Apr 16th

2009

The Photographer and the Blog, Part 3

phoblographers3

So if I didn’t dissuade you from blogging yesterday, and the lame photo above doesn’t turn you off, here’s a few suggestions for plunging headlong into blogging. Taylor Davidson left a comment on Tuesday’s post citing anecdotal evidence that many blogs don’t make it past the 3 month mark. Don’t let this happen to you. This is a short list, and it applies to long-term bloggers looking to breathe new life into their blog with an overhaul as much as it does to new bloggers.

1. Don’t let the name fool you, blogging is just writing. You are self-publishing a daily or weekly column, nothing more. So unless you’ve got a photoblog with no words, bone up on your writing skills.

2. Content Is King. Seriously. In fact it’s more like Grand Emperor. Unless you are a celebrity to whom people are drawn like desperate flies, people will come for what you write. If you’re hysterically funny, many will overlook what you write and come for how you write it. But most of you will draw an audience based purely on content. You must have something to say. And unless you lead a profoundly interesting life, or a boring one about which you write incredibly well, people simply won’t show up to read it. Unless it’s your mother and I’m betting even she has limits.

3. Skip the freebie webhosts, like Blogger, and go straight to WordPress.com or WordPress.org. Just save yourself the grief and do it right the first time. I wish I had. I reserve a special place of loathing for Blogger. Typepad is fine, but you pay for it so might as well go straight to WordPress. WordPress.com is a paid and hosted kind of deal, WordPress.org is free for the downloading, but you need to install it on your server and update yourself, so there’s a certain degree of geekdom required. If you’re looking for great hosting, I can’t recommend ETWebHosting strongly enough. Sure, you can get free hosting out there but you get what you pay for. I’ve been using ETWebHosting for years and their reliability and customer service is fantastic. If all you want to do is get a blog up and running, then spend the few dollars/month and get a WordPress.com blog.

4. Find a name you can live with for a long time. Getting the word out and the momentum going is tough work and will take you time to build a readership. Blogs are spread virally, so once your URL is out there it’s best if you can let it do its thing without changing it up.

5. Find a niche. Not everyone needs one, but it helps. Strobist is a great example. Another way of looking at it: play to your strengths. If what you most want to do is post a combination of images and narratives and leave off with the gear talk, do it. If you want to focus solely on macro photography, do it. Follow your expertise or your passion.

6. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s just a blog for gosh sakes. Enjoy it. Know your audience but write what you want to write – it’s your blog, not theirs.

7. Be consistent. If you want consistent and growing readership, and not all people have that as a goal, then writing consistently is important. Doesn’t have to be everyday, but if you decide to post every Wednesday, make sure you show up or your readers won’t. But make sure you have something to say. Better to post actual content people care about and only post once a week, than to post junk every day.

8. Use social media to support your blog. If you’re already on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to let those people know when you post to your blog. This draws in people from that outer circle of your immediate circle of friends, people that otherwise wouldn’t know about your blog.

9. Interact. Part of the payoff of blogging is meeting new people, making connections, and expanding your world. Reply to comments, link to others, and in general keep the love flowing.

10. This one’s yours. Got a suggestion for successful blogging, specifically for photographers, then this is your spot. Actually the comments are your spot, so consider this symbolic. :-)

For tomorrow’s post I’d love to assemble a list of photographers who are blogging and really doing it well. Could be a blog like mine with lots of words and opinion, could be strictly a photoblog like David Nightingale’s Chromasia, but if you’ve got a favourite, throw it into the comments and I’ll compile them.

Comments (49)
  1. April 16, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I ran into this one yesterday. It’s pretty interesting and has some amazing articles http://www.zoriah.net/blog/

  2. Alban Orlhiac

    April 16, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Many web hosts offer an automatic (and extremely simple) install of the latest WordPress blog engine from the administration panel, like Hostmonster for instance. It helps keeping the geekiness and technical issues and the consequent headaches away.

  3. April 16, 2009 at 3:52 am

    David – I have really enjoyed this series about blogging. I have been hammering at it for quite some time now at http://www.tiffinbox.org (Tiffinbox) and more recently at (http://www.seshu.net/saffron) Saffron, my documentary wedding & portraits blog. I would appreciate it if you could list them both for tomorrow’s blog post. Looking forward to seeing if I made the cut. Thank you!

