Apr 14th

2009

The Photographer and the Blog, Part 1

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I did an interview with Frederick Van Johnson of TWIP last week. Easily the most fun I’ve had doing an interview in the last 15 or so years, and there have been some real doozies. One of the questions he asked me was about blogging and while I can’t recall the exact question, or my reply for that matter, it’s had me thinking.

Q: Should photographers blog?
A: Depends.

This is a little like asking if architects should use telephones. Taken the wrong way it’s a bit on the far side of non-sequitor. On the other hand, if the architect needs to make a phone call the telephone will be a much better tool – assuming he uses it right – than, say, a turnip. Of course the question Fred was implying was: are there benefits to blogging that photographers who abstain from this social media might be missing? And the answer is a resounding Yes! Clearly if you’re reading this you see value in the blog as a form of communication. If you didn’t you’d be doing something else with your time. Possibly even out making photographs. :-)

I did a post months back called You Definitely Should(n’t) Blog and followed that one up with Blogging Tips for Photographers so I won’t repeat it again. If you’re interested in this topic, by all means go back and read those two articles.

I just want to follow up because Fred’s question got me thinking and I haven’t been able to shake it. So forget all the rational reasons and let me give you three more that are a little more experiential. Used well, with some skill and intention, using a blog as a form of social networking and promotion can bring gifts you never expected.

1. My best friends in the photographic world have come through my blog.
I have a circle of friends that I am every day grateful for, and most of them came through this blog. They are now people, many of them, that I’ve met in person, travelled with, taught with, photographed with, and shared meals with. If it all fell apart tomorrow I’ve made lifelong friends. If my blog had done nothing more than that, this would be enough.

2. My best client has come through my blog.
Two and a half years ago I got an email out of the blue from someone who’d been reading my blog, lurking in the background for months. One minute I had no idea she was even out there, the next minute I had an email on my desk asking if I’d be interested in a high-profile assignment in a couple countries in Africa. I wasn’t angling for work, I wasn’t writing for clients. But something in the way I wrote and the common interests and values we seemed to share made her think I was the photographer she wanted. We still work together and that account is both my largest and my most enjoyable.

3. My best opportunities have come through my blog.
Every one of the best opportunities I have had over the last three years, including my book, have come as a result of conversations that were initiated on, or because of, my blog. Without exception. I have booked lectures, workshops, and writing assignments solely from this blog.

I love blogging. I get more personal and professional satisfaction out of the time I spend on this thing, and on the blogs of others photographers, than I ever imagined. The blog can be a powerful, career-building tool, when wielded right. If you’ve ever wondered if blogging had any benefits for a photographer, and if the three benefits I listed above didn’t seal the deal, read the article I mentionned at the top of the post – You Definitely Should(n’t) Blog

This week I want to talk about blogging as photographers. If you have questions or ideas for topics you’d love to see covered, leave a comment. I have a couple ideas but as is often the case I’m kind of just launching the ship into these waters this week without a solid course set. It’s just more, uh, organic that way. If you’ve seen your own blog bring you solid benefits or have some wisdom to share, leave it the comments and share the love. Tomorrow we’ll talk about why you just might wanna leave this whole thing alone.

Comments (16)
  1. April 14, 2009 at 2:33 am

    To blog or not to blog? It all depends on what one wants to achieve. If its to display your work, open yourself to criticism, improve your photography and pass on a few tips you have learned, then do it. If its to win a popularity contest by getting hundreds of comments, don’t bother!

  2. April 14, 2009 at 3:28 am

    I’m currently thinking about setting up a blog for photojournalism/documentary photography. I’ve got a pretty clear idea of what I want to write, but I just don’t know in what language…

    Obviously, English would attract a wider audience, and it would also enhance my English grammar skills :P

    The downside is: it takes me longer to write articles in English than in my native language (Dutch). Also, possible clients (I don’t wanna write for them, but you never know) are probably Dutch as well. And of course, Dutch people like to read in their own language.

    What’s your view on this? (and by ‘your’ I mean everyone reading this comment :) )

  3. Alban Orlhiac

    April 14, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Many many thanks for your insights on blogging. I’ve read all three topics (this one and the two others linked) and it helped me to confirm that a blog could be a good thing for a photographer.
    I’m also struggling with the language issue though, should I be writing in English or not (I’m French) ? I guess it will dictate how open the community will be outside of my own country, but I have to face the fact that (most) French readers can be quite reluctant when it comes to reading blogs or websites in English.

