Google+: An Endless Pool of Photographic Knowledge and Inspiration
I have been teaching about the importance of the Google+ social sharing system for about a year. I speak about Google+’s value as an educational tool in my photography workshops and at my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars. The message that I try to deliver in my lectures about Google+ is pretty simple: we photographers, like all artists, need to surround ourselves with a limitless pool of inspiration.
As artists, our skills will stagnate unless we continually surround ourselves with new ideas and new influences. When we connect and learn from others, when we spend a little time exploring new sources of inspiration, we gain knowledge, and the quality of our art rises. Google+ offers photographers like me an endless stream of photographic inspiration and knowledge. In my opinion, this is the best place on the Internet right now to find others who are creating inspiring art.
Let’s be clear: Google+ is not Facebook. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with old friends and family members. Facebook is a good platform for connecting with people that you already know. Facebook is a good way to see snapshots of your distant nieces and nephews, and to occasionally watch someone’s funny cat video but the platform itself is not designed to reward photographers.
The way that Facebook’s displays photographs is simply awful. There is no way at Facebook to completely hide the interface so that you can just enjoy an amazing image without any advertising or additional distractions. But the biggest problem is that Facebook is not designed to encourage public conversation.
Facebook is not designed to help you find and connect with a global audience of artists that you have never met. If I don’t know you then I should not be able to see your photos on Facebook nor should you be able to see any of mine. If I don’t know you then you should not be able to read my articles, or watch my videos, on Facebook.
This is the “closed social loop” idea. It’s great for staying in touch with friends and family but it guarantees that this the wrong platform if you are searching for inspiring work from other photographers. Facebook does me absolutely no good if I want to search for new artists and to see images from photographers that I have never met.
Google+, on the other hand, is an “open loop network” built around the concept of search. Google = Search! This is a platform for sharing ideas, and inspiring images, in a public forum. Unlike Facebook, Google+ is a great way to meet and discover new photographers, artists, and thinkers without the expectation that they are your “friends.” Most of all, I love Google+’s clean interface. I love the way that Google+ can display photo albums and slideshows without any advertising or sidebar distractions. This is a platform that wants you to see, and to share, big high-quality photos and to get inspired.
Part 1: Google+ Account Setup
The Google+ social layer is free and open to anyone. Joining in the conversation is free but setting up a new Google+ account can be a little tricky. What follows is my step-by-step guide to the new Google+ user account setup process. I must point out that these steps reflect my tastes and that much of what I suggest here is purely personal preference. Throughout this tutorial, I will recommend turning certain switches on or off because that’s the way that I like things to work. Once you are more familiar with the Google+ platform I encourage you to modify, or reject, any of my suggestions and reconfigure this tool to better suit your tastes. I must also add that the screenshots, and the steps involved in the setup process, are ever-evolving. Innovation never ends here….
Step 1: Create a New Account or Connect Your Profile to an Existing GMail Address
Since Google+ is integrated into a slew of other Google products, one account–one email address and password–is all you need to access dozens of products. If you currently have an account at Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice, etc., then you can use your existing email address and password to signup for Google+.
If you do not currently have a Google account, then this is your opportunity to create a new identity. Your new Google account includes Google+, a free Gmail email address, Google Calendar, and 5GB of free online Google Drive storage space. You might choose to ignore these features, but they are nice bonuses that come bundled with every new Google+ account.
Step 2: Add Suggested People
Google+ is all about creating connections. If Google’s database already knows anything about you, then this screen is your first opportunity to follow the news from your friends, family members, or coworkers.
You can skip this step for now if you want; you will have additional opportunities to connect with friends, family, etc. once your Google+ account is active.
Step 3: Google Suggested User Circles
Google+ is different from other social networks. It is a place where you can learn from a global community of photographers, most of whom you have never met. Google+ allows you to follow public postings–photos, videos, and articles–from photographers that live thousands of miles away, but when you are new here it is hard to know where to start.
To help you get started here, the Google+ site designers select small groups of experts on a particular subject and group them together by topic. This suggested lists of experts–the Google Suggested User Circles–are what you are seeing at this point in the setup process. Adding a couple of the Google+ Suggested User groupings to your new stream is a great way to find some of the top posters who share one of your passions. For someone like me, adding the Google Suggested Photographers Circle is a great place to start.
Step 4: Add A Headshot
Now it is time to choose your profile photo and fill in a little bit of information about who you are. You can add much more detailed personal information later, but your smiling face is important here. My advice is to start out with a nice, friendly headshot. Don’t be surprised if no one wants to connect with you if you choose a headshot that is too weird, generic, or blatantly offensive.
