How I Broke Free Of Picture Sharing Services

Three weeks ago, Twitter began to buzz about a change in TwitPic’s terms of service.  The change appeared to give TwitPic the right to sell posted photos to third parties without the approval of and without sharing the revenue with the person who posted the photo.  Needless to say, people didn’t like this and began moving to YFrog and other image hosting sites.  TwitPic attempted to explain the TOS change but this didn’t satisfy everyone.

I have to admit, I was one of those people who weren’t quite reassured.  I switched over to YFrog.  However, then I began to think.  YFrog said they would never do what TwitPic did, but how could I be sure.  Perhaps a year from now we’ll all be talking about some big scandal about new YFrog TOS changes.  Or maybe YFrog will go belly up.  What would happen to my photos then?

In addition, I began to think about traffic.  When B was at Disney Social Media Moms, she saw Chris Brogan speak.  She relayed some of what he said to me including that you should treat your blog like your home base and Twitter, Facebook, etc like outposts.  Perhaps it was time to move my “photos shared from my cell phone” operation back into my home base.  After all, wouldn’t it be ideal to drive traffic back to rather than

I already had a pretty decent idea of how it would work.  I would create a super-secret e-mail address used only for posting photos.  A script on would check this inbox for photos I sent and would make them into blog posts, uploading the photos and any additional text I provided.  Finally, an auto-tweet script would alert my Twitter followers of my uploaded image the same way that TwitPic or YFrog would.

While I’d have loved to have written the script myself, I decided to see if anyone had done a WordPress plugin.  Sure enough, I found Postie right away.  I figured others might want to do something similar with their blogs, so I’ll detail my basic steps below.   (NOTE: WordPress has a “Post By E-mail” feature, but you’ll see soon enough why I didn’t use this.) 

Step 1: Be Using Self-Hosted WordPress and install the Postie Plugin

None of this will work if you’re using Blogger or are hosted on  There might be some solution for you, but I’m not sure what that would be.  Sorry.  If you do have a self-hosted WordPress blog, add the Postie plugin from the Admin control panel.

Step 2: Create a Post From Cell Phone E-mail address

You don’t want to set Postie to use your publicly available e-mail address.  There are protections against just anyone posting to your blog (more on these later), but do you really want to chance it?  So have your web host set up (or set up via their control panel) some kind of super secret e-mail address.  Something like  Add that e-mail address to your cell phone’s contacts under a name like “Post Photo.”

Step 3: Configure Postie

In your sidebar, under Settings, click on Postie.  You’ll get a list of options to set up.  First of all, you’ll need to tell Postie just how to get to the e-mail inbox.  So give Postie the mail server, userid and password information.

Next, under User, you want to make sure that you’re the only one who can post.  This is where WordPress’s basic Post-By-Email function fails.  If a spammer were to guess the e-mail address, you might find your blog relaying a Nigerian prince’s pleas for help.  Make sure “Allow Anyone To Post Via Email” is set to No and set up the authorized addresses to be the e-mail address of your phone.  If you’re not sure about this, you could always send a TXT and Picture message to your normal e-mail address and see what e-mail addresses they come from.  (TXT and picture messages often display as two different e-mail addresses.)

Under Message, select the category that the messages should take.  I created a new one called Mobile Photos.  Text/picture messages received as e-mails can often contain signatures added by the providers.  (For example, “This message has been sent using the picture and Video service from Verizon Wireless!”)  Obviously, we don’t want that posting, so go under Advanced options and any signature as a new signature pattern.  You don’t need the whole thing, just enough to for Postie to recognize it and not confuse it with your own text.  (e.g. Don’t add in “This message” lest it cut you off when your post should say “This message comes overlooking a beautiful landscape.”)

You can customize the template under Image and fiddle with the other settings if you wish, but the basic functionality is there now.  Now, you should be able to take a photo, send it to your blog and have it posted.  The only thing you’re missing is tweeting it.

For this, I turned to the Twitter Tools plugin for WordPress.  Sadly, this plugin required a prefix for tweets.  Something along the lines of “New Blog Post”.  Of course, I didn’t want my Mobile Photo posts to be called “New Blog Posts”, so I went into the code.  It turned out to be a simple fix to make it stop using prefixes.  (I actually set it so that a prefix of a blank space would result in no prefix used at all since the application errors if no prefix is used.)  Since I don’t want to assume that everyone out there is comfortable coding, I’d simply recommend finding a prefix you can live with or using another plugin such as Tweet This.

Once this is set up, you’ll be able to completely replace the functionality of those Twitter photo sharing services.  Your photos will remain under your control, you’ll drive more traffic to your site and you won’t need to worry about some random terms of service changes (at least not with this).