  4. April 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I am writing a blog in french (native language) on my web site and on the Alpha Reporter Site (www.alphareporter.org).

    I am not yet confortable to write in english long text. I have no problem writing caption and a couple paragraphs text, but more than that I feel I would loose the style and fluidity to keep readers interested and touched.

    Longer text (essay and report) are on a secure site available to subscribers. Shorter one with pictures (watermarked) and excerpt from longer one are on both public sites.

    Since I am at the beginning of the process, I cannot evaluate the repercussions yet, but the numbers of readers of the public blog.

    Best.

  5. April 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I love the interaction and the sharing. Sure, twitter, flickr, and posting comments achive that too, but hopefully with a blog I will get to pass on information that I have to share and about who I am. I get a kick out of being able to help people. In the back of my mind I also hope that some day down the road it may lead to the benefits that you have found. But really, I get a kick out of seeing that someone searched google for something and found me. I hope what they found was useful!

  6. April 14, 2009 at 9:13 am

    By the way, I like the picture of the laptop with your site on it. Did you take the picture, or place a screen capture of your site in an apple image? You don’t own an Air, do you?

  7. April 14, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Anyone that “creates” should use the web to help them create, IMHO.

    But we have to have our goals framed right; blogging is one form of creating, and creating should come from our passions. As odd as it sounds, our goal can’t be to find a larger audience: we have to write for ourselves and the 3 people that will actually care. Writing for “others” or “our audience” is the easiest way to lose “our audience”… fairly similar to photography, in fact.

    A related post about 50 content ideas for blogging: http://www.conversationagent.com/2009/04/50-content-ideas-the-create-buzz.html

  8. Jeffrey Chapman

    April 14, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    David, my question concerns failure. I’d love to know what percentage of blogs succeed. Of course, “success” depends on the authors’ goals and is therefore virtually impossible to track. So an actual percentage of failures isn’t feasible. However, I’m sure that there must be cases of blog failures. I’d love to know post-failure what the authors (or others) think went wrong. Sometimes I think that one can learn just as much studying failure as studying success.

  9. April 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    David,

    Great post at a great time. On Sunday night I took my blog live over the internets. I am using many of the ideas I have learned from this and previous posts you have made about blogging.

    My big question is I don’t know when to let people know that the blog is live. Do I just let the word out and continue to refine the look and feel of it as I go, or do I wait.

    Thanks for all the information.

    M.D. Welch

  10. April 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    @Jeffrey: I consider the only way for a blog to fail is for it to stop.

    (Purely anecdotal, but a lot of bloggers don’t make it past 3 months.)

    As to the reasons “why”, I think it comes down to poorly-defined goals (“why am I blogging”), lack of feedback, lack of integration with pre-existing work and business / life objectives, and a lack of dedication. Creating is hard work.

  11. April 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    David, I turned my old web site into a blog after reading your insights to blogging. First, the blog looks much better than my old site because I couldn’t figure out how to make it and setting up the blog was easy. I wanted a place to show my newest work and get some feed back. What I learned is that I have nothing to say/write even though I am opinionated as hell. I am trying to be “karmically cool” to no avail.
    Thanks for the inspiration. http://www.lllarsenimages.com

  12. April 14, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Alpha Reporter’s blog is build around a few categories:
    Stories and reportage (short and long with pictures)
    The story behind a picture
    Community ( links to other topics from the work of other photojournalist)
    Legend: Presentation of photographer who have been an inspiration.

    In fact, comments that we received from readers, is that they like the mix. Our work among others put the reader in a larger context and community and it help to sensitize to photojournalism and documentary photography.

  13. lisa

    April 15, 2009 at 7:17 am

    David, I really enjoyed this piece. A photo blog has been at the forefront of my mind lately. In addition to the why’s and why-not’s, how about a page on the how to’s – ie, what software, hosting, the technical side of things of how to get it up and running. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Just an idea….

  14. April 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

    […] DuChemin on why photographers should — or shouldn’t — blog. (part-1, part-2, […]

  15. May 1, 2009 at 10:56 am

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