How to Set Up Your Google+ Account

Google+ Offers Us An Endless Pool of Inspiration

I have been teaching about the importance of the Google+ social sharing system for a year. I speak about Google+’s value as a educational tool in all of my photography workshops and at my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars. The message that I try to deliver in my lectures, articles and video tutorials 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 influences. When we connect and learn from others –  when we spend time exploring new sources of inspiration -we gain knowledge and the quality of our art rises. Google+ offers an endless stream of inspiration and knowledge sharing. In my opinion, Google+ is the best place on the Internet right now to learn about new photographic techniques and to find others who are creating inspiring art.

Google+ is free and open to anyone. Google+ is a fabulous platform, but setting up a new account without any guidance can be a little tricky. So here is a step-by-step guide to the new Google+ user account setup process.

I must add that this guide reflects my tastes and opinions. Much of what I suggest here is purely personal preference. Throughout this tutorial I will recommend turning on, or turning off, certain switches 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 configure 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. The brilliant minds at Google are constantly working on improvements for the Google+ platform. Today’s screen grabs should be good for today–April 5, 2013–but by next year things are going to look different. Innovation never ends here….

Google+ Account Setup

The road to Google+ happiness begins with Google account setup.

Step 1: Google Account Sign In

image00Since 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

AddPeopleGoogle+ 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, your family members or your 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

FollowSuggestedGoogle+ is different from other social network. This is a place where you can learn from a global community of photographers most of whom you have never met. This is a place where you can follow the 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

ProfileNow 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, too generic or blatantly offensive.
Success! Your Google+ account is active once you can see your homepage. There is still more work to do, but once can you see this screen you have successfully logged into the Google+ network.

Add Additional Biographical Information 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.

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.

ProfileSetupPlease 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.

Turn Off The “What’s Hot And Recommended” Stream

WhatsHotThe Google+ engineers didn’t want your homepage to be appear empty and lifeless. So that everyone would see something on their homepage all new users are automatically subscribed to the “What’s Hot and Recommended” news stream. 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.

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.

Step 1: Open Up The Google+ Settings Menu

SettingsDid 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.)

Step 2: Turn Off All The Excess Notifications

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.

PreferencesScreenMy advice is to disable the email / text notification feature for all but the most important activities. To protect my reputation, I want immediate notification whenever 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 I can respond appropriately or report the post as offensive material.

PreferencesScreen2In addition, I want to be notified whenever 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 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.

AccountSettings-1So many notifications, but only a few that are actually useful.

Step 3: More Privacy Preferences

AccountSettings-1The 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. I believe that sharing GPS data along side my images supports my mission as a landscape photography educator, but this not the 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?

Now Connect With More People

MarxProfileGoogle+ is all about social connections. The Google Suggested User circles are a good start, but only a handful of the top-posters make those list. 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.



Learn More About Google+

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 setup, 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+.

Additional Resources


I will be teaching several sessions of our Lightroom for Photographers workshop in 2013. I’d love to have you join me in one of these locations:

Lightroom for Photographers – San Antonio, Texas (5/9—5/12)
Lightroom for Photographers – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (5/30—6/2)
Lightroom for Photographers – Chicago, Illinois (6/6—6/9)
Lightroom for Photographers – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (7/25—7/28)
Lightroom for Photographers – Nashville, Tennessee (8/1—8/4)
Lightroom for Photographers – Wichita, Kansas (8/8—8/11)
Lightroom for Photographers – Duluth, Minnesota (9/5—9/8)

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