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If you’ve been following our blog and FaceBook/Twitter/Google+ feeds, you know we’ve been at the Google+ Conference For Photographers for the last two days. Google+ has become the virtual equivalent of the office water cooler for photographers, and the conference was just further proof of how photographers, more than any other group of people, have taken to Google+ (also referred to as “GPlus” or “G+”). It has become the go-to place for shutterbugs to connect and interact with each other.
Now, there’s a new resource to help photographers make the most of this relatively new social network from Google.
Photographer and educator Colby Brown has released a book called “Google+ for Photographers,” and whether you’re new to GPlus, or have been around for a while, you’ll find something useful in this book.
This book started as a post on Colby Brown’s blog. Entitled “Google+: A Survival Guide to a Photographer’s Paradise,” it was read by more than 500,000 people. The post was more of a step-by-step guide to using Google+, however, whereas the book it morphed into takes a more holistic approach to helping photographers make the most of Google+.
That focus on photographers is obvious from the first chapter, “Why Google+ Works for Photographers.” Here, Colby covers the “whys” of Google+ – why it matters to photographers, why the aesthetics are more in line with the expectations of image makers, and why the way Google+ manages photographers’ rights – a point of some contention early on in the network’s history – works for us.
The book also covers topics such as building an online presence, working with Circles, publishing content, and using Google+ Hangouts. Of specific interest to photographers is a whole chapter dedicated to photo management and maintenance on G+. Here, Colby gives us a thorough breakdown of the Picasa system that underlies G+’s photo abilities, covering how to do everything from uploading images to editing them with the Google+ Creative Kit.
There are also more general how-tos on subjects such as getting started with Google+, its core features, interacting with other users, and helpful tips and tricks to improve your efficacy in G+. A roundup of the mobile apps for Android and iOS makes up the last chapter.
Interspersed throughout the book are sidebars that add things like “Colby’s Quick Tips,” as well as perspectives from other photographers using Google+. The latter fall into two key types – “A Photographer’s Perspective,” which are multi-page interviews with prominent shooters on Google+, and “What Google+ Means to You,” a series of single-page essays and accompanying images by relatively unknown photographers.
Those featured in “What Google+ Means to You” were the winners of a contest that Colby held in December 2011. Four photographers were chosen in that contest to be featured in the book, and they tell their personal stories of why they’re on Google+.
If I had to sum up this book in one sentence, I’d say, “This is the book Google should have put together.”
Though it’s aimed at photographers, with plenty of content to cater specifically to them, there’s enough information here to satisfy anyone looking for information on Google+ itself. Many of the principles espoused by Colby can be just as easily applied to folks looking to carve a presence on G+ in other interest areas, while his breakdown and explanations of the features in Google+ are useful for anyone getting started with the social network.
It is, however, his emphasis on explaining many of these things in the context of photography, and the photo-specific areas that he covers, that make this book a first-rate reference for photographers on G+. The section on the Terms of Service that Google+ uses, for example, should be read by all photographers, as is his advice to shooters on what they need to do in order to make the most of this network.
Colby’s language is clean, uncluttered, and to-the-point. The book is laid out well, the topics flowing in logical progression, and you don’t have this sense that he stretched anything out just to make the book bigger.
Indeed, at just over 200 pages, this is not a large book, which makes it that much easier to flip through. If you’re interested in just one topic – photo management, for example – you can go straight to that.
Unfortunately, though not through any fault of Colby’s, one thing in this book is now outdated. Since the release of this book, Google+ has retooled its user interface, so his sections on the interface and navigation are no longer accurate.
Google+ is actively evolving, which means that new features come out all the time. Colby talks about the G+ team’s responsiveness to user feedback, but that responsiveness can sometimes put print editions of books out of date soon after their release.
But hey, that’s what a second edition is for!
Despite that last caveat, there’s a wealth of information in this book. Whether you’re new to Google+, or have been around for a while, this is a great volume to pick up as a reference. I’ve been on Google+ since it was still in invite-only mode, and I learned a thing or two here myself.
The advice Colby provides is simple, no-nonsense, and practical. You can breeze through this book in one sitting and come away with enough information to make the purchase more than worth your while.
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