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Michael Costuros

Michael founded liveBooks in 2002, but he has earned his living creating portfolio websites for creative professionals since 1997. In that time he’s learned a lot of simple things that photographers can do to make good websites even better, regardless of who makes them. His first “Website Tweak” on RESOLVE advocates clear menu names.

Emilie Sommer: Clear, concise navigation menus

If you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with Emilie’s website, you’ll see that it’s incredibly rich in content, yet it looks clean and simple and the main menu is easy to navigate.

The key here is the “information” menu item. Because the word “information” is both clear and broad, it enables Emilie to include a variety of content in the drop-down menu under it. Collecting most of her content under this one drop-down keeps the main navigation and the user’s overall impression of the site clean and orderly.

When you have a lot of items in a drop-down, be sure to name each one so that the user/client will know exactly what they’ll get when they click on it. Spend some time coming up with page names to make sure you have the best ones, and if you find a better one down the road, go in and change it.

Critiquing the names under Emilie’s “information” menu item, I have only two issues. The first is small: The link called “Emilie.”  Most people will guess correctly that this link is about Emilie, but it wouldn’t hurt to let visitors know for certain by changing the name to “About Emilie.”

My second critique — of the link called “Emilie Ink” — I feel more strongly about because choosing a better name could lead directly to more revenue. I did not catch that “Ink” was spelled with a “k” rather than a “c,” and I assumed that this link was about her photography business. I probably would have assumed the same thing even if I did notice the alternate spelling. Either way, I would be surprised to discover behind that link a whole new website offering custom printing services to her clients!

You want to make your revenue-generating items as easy to find as possible. Don’t hide them in a sub-menu unless that sub-menu name is something clear like, “Services.” A more effective name for Emilie’s link to her print services might be “Custom Cards.”

In summary, Emilie’s navigation logic and page names are nice and clear, with just a few possible improvements. I recommend that you review your navigation logic and naming, and see if you can find a way to make it even clearer. Your visitors will thank you.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: What navigation naming tricks have you seen or used that work particularly well?

Last month, liveBooks founder Michael Costuros challenged the liveBooks community to a little creativity exercise. After months of thinking and talking and worrying about money matters, we thought everyone could use a break to remind themselves why they got into photography in the first place. Michael shared his own creativity exercise on the liveBooks Community Facebook page and asked for more suggestions. Here are our favorite three. Join the discussion at the liveBooks Community page and become a fan to keep up to date with the latest from the RESOLVE blog, liveBooks free webinars, and special offers.

Jennifer Pottheiser

“One of my favorites is shooting without looking through the lens – thanks to Joanne Dugan for that one! Its a great way to shoot pets and kids and still actually see whats going on around you. I have gotten some tremendous shots this way, and it really takes the pressure off.”

Mark Wallace

“About a year ago my friend Craig was telling me how uninspired he was about his photography. He had his new 1D Mark III and was telling me that there wasn’t much to shoot. I challenged him to a friendly duel. I told him there’s always something to shoot and told him to grab his camera. We walked outside to a dreary drainage area and I proposed the challenge: 5 minutes in the pile of rocks, my iPhone vs. his fancy camera, may the best man win. Here is the complete story and results.”

Peggy Morsch

“Lately, I’ve started going through Freeman Patterson’s book: Photography and the Art of Seeing. There are MANY exercises in there to get your judge off your shoulder and just start playing with the camera like a 9-year-old again. For instance: Walk 50 steps, click, 50 steps, click. Or while I’m walking the dogs, I make multi-exposure images of anything, just to see what it looks like. My judge stays home in the kennel! It’s given me a sense of freedom to know that I don’t HAVE to produce anything.”

What is your favorite technique for blowing off a little creative steam? What do you do when you get stuck in “business mode” or just can’t seem to find a new picture? Give us your idea and a link to your website so we can see the fruits of your creative endeavors :)

During the 1980s photojournalist Lou Dematteis was based in Nicaragua for Reuters covering many of the conflicts in South America. In 1990 a journalist friend alerted Lou to the havoc being wrecked by large oil companies on native Amazon communities, and in ’93 he traveled to the region to see the devastation for himself. Impressed by the way local organizers were able to utilize his images in their resistance efforts and frustrated to hear their stories of photographers who took their pictures and never returned as they promised, Lou created an exhibition and bilingual book. Crude Reflections cautions against the false promises of companies like Chevron/Texaco, with whom Amazon communities are in a legal battle, and utilizes Lou’s images as well as interviews with people directly affected to make a strong case against collaboration with large outside companies.
Luz Maria Marin holds the head of her husband Angel Toala one day before he died of stomach cancer in his home in Shushufindi.

Luz Maria Marin holds the head of her husband Angel Toala one day before he died of stomach cancer in his home in Shushufindi. ©Lou Dematteis

Click below for segments from a recent audio conversation between Lou Dematteis and Michael Costuros, the founder of liveBooks. Lou speaks candidly about the tangible social change produced by the project and how his involvement with the cause continues to nourish his own passion and creativity.

Part 1: How did Amazon organizers initially use your images? “I found out that photographs I had taken that I had passed on for use in Ecuador had been used as part of an education and organizing campaign.”

Part 2: How did the book Crude Reflections come about? “In 2007 we received a Distribution Grant from the Open Society Institute, and that allowed us to print a set of photos and display them back in the Amazon, so the people living this and experiencing this had a chance to see their photos. They were literally in tears.”

Part 3: What effect has the book had in South American communities? “The book is bilingual…we didn’t just want to produce a book we were going to show in the United States. We wanted to make it useful and available to people in Ecuador and Latin America.”

Part 4: How has this project enriched your life? “I’ve developed an incredible bond with many people there. They are very thankful that I’ve helped give a voice to their community. That is tremendously fulfilling to me.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Have you run into people who are wary of photographers after hearing false promises about returning to help the community? What is the photographer’s responsibility in these situations?


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