Part 2: Add Additional Biographical Information and Adding a Cover Photo To Your Profile
Now that you have completed the basic account setup, please take ten more minutes and add more personal information to your Google+ profile. Add enough biographical information so that other Google+ users will believe that you are a real person. Do not share anything too personal like your home address or cell phone number but the Tagline field is particularly important.
Please fill in your Tagline with a very short description of who you are and what you do. You don’t need to fill in every one of the other fields, but I suggest adding something to the Introduction field, too. Leave as many of the other fields as you want blank, but if you are going to claim that you are a professional photographer, then you need to add something like your employment history, a link to your website, or a business name, so that your claim sounds credible.
For photographers, the cover photo is extremely important since it will be displayed everywhere that your name appears. Google+ is doing serious photographers, like me, a great favor here. Google is giving me the chance to display my name, my job title / specialty (the Tagline), and my cover photo to an audience of millions.
Please upload a great cover photo because this is your chance to show off your favorite photograph whenever someone mentions your name! A great cover photo and a nice smiling headshot will help you create a lot of new connections.
Part 3: Turning Off The Noise
Step 1: Kill the “What’s Hot And Recommended” News Stream
The Google+ engineers didn’t want your homepage to be appear empty and lifeless, so all new users are automatically subscribed to the “What’s Hot and Recommended” news stream in order to see posts on their homepage. The trouble is that “what’s hot and recommended” is usually pointless and trivial. Fortunately, it is easy to unsubscribe yourself from this silly stream of pop nonsense.
Dragging the “What’s Hot and Recommended” frequency slider all the way to the left will unsubscribe you from future updates to this news stream. The existing posts will not immediately disappear from your homepage, but over time they will slip away as new posts from people you care about get added to your homepage news feed.
Step 2: Controlling Email / SMS Notifications
Unfortunately, what most of us first experience when we set up a new Google+ account is a slew of unwanted emails or text messages. The following steps will show you how to eliminate these unnecessary notifications and remove some of the clutter from your email inbox.
Did you notice that little gear below your headshot near the upper right side of the screen? Clicking on that little gear symbol will open up an important Google+ Settings menu. (There is also a “take a tour” button in this menu that might interest new Google+ users.)
The Google+ designers don’t want you to miss anything. From the factory, this social sharing tool is set to immediately email or text message you about everything that happens online that involves you. While I respect the designer’s goal–that you should be keenly aware of everything that is happening online–the results are completely overwhelming.
My advice is to disable the email / text notification feature for all but the most important activities. To protect my reputation, I want immediate notification when somebody mentions me in a Google+ post. If somebody says something nice about me in their post, then I want to say thank you. If they say something nasty about me, then I want to know so that I can respond appropriately or report the post as offensive material.
In addition, I want to be notified when someone tries to tag me in their photographs. I want to know if someone is posting a photo and claiming that I am in it, but I don’t need to get an email just because someone added me to one of their circles. Notification about things like mentions or tags are important so that I can protect my privacy, but I really don’t want an email or a text message every time that a stranger tries to invites me to their goofy online event.
Step 3: More Privacy Preferences
The last set of switches in the Google+ settings menu are about privacy. Google+ is a social platform that encourages public information sharing, but not everything is meant to be shared publicly. Some of the switches at the bottom of the Google+ settings menu help you control what is and what is not available to the public.
My choices and your choices may differ here. For the type of photography that I teach, I have no problem sharing information about exactly where I shot my photos. I love the way that Google+ takes the GPS data that I have embedded in my images and uses that metadata to display my image’s location on a Google Map. I find the integration of my photography and Google Maps fascinating and believe that sharing GPS data along side my images supports my mission as a landscape photography educator, but this choice is not appropriate for everyone else. If I photographed sensitive wildlife nesting sites, rare archaeological digs, or houses of the rich and famous, then I definitely would not want to make this type of GPS information available to the public.
Likewise, be cautious with the Enable Location Sharing preference switch. Do you really want to broadcast your whereabouts to everyone who follows you on Google+, or is this type of information something that should automatically remain private?
Part 4: Now Find More Inspiring People
Google+ is all about social connections. The Google Suggested User Circles are a good start, but only a handful of the top posters make those lists. Now it is time to use the Find People button to connect with friends, family, and others who share your interests. Google+ will use the data that you entered into your profile and the list of people who you have already circled to help you find new contacts.
I hope that you found this step-by-step guide useful. Again, there are no rights and wrongs here. The important part is to get your account set up, to protect your privacy, and to find some new sources of inspiration. If you liked this article please click here to find me on Google+.
- What The Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us
- Google+ For Photographers
- Connecting Adobe Photoshop Lightroom with Google+
Filed Under: (02) Lightroom Setup