The blog is about to turn a year old. Here's some hard earned lessons from this time spent online.
1) If you want a popular blog, shell out for the gear
One blogger suggested that in order to have a popular blog, you should be a cool and passionate person. Poppycock. That only counts when they are already at your door. In order to get them in, you are mainly at the mercy of the Google search.
The cold hard truth is that if you want a popular blog, you should have popular keywords while they are hot. I'm only going to get a few hits if I make a NEX7 review now, but I would have exponentially more if I had it on release date, or even better, before the release. Repeat this for all the hot cameras and I guarantee you success. You can try out stuff like “Street photography tutorial” but since anybody can do it, lots of blogs already do.
Google doesn't care if your nice, all it knows is keywords. Your own personality counts as soon as you get readers to your door. Only your personality can make a passerby a recurring reader. I do the occasional review, but I believe I have something better to offer, even if that means Google not seeing me much :/
2) It can take over your life
I used to blog daily, but I had to stop. Too much work….it was starting to put stress on me and I started to resent it. I had to cut down posts to about 3 per week (depending on the week!) because it was really starting to take too much of my time. A post is not as simple as it sounds, it's mainly around 3 hours+, not counting image editing and layout.
3)And offers little in return
It's easy to be a reader online, and let me tell you, it's hellish on the other side of the fence. The problem is not really that stuff is free, the problem is that most people do not see the amount of work behind it. Each blogger has a life, a family, bills to pay, groceries to pay like everybody else.
But the internet is such that it's mainly a one sided relationship. It doesn't click in people's mind that the blogger has to make a living too.
That donate button on certain blogs must be respected because it is a very tough crowd to be a part of. I am confident in saying that most photography bloggers are not in the blogging game for money. But there needs to be a little bread to be made, at least to justify all the time blogging!!!
Some bloggers go daily and barely make $50/month from the blog. You can dunk 5 hours easy per day if you don't watch it! Do the math and see how little return blogging actually is.
All I can say is, pay it forward. If you've been blessed by a blog, say so to the blogger, send them coffee money, or support them in some way. Why do you think there are so many dead blogs?
Personally I would love to blog and mag 24/7, but truth is, my kid and wife run on food and need shelter. If I do not make enough to feed them, I can't justify dunking all this time in blogging or any endeavor for that matter.
4) It's a bit like shouting in the dark
Blogging is like having the only lit house in a thousand mile radius. You shout and shout but hear nothing butyou know there are thousands of people watching you in the dark but nobody answers. This is what it feels like blogging with no feedback. You don't know if you struck a chord or if you really said something stupid! But you know that people hear, and must always be mindful of that, even without a single comment. If nobody tells you how they feel about your blog, you will never know if people appreciate it.
5) It's a journey companion
Usually photographers present their body of work, representing years of photos; but with a blog photographers can present their whole photographic journey. Sometimes I feel my photography sucks: I blog about it and tell you my solution. Sometimes I find something that helps me out: I blog about it and hope to help out someone else. My kid almost died, I blogged about it and tell you how it affected me as a photographer…. Before photographers were associated with their portfolio, now they can be associated with the spectrum of their life through their blog.
6) Be yourself
Be yourself in your photography, be yourself when blogging. Say how you feel, show photographically how you feel, etc. People relate to you more than you know (even with no comments). The only thing to do is be yourself. This way your blog will be unique and interesting and not a strictly informational site that no one relates to or returns to. The best blogs are personal ones or the ones with a personal tone.
7) It's your life's work
Photography is my life's work, but I believe blogging also is. It's just a perfect mix. It's like a book you are writing everyday about your view of the world. It's thrilling to think about it this way actually.
I think a photographer's life is more interesting than the few great shots that they got throughout their life. I think this is why we are fascinated by Vivian Maiers so much, it's her life as a whole, not her shots only. Humans are extremely complex, and I doubt a body of work of 50 images can summarize a photographer's life. I think a blog frames more than these shots. I think the final body of work is important, but also everything in between.
See this touching story.
8) Relationships baby!
The real beauty of the blog is that if you stay yourself, you automatically attract like minded people. You make friends, have relationships with others and nothing beats helping someone out by something you said. I'm friends with some very cool folks because of this blog, so it does make your life richer. But there is a flip side also….
9) You are open for attacks
As soon as you put yourself out there, you open yourself for attacks. Some people are just mean spirited and are not affraid to use the anonymity of the internet to speak their mind! I've got some comments on other websites referring me to stupid, idiot, my work as ugly, bashing my projects, etc.
It doesn't hurt one bit, I don't care what they say. But what really hurts me is that I cannot conceive that some people just ARE mean spirited. I just can't compute that some people feel good when belittling others. So by putting yourself out there you are open for personal attacks, that comes by being in the spotlight while everybody else is in the dark. The more prominent you are, the more poignant attacks you will get…. pure statistics.
10) You'll always have something to say
As a blogger, I can tell you that you will never run out of things to say. The problem is to say something on demand, but if you make no daily commitment to your blog, it's not an issue. There is so much stuff you can blog about: Happy photography day, rainy photography day, exiting gear news, here's a tip I learned, etc. Life is rich and complex, and there's lots to talk about!
Bonus: You don't care about traffic
I remember checking my traffic everyday like a kid on Christmas. They don't mean much to me anymore. I take it that others also outgrow their traffic fix.
Where is yours?
That's about it for my experience. All I can say is, it's worth it. Your blog is your online cozy place. You look at it, it's all yours, you built it by yourself. I go further by making this my portfolio website, but also where I read my email, feeds, invoice clients, etc. It's very little return, but it's totally worth it and think that everyone needs their own personal space. On things like Flickr or Facebook, it's more like you are in someone else's place, but when it comes to your blog, it's your own. get blogging!
Note: Compare with my first 3 months. It's a deeper relationship as you can see, but some stuff staid the same. I made a point not to look at the first list until after I publish this one in order not to get influenced….