lists and Recommendations from Great Photographers

Monday, December 10th, 2012


This time of year, all photographers have a wish list for the holidays.  From worldwide famous shooters, to our wonderful vendors, to our local pals, we bring you great photographers’ picks for this Holiday Season.  You’re sure to get some great gift ideas here!

Thanks to all of our participating photographers, and here we go…






Chris Dodds

Hailing from Canada, Chris Dodds is an inaugural member of the elite Canon Northern Explorer of Light and X-Rite Coloratti initiatives. He is a full-time freelance nature and wildlife photographer, nature photography workshop & safari leader/instructor, photography educator, blogger, and lecturer.  Check out Chris’ popular blog at , his workshops at and his stunning portfolio at

  1. Cotton Carrier System for Two Cameras.  This has got to be one of the most useful photo accessories that I own – and it’s a Canadian Company, eh!
  2. Jobu Jr. 3 Gimbal Head. I love mine so much, I bring it everywhere that I go! (and it’s made in Canada as well).
  3. X-Rite i1 Display Pro. Well, for all the money that so many spend on their photographic equipment and computers, this is to make sure they all see the world the way it is supposed to be seen; in a color managed environment where prints match the computer screen.
  4. LensAlign MkII Focus Calibration System. There are so many people that should invest a small amount to ensure RAZOR sharp images from all of their lens and camera combinations – this might still be my biggest secret to consistently creating tack sharp imagery.
  5. Eckla Multi Rolly Gear Cart. The one thing I would really like to have under my tree!


UX for #togs – Why Labels Matter

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Remember the first time you jumped off the diving board? One of those pivotal moments where you overcame your angst and (finally) dove into the cool water of the unknown.


In preparation for this seemingly seminal moment, you likely watched others use the diving board, listened to them recount their experience, and, most likely, asked questions of those who used the board. All of this in attempts to better predict what your own experience would be like.

Humans are very inquisitive. Even more so when faced with an unfamiliar situation. Observing, listening, and asking questions enable us to formulate an expectation of what will happen. This baseline expectation plays a large role in what eventually compels us to act. In this case, jumping  off the diving board for the first time.

The same behavior is exhibited in how people use the web. Although surfing the web may play a less pivotal role in your life, people still look to establish an expectation with regard to an action. In this context, one of the most common examples is clicking on a link and/or button.

In terms of how we interact with computers, people look for hints and cues that aid in the development of an expectation based on an action. Most commonly, this is in the text we see in the link and/or button. We commonly refer to this text as a label.

UX For #togs: Mental Models – Push or Pull?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

HNewImageave you ever been in the situation where you go to pull open a door only to find that you should have pushed? What made you think you could have opened the door one-way when, in actuality, it was the opposite? Was it your fault?

Every day, we interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of object. Based on that experience, our minds establish an expectation of how similar objects should work in the future.

When we begin to play with a new object, we rely on these experiences and expectations to aid us in discovering how this new object should work.

In essence, this is the concept of a mental model.

UX For #togs – The Conundrum of Choice

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Note: This is the second post in a series about User Experience for photographers by Ted Stark. You can see the first article here.

In life, people are barraged with choices. Ask any person, how many choices they want and they will say “a lot” (or some derivative of that). Physiology tells us that people equate choices with control. Choices are not always sensible. And control (or the illusion there of) is fleeting.

This is not a new concept. Applied to websites, users have tons of options (or choices). Everything from how many items are in a menu, to seeing a year’s worth of blog posts in an archive. On most photography websites, there are ample choices in terms of photographs on display in a portfolio or for sale.

But, there’s a limit to the effectiveness of “a lot” of choices.

How people decide is a topic that many researchers delve into. During their graduate studies at Stanford, Sheena Iyengar and a colleague posed as store employees manning a booth where they offered samples of fruit jam. Half of the time, store customers were presented with six choices of jam and the other half were presented with twenty-four. This study is now known as the “jam” study.

Iyengar and her colleague wanted to know how likely people were to sample based on the number of jam choices available. Additionally, they were curious if there was a correlation between number of jam choices and a customer’s decision to purchase one of the sampled jams from the booth.

With twenty-four choices, sixty percent of passersby stopped and sampled. Only forty percent of passersby stopped when only six choices were available. Probably not surprising, right?

When Iyengar and her colleague looked at how many people actually purchased jam based on the

UX For #togs – Your Site Is For Your Customers, Not You

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

UX For #togs - Your Site Is For Your Customers. Not You.

Hello there OPG folks! This article is the first in a series called UX for #togs. What is UX? Well, it stands for User Experience. UX focuses on research and the design of easy to use software (or websites). Aside from my photography, I also work as a User Experience Engineer. My love for UX and photography is what lead to this series.

Many photographers either currently have a website, are thinking of/or are designing a website, or have some sort of web presence. The question becomes, who are you creating (and designing) this web presence for?

Here’s a hint, it’s not for you…

In UX, we focus on user-centered design. At a high level, the needs and wants of the end user are at the root of every decision made when creating a user interface (in this case, a website). User-centered design approaches apply to elements such as the labels for your menus, your color scheme, typography, and task flows (for example, purchasing a print).

To have your users at the heart of your decisions, you must really get to know your users. Although helpful, this extends far beyond a target demographic. You must watch people interact with your design (and then your website). This will help you identify issues.

You would be amazed at the information you can get. Recruit about 5 clients (not photographers), have them meet you at a coffee shop (one on one), buy them a cup o’ joe, and watch them use your website. It is helpful to give your users a task (filling out a