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The Photoshop Blog offers the latest Photoshop news and software updates, Photoshop tips and tutorials, and random thoughts from graphic artist and Photoshop expert Jennifer Apple.
FRIDAY - JANUARY 20 2006
Interview With Mike Bedford From Plugs 'N Pixels
So many plugins and so little time well now there's some help with Plugs 'N Pixels. Billed as a "one-stop source of information to compare features and prices" the site also offers a remarkable free eZine. On the site's eZine page you'll find summaries and links to the last 4 issues, which you can download as PDF files. There's a wealth of information in each issue, including some nice tutorials. We caught up with Mike Bedford, the owner of Plug 'N Pixels, and asked him a few questions. Here's what he had to say:
What made you decide to embark on this project?
A number of factors came together to bring Plugs 'N Pixels about. Over 30 years ago when I was young, I made my own little magazines with construction paper and Scotch tape. Having done traditional photography since 1974, I first feared the new digital revolution that was rearing its head in the mid-'80s, but much later I learned to love the freedom from the darkroom and the overall benefits of digital. In the early '90s I began using the Mac as part of a grad school yearbook production class, to do my research papers and the syllabus for a college photography class I was teaching, then soon learned to use Photoshop 2.5. I learned basic web design (thanks GeoCities!) and got my first photo website online around 1996.
Around this same time I discovered Deneba (now ACD) Canvas and learned illustration in addition to my digital imaging skills. Then one day in 2001 I created a design while messing around with Canvas, which became the cover art for issue #1 of The Canvangelist eZine ("Canvas evangelism", get it?) (www.plugsnpixels.com/canvangelist). Canvas makes it very easy to create your own publications from start to finish, so I gave up the paper and tape and went all digital ;-).
As time went by I started including coverage of Photoshop plug-ins in the eZine, which was great, though eventually there was more plug-in coverage than Canvas coverage! It became obvious that a new direction was necessary, so I came up with a brand new eZine concept, Plugs 'N Pixels. I love digital imaging and (especially) experimenting with image alteration with third-party plug-ins and related creative applications, so this new venture is a fun exercise in creative exploration and sharing tips and results with others of like interests.
As for the Plugs 'N Pixels website, it is a means of guiding visitors (and myself!) through the plug-in jungle. The various charts (Creative Effects, Image Enhancement, etc.) began as a way of organizing the plug-ins I already had on hand according to function, so I could see what I actually had to work with. Otherwise I was missing out on many opportunities to create effects because I didn't know what software I had!
Do people come to download the PDF primarily, or do you find they surf the site as well?
It depends on how I promote the eZine. If I give out the specific link to the eZine page, visitors will start there, grab some PDFs, and sometimes go their way or hit the Home button to do further exploration. The links in the eZine refer readers back to specific pages on the website, so if they missed the main site initially, they'll probably be back around.
I also get a lot of visitors who are Googling for plug-ins (Shinycore Path Styler Pro is by far the most-searched plug-in). Visitors land on these various entry pages and sometimes navigate the rest of the site from there.
How has the feedback been so far?
I don't get a lot of email feedback (very little, actually), but the web stats speak for themselves! Plugs 'N Pixels has been my most popular web venture yet, thanks to mentions on sites such as PhotoshopSupport, Graphics.com, The Plugin Site, postings on many user forums, etc. I've already seen thousands of downloads of the free eZines and more site traffic than I've ever experienced before. Mid-month in December I had to switch web hosts to keep up with visitor demand. So I've got lots of room to grow now.
How often do you plan on releasing new issues of the PDF eZine?
As the new eZine gets off the ground, I am repurposing the earlier Canvangelist plug-in coverage layouts for the much larger Photoshop-centric audience while adding brand new material and custom tutorials. So the first several issues came together quickly. But soon enough, Plugs 'N Pixels will offer 100% brand new material. The eZine is free, so release dates are not as critical as if it were subscription-driven. But I actually enjoy doing the design work and creative preparation, so I'll do it as often as possible. As the new year begins, I will strive for at least once a month.
Do you plan to always keep the PDF eZine available as a free download?
I do. The website material and eZine will always be freely accessible, with no registration required. I see this venture in part as a form of payback for all of the great material I've gotten off of the web over the last 10 years (information, tutorials and other useful goodies from many generous people).
Much like PhotoshopSupport, Plugs 'N Pixels relies on affiliate sales of promoted software to help the cause, especially with site hosting expenses and the related expenditure of time and energy. At this point I do not sell banner ads, though that is an option as site traffic grows. Through The Canvangelist section of the site I have a DVD available for purchase, with Canvas-format files to dissect and over 1000 stock photos. I have plans to offer a Plugs 'N Pixels stock photo DVD as well (I shot all of the example photos used on the site, drawn from my large personal collection).
How does a plugin site go about getting listed in your wonderful directory?
There is no admission fee to Plugs 'N Pixels, though ideally there should be some reciprocal sharing that benefits both parties. For web-based Photoshop informational sites, a link-sharing arrangement is nice. The forums I link back to have allowed me to post announcements about the availability of my eZine. In order for software (whether plug-ins or full applications) to be listed on the site and promoted in the eZine, the developer needs to provide licensed NFR versions of each title so I can create examples over a period of time without limitation. Over 100 developers thus far have generously followed this procedure. There are a few others whose products I would like to list and promote but I don't ever hear back from them.
Ok, now we really want to know this what are your all-time favorite "can't-live-without-them" plugins?
Without attempting to promote my affiliate associations (actually, several of these are not affiliate products), here are the plug-ins I use most:
For color correction, PictoColor iCorrect EditLab. For color effects, Digital Film Tools 55mm. For wild or offbeat effects, any Alien Skin Eye Candy product. For photo edges, onOne PhotoFrame. For artsy effects, LucisArt. For JPEG output, BoxTop ProJPEG. For cutouts, Vertus Fluid Mask.
Of course every product listed on the site is useful for common imaging circumstances that arise (image upscaling, grayscale conversion, etc.), but in my personal workflow these are the ones I return to most often.
Thanks Mike, and we wish you continued success.
Visit Plugs 'N Pixels.
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