  4. April 16, 2009 at 3:57 am

    Great last post in the series, all have been very informative. Not sure my bird photography blog has reached the dizzy heights of “doing it well” status but I’ll get there one day!

  5. Vanessa Jackman

    April 16, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Fantastic posts this week, David. I am guilty of just about every blog “Don’t” there is!Anyhoo, I digress: One of the most powerful, effective ways of using a blog that I have seen is in wedding photography, particularly in America. There are a couple of blogs in particular that regularly attract over a 100 comments per post (one recent one was over 600!): goodness knows how many “hits” per day they get. The mind boggles. The thing about both these bloggers is that they are engaging writers AND photographers, sharing bits of themselves and their lives on their blogs plus their professional wedding/engagement work. Interestingly, like you have touched upon before, they are generous in promoting others as well: even their “direct” competition. I realise wedding photography may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I do think so much can be learned from these two girls even if you a nature photographer!:

    http://www.jasminestarblog.com/
    http://www.jessicaclaire.net/

    I don’t think either of them has actively advertised their wedding photography business- all of their clients have come from word of mouth and their blogs. I really think they are testament to the power of the blog :)

  6. April 16, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Thanks, David for summarizing the do’s and don’ts of blogging, having read that earlier would certainly have modified my decisions. Now I try to consequently work with what I’ve started, trying to get around the limitations of blogger. One remark to your recommendation of a ‘niche’: In my eyes that can be a source of trouble, cause stickin’ with your niche can limit your development. Probably it’s still a good advice for prospective professionals because it makes you focus your target group, but if photography in more expression or art for you, keeping a wide horizon I think is valuable, too.

    For your list of blogs some proposals

    * more original refrigerator art – http://ora2.blogspot.com cool, very restrained working pictures

    * salzblog – http://salzblog.wordpress.com almost no words so it’s no problem that it’s german, consequent image language

    * http://photo.alick.ru – I even don’t know how to pronounce this, but more than a handful of interesting new pictures from russia

    * http://www.226-design.com/monochrome/ – monochrome – as the name says, some b&w of the best, fresh and new

  7. April 16, 2009 at 5:18 am

    As usual very insightful post. As far a good bloggers go, I very much recommend Guy Tal’s blog. The writing and photography are top notch!

  8. April 16, 2009 at 5:51 am

    I second Guy Tal’s blog — I love it. I blog w/blogger — it is a love/hate. thebarefootphotographer.blogspot.com

  9. April 16, 2009 at 6:13 am

    After seeing Zack Arias do a video guest post on Kelby’s site, I have been watching his video web site critiques. They are worth watching. http://www.zarias.com/ And hey, anyone that can take a huge group shot in a dim autitorium with one light is worth listening to.

  10. sabrina

    April 16, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Thanks for these last few days David. I knew if I waited long enough, you’d deliver on my burning question: where to host? I’ll only admit to you (ok and your readers here) that I am unhappily presently with Blogger/Blogspot and I have been researching on how to publish on WordPress.org. I have to see if enough geekness in me to do the move myself!

    I am wondering does anyone else use WordPress.org? Do you use Blue Host? Thx.

  11. April 16, 2009 at 6:51 am

    David,

    I love your blog. There are three or four blogs I hit everyday and yours is one of them. This week has really been exceptional though.

    I maintain a blog on my website, http://www.jackkurtzphotography.com “My Occasional Blog.” I’ve been writing it since March 2006. I don’t post daily (hence the Occasional part) but I try to post at least weekly.

    My formula is a photo or two with some comment/opinion about the photo. Sometimes a rant.

    thanks,

    jack

  12. April 16, 2009 at 6:58 am

    A friend of mine just signed up with BlueHost.com. I’ve tried Dreamhost.com, and they have push button wordpress and image gallery deployments. I maintain my own wordpress blog via hosting at 1and1.com. I’ve even hosted out of my basement before, but I don’t recomend that unless you want to brag about it. It’s a lot of work being a sysadmin. The latest wordpress is pretty easy to set up if your host doesn’t have push button deployments. They have good documentation too, but it does take a bit more effort. The newer version (2.7) upgrades plugins at the push of a button.

    cyberward.net blog

  13. April 16, 2009 at 7:26 am

    This has been a great series, it’s given me lots to think about. Okay, so a few of my favorite blogs are Dave Beckerman’s blog (http://dbeckerman.wordpress.com/) funny and great b&w photography, Joe McNally”s blog (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/), funny and great info, Mark Krajnak’s New Jersey site (http://jerseystylephotography.wordpress.com/) — hey, he’s a Jersey guy.

