Some SoFoBoMo questions answered
After making the announcement that SoFoBoMo registration was open, I got an email from Mark Alfson. I suspect his questions (and my answers) are of general interest to a bunch of folks, so I asked Mark if I could post his questions and my answers here on the blog. Mark graciously agreed.
Herewith, questions with answers:
Just a bit of background first; might help with formulating answers for you.
I am a rank amateur at photography. While I have owned a camera of some sort since I was in high school, I never took it as a serious hobby. My photography endeavors were simply meant to record moments in my life and really nothing more. I purchased my first dSLR in December 2007 mostly because I was dissatisfied with the overall performance of point-n-shoot cameras, especially in regard to shutter lag, which made shooting pics of the cats and dogs rather frustrating (seeing how they tend to never sit still if they’re awake).
I’m very much enjoying my foray into photography, but have not gotten involved in using photo editing software for anything more than corrections, tweaking, minor adjustments, etc. I own Photoshop Elements 6.0, but have rarely touched it. I confess it intimidates me. It seems to have so much potential, but it’s almost like it’s too much and this is particularly odd for me as I’m fairly computer literate (built my own PC) and very software friendly. As an aside, I am not familiar in any way with things like web design, HTML, Java or publishing-type software.
SoFoBoMo appears to be an interesting challenge, but I’m not certain I am at a point whereby I would have a serious chance of making anything of merit. Between my very amateur status as a photographer and my complete lack of knowledge about Elements or publishing I’m concerned I won’t be able to complete the book portion of the project.
Ok, you haven’t actually asked, but let me point out that there’s no threshold of merit for SoFoBoMo. That is, if it has 35 photos and it looks like a book, that’s good enough. They don’t have to be great photos. It doesn’t have to be a great book. It just has to be done in the time window. That’s it.
So you don’t need to stress about quality at all.
1) After having looked over the various 2008 books I came away with the impression that a strong theme is important. Yet I don’t know that I can commit to a strong theme. One idea I had, which I felt was general enough to help me, but not so general that it didn’t appear theme-like, is something I called 500-yards. Every picture had to be taken within 500-yards of my home. Or 500-feet. I’m flexible. Would this sort of theme be too generalized for the spirit of SoFoBoMo?
Ok, good question. If you look at the completed books, you’ll see a lot of books with a theme. There’s no *requirement* that there be a theme at all. None.
So my points would be that a) themes are often something that emerges AFTER the photos are made, and b) having some sort of ‘plan’ even if it falls short of a rigid theme is probably a help in getting a book done. That is, you might find a ‘theme’ to be a structural help to finishing but it’s not a requirement, and you don’t need to have the theme figured out in advance.
2) On the SoFoBoMo website there is mentioned some software for creating a pdf file/book from Photoshop. Are we talking about Photoshop Elements? If not, what sort of options would I have to creating my book such that it could be seen online? The only software I currently own that I may be able to use is Microsoft Publisher, which I’ve only used a few times at a very basic level. I’m also loath to purchase any new software at this time because I’m: (a) unemployed and would like to spend my photography money on other purposes, and (b) I’m in the process of possibly going Mac and don’t want to purchase new and possible pricey software for my Wintel platform and then find myself in the Mac world 6-months from now.
There are a whole host of tools available for creating PDFs on the Windows platform. On a Mac, it’s built right in, so there’s no problem there. I used Adobe InDesign, which is pricey but was something I wanted to learn. Other people used free software (especially Scribus). But you have quite a bit of time to figure out how to generate a PDF, so you are almost certainly ok. Lots of people last year were operating under financial constraints, so I would suggest that you might go back and read their blogs and contact them for advice.
3) I noted that many of the books were viewable online at a site named Issuu. Is this site simply made for viewing such books (via whatever application they are created) or can one use the site to actually create the book? I think I would like to actually have my book (assuming it was finished) published via something like blurb.com, but I don’t know if that site offers an option to create an online viewable version, etc.? What are my options for getting the image online for viewing purposes?
Issuu is just a convenient way to host a PDF so that people can view it, nothing more. We’re currently planning on doing an end run around this problem by allowing people to upload the PDF to the SoFoBoMo.org website and not have to deal with Issuu.
I may have more questions based upon your answers, but these are the major ones that will help me decide whether or not I think I should undertake this challenge. Of course, if you think that this sort of project is really geared more towards folks who are knowledgeable and comfortable with more advanced photo editing software as well as publishing type software, then please feel free to say so. I won’t be offended if the challenge is beyond my current abilities and that I might set my goals lower.
One of the more or less explicit goals of SoFoBoMo is that it’s sort of self-adjusting to the skill level of the person who tries it. That is, a complete novice can generate 35 photos, lay them out in some publishing or word processing software, generate the PDF, and be successful. At the same time (literally, during the same period of one month) a highly accomplished photographer can make hundreds or thousands of photos, edit them down to a reasonable set, sequence them, write accompanying text, lay it out in a professional publishing program, generate the PDF, and be successful. They won’t have tackled the same challenges – but that’s ok. Their books probably won’t be at the same quality level – again, that’s just fine. The point is that both of them tackled new challenges appropriate to where they are in photography and publishing, and thus both of them come out satisfied. And then perhaps next year, they’ll both do it again, tackling new challenges that were out of reach the first year.