Blogging about photography and photo blogging are great ways to improve yourself as a photographer, give back to the community, make new friends and contacts, and express yourself. Not every photographer is interested in starting a blog, but I’m sure there are a few of you out there.
[tweetmeme]Epic Edits is getting to be an “old man” in the blogosphere (over 3 years running!), but I’ve recently launched a new blog (FeelingNegative.com) and I was reminded of all the things that new bloggers have to deal with. As I prepared this new blog for entry into the Web, I found myself making decisions based on my experience here at Epic Edits. Some of these decisions are not so obvious to folks with no prior blogging experience, so I’ve written down a few thoughts to consider if you’re planning to start a photography blog or photo blog.
HAVE A CONCEPT
Start 3 months before launch.
- Identify some specific audience that you can relate to.
- Find untapped opportunities and niches.
- Blog about what you know and shoot.
- Blog about what you want to learn.
That last point is a big deal. Teaching others about photography or displaying your work to a growing audience will force you to learn and grow at an accelerated rate.
Start 2.5 months before launch.
- Identify your overall site message or theme.
- Think of possible site names that fit your theme.
- Choose a blogging platform: WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Drupal, Blogger, etc.
- Look for possible themes and styles (but don’t pick one yet).
- Determine a posting frequency that you can keep up with.
Again, the last point is important. Blogging takes a lot of time on a regular schedule, so don’t assume that you can hit 3 posts per day with 1 hour of work. Just be realistic.
OUTLINE THE STRUCTURE
Start 2 months before launch.
- Lay out 3-5 main topics/genres (should be vastly unique).
- Use sub-topics to further separate content.
- List several theoretical post topics/titles for each category.
- Evaluate the outline and refine the structure.
Getting the site structure is key — you don’t want to be reorganizing a bunch of posts or photos a year down the road because you failed to plan ahead. Of course, leave yourself room to expand the categories and sub-categories.
Start 1.5 months before launch.
- Set up your platform and theme.
- Find and install useful plugins and widgets (depending on platform).
- Do some customization… graphics, colors, etc.
If you’re not familiar with blogging platforms, this might take some time to figure out. In that case, keep it simple and choose a platform that works for you. Otherwise, use what you know!
WRITE, WRITE, WRITE
Start 1 month before launch.
- Write 2-3 articles for each main category (so about 10 total).
- Proof, edit, and improve your articles.
- Test your platform, theme, and plugins with the articles you’ve written.
After you write the articles, check out your site and make sure things are displaying correctly and linking up the way they should. You should be just about finished tweaking the site at this point.
START THE SOCIAL ENGINES
Start .5 months before launch.
- Get on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, etc. Find 2 or 3 that you like.
- Leave out site links if you want to launch the site on a specific date.
- Connect with other bloggers and photographers in your niche.
- Invite a few friends to get the site going on launch date.
Social media can be a great source for spreading the word, but use these communities as a sincere participant — pure self-promo is considered spamming in many circles.
Start 1 week before launch.
- Post 5+ of your pre-written articles, pull remaining into draft for post-launch.
- Make the site viewable to the public (if you were using an “under construction” plugin).
- Contact friends and fellow bloggers for a preview (and tell them the launch date).
- Take a break! You’ve put in a bunch of work, so take a breather before things kick off.
If you’ve done your homework and spent the time to make a few contacts in the blogospere, you should have a few friends willing to give a hand with the launch party. Just don’t push too hard for promotion and try to connect with other bloggers and photographers on your level. The “big dogs” get a lot of “check out my new site” emails every day, so don’t expect them to act on every single one (they’re not being rude, they’re just trying to keep up with their own affairs).
This is the big day!
- Make it official and mention your new baby every chance you get!
- Remind the previewers that today is the big day for you.
- Watch for comments and stats — this is the exciting part of early blogging, so enjoy it.
Site launches are always different than what you expect, so don’t expect anything and just enjoy the ride. You might get a flood of visitors and you might get a dozen. Just stick with the plan and the word will get out eventually as long as you have something interesting to say or show.
Weeks after launch.
- Publish on pre-set schedule and try to stick with it.
- Seek promo opportunities: guest blogging, links in social profiles, etc.
- Announce your social extensions on the blog so new visitors can connect with you.
- Accept feedback on your work and make an effort to improve your blog.
- Refine your schedule, focus, and intent. Keep an open mind to change.
It can take months to grow into a new blog, so don’t give up after two weeks if you don’t have 5,000 visitors and 50 comments per day. Your blog will grow at a rate proportional to the effort you put into it, but even the best bloggers started at the bottom and worked their way up.
FIND YOUR GROOVE
Months after launch.
- Split your time between writing, interacting, and promoting.
- Reach out to other niche bloggers with links and mentions from your site.
- Give, give, give… and take very little. Blogging is about giving, not taking.
- Re-evaluate the plan frequently, make sure you’re on track with your goals and ambitions.
Blogging is like playing the stock market — you have your ups and downs. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s just how things go. Get into a groove and find your place among the community. Get to know your readers and other bloggers in your niche.
HAVE FUN WITH IT
Blogging and photo-blogging is a rewarding experience if you have the right attitude. Give it some time, share your knowledge and your artwork, participate, build the community, and have fun with it.
Anybody out there thinking of starting up a new photography blog, photo blog, or personal blog? How about the new bloggers on the block? Where are you guys? Throw out some links in the comments if you just started a blog within the last few months. And for you seasoned bloggers, what other tips do you have for starting a blog?