Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Carroll County 4H & FFA Fair

We just launched the Carroll County 4H & FFA Fair website sometime between last night and this morning. Their site features lots of photographs displaying the many happenings at the fair. Their fair manager and a select group of hard-working volunteers have access to update and edit the Calendars, Documents listing and Announcements. Check it out, attend the fair, and support agriculture!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Google Analytics

If you don't know about Google Analytics yet and you have a business or blog, well TISK TISK on you. Just joking - but really, if you don't know, you need to look into it. InfoPathways, can of course help you set it up if it's not something you want to tackle. But it's fairly simple and Google Analytics is a free service!

Here is an excerpt from the Google Analytics webpage:
"Google Analytics is the enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Powerful, flexible and easy-to-use features now let you see and analyze your traffic data in an entirely new way. With Google Analytics, you're more prepared to write better-targeted ads, strengthen your marketing initiatives and create higher converting websites."

Today we finally added Google Analytics to our Blog! It's is also very easy to do. Click to customize your blog and you can go to the html code view and you just paste the Google Analytics code (which they generate) between < /body > the < /html > and tags.

Try it and email us if you need help. kelly@infopathways.com

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Photography Tips - Taking the Shot to Digital Enhancement with Photoshop & Other Image Editing Softwares

Using poorly shot photography within your web and print layouts may be worse that no photo imagery. Interesting images and design is what will hook your audience initially. You have to hook a viewer (with good views) before you can expect to hook them as a reader. If you want visitors to read your content, they have to like the look.

This paper is for those who are not professional photographers but who wish to take their own photos or use photos from their current collection. These tips will help you enhance and optimize your photographic imagery.

TAKING THE SHOT

Lighting is the most important part of your photo shoot. If your shots are located outside, morning and late afternoon/evening light is best. Harsh, noon sunlight is very difficult to work with, as well as spotted sunlight (under trees, for example). However, noon on an overcast day, produces soft and diffused lighting which is very nice to work with. If you are working indoors, overhead light is best - remember that if you are using artificial light, you want to try and manipulate it to act as the sun would.

Remove the clutter because less is more. Your subjects are the most important part of your photos, so do not distract the viewer with clutter and poorly planned sets. If unrelated items in the foreground or background do not enhance the shot, find a way to avoid or hide them.

EDITING YOUR PHOTOS

When hosting a photo shoot, you usually take multiple shots of each composition. You want to capture various angles, looks and emotions. This means you have a lot of photos to go through. This process is called editing. Editing is selecting the final photos that you want to use. This is often confused with retouching or enhancing, the next stage.

RETOUCHING & ENHANCING PHOTOGRAPHS

Before delving in, remember that the better your photo is to begin with, the more you will get out of it. Put effort into creating a well shot photograph and do not rely on photo editing programs to fix your mistakes. Photo editing programs like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Paint.NET are great for adding an extra kick to your images. Here are some features you should know about:

Levels (right) adjusts your exposure. This chart is commonly called a histogram. It allows you to read your image’s exposure. Your exposure should have a little pure black and a little pure white, which is indicated by the Input Levels touching the left and right sides of the histogram. There are two ways to adjust the Levels. First, slide the pointers/arrows along the histogram. Second, select one of the three eye droppers on the bottom right corner and click within your image; the grey eye dropper works like a digital grey card - select an area in your image that should be pure grey with no hue and your image will color balance! It’s really cool; play with it as well as the black and white droppers (which will make the selected area pure black or pure white and you will get all sorts of dramatic results.

Color Balance (right) adjusts your overall hue to look natural. The human eye automatically adjusts for hue changes when moving into different lighting like tungsten, fluorescent, candle-light and sunlight, but the camera can’t. If you find the Levels Grey Eyedropper (discussed in Levels) difficult to use, this is an alternative. Use the sliders to adjust an image’s hue. If it is too cyan, move the Cyan-Red slider towards Red to level out the hue. You can also pinpoint areas of your image by selecting Shadows, Midtones or Highlights.

The Healing and Stamp Tools are invaluable tools that you will love. Are there spots in your images from dust on your camera lens? Was there a piece of trash in the background that you didn’t notice? Does your subject have blemishes or acne? These tools will come to your rescue!

The Healing Brush (left, left) resembles a band aid. It is handy when you want to remove a blemish from your image and need to copy the surrounding pixel pattern to make the area of interest fit in smoothly. You select an area by holding down the Alt key and clicking the area of the image you would like to mimic. Release the Alt key and click with the mouse over the blemished area you would like to remove. The Healing Brush not only copies the pixel pattern, but it adjusts the pattern to fit the colors!

See the tree trunk sample to the (left, top); I have selected the tree trunk pattern and painted it over the softly focused backdrop where you now see a green-hued trunk texture. The Stamp Tool (left, right), on the other hand, copies an area exactly as it looks. The blemished skin sample below is a good example. These tools also allow you to adjust their hardness/softness, allowing for a gradated edge or a very sharp edge.

This blemished example is what you can achieve with the Healing Brush and Stamp Tool. In a matter of seconds, I removed all serious blemishes from this patch of skin. Play with these and adjust the transparency too. You can use this to dull wrinkles and lines under the eyes, reduce glare on the “T” area of the face and much more.