If given the opportunity*, would you set something like this up for your blog?  Do you see an upside to TwitPic/YFrog type services that my Post-To-My-Blog solution doesn’t have?

* If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, but aren’t techy enough to set this up,  I do freelance work on the side and might be able to help you out.  Send me an e-mail via the Contact Me form above.

Don’t forget to enter my Dinosaur Train giveaway.  You could win Dino Poop and Hatchers.

My Little Photographers

When NHL turned four years old, my parents bought him a camera for his birthday.  No, not a DSLR or even a cheap point and shoot  This was a Fisher Price Kid Tough digital camera.

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The entire camera was designed with kids in mind.  There were two handgrips (for better grips), two eye pieces (since kids might not get “squint and look here”), and the whole thing was rugged enough to survive a drop down a flight of stairs.  NHL had a blast taking photos of everything in his sight.  (So much so that we quickly realized ground rules were needed like “No taking photos of Mommy and Daddy when they are on the potty!”)

Eventually, his attention was diverted by other toys and the camera found its way to the Heap Of Rarely Played With Toys.  At some point, JSL took an interest in this camera, but there was a problem.  No matter how often I put a fresh set of batteries in, it would only work for a brief period of time before dying again.

During our Disney World trip, JSL began asking for a camera.  What began as an occasional request quickly ramped up.  In fact, as I waited in line at Epcot’s photo center (to get some photos added to our Photo Pass card), JSL went berserk.  There, right in front of him, was a display of Disney-themed kids cameras.  He wanted one and he wanted one NOW!

Somehow, we held him off until his birthday.  That’s when he got this:


That would be his new V-Tech Kidizoom Plus.  It is a 2MP camera, does video, adds special effects to photos and more.  If anything, it’s a little too complex for JSL so we’re trying to limit him to just photos.

He’s now hooked on taking photos.  Here’s a small selection of his work.

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Don’t feel bad for NHL, though.  He’s inherited my old camera with the broken flash.  Well, perhaps not “inherited”, but rather “will be allowed to use on a heavily supervised basis.”

If the weather holds out this weekend, perhaps I’ll be able to take the boys on a photo shoot.  I’ve got my eyes on a photography exercise that Chookooloonks posted about.  I’ll take them outside, walk 100 paces and have them take 20 photos of things right around them.

If you could go on a photo shoot with your kids, where would you go?

It’s Spring, There Are Birds – What Are Those Bees Doing?

Today, I took the boys to the park for some play time (and also to give B some time by herself to get some writing done).  As we piled into my car, I noticed a bug atop my car.  Nothing odd there.  It’s spring, the weather has gotten warmer and the bugs are out.  I looked closer and noticed it was a bee.  Two bees, in fact.  One atop the other.

The boys were already in the car so my first instinct was to send a TwitPic of the situation.  After that was done, I was going to go in the car and drive off, but then I stopped.  I had my DSLR with me to take photos of the boys at the playground.  Why not put it to a macro test?

So out came my camera and I began snapping away.  I’ve taken bee macro photos before so I know how to do it safely.  I’ve learned that you can get pretty close to bees without bothering them.  They tend to try to fly away from you first.  But if they start buzzing angrily and dive bombing you, it’s time to move away fast.

Anyway, I got as close as I felt I could safely get and let my zoom lens do the rest.  A few clicks of the shutter later and…


You can click that to magnify the photo, but here’s a cropped version from the full resolution original.


After I was done photographing, I went in the car and started it up.  NHL was curious about what was happening.  I told him that there were some bees up there that wouldn’t be happy that I was moving the car.  He asked why.  I danced around the facts and told him that they were happy with the car where it was and wouldn’t like for it to move.

As we drove off, he said he was sad for the bees because they might get blown off.  I told him that we started slowly and they probably got the hint before we went so fast that they would be blown off.  I really hope that’s the case.  Sorry about the interruption, bees!

Lollipop Hearts

For Valentine’s Day, we got the boys some lollipops.  (Of course, by “we”, I mean B.  She’s the one who found and purchased them.)  Of course, these weren’t ordinary lollipops, but heart shaped ones on ring “sticks.”  I took the opportunity to whip out my DSLR and get a few photos.  (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)


I love how blue JSL’s eyes are in this shot.  The DSLR picks that up so nicely.


NHL is always looking away from the camera for some reason.  I think the TV might have been on.  Also, he seems to have inherited my hair in at least one respect.  When I need a haircut, my hair refuses to obey any commands of mine and simply does whatever it wants to do.


I love the depth of field in this shot.  That and the wonderful smile hiding behind that lollipop.

It’s times like this that I love that we live in the age of digital photography.  These moments are now captured and stored for years to come.  When our boys are grown, we can go back and relive these moments over and over again.

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