    Last, I would be remiss not to mention my own humble journey (http://patternsoflightndark.com/wordpress/).

    Oh, and I host on GoDaddy, which has an easy install of WordPress and has been very helpful to me, a non-geek.

  14. April 16, 2009 at 8:20 am

    David, thank you much for these excellent posts. The comment on free blog sites makes a good point. Squarespace.com is looking like another great option for a blog host.

  15. April 16, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I just put up my blog and I taken must of what has been written here to heart and applied it to my blog, still in it’s infancy.

    Blogs I check on a regular basis, of course this one. Joe McNally’s (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/) Scott Kelby’s (http://www.scottkelby.com/) and Strobist (http://strobist.blogspot.com/)

    Thanks for all of the tips and advice.

  16. Glenn

    April 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Thank you for a great series. Very helpful and motivating.
    I would be interested in suggestions for WordPress themes (templates?) for photography oriented blogs if you have them.

  17. April 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

    I use Plainscape, and I like it.

  18. Sabrina

    April 16, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Thanks Chris et al for hosting information!

    Glenn, your question was also one that I wondered about. It seems there are lots of themes out there and some specific to photography. I did a search for Photography and Photoblogs on the themes page of the WordPress website but I did not get many returns and none that I liked.

    After doing some reading/research on this, I think that the theme you choose should have your overall goal in mind (see David’s previous posts this week). For me that means I don’t necessarily have to limit myself to a theme just geared towards photography.

    Boy I am getting long winded here. Maybe we should move this to the Forum??

  19. April 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    wow … that was INCREDIBLY helpful! Thank you so much, David. Especially the tip on not using blogspot. I’m already using it but now I plan to ‘move on’ …. yeehaw! All of these tips are meat-n-potatoes kinds of advice … yumm! Thanks again.

  20. April 16, 2009 at 11:13 am

    David:

    Thanks so much for another great set of posts. I’ve been inspired by your photos and words and have been spreading the word about your blog and book as much as possible. Got an email from a friend the other day after I sent him a link to your book, and in part he said, “Many thanks for the tip. This could be the long-awaited textbook for my class. The design and structure of my class is based on the storytelling process and much of the content does not come from a textbook. This book may be as close as it gets to illustrating the challenges, joys and results of the storytelling process. I ordered it today.”

    That says a lot!

    My blog, hosted by http://www.livingdot.com/, is http://www.onepointtwo.org

    Cheers,
    JI

    Justin Ide Photography
    http://www.justinide.com

  21. April 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    So… I must have missed something but I dont understand why we shouldn’t like Blogger/Blogspot.
    Other than the limited number of templates (most of which look very similar), I don’t see it.
    Can anyone clarify for me?

  22. April 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Matt -

    I didn’t say you shouldn’t like it. I said I don’t like it. I find it ugly and unfriendly. Given how good other software is, I think there are many better options that are much, much better.

    Personally I find the notion of having to use a username and ID to log in a little tiresome, so I don’t generally leave comments on Blogger sites. But that’s just me being ornery, mostly.

    But if Blogger turns your crank, than by all means, use it.

    I’m pushing yer buttons lately, aren’t I? :-)

  23. Aleksei Saunders

    April 16, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    @ Sabrina,

    When I was shopping around for a wordpress theme I couldn’t find a photography based one that I liked.

    It seems that many photo-blogs are focused solely on displaying images and I wanted to write as well (my website displays my portfolio – my blog displays my writing).

    I chose Atahualpa for its flexibility and added some photo friendly widgets. I’m really happy with it even though it isn’t billed as a photography blog theme.

    Shameless link – http://www.tenuousthread.com/blog/

    Ironically enough David’s upcoming book is on the front page.

  24. April 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    @ David
    You aren’t pushing my buttons at all! Just piquing my interest. I read your blog religiously and only recently have I had anything to add or ask. Essentially I’ve been trying to make #9 a part of my system, but i find comments like “great post” a little less meaningful than a question or a request for clarification :-)
    And, as you know, I use Blogger. If people (especially pro’s) don’t like it, I want to know why/how I can improve (without spending money I don’t have)

    Thanks!

