Being “open” in your photography business can mean a great many things. Being open to new ideas, practices and techniques. Being open to new markets and product lines. Making your business an open book.

The open I want to talk about today is open source. Be it a philosophy or methodology, the definition of open source is literally, opening the source code, sharing it publically and allowing the community to contribute to its development. Examples of open source programming language are WordPress, CSS and HTML5.

Why is this good for you? Take a community like WordPress with 32.5 million users and tens of thousands of developers all creating plugins which you are free to use edit and share. This is like having tens of thousands of experts developing and sharing information for the benefit of your website or a online brand. The same is true with CSS and HTML.

One of Apple’s main reasons to abandon Flash is because of Adobe’s closed system. In Steve Jobs now famous “Thoughts on Flash” he states, “Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.” You can see his entire letter here.

We have seen the repercussions of this in the inability to see Flash sites on iPads and iPhones as well as other mobile devices. We have seen Google also ignore this closed technology by creating Instant Preview or Google Instant. Rollover the magnifying glass on a Google search and you can immediately get a glimpse of the site you are looking for.

Google Instant Preview for Photographer Websites

Unless that site is created in Flash, and then no instant preview ☹ For potential customers quickly browsing their Google search, the fact that they might pass you over is very bad news indeed. You can find out more information on Google Instant Preview here. All that hard earned money and time spent on increasing your SEO, and creating your online brand might be thrown out the window if your customers and potential clients cannot see you.

Google Instant Preview Flash

Open in the Photography Community

Many vendors in the photography community have chosen to be open in their practices. Companies like Pictage, ShootQ and Album Exposure have chosen to make certain aspects of their service available for outside uses. Some of them even provide a fully documented API, or their Application Programming Interface. This makes a portion of their programming open to developers like us, so we can create products that speak to each other. Using this method, we were able to build a plugin that connects those services and others to any WordPress site, making any WordPress site more than just a website and turning it into a true hub for your online presence. Like WordPress itself, the “Photographer Connections” plugin is open source and freely available from the WordPress repository.

Think of how much easier your life would be if every product and vendor you chose spoke to every other product or vendor. Ask for it, demand it, support the companies that are willing to share and be open to each other. This is your community, and many of us are “open” to your suggestions.

Written by Ellen Petty

Ellen Petty Branding for Photographers

Ellen Petty is the Head Brandslinger at Identity Kitchen, a marketing and design studio specializing in photographers. She and her business partner Marty Thornley just launched a new line of affordable all-in-one WordPress portfolio sites designed specifically for professional photographers at


  • Paul Kremer says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me. Steve Jobs complaining about a company creating proprietary software? Talk about the midnight dark chocolate pot calling the gray kettle black! Apple is the most closed technology company on the planet. Everything about Apple is closed and proprietary! I will NEVER buy an iPad simply because they won’t support Flash, a technology that is still in use. I do understand the point of your article, and it is a good one, but Apple is the very company that needs to be more open to us as consumers. Heed your own words, Jobs.

  • Ellen Petty says:

    Hi Paul-
    You have a point about Apple, however this post was not about Apple being open or closed but about the platform of your website. Regardless of Apple being proprietary or not, it’s hard to ignore the more than 15 million iPads sold. Whether you own one might not be as important (for your marketing), as whether your clients own one, and can in fact see your marketing efforts.

  • Paul Kremer says:

    Yes, and I do agree that your article makes a very valid point. It may be something I need to address in the near term.

    However, at the same time, as a photographer who purchased a flash site before Apple decided they didn’t need to support it, I find it infuriating that Apple isn’t listening to the consumer here. THEY’VE decided what their customers get to see and what they don’t. Why should Apple get to decide such a thing? It is mind boggling to me that Apple lectures other people about open source and accessibility, when they themselves close everything off. Why do consumers allow them to get away with it? If Microsoft had tried to pull this, there would be fury in the streets. My hope is that as the newer competing tablets offer access to Flash sites, Apple will be forced to compete. Otherwise I’ll be forced to spend hundreds of unnecessary dollars to update my site because some “higher power” has decided not to support it.

    I realize its life in business, but the small people are the ones who suffer with things like this. I don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to update a site that is working just fine. My fervent wish is that someday people can see through the marketing job that Apple has done, and that consumers force them to deliver what the consumer wants like they did with Microsoft instead of blindly purchasing everything Apple puts out and allowing Jobs to do whatever he wants, including hypocritically saying that open technology is better for consumers while hiding behind his own proprietary system. /rant.

  • Nice article and I agree with the heart of it.

    Visibility, usability, accessibility is very important in today’s marketing environment; however, I’m not quite sure I agree entirely with the connection between Open Source and marketing (your website as a marketing tool). There are other content management systems that are clearly not “open source” that are just as easily visible and beneficial for photographers.

    I definitely agree about creating a web presence that is say…. “available” or “open” makes it easy for robots, humans and of course business owners to maintain. And, let me clarify what I mean by maintain: The ability for a site owner’s website to be edited and extended over the life of the website/business. Building with CSS (CSS3)/xHTML(HTML5)/Javascript/Ajax/PHP makes it easier.

    Flash websites in general can be pricey to maintain for each evolution of a business. This assumes that the business owner is tracking data about visitors and testing landing pages, analyzing sales, adding things such as social media buttons, or any other new marketing tool, etc… And of course the content and goals of the website is a factor. Any modifications, small or large can add up quickly with a Flash website (generally speaking).

    And my take on Apple is that they operate at the “genius” level of things. Their primary M.O. has been to create products and software what they think “you” need and how you should consume/interact with data. This is what makes them innovative and it is part of their brand which affects how they market. They know they won’t make everyone happy.

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