How to build an empire with your photography blog

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Last week, we looked at how you can build your empire with a photography blog. If you made the decision to start a blog or rebuild the one you have, here are 13 awesome features for you blog so it doesn’t suck.

What Are The Benefits of a Photography Blog?

I really enjoyed the reaction to last week’s post, both from people who were inspired to start blogging and those who realized what their blog means to them. It’s too easy to let someone else tell you what you ought to be doing and follow along.

It’s always up to you to decide what works best for your photography as an enthusiast or a business. I’m sharing to provoke thought and let you know about my experiences with blogging for the past 14 years.

If you’re still undecided as to whether you need a photography blog or not, let me share some potential benefits to help you consider if it’s right for you.

1: Control Your Brand

This is something you can’t do if you don’t control your web site. Look at all of the social media sites that failed. Imagine if you setup your photography blog on AOL, MySpace or Google+. Remember how Google+ was supposed to be the best place for photographers?

Digital Sharecropping is trying to build your Internet home on someone else’s land. You do the work, and Facebook benefits. At any time, the social media site can change the rules to prohibit your content or limit how many people see your posts.

With your photography website, you’re in control. You decide how to show your work. You decide what you can post. You develop your audience. Save your social media presence for opportunities to drive interested people from their site to yours.

2: Build Your Authority

Authority happens when you build trust based on the quality of your work and the user experience.

It’s much harder to be an authority on a social media site because you can’t control the platform. The user experience is in someone else’s hands. You can’t change the font that Facebook uses for your text in a post. You can’t even show a decent photograph on Facebook because their soul image-crushing algorithms destroy the integrity of your fine art photography.

Your posts on your website aren’t competing for attention from the other posts in a person’s feed. Do you want your work being ignored because the person above your post showed a photo of the dessert they had at lunch?

3: Develop an Audience

Remember the phrase from the movie?

If you build it, he will come.

Maybe that works for Kevin Costner, but that isn’t how things really work. You have to work for your audience.

That’s OK, because you don’t want or need a bunch of disinterested strangers visiting your photography blog. Instead, you want to generate targeted traffic interested in your work. It takes a little bit of time, but having your own photography blog gives you the tools to develop an audience with an interest in your message.

That’s a very rewarding thing, whether you’re building a photo journal or marketing a business.

4: Show Your Best Work

Look at any photo-sharing site, and you can see some really bad photography. I don’t care if it’s Facebook, Flickr or 500px. Most of the photos are so bad that it’s breathtaking.

Your work gets littered in with the mix. You may get a comment or a Like for your effort if it’s better. Isn’t that nice?

People who visit these sites flick from one image to the next without paying much attention. Seriously, no wonder that one of the sites is called Flickr. On your photography blog, you have their complete attention.

If you don’t put out something useful, interesting or entertaining, those viewers will leave. However, your odds of keeping that viewer and potentially converting her into a repeat visitor are much stronger when you show only your best work.

This is part of your effort to build Authority without distraction from anyone else.

5: It Drives You To Do Better Work

When you are competing against yourself, it drives you to improve. Having a photography blog has done more to help me improve my own photography than anything else I’ve done. It allows me to analyze what I’ve done and how I’d like to do better on my next shoot.

Anyone can upload a photo on a social media site.  If it isn’t worth viewing, it gets ignored.

Upload a lousy photo on a site that people associate with you (and sadly, I’ve done it) and there’s no way to hide from it. That’s the kind of internal competition that drives you to improve your photography like no other force.

6: Improve Your Writing

Just as a photography blog forces you to improve your images, it also forces you to think about your writing in ways you have never considered.

Cranking out a blog post takes more time than you first imagine, but that’s not the hard part. Imagine what you’re going to say on all of those other pages you need, like your About page and your Home page. These are some of the most popular and important pages that your visitors will read.

You get to define yourself; for better or worse, that’s how others perceive you.

Just as you refine your photography, you’ll refine your words. Landing pages, opt-in boxes and more can introduce some cringe-worthy material. However, it’s all part of the brand that you develop for yourself.

7: Engage With Potential Clients And Customers

Not every visitor will become a customer, but that’s OK. Those people can be carriers of your brand. The message they carry can vary depending upon how you treat them.

You may get a good referral from someone who never bought a thing from you, or you may have visitors who warn their friends to stay away from you.

Your photography blog, even if you don’t plan to sell a thing, should help you convey a positive image of yourself and your work. Answer questions. Ask questions of your audience to keep them engaged and interested. Don’t be afraid to refer people to another site if you don’t have what they need.

Whatever you do will become your brand.

8: Build An Email List

I can’t stress this one enough.  The importance of building an email list is paramount to communicating with your audience. It’s based upon their permission.

You get a chance to deliver a message directly to someone because they’ve asked for it. If you don’t deliver what they want, they can easily unsubscribe. That’s OK, too. You don’t want to send mail to disinterested people. It’s the ones who are interested and engaged that will help you grow your audience and potentially buy when you have something to offer.

We hear an awful lot about search engine optimization. That’s great and you need to work on building your ranking in search engines. However, those rankings are outside of your control. With a simple algorithm update, Google can cause your #1 page rank to disappear.

Suddenly, you’re not driving traffic to your site based upon search engine results pages. However, you can still reach your audience with email, allowing them to reach back and tell you what’s on their mind.

9: Raise The Bar For Your Business

If you’re in business as a photographer, then your photography blog gives you a chance to raise the bar. You’re in control of how you present yourself. Take a look at your competition. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer.