    PS. Great Post ;-)

  25. David

    April 16, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    @ Alex – Thanks! I’m all about the shameless plugs. It’s the shameful ones I’m leary about :-)

    @ Matt – A teachable spirit like that’ll take you far. That’s gold, baby, GOLD, I TELL YA :-)

  26. David

    April 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    @ All of you – Thanks. I’m relieved to hear you’ve found this useful. This stuff is old-hat to me so I was writing it wondering if I was just cranking out fluff. Any more questions about all this? Might be good for a follow-up post to do some Q&A with the unresolved questions.

  27. April 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    @Matt: I am using blogger since more then 2 years and of course there are some shortcomings in comparison to wordpress. The impossibility of dedicated pages that are more like static webpages for a certain purpose comes to mind, no plugins for example for thumbnail galleries, no photo galleries etc.

    That said, there are advantages too, the biggest among them: it simply works, and the spam protection of the comments is quite good.

    And most important: it’s not the blog software that decides about success or failure, it certainly is the content. Mike Johnston’s “The Online Photographer” started on blogger and grew really big there, what else is more to say…

    The more flexible, adaptable system for sure is wordpress, but that also means you have to have (or pay for) the knowledge how to make best use of it.

  28. April 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    David: best points of yours: follow your passion, focus on content, and don’t take it too seriously; if you’re not having fun you probably won’t keep blogging.

    I could add a couple geeky points on using human-readable URLs, highlighting RSS feeds, installing and using site analytics, using comment tools such as Disqus or IntenseDebate, creating searches to find links, comments and mentions about your site and posts, and generally making sure that content is being published to make it as SEO-friendly as possible.

    Obviously none of those are reasons why we blog, but as long as we’re pouring out heart and time into sharing our ideas and images we should get as much credit for it as possible :)

  29. April 16, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    On the topic of hosts, check out http://www.squarespace.com. I just started using their hosting and I’m loving it. Definitely not free, but so far, worth it. All support tickets are answered within an hour or two, if that.

    I registered my domain through dreamhost. They did the job, but they didn’t seem too happy about it. Not too impressed with them.

  30. April 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Hi David
    Here is one blog I really like…it is niche…extreme niche….the reason I love it is simply because of that (apart from the fact that i find it extremely creative)
    http://www.amazingcircles.in/
    Anirban

  31. April 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    comment number 17 by: Glenn

    “Thank you for a great series. Very helpful and motivating.
    I would be interested in suggestions for WordPress themes (templates?) for photography oriented blogs if you have them.”

    To Glenn and the others wondering about WordPress photography themes – I’ve been doing a lot of research and have downloaded quite a few (20+) photography themes. Check out this site, which has a listing of theme resources – this should be all you need for free (and some paid) themes:
    http://wpcandy.com/articles/photoblogging-with-wordpress-round-up.html

    If you are willing to spend about $180 for a pro-WP theme, then check out http://www.prophotoblogs.com/ and while you are there, check out the blogs that are using their theme – some have a discount code for prophotoblogs.com.

    I use dot5hosting.com and have been extremely happy with them. They have an Install Central in your control panel that makes it very easy to install WordPress, or even PixelPost and Zenphoto, if you want to go that route. I love WordPress – it is very easy to use. I’d be happy to answer anyone’s questions if you are undecided or want more info.

  32. April 17, 2009 at 9:36 am

    If you want a photoblog (i.e. a photo only blog) I highly recommend PixelPost (www.pixelpost.org). It’s a great application for photo-a-day type blogs. Some of my favorite blogs of this type:
    http://www.durhamtownship.com/
    http://www.dianevarner.com/
    http://www.sirius2photo.com/photo/

    There’s also mine at invisiblegreen.com, but it’s not in the same league as the others.

  33. April 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    David:

    A great series, and this post especially. In reading the first paragraph, I actually had to go back and check that my blog has been going now for three years. I totally forgot to have a birthday party. (Read: new excuse to pop a home-brew.)

    I always tell people that ask me about blogging, and which reinforces your points:

    Know what your saying.
    Know to whom you’re saying it.
    Know why your saying it.

    and to add to that, Develop your own voice.

