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ProPhoto Proofing – Some Thoughts/Observations

Since ProPhoto Proofing was released just over a year ago, we thought it might be a good time to post an update with some of our thoughts and observations.  Now if you’ve somehow been out of the loop for the last year and weren’t aware we had a Proofing solution, you need to check it out!

(We have additional information here.)

Either way though, this post should help existing and prospective Proofing customers alike!

Digital Downloads

Over the last year, we’ve gotten a lot of support requests about the digital download functionality in ProPhoto Proofing and how to achieve a particular workflow.  As a result, we determined that additional support documentation would be helpful and so we’ve recently made updates to a number of our Proofing tutorials.  Additionally, we’ve created new videos that not only explain what digital downloads, products and packages are in Proofing, but more importantly, how they can be used to do sell digital downloads (and other products) in a variety of ways.

So, if you’re using Proofing and haven’t checked these resources out (or at least not in a good while), you might find them helpful!  Or, if you’re interested in possibly using our plugin as your proofing solution, they may give you a good idea of how Proofing works and some of the things you can do when selling digital downloads:

[link_list intro=”] [link slug=’products-overview’ title=” excerpt=”] [link slug=’digital-downloads’ title=” excerpt=”] [/link_list]

Image Size and Quantity

Another popular Proofing support topic has been slow response times when uploading images to a proofing gallery, or viewing the gallery for the first time.  In almost all cases where we investigate, we discover that the gallery has a significant number of images, and the images being uploaded are full size.

As stated in our Proofing FAQ page, ProPhoto Proofing does not impose any limitations on the size or number of images you can upload to a Proofing gallery.  The only limitations would be those imposed by your particular hosting package/server setup.

Now we have designed ProPhoto Proofing so that it tries to create and load your Proofing galleries as fast as it can.  One feature of the plugin that aides in this can be read about here.  However, that being said, ProPhoto Proofing can only do so much.  Even on a good server setup, uploading tons of full size images can cause problems, simply because it is a lot of data for the server to process.

Too...much...data...

Not again…

So in general, to get the best performance out of ProPhoto Proofing, there are 2 things a user should consider beforehand when creating Proofing galleries:

1) Image File Size – We realize that it’s a lot easier to just upload all of the original, full-size images from your shoot, right to the Proofing gallery, as opposed to editing the images in any way.  But, as our Proofing Image Optimization tutorial explains, if you were to do this, in almost all cases the full-size images you would be uploading would never even be seen by the client when they view your site.  Nor would most clients have any need for a full-size, high resolution image if they are receiving digital downloads.  (It’s way more image than they need if they plan on printing out an 8×10 for example.)  So, if you take a bit of time to downsize and optimize your images, it will ensure that things go much faster on your end when uploading.  And your clients will never know the difference, except that their galleries will likely load a lot faster 🙂

2) Image File Count – Similar to image file size, we also realize that it is much easier to just upload all (or most) of the images from a photo shoot right to the proofing gallery, rather than choosing a select number to display.  However, if the gallery has 1,000 images or more (which is not uncommon at all from what we’ve seen), that is a lot of data for a hosting server to process when the images are uploaded, and displayed in the gallery itself.  Not to mention that if these images were uploaded at their original full file size, that makes the task of the server even greater.  For example, if you upload 1300 images at an average 12Mb, that’s 15.6Gb worth of initial data to be uploaded by the server, and then also processed for display in the gallery!  Even on a good hosting setup, that’s going to take some time.

59366799

Not to mention, uploading all of the images from a shoot to a gallery seems a bit burdensome for the end customer.  Admittedly, we do not actually sell images to customers ourselves, so it is possible we are quite wrong on this.  But, based on our day to day experiences, asking a customer to go through 1,300 images for example would seem like a daunting task that could easily induce option paralysis.

So, similar to optimizing images before uploading, also curating a gallery’s images before uploading will likely ensure a much better experience for your customers.  We don’t have any sort of magic number, but it would seem that several hundred, well sized images, should serve your clients very well.  It will ensure that the galleries load fast, can be viewed in one sitting and hopefully mean quicker sales back to you.

