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I'm a self-confessed technophobe! I'm more of a tactile person; I like things I can touch or make with my hands. Perhaps this is why I stick to the old-school process of shooting with film. Recently, I'd been getting so many requests for my photography website and, well, I'd always been too intimidated with the likes of the web—and unnerved by HTML—to make one. Enter liveBooks!
I was approached by liveBooks to try out their service—promising that I'd end up with a super glossy and fabulous website. I could not resist this challenge. At least I felt it would be a challenge, being fully aware of my lack of knowledge of all things web-based. I was very, very wrong—liveBooks is extremely user-friendly. In less than a few days, I had a fully functional, beautifully designed online portfolio.
First, who and what is liveBooks? liveBooks is a company founded by Michael Costuros, Tibi Craciun, Andy Patrick and Matt Bailey—artists themselves—to help photographers and videographers showcase their work. liveBooks is not only a full-service design company that can create custom-designed sites tailored to your needs, but also offers stylish and sleek templates so you can create your own site. Their custom-designed websites can be seen throughout the photographic industry by clients such as Brett Weston, Richard Avedon, National Geographic, Jim Fiscus, Doug Menuez, Chase Jarvis, Magnum Photos, VII Photo, Art Wolfe, Vincent LaForet, Harry Benson and many more. Custom Design gives the client greater flexibility and control over the design and workings of the site. Take a look at some of liveBooks' custom-designed sites here.
The affordable, pre-designed templates can also be customized, for small fees. Whether it be a logo placement change, a font color, adding a page or slideshow, or even a complete redesign, liveBooks is able to work with you in creating the website of your dreams. It's great to know that as your business grows and changes, liveBooks is there to help your site expand and evolve. In my experience, I found building the site to be simple, but made even simpler with the help of their premier customer support. liveBooks offers online live chat support, as well as email support.
liveBooks builds the websites and templates using a hybrid of HTML and Flash. The aesthetic of the site is controlled by you, and your work. There is a nice flow to the site with the way the slideshows and menus work. Most are simplistic, yet extremely slick and effective. liveBooks offers a 14-day free trial. After the free trial, there is a monthly fee (or you can opt to pay in larger, less frequent increments) which includes web hosting fees, and their ongoing customer service. Once you sign up for the template of your choice, and start to work within the Edit Suite (a very nicely laid out editing program), it all becomes very clear and simple to use.
I was eager to get started, and I chose the Industrial template. I had already built a mockup in Photoshop of how I wanted my site to look, and with a tiny bit of design tweaking, Industrial was—aesthetically—a good match. A sleek, clean look, with a nice slideshow landing page. Once I chose my layout, with the help of liveBooks' design team, I was able to move my type and change my font color. (These are custom additions, as I mentioned earlier.) The liveBooks design team was fast. They completed my request in a matter of hours, based on the design and layout I submitted to them, matching my specific color requests.
I was thrilled and inspired to see my front page, and eagerly began to build my site. As I mentioned, using the liveBooks Edit Suite is very user-friendly. I familiarized myself with the suite, noting all the cool things one could do and change. You can even handpick or customize the loading bar, or the way your menus pop up. It's pretty cool.
As a photographer, I really wanted my work to be the main focus of the site, so I opted for clean, simple lines. You can add music of your choice, even a different track for each portfolio. I decided on an original piece of music, and looped it throughout the site. I like the fact that as my work evolves, I can change the music if and when I feel like it.
Once you are in the Edit Suite, the first task is to start uploading your photos. It's simple to do, and liveBooks makes it easier by resizing them for you. Hooray! That saved me hours of work. Once you've uploaded your first batch of images, you can move them into libraries. You can name these libraries, as most folders are nameable. Then, you move into your Lightbox. The Lightbox is where you build your portfolios which are featured on the site. You can arrange them by merely dragging and dropping. Simple! Within just minutes my first portfolio was done.
Once you've built your portfolios, there are other important pages to work on. You may add additional info, such as awards or exhibits, an artist biography, or a contact page. All is fully customizable, or you can choose to upload a designed page. I chose to upload a jpeg image of my pages, as I had a specific layout I wanted. But liveBooks has an easy setup where you can simply add text and a picture of your choice. Other noteworthy benefits of a liveBooks site include client access and iPhone/iPad compatibility. You may add private password-protected portfolios and presentation areas for client access—a very useful option—and you can easily optimize your site for the iPhone/iPad, with the Edit Suite.
Recently, liveBooks teamed up with Vimeo by enabling users to integrate video pages into their sites. If you know that you'll want to add videos, then choose a template that is video-ready. (You will see this in the menu of templates.) You may decide to have one large video, filling the page like your photographs, or you can add several videos on the page. I chose the multi-video page, because I would like to add more over time. It's very easy to link your Vimeo images to your website; simply add the Vimeo album link, and there you go! You can also customize the layout of the video page.
Once your website is built and tailored to your needs, it's simple to contact liveBooks support and request the site to go live. Within a short amount of time, the site is live and ready to be viewed by all. Yet another great feature provided by liveBooks is search engine optimization, where it's simple to add your URL to be actively found through Google, Yahoo and Bing. All image titles, portfolio names, and keywords are searchable. Link your site with Google Analytics, and you will be able to see where your visitors are coming from and how they found you.
I would recommend liveBooks highly to any photographer or videographer looking to market themselves on the web. It's a great, user-friendly service, with fantastic customer support and value.
Check out my liveBooks website at www.saralouisepetty.com