    Cheers & keep on keepin’ on.

    Gary Crabbe
    Enlightened Images
    http://www.enlightphoto.com
    http://www.enlightphoto.com/views/ (Weblog)

  34. April 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I thought for sure I posted a comment yesterday… oh well; try again.

    David: A great series. Very well written. Reading the first paragraph of this post made me go back and check; my blog is now over three years old. And to think I never had a Birthday Party. (Read: new excuse to open a home-brew.)

    I’ve posted back to this series on my own weblog.

    http://www.enlightphoto.com/views/2009/04/17/and-speaking-of-reading-writing-and-watching.htm

    I would add that when people ask me about my weblog, or whether they should blog, my answers usually include:

    Know what you want to say.
    Know to whom you are speaking.
    Know why you are saying it.
    And finally; Develop and speak (write) with your own voice.

    Keep up the great work.

    Cheers,

    Gary Crabbe
    Enlightened Images

  35. April 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I found your blog via Gary’s blog. This is a great post that shows your understanding of the medium.

    In addition to Gary’s blog, I frequently check out Ron Niebrugge’s blog: http://www.my-photo-blog.com

    I also have my own of course: http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog

  36. April 18, 2009 at 11:12 am

    [...] David DuChemin on why photographers should — or shouldn’t — blog. (part-1, part-2, part-3) [...]

  37. April 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Hey David,

    I have to thank Gary for tipping me off on your blog – great stuff, very informative.

    Too bad you didn’t write this 3 years back when it was getting started – I wouldn’t have had to learn this advice the hard way!

    Keep it up,

    Ron

  38. April 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    [...] The Photographer and the Blog, Part 3 Share and Enjoy: [...]

  39. April 19, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    This has been a good 3 post series on blogging. For me, my blog changes as the mood strikes. Sometimes it’s more pictures with fewer words, other times it’s more writing and less images.

    And I can’t believe no one has mentioned Chase Jarvis’ blog. http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/ That’s got to be one of the best photography related blogs around at the moment. In fact, his whole approach to social media, blogs etc is worth learning from.

  40. April 20, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Like a few of the other commentors, I came via Gary’s blog, thus a first time visitor.

    I greatly enjoyed reading your blogging series. My blog isn’t as much a photo blog as a travel blog which features photos. I’ve only been holding my camera for a few months, so I’m still very much in the learning mode.

    Your series was great to read, both the positives and the negatives. I have very similar beliefs about blogging, so it was great to see my thoughts confirmed.

    As your subject matter is blogging, I have a question. I noticed that you’ve been posting a lot more last year and this year. Is there a specific reason for this?

  41. April 21, 2009 at 2:01 am

    [...] The Photographer and the Blog, Part 3 [...]

  42. April 22, 2009 at 4:22 am

    I, too, started out with Blogger nad have moved over to WordPress. Because Blogger was helpful when I was new to blogging, I will leave my name there with an announcement that we are now at WordPress. Someone said you have to sign in to Blogger to comment, but one can actually leave an anonymous comment.

    You may be interested in our blog that has lots of useful articles such as “Making Mistakes,” “The Value of Photography,” “Pricing Photography,” an overview of “Lightroom,” a series on digital asset management, as well as anecdotal articles such as “My Meeting with Henri.”

    http://BCphotoadventures.wordpress.com

  43. April 22, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I started my little blog a few weeks ago, and I have to tell that these posts are filled with useful information that I’m already applying.

    Thank you.

  44. April 30, 2009 at 4:44 am

    I had a blogger blog at the beginning, too, and it really did look quite cheap. It’s been a year now since we have set up our nice wordpress blog (www.story-studios.com/blog) and I have never looked back. It has impacted our business profoundly, even though I do not blog as regularly as I should and even though I don’t know what to say sometimes….
    Great tips on here that even an experienced blogger should always keep in mind.
    Thanks David

    Lukas

  45. May 1, 2009 at 10:57 am

    [...] The Photographer and the Blog, Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3 [...]

  46. August 5, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Hi just read this blog post and you are mentioning some great stuff, great tips are always welcome, thanks and I will keep them in mind.
    Keep up the good work.

  47. March 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I can absolutely agree. I started out with blogger and moved to WordPress. WordPress just makes things so much easier to manage, never mind all the extra plugins. It helps with my photography website anyway.