MoneyRain

All that being said, we would definitely appreciate any feedback on this subject.  Maybe you’ve found that customers prefer having a lot of images to view and choose from?  Based on your experiences, what seems to be an appropriate number of images to provide a customer in a proofing setting?  Please feel free to comment below!

Hosting Considerations

Along the very same vein as the previous section, if you are using or plan to use ProPhoto Proofing, the type of hosting account you use is very much worth your consideration.  Most standard shared hosting plans are very reasonably priced, which is very attractive.  And for a large number of our average light to moderate users, they work just fine.  However, they are not really geared for folks looking to upload and display thousands and thousands of heavy images to a lot of people on a very frequent basis.  Nor are they really intended to operate as a file backup system for you, in case your computer should die out.

It’s like traveling the PanAmerican Highway in a sub-compact car with hundreds of pounds of gear, it’s possible you could do it.  But, that’s not really what the car was built for and it’s very likely you’re going to have troubles along the way.

overloading-440

Probably not my first choice…

So consider what you type of user you are.  If you determine that you are more of a power user, check into upgrading to a more premium hosting package; one with more storage and better performance.  Or, possibly even look into a dedicated hosting solution, whereby you’re not sharing server resources with anyone else.  Yes, it will cost more than a basic shared hosting plan.  But, just like anything else, you want to invest in the right tool for the job.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

An Update on ProPhoto6

In an earlier blog post and video, we announced that ProPhoto 6 was coming this September, and would be fully responsive. We’ve spent nearly a year working on version 6, which is the biggest and most ambitious major upgrade we’ve ever attempted.

In the last few months we’ve faced a number of forks in the road where we’ve had to decide how deeply version 6 will diverge from previous ProPhoto versions. The deeper we got into our development work, the more we realized that truly embracing the responsive nature of the future of the web meant we had to re-think almost every fundamental concept within ProPhoto.

In examining these things, we ultimately decided to take the path of doing the hard work to make ProPhoto truly responsive at it’s very core, rather than layering a responsive skin over existing concepts.

We’re pretty thrilled with how it’s coming along — we think ProPhoto6 is going to lay the foundation for years of fast iterations and progress on a great platform that is truly responsive and deeply customizable.

However, even as we’ve felt really good about the decisions we’ve made along the way, they have come at a cost — the deeper we decided to go changing the core of ProPhoto, the more development time is needed to ship a great product.

By mid-summer, we realized that a full launch of P6 by September was probably not a realistic goal. So we internally decided we would aim to release a public beta-form near the end of September, and those who were comfortable purchasing and using it in it’s beta form could do so as we made the final additions, enhancements, polishes, and bug fixes. We followed a similar path with our Proofing plugin, releasing first a beta form to early adopters and then the finished final product.

However, now that the end of September is only 5 weeks away, it’s become increasingly clear that even having a solid beta form of ProPhoto 6 by the end of September is not going to be possible. So, it’s with regret that I need to inform you we are going to delay the arrival of version 6.

I apologize for the delay. We’ve never missed a release deadline before, so I hope you understand that missing this announced timeline isn’t something we take lightly. In hindsight, when I announced the September timing of the release, I hadn’t yet realized how deeply the responsive changes we were going to make would affect the core of the product.

What Now?

We don’t have a new hard-and-fast timeline to give you. Our intention is still to release ProPhoto6 in beta form as soon as we possibly can. We are extremely anxious to get this product in your hands and will be working as fast as we can to do so. But we feel the right thing to do is make sure we focus on building great product that is a rock solid foundation for the future of ProPhoto, rather than releasing something with the numerous deep compromises that would have been necessary to meet the original timeline.

We’ve made a ton of progress already, and can see fairly clearly the list of things that remain undone — and its shrinking every week.

