A few days back I has asked the rhetorical question Why (Photo) Blog? Needless to say I think I provided a lot of good reasons to consider starting a photo-blog. The question I get pinged the most is; what works? How can you create a potentially successful photo-blog to achieve what you want? So having a really successful photobook-blog and a few flops, here’s what I have learned over the past ten years.
First, you have to identify what you want your photo-blog to do for you. This probably seems like a pretty basic question but what I have learned from teaching many workshops on artistic project development is that many artists and photographers do not take the time to write out the reasons for doing what they do and want to accomplish. I liken this to putting a rudder on your creative boat because if you don’t have a rudder to steer you in the right direction you will aimless float around. At the end of the day you will not have gotten very far in the direction you intended.
I break this basic question out into three parts: What do you want your photography to help you accomplish in life? (really big question, eh?) What do you want to creatively accomplish in the next five years? (publish a book, finish a project, gallery representation, new clients, museum exhibition?) Then what do you need to do in the next year to make your five year plan work? Finally, (I guess this is really four parts) how does writing a photo-blog help you accomplish your current plan, your five year plans and your life-plans?
Questions only you can answer.
My example; I want to use photography as a creative means of self-expression and have an impact on social/medical change while my five year plans have changed and shifted over the years. How I use this blog has shifted accordingly. I now want to write and share my thoughts about broader photographic ideas and in the process showcase some of my photographic work, such as this image, above from my Memory Pods project. My creative life goal is about providing more visibility to the issues surrounding memory loss, such as dementia and Alzheimers disease. Hopefully this dialog may lead to a cure which is really the ultimate goal. Related to this is my five year plan to connect with another gallery for representation, publish another book (or two) and in the process have my related projects exhibited and create some interesting discussions.
So what is your photo passion that others might also want to know more about? Will writing about that (photo) passion move you towards your personal goal (assuming that you may have a lot of different passions to chose from)? Is your subject unique that folks will want to come back to again; thus interesting? (yes, clues as to what works!)
My example; I really, really like contemporary photobooks. I have a small library of photobooks (okay, my wife says that the house and studio are buried in books). I like to share my interest about contemporary photobooks and when I do write about a photobook that interests me, I find that I really dig into the reasons why a photographer, photographic project and a book appear to work and pull me in. As a result I learn about myself as well as develop concepts that I use for my own projects and books. So I started a photo-blog about my photobook passion in 2008. Today that is now an on-line magazine with a wonderful team of writers who have a shared photobook interest and a talented support staff that now has a ton of followers.
Another aspect of investing in a photo-blog which will probably be time as most basic blogs, like WordPress, are free is that to keep others interested in your blog you need to keep adding content (articles) frequently. As interest in your blog grows, your community will grow accordingly. If you blog (post) once every couple of months or just once and then expect the world come knocking at your door, good luck, you blog will not flourish. So try this; before you start your blog, or if you have already; write a list of 30 potential articles and plan to blog about and post these one per day for the next 30 days. Pretty intense, eh? While doing this 30-day blogging project make a list of another 12 articles and then post (blog) these one per week after that. While you have this in progress make your list of the next 12 articles and keep this going, publishing one per week for the entire first year. As you might suspect you should plan to continue this blogging trend. Which is why it is a good idea of choosing a passion to blog about as you will quickly run out of steam. Does this work? I can tell you it sure did for my photo-book-blog.
Expect some course corrections; as you get feedback about what you write you should find out what works (e.g. wow, a lot of people read that) and what seems to fall flat with little to no reader response. Nice thing about a blog; it is very flexible, make a course direction, change the template, layout, add pages and categories, don’t get too rigid, and be flexible and open to change. Keep it fun.
Use other social media to promote what you blog about. When I started in 2008 Facebook was still in its infancy and Instagram was someone’s dream. There are a lot of different social media channels today that you can share your blogging on to let others know that they have something new to read. Another personal example; Facebook has a lot of different photobook groups that I am a member. In these groups I find out about new photobooks and I announce our book reviews. I can see in the blog analytics when I provide our Facebook announcements as its source of my readership.
I had mentioned what does not seem to work (for me). Project specific blogs, such as supporting a specific photographic book, a practice which used to be recommended as part of a (self) publishing plan. In reality this could be a short-term blog, but once the book is published and out of circulation, and all of the interest in exhibitions are complete, the interest in your blog will be mostly gone. Thus this could be a short term blog as you may let it go dormant in a few years. Lessons learned; once a blog seems to have “died”, especially if it is free, don’t kill it (delete it off the web), but let it go dormant, not adding new content, as you may never know when you have an interest to get it going again. A mistake that I have regretted more than once. Because once gone, it is gone forever.
Writing about other artist and photographers will usually be more interesting to others than writing only about your own photographic projects. Case in point; I have used this blog over the years to write about my own projects and it has grown only so ever slightly while writing about other photographers and their photobooks that photobook-blog grew to the point of becoming a magazine. Likewise my friend Aline Smithson started her blog Lenscratch about the same time as I started this one and similar to my PhotoBook Journal, she featured other photographers and it is now a really nice on-line magazine with a large following.
When others ask to join in and help you with your blog, you will know that you are on your way to achieving your goals with your blog.
Essentially blogging can become part of an overall self-promotional plan and I have found that having my blog is the key (cornerstone) place which I then promote on other social media. I can control my blog better (design and layout) than the fickleness of Facebook/Instagram and my posts have a longer existence than a temporary short life-span post on Facebook/Instagram.
Cheers & let me know what you think; did you find this helpful?
Douglas Stockdale; photo-blogger since 2008, Editor & Publisher PhotoBook Journal, the contemporary photobook magazine and Associate Editor, SoCal PhotoExchange Journal.
Exhibition: 2019 Summer Group Show, Fabrik Projects Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, exhibition opening August 3rd, 6 – 9pm, 2019
Portfolio Reviewer & Juror for LACP’s first Photo Book Competition, LACP 2019 Exposures Weekend, September 13 – 15th, Marina Del Mar, CA