CROPPING vs. RESIZING

Cropping your images is not the same as resizing. Cropping an image cuts out part of the image for a more
flattering composition. Resizing an image adjusts the size of the image both in height/width and file size. Print and Web graphics require different pixel ratios, so images need to be resized based on their intended use. DPI or Dots Per Inch is referenced when printing. Images in prints should be between 240 and 300 DPI. When you are resizing an image, you need to set the PPI or Pixels Per Inch somewhere between 240 and 300 PPI.

PPI or Pixels Per Inch is referenced when used in web or digital presentations. Computer monitors display at a resolution of 72 PPI. This is especially important to remember when placing images and photographs in your website. You should always make it a habit of resizing your images to 72 DPI at the exact height and width you need them when applied to digital media. For example, adjusting the width and height in web-code produces a visually smaller image, but it does not actually reduce your image size. If you don’t resize your images for web, your site will load super slow and nobody will stick around to see what your website is all about.

Good luck and have a great time
with your digital photography!

Friday, April 16, 2010

InfoPathways Intern Helps to Upgrade Network at Taneytown Police Station

WESTMINSTER, MD. April, 2010. InfoPathways intern Emily Thompson assisted in the installation and set-up of several new computers and a new server at the Taneytown Police Station, Taneytown, MD. Thompson, a senior at Francis Scott Key High School, has been interning with InfoPathways since February 2010 and will complete her internship this June. As a member of the network team, Thompson is gaining experience in proper network design and providing support to a variety of clients both in person and remotely. She often joins network experts Thom Bethune and Jovan Nikolovski in the set up of new computers and servers and participates in onsite network support. "When dealing with technology, you have to expect the unexpected, and I have gained a greater appreciation of the flexibility this career demands. I have already learned a lot about the networking field and myself and I cannot wait to see what else I am able to learn over the next two months of my internship”, Thompson shared.

Taneytown’s Police Station benefited immediately from their technology updates; it all winds down to greater productivity. InfoPathways is thankful to the station and city for their willingness to give Thompson, and hopefully future interns, the opportunity to experience such a project. Chief Bill Tyler arrived just as the team began the upgrade; “InfoPathways once again shows how community oriented they are. By teaming up with the local high school, they are giving students the opportunity to explore technology from some of the finest experts in the field.”

Taneytown Police Chief Tyler, Emily Thompson (Intern, InfoPathways), Jovan Nikolovski (Network Engineer, InfoPathways), Jennifer Adcock (Career Connections Coordinator, FSK High School)

Jennifer Adcock, the career counselor at FSK High, helped Thompson arrange her internship with InfoPathways. "The Career Connections Program is a win-win partnership for the students and employers involved. The students get a chance to 'test drive' their career while attending high school. In addition to being a cost effective recruitment strategy, the employer gets an opportunity to work with young talent and help develop their skills in a particular career field. We are very thankful for the support of our business partnerships, like with InfoPathways. Their time and efforts benefit the workforce of the future." Hopefully more businesses will continue to open doors and share their knowledge with future aspiring students.

For more information about Francis Scott Key High School’s Internship Program, contact Jennifer Adcock at 410-386-4589 or JLADCOC@k12.carr.org. To contact the Taneytown Police Station, call 410-751-1150. To contact InfoPathways, call (410) 751-9929.

PEEPshow at the Carroll County Arts Council

Here is the InfoPathways entry for the 2010 CCAC PEEPshow. We decided to give a twist to the old master's paintings. All four images were created digitally and printed on canvas and stretched to try and keep the painterly presentation. The new PEEP titles and original artist and date are listed with each piece...

The Last PEEPs
Leonardo da Vinci, 1495-1498

 
The Persistence of PEEPs
Salvador Dali, 1931

PEEP Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
Rembrandt, 1632

Sunday with PEEP on the Island of La Grande Jatte
Georges Seurat, 1884

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Carroll County Arts Council - Website Redesign Launched!

We recently launched the redesigned Carroll County Arts Council website. It features a fresh design with lots of imagery to portray the variety or arts and programs they bring to the community. It also features a large number of database backend features which allow them to publish updates on the fly, many of which are integrated with PayPal features! Check out their new site and support the arts.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Keywords & Keyphrases - Are they still worthwhile????

Yes Yes Yes!

Many “experts” are saying this element of your site development is a waste of time and that search engines aren’t paying attention to them anymore. Google is the only search engine as of today that ignores < meta > tag keywords/phrases. All the other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo, still use keyword/phrase < meta > tags to learn about your website which leads to better indexing. It is true that they are not as affective as they used to be, but when added correctly, keywords/phrases can only help your website. Stick to 20-30 strong words or phrases that incorporate what you do and where or who you serve and you will be on your way!

Besides, you need to come up with these words and phrases anyway because you want to use them in your content, < alt > and and < title > tags. Rich, descriptive content and tags are very important elements of SEO.

*SEO rules are always changing. Stay educated to learn the latest and greatest!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Do It Yourself SEO Techniques (Search Engine Optimization)

There are countless ways to advertise your website. You should take advantage of those that fit your needs. Most important is word of mouth and your marketing materials. You should also consider social media. If you have accounts or your business has accounts, make sure your website URL is listed.

Building your website properly is a necessity. It should be made for the user which means it should not only look amazing, but it should be organized and built to load fast too. Your web support company has your best interests at heart, but you should still provide your input when it comes to certain areas of search engine optimization (SEO), just as you do with the design and your content. Who knows your company better - you or your web support provider?

To get the dirty details, click HERE to download our White Paper on DIY SEO!