Around about the middle of this year I decided to up the ante a bit on my photography blogging. I set myself the target of increasing the number of posts I do each month to at least one a week and try and get to my 200th post by the end of the year (this is post number 199 so I’m on course to do that).
So here are some personal reflections on blogging as I come up to my 200th post. What have I learnt and what do I need to do to maintain momentum? What do readers like most/least and, in an online media saturated world, what’s the point of it all anyway?
Decide why you’re blogging.
If you are to create a blog, and more importantly to carry on with it, then you need to decide early on why you are doing it. These reasons are obviously personal and will vary a lot but here are my three reasons for running this blog.
- I find blogging actually helps me formulate my ideas. Writing something down and explaining it is a great way of checking your understanding of a topic.
- I use posts to capture learning information (especially on the use of editing tools like Lightroom and Photoshop and lighting techniques) that I can go back and look at when I want to remind myself how I did something.
- Because I’m passionate about photography and want to share that passion with others.
Be in it for the long haul.
First thing to realise when you start blogging is you have to be in it for the long haul. It takes time, a long time to build up regular ‘hits’ let alone regular readers. As you might expect the more posts you do the more readers and hits you get. It’s not just sufficient to send posts out there hoping someone will read them though. It helps to link them to social media to pull in as many readers as possible.
Realise having lots of readers/followers/likes doesn’t matter.
Having said that, if you don’t get too many hits or readers does it matter anyway? Whilst it’s always nice to get likes, re-posts or the odd comment you need to be prepared to blog because you want to not because you hope to get lots of attention. I really started blogging for fun and because I had got a renewed interest in photography that I wanted to share and to be able to go back and read later.
Keep calm and keep on blogging.
I don’t know how many blogs fall by the wayside after the first few posts by the user but suspect it’s a lot (not surprisingly blog hosting platforms tend not to publish data like this preferring instead to focus on actual activity). If you want to avoid being one of those casual blog writers that soon loses interest you need a strategy to keep on blogging.
I’ve found that the best way to keep blogging is to have several posts on the go at once and to set aside a time each day to write. Having experimented with different times I find that an hour first thing in the morning, from around 6:30, works best. The biggest inhibitor is distractions so I find it helps to turn off all social media feeds and put my phone onto airplane mode. Also, to avoid getting to bogged down in the technicalities of formatting etc I find it helps to use the simplest editor possible (e.g. Notes or Text Edit on a Mac). Having something that automatically saves to the cloud is a good idea so you can back up and access from other devices. Generally, unless a post is photo heavy, I write using one of these means and only do final formatting and uploading of any images I want to use to illustrate my post just before I push the public button.
I find it also helps to give yourself a target for the number of posts you publish (a week, month or year). If you don’t meet that target then don’t give up, recognise you were too busy or had other things to do and carry on blogging. Here are three goals I am planning for 2017:
- Write 100 posts, that’s two a week or eight a month. Difficult but not impossible.
- Be more varied in the topics I post. Despite what my next goal is, a photography blog doesn’t just have to showcase actual photographs. I plan to also write more about what’s happening in the photographic world, reviews of books/exhibitions, philosophy and technique.
- Post more photographs. Always a good idea for what purports to be a photography blog.
- Publish some of my posts on Medium.
Link and tag.
To link or not to link, that is the question? Personally I believe it is best to add as many links, both to other posts in your blog as well as to other blogs, as possible. Some bloggers worry that putting in links that encourage people to leave you blog is a bad idea as they might not come back. For me blogging is all about community and you should encourage people to surf and look for other ideas. Most people will probably have come to you through a search anyway so your blog will be one of many on the list of search results. One thing I do make sure I do however is to ensure that if I include a link off my site it opens in a new browser tab so your blog is not lost. As to linking to other posts in your own blog this can’t possibly be a bad idea as it helps surface old posts that may not be found and also helps with your search engine rankings.
Tagging posts (intelligently) helps you and others find stuff on your blog. For posts on a theme (such as learning lighting) I make sure I always use the same tag (e.g. ‘learning lighting‘). Putting this into the search widget pulls up all posts with that tag, collected together, so enabling you or anyone else to quickly browse all your posts on a topic.
Provide an index.
As you blog grows and you have hopefully created lots of great content you want people to still find that content even if it is several years old. You may also want to find it yourself so want some form of index.. Tagging is one form of indexing however it relies on the fact people can guess your tagging scheme (or you use a widget that displays a tag cloud, however this takes up valuable space on your sidebar, especially if you have a lot of tags). Another way of allowing people to find previously published content is to provide a good old fashioned index. Make no mistake this is a bit of a faff as it really means having a separate page and manually building up a hyperlinked list of content. You may not want to do this for all your posts unless you are very disciplined. I tend to do it just for my learning content and have it in a separate page.
Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. Be ready.
Inspiration for a blog post can come from many sources. I find I can be listening to the radio, reading someone else’s blog or just out walking when an idea or a phrase pops into my head which can be used as a blog post title that can be developed further. Always carry a notebook (or your smartphone) so you can capture your idea straight away.
Be controversial (sometimes).
If you are passionate about something then some of the things you say are going to be controversial, or at least not liked by everyone. I tend to work on the theory that, like publicity, there’s no such thing as a bad blog post. If your post attracts negative feedback or comments you don’t agree with then so be it. At least you know you are getting attention!
Try and develop your own personal style.
With all the millions of blogs out there how can you possibly create something that is new, different, unique and inspirational? Answer, just be yourself. We are all different to a little or greater extent. The more personal your blog can be the more unique you blog will be. I don’t believe it matters if sometimes this means what you post is naff, or controversial or, for goodness sake, even downright wrong! The main thing is to get your own personal ‘brand’ out there.
For some more ideas on photography blogging (as well as blogging in general) check out these two excellent posts by Eric Kim: 50 Blogging Tips for Beginners and How to Start Your Own Photography Blog.