I've been doing this for 5 years, and have learned a few things along the way...
I love having this blog, and just realized that it’s been 5 years since I started it. That’s pretty cool, and honestly it wasn’t something that I had any sort of plan for. I just started it, and enjoyed it, and kept going.
So, here it is 5 years later already. Seems like just yesterday I was trying to figure out how to start one, how to properly operate my camera, and how to properly operate the software that I had. And truthfully, now I look back at some of those shots and wish I hadn’t shared them, because a lot of them aren’t very good. Such is life - we always look back on our “old self” and begin to realize how far we have come. And then we realize how far we still have to go. :-)
But I have come a long way in 5 years, and while no one would consider me an expert in this stuff (least of all me), I do have an opinion or two and enjoy sharing...so take a few moments and read through. Hopefully it helps, especially if you are considering starting a photo-blog, or are just getting started with it.
And in case you missed it, I shared an article here a while back about the Pros and Cons of Photo-Blogging. Maybe you would like to read that as well?
And I am open to your feedback, too. Like I said, I’m no expert. I am learning as I go along. Feel free to let me know your thoughts, and if you have any questions you are welcome to ask!
So without further delay, here you go...
5 lessons learned in 5 years of photo-blogging
1) Post quality, consistently
First things first - the internet is totally ADHD. Short attention spans are a reality, especially online. People click stuff, scan it quickly, and move on to the next click.
Don’t take it personally.
There have been many times that I posted what I thought was the most beautiful photo, and yet it received almost no attention. It happens. What can you do about it?
The only thing I know that works is to continue to create quality content and get it out there. Keep trying, keep working, and keep at it. It’s hard work. No one said this stuff was easy.
I do believe that you should post frequently though - just make sure it’s good, whatever you’re posting. Whether it’s a photo, a story, a review - whatever - just make sure you are happy with it, and it’s not half-baked. Get it done right. People can tell if you put a lot of effort into something…but perhaps more importantly, you know.
And don’t underestimate the power of the written word – even on a photo blog. That’s a big mistake I made in the early years. When I started, I was happy just to have some sort of photo that I could post, and I never had much to say about it. The posts were thin and the photos were fair. I could have done better, and should have.
Think a lot about what you are writing. Write it, edit it, let it sit for a while, and edit it again. Your goal is to get something done well, not just done.
It’s really only in the last year or so that I feel like I am starting to hit my stride in terms of my blog’s level of quality content, and really have gotten into a sort of groove. It feels good - I only wish I had started focusing on quality much sooner. It matters.
People may click through for a look at a decent picture, but if you can write well too and have something worth sharing, they will stick around a bit. That’s something I am working hard on. I want my writing to be at least as good as my photos, and maybe better.
2) Be yourself
When you start, right at the very beginning of your very first post, be sure and just be yourself. I never did that, I just started the blog. I didn’t really know what to write, or even how to write it. I didn’t feel like I had anything worth saying. I was too concerned about how my writing would be received (assuming anyone even read it), and I think I was stiff and boring. In other words, I was so caught up in self-created fear that I wasn’t being myself.
I no longer feel that way. I love to write up blog posts and articles - absolutely love it. I’m very comfortable writing and sharing my thoughts and opinions now. I’ve come a long way, and I am writing more like myself too. And frankly, it just feels better.
And so I have been writing a lot more these days. In fact, my longer-form posts tend to get more response than my regular photo posts. I find that interesting, considering I think of this as a photo blog. But I do think it’s morphing into something a bit broader than photography, I’m just not sure what yet..but I am ok with that. Because...
3) Realize it will all change several times
There’s no reason to expect to launch a blog that is fully-formed and unwavering in its direction. You build upon it every time you post something, and it’s natural for it to morph over time. People change, and thus your blog will change. This process is iterative. In fact, it’s been a continuous process of evolution for me over the last year or so. I have been changing, my photography has been changing, and thus my blog has been changing.
I really struggled when I started thinking that I wanted to share longer form articles like this one you’re reading now. It was a radical departure for me, since I previously posted 5-6 photos per week, each with a short blurb about the shot. I wasn’t sure if it would work, for me or for the blog.
Honestly, I was scared, which sounds ridiculous in retrospect, because it’s not exactly like I depend on this for my livelihood. But, my writing was untested (#1 above), I hadn’t found my voice yet (#2 above), and I was afraid to share my opinion (#4 below). What if everyone thought it was all terrible? What if no one came back to the blog?
Thankfully, my changes appear to have been well-received and my readership is growing. And the truth is that things will change again for me. So don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t expect to know everything you will want to do with your blog when you start - heck I’ve been at it for 5 years and it’s still changing - but just give yourself the freedom (and the permission) to try things that interest you. You’ll be glad you did.
4) Don’t be afraid to have an opinion, but there’s no need to be rude about it
Opinions are what make us all different. It’s part of what makes us human - we can all read or see the same thing, and each of us can react differently. That’s all good - it would be pretty boring if everyone was the same.
But I have seen blog posts that offer an opinion, and then rudely insult those who have a different one. Or worse, the blog post title is something that is sure to offend. I realize a lot of that is just baiting people, probably in hopes of driving traffic, but I can’t see a reason for being like that. There are so many bigger things this world needs to expend energy on - no need to waste it being a jackass to those who think differently. Variety is good, and we should be respectful of other people’s tastes. This is art. Let’s celebrate differences.
One of my most popular posts here is one where I talk about Flickr and 500px (a couple of photo-sharing websites). In the post I describe why I am no longer actively using 500px, but I wasn’t rude about it. Why would I be? Just because something isn’t working for me, doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone else. I was just sharing my observations.
So feel free to share your opinions - and yes, I believe people want to hear them, because different perspectives are appreciated - but be nice about it, k?
“Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” - Mary Wortley Montagu
5) It’s a lot more work - and more fun - than you can possibly imagine
I work my ass of for this blog, and it’s really just a glorified hobby. I’m passionate about it, but it’s a labor of love. My point is that I spend way more time and effort here than I get back in financial terms, but I don’t care. I can’t imagine not having this. It feels like part of me.
When I spend time on the blog, either processing and sharing photos, or doing write-ups, or product reviews, or just writing something like this post - I’m happy. Time just flies by. I love this stuff, and even though I spend a lot of time on it, I never feel like it’s a waste of time, because I am investing in my creative self. In other words, it never feels like work. That matters a lot to me. It’s my outlet, and I absolutely love it.
So there you have it - 5 lessons I have learned after photo-blogging for 5 years. I hope it gives you some insight into the things I have gleaned from my experiences with running a photo-blog, and I hope it inspires you to give it a try yourself - it’s great fun!