Later this week we’re going to have an online meeting with our network of graphic designers who create the add-on designs for ProPhoto to give them even more detail about the state of ProPhoto6. We’re also going to be showing them some of the prototypes of the new features and concepts coming in P6 (more on those below). As soon as we can, we’re going to be getting a pre-beta to our designers for them to start using the new version and preparing for making designs for it. We’re hoping to do this as early as mid-October. Then, as quickly after that as we can, we will start a limited beta-testing period. As soon as the beta is solid enough to be useful for the tech-savvy early-adopters among our customer base, we’d like to make it generally available.

What’s Coming

We have a ton of cool things in the works for version 6. Here’s just a few details to whet your appetite.

First and most importantly, it’s natively responsive. No more alternate mobile site version — everything about version 6 is being built to intelligently adapt to all screen sizes. In making P6 responsive to the core, we decided to give you really powerful controls over the layout of your site, decomposing all the parts of it into customizable blocks of content, with unlimited rows and columns of various sizes throughout the major portions of your site. These blocks, rows, and columns will be customizable at a fine-grained level, allowing a huge amount of flexibility in building responsive designs.

We’ve also worked hard at the core image display functionality. We’ve built a system to leverage emerging web standards for natively responsive image elements that are fast, optimized, and work great at any device size and pixel density.

Our gallery system is being totally revamped to be natively responsive, leverage custom post types, and more flexible than ever. In P6 you won’t be limited to choosing between slider, slideshow, or lightbox styles — you can mix and match functionality of all three (and more) within single galleries.

Grids have gotten a big makeover as well and they are natively responsive and more flexible than ever, reflowing and resizing intelligently and automatically to make the best use of the screen size.

Menus have been rebuilt nearly from scratch to take advantage of emerging best practices for mobile and large-screen navigation. We’re building some great-looking and intuitive small-screen menu displays, and adding the flexibility for you to control how your menus re-flow and adapt on larger screens.

We’re also working to build in a concept of design templates — alternate variations of your main site design that you can apply selectively to page types or individual posts and pages. This means you will be able to have different parts of your site laid out and styled totally differently, to emphasize and more properly display your different types of content.

We think you’re going to be really pleased with ProPhoto6, and we feel great about building on it for future versions of ProPhoto.

Once again, we’re sorry for the delay. We’re racing to deliver you all something as soon as we possibly can, and appreciate your patience. Please let us know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comments area below.

Discounted Pricing

As we’ve previously announced here on our blog, ProPhoto version 6 is scheduled for release in some form in September of 2015. In light of this announcement, we’ve decided to discount the price of ProPhoto version 5 for the remaining few months in which it will be available for sale.

One week from today, on Wednesday, July 15 2015 we will be reducing the price of ProPhoto5 from $199 to $179. In addition, anyone who purchases ProPhoto version 5 after July 15 will also be eligible to upgrade to ProPhoto version 6 for only $20.

The result of this pricing change is that anyone who purchases ProPhoto5 after July 15 will eventually be able to migrate to version 6 without being penalized for purchasing version 5 late in it’s life cycle. The initial cost of version 6 is planned to be $199, equivalent to the discounted price of version 5 plus the discounted upgrade.

Please note, anyone who has purchased ProPhoto prior to July 15, 2015 can still upgrade to version 6 at a reduced price (our upgrade prices historically have been $89), just not at the special discounted rate of $20.

A note about upgrading from version 5 to version 6

All of the above information is submitted with the intention of being transparent to our user base, and anyone considering buying ProPhoto for the first time during these few months. Another area that seems relevant to disclose for those considering a purchase in the coming weeks is that the upgrade path will likely be somewhat more involved than past major upgrades. Past ProPhoto major upgrades (from 3 to 4, and 4 to 5, for instance) featured automatic and nearly pixel-for-pixel importing of the previous versions designs.

The changes that are coming in version 6 of ProPhoto are so deep and substantial that the upgrade process between version 5 and 6 will likely not be as precise or automatic. This is almost entirely due to the fundamental shift of going fully responsive. Many concepts that make sense in a fixed-width site environment have no obvious or simple analog in a responsive environment, hence some new paradigms must be accepted. We will definitely be working hard to make the upgrade process as easy as we can, but there will likely be at least some manual work and decision making for you to do to transition from version 5 to version 6.

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