Conventional Wisdom vs. Facts …for making your own website.

Conventional wisdom says that your website has to look very professional. Very professional meaning that it is made carefully using the latest HTML or better yet, made using WordPress. The “worst” way to create a professional site, according to the gurus, is to use Blogger, even though Blogger is free and easy to use.

Would you be happy with a site that gets about one million visitors a month…and earns about ten thousand dollars a month using three paid ads? Go look at Strobist by David Hobby. It’s made with Blogger!

What conventional wisdom didn’t bother to consider is that if a site is jam packed with useful information folks will flock to it…for years.

It reminds me of what Edwin Land (the creator of Polaroid) said: “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.” It’s better to have your website stand out with information rather than for it’s glitz.

If you are asked to speak…please say NO!

Speaking for a local club, organization, or business can be an honor. Most folks are flattered to receive an invitation. If you get one, please say No! Unless, of course, you are willing to put in the time, effort, and money that it will take to do a good job. If you say Yes, please consider the following.

  1. Make sure you know what they want. What is the topic? How much time are you given to speak? How big is the room? How many people will attend? Do they expect you to use a computer and projector? Ask these questions before you say yes…or no.
  2. Are you an expert on the subject matter? If you are not, don’t try to learn enough the night before. The audience will sense it.
  3. Narrow down what you want to say. Telling the audience everything you know is not what they want. In most cases, “they” want to be entertained as much as they want to hear your pearls of wisdom.
  4. Plan your talk. Make an outline. Edit the outline.
  5. Practice what you will say…the whole thing. Record it if possible.
  6. Do not use PowerPoint if you don’t know how to use it. Speakers look like dopes if they can’t turn on the computer or projector.
  7. If you do use PowerPoint (or Keynote) do not read the slides! Slides with as few words as possible are best. Pictures are better than words.
  8. Give out handouts when you finish. Your handouts can summarize what you want them to remember. Do not give copies of your slides.
  9. Get help. Join a local Toastmasters Club.
  10. Before you say Yes…make sure you are willing to take the time that is necessary to do a good job.

Good luck.

[Need help? You can send your questions to Joel Heffner. Use the contact form to get int touch.]

Winter is a good time for photography…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t take many pictures during the winter. I don’t like the cold, hate the snow, and am afraid of falling on ice. Yuck!

However, that shouldn’t mean you put your cameras away until spring. Here’s what I suggest.

Find your camera’s instruction manual or download a copy. Although most of us get a camera and put the manual away, they actually can be very helpful. You will probably find things your camera can do that you didn’t know. Winter is a good time to read because there isn’t much else to do besides go to work and watch TV.

Look around the house and the backyard. Find something, or someone, to photograph that you haven’t tried to take a picture of before. Dogs, for example, are great subjects. If you are taking pictures out of the window, a zoom lens is helpful.

Go through your old photos and make prints of the good ones. Hang them up…even if it’s just on your refrigerator.

When you go through your old photos look at them with a critical eye. What’s good about them? What isn’t it? How could you have made them better?

Learn how to use software that can make photos look better. You can get PhotoShop and Lightroom for about ten bucks a month. Although they are difficult to learn, the rewards are worth it.

Finally, start thinking about what photos you’d like to take in the spring. Make a plan.

Yes. There is plenty to do in the winter…when it comes to photography. Enjoy.

Digital Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Pros and Cons

Sales of digital point-and-shoot cameras are tanking. Nikon recently announced it is closing a factory in China. So why be interested in digital point-and-shoot cameras? Here are some Pros and Cons:


  • They are relatively cheap compared to DSLRs.
  • They are relatively small.
  • Most have zoom capabilities (that your iPhone does not have)!
  • They allow you to set exposure to some degree.


  • Most do not fit into your pocket as easily as your smartphone does.
  • The lenses are not very fast. You need the flash in low light (and you often end up with red eyes).
  • They aren’t as good as “real” DSLR cameras as far as ability to make adjustments and the quality of images.

The biggest advantages of point-and-shoot camera are their ability to zoom in and adjust exposure. When smartphones can zoom and adjust exposure point-and-shoot cameras will go into photographic history like the Instamatics have.

Speakers: 3 Reasons To Use Your Own Photos!

I hate to see questions on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn asking for the best places to find photos for a presentation. The obvious, at least to me, answer is to look through your own photos. Here are 3 reasons:

  1. You should be the expert at what you are talking about. If you can find photos online, maybe you are not the one who should be speaking about a topic. I guess I can speak about vacationing in Rome…even though I’ve never been there…just by getting a bunch of photos that others have taken! I don’t do that. I only speak about topics I really know about based upon first hand experience.
  2. It’s also silly to project an image that others may have seen before. Smiling faces around a office table look phony and usually silly. How many meeting have you ever attended where everybody is good looking, smiling, and seem to be intense…at the same time?
  3. Assuming you are not a professional photographer, the audience does not expect perfect pictures. They come to hear you, not necessarily admire your photographic skill.

Take pictures whenever you can, you never know when you can use them for an upcoming speech.

Incidentally, I took the photo of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden several years ago. I was in the perfect place at the perfect time. So when I speak about garden photography I know that nobody has has this shot exactly the way I got it. It isn’t the best photo ever taken at the BBG, but it’s pretty good. 🙂

One photo IS worth a thousand images!

My iPhone says it has 23,333 images stored in it. They take up a lot of space. I don’t really care about most of them. I don’t have any prints of any of them!

However, I do have a picture (of me) taken about 65 years ago. My parents saved it. I save it. It’s real. You can hold it in your hand.

How many memories have you actually printed out. All it takes is a 4″x6″ print. It will be much more important in years and decades to come than your last image, in my case, IMG_5659.jpg.