What Makes a Good Photography Blog?

Gratuitous Image of Camera Gear

A Gratuitous Image of Some Camera Gear!

I’ve been pondering this question over the last month or so as I’ve tried to gain more readers to this blog. Over this period I have:

  1. Moved both my website and blog to a single platform, this one, on WordPress.com.
  2. Published regularly at the same time every week.
  3. Tried to vary the content to include images from shoots I have done, Lightroom and Photoshop tips, reviews based on equipment usage as well as hints on how to light photographs etc.
  4. Created an Instagram account and linked both my website/blog and that account together (in both directions).
  5. Created a new home page of images which I try to add to and update on a fairly regular basis.

All of this has increased readership by a small amount (with a couple of notable peaks following the work I did on a fashion shoot) but not, if I’m honest, by anything significant and certainly not in proportion to the work that I’ve put in! So what does one need to do around here to gain more readership? What makes a good photography blog that people want to return to regularly?

If I look at the data that WordPress provide showing which posts get the most views then the highest views tend to be those discussing gear, either reviewing it, or showing how to use it. In fact my most popular post each year since I’ve published it is this post praising the Billingham Hadley Pro camera bag. I guess this is a reflection of that fact that many of us photographers suffer from G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) for at least some part, if not all, of our photographic lives.

So, more work obviously needed including a bit of research on the web. Here are a few tips and tricks on making your blog successful that I’ve gleaned from looking at other sites and reading about the experiences of successful photography bloggers.

  1. You really, really, REALLY need to blog regularly. Posting two entries in your blog one week then doing nothing for a month is not good, it sends the wrong message to your audience and shows a lack of commitment. The general consensus seems to be that once a week is probably the minimum you can get away with if you are serious about blogging.
  2. Write posts of value. People have limited time and will only give your blog the briefest of looks, and probably not come back, if they don’t think they will get anything of value out of it. Value can be an informative post, a ‘how-to’ or simply one that contains some inspirational images.
  3. Link your blog with other social media platforms. Whenever you post something new make sure you post links on your Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr accounts and maybe update Instagram with some example images (linking posts on Instagram to your blog is not so frictionless, there being no hyperlinks allowed on an Instagram post).
  4. If you link to other websites make sure that link is opened in a new browser tab and doesn’t just open in the one containing your pages. It’s easier to lose people once they’ve moved off your site (they might not come back) and keeping you site open in a browser tab means you don’t have to rely on someone using the ‘back’ button to return to yours.
  5. Write blog posts that are not too long. People’s attention spans are pretty short these days so you either need to say what you want to say quickly or at least have a short, direct paragraph at the start of your post to grab peoples attention and keep them reading.
  6. Only show the stuff you’re really proud of, and be ruthless in getting rid what is not so good. Having lots and lots of mediocre images on your website/blog as ‘filler’ is not good. Images really do need the wow factor. This is difficult when starting out but curating your images, weeding out weaker ones on a regular basis as you hopefully add better ones is something that will make people stick around for longer and hopefully come back for more.
  7. Finally, be clear on what is the purpose of your website/blog. Most of us want to show our work but just having photographs is probably not going to do it when there are so many great photographers out there with stunning images. Sometimes having an artists statement somewhere on your site can help crystallise this and make you site more focussed. Writing an artists statement is hard, I’ve tried a few times but never got anything I’m happy with. Here are some good tips for getting started though.

When considering what makes a good photography web site think about the sites  you like and what makes you keep going back to them. Can you identify what are the key characteristics of those sites and can you reproduce at least some of them in your own blog? Here are a few of my current favourite sites and why I enjoy them.

  • Ming Thein – Ming is one of the most consistent and thoughtful bloggers out there. He regularly updates his blog (at least three posts per week) and includes lots of original and philosophical posts on photography. His posts also get lots of comments so it’s obviously a popular site.
  • Dear Susan – A travel photography site. Again, a regular poster of informative articles with some very good photography as well.
  • Eric Kim – Eric is a street photographer and as well as posting great image of this genre he also writes long, philosophical articles and even books (which he gives away).
  • Strobist – One of the longest running and most popular blogs out there. A really great source of information on how to light photographs with off-camera-flash. I used to visit this blog a lot when I was learning how to do this though not quite so much now.
  • World of Wanderlust – I discovered this blog whilst researching this article. It’s run by Brooke Saward, a professional travel blogger. Not only does this blog contains some nice travel photographs it also contains lots of fabulous articles on blogging including her 10 best blogging tips.

As I’ve said before elsewhere one of the reasons for blogging is that it helps you to think and reflect on your ideas. Writing something down helps to drive out the uncertainty and vagueness in what you are trying to say. This post and the research it took looking into what makes a blog a success has certainly done that for me so I hope to be putting some of these ideas into practice.

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