Would you do business with them over you based upon their website? This is simple market research. You can buy a WordPress theme from ThemeForest for around $60 and have any design you can imagine. If you don’t know how to set up a WordPress site or maintain it, visit my web development site at Suburbia Press and book a discovery call.

Whether you create your site or hire someone to do it for you, it’s up to you to have a vision of how it will appear and what you’ll share on your photography blog.

10: Make Some Money

Even if you don’t plan to operate a photography business, you can still make some money from your photography blog. Here are a few ways enthusiasts are making money from their photography blogs.

  • Affiliate sales from mentioning or reviewing products they use.
  • Crowdfunding from people who appreciate your art using services like Paypal or Patreon.
  • Advertisements
  • Print or stock sales

You never know when something will click and put a lot of change in your pocket.

Remember when Google bought Nik Software? The first thing Google did was dramatically drop the price. I was an affiliate for Nik Software and had the #1 position on Google search engine results for “Nik Software Coupon Code.”

I thought my earnings would tank because affiliate commissions are often based upon a percentage of the sales price. Lower price, lower commission.

I didn’t anticipate the sudden surge of people interested in buying Nik Software at a lower price. Those people would get to the checkout page and see a field for a coupon code. Quite a few of them searched for “Nik Software coupon code.”

Within a few weeks, I earned over $20K from affiliate sales for that product.

That’s an extreme example, but plenty of people make a good part of their income from affiliate sales. You don’t have to book clients to earn a living in photography.

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13 Awesome Features For Your Blog

Now that you know some of the benefits you can obtain from running your photography blog, here are 13 awesome features for your blog that you can’t ignore. These are the foundation of your photography blog – the bedrock that will hold up everything you do.

1: Absolute Control

It’s not just OK to be a dictator when blogging. It’s essential! This is your chance to stand out from the crowd. Make sure you aren’t relying upon a service that can yank the carpet out from underneath you. Make sure you can modify your site as you need.

Ignore Facebook, SmugMug, Flickr, Medium, Blogspot, Tumblr or anything else that can change the rules or distract your visitors from your site. You want total control of every word, every image and every link on your site.

I strongly recommend using WordPress on a hosting service. I use Cloudways.  It is a professional host that provides a good service and performance plan for my site. You can find less expensive plans on BlueHost.

Unleash your inner Darth Vader.

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2: Define a Niche

Be known for something specific. If you want to be a food photographer today and a landscape photographer tomorrow, you’re probably not going to be the first person someone considers when they want to hire a food photographer or a landscape photographer.

Your niche doesn’t have to be about a genre of photography. Maybe you like doing product reviews. Maybe you’re a posing genius or a lighting savant.

Do what you know. Do what you love. Be known for doing something specific.

3: Own Your Domain Name

Which domain would you trust more?

  • microsoft.com
  • microsoft.blogspot.com
  • microsoft.tumblr.com
  • micorosoft.wordpress.com

Don’t screw around with blogging services, paid or free. You can get a new domain from GoDaddy for about $15, perhaps even with a special of $3.99 for the first year. If you need to spend more for your business name, spend it.

Your domain name is an important part of your digital brand. It could also be your email domain with a $5 account at Google Apps.

4: A Design That Reflects Who You Are

I recommend the Kadence WordPress theme. Don’t limit yourself just to photography themes. Most WordPress designers know the importance of visual appeal and make adding photos, a portfolio, and a blog easy.

When selecting your theme, choose a style and colors that work for your niche. If you’re a baby photographer, you’re probably going with soft pastels, beige, and plenty of white space. Concert photographers seem to like dark themes for their photos.

You can change the colors on any theme, so consider the features and layout more when evaluating which theme to choose.

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5: A Photo Of Yourself

I run into many photographers who hate being in front of the camera. Honestly, so do I.

Get over it and post a nice photo of yourself. People want to see the person behind the photography blog.

Forget the iPhone snapshots and selfies. Make it a decent shot, even if you aren’t the person taking the image. You don’t have to make it a studio shot. If you’re the kind of person who gets out in the field, why not use a photo of you doing what you love?

Just avoid any photo of you holding a camera. It’s tired and cliché. People are already on your photography blog. They get it. You’re a photographer. You don’t see photos of a pianist holding her piano, so put down your camera and just look friendly.

6: An About Page

Here’s a great place to put your photo. It’s also a place to talk a little bit about yourself.

People are curious. They want to know more about you, but they also want to know what you can do for them.

Here’s a link to my About page. In the first section, I briefly describe what people can expect from me.

  • Product reviews
  • Tips on aspects of photography
  • Coupon codes for discounts on photography products (which I give to subscribers to my e-mail list)

It’s just enough to say what this site is about, then the rest of the page is about me.

7: A Contact Page

People will use your Contact page. I get everything from questions about places I’ve visited to inquiries about print sales. Over the weekend, I had a nice conversation about photography in Las Vegas with someone who reached out to me on my Contact page.

Since I’ve done a lot of photography there, I could answer his questions and offer some insights about things I’ve experienced there.

A few weeks ago, I received a contact that turned into a very nice sale. You never know what will come your way, but you could miss some great opportunities if people can’t reach you.

Even if someone never tries to contact you, it’s a trust-builder.

8: Examples Of Your Best Work

It shouldn’t be a surprise that people who visit a photography blog want to see photos. It is very important to me that my Home page starts off with some examples of my best work. For many people, it’s their first impression of me.

If they like that work, then they’re willing to explore a bit deeper. If they don’t like it, they’re gone, just like that.

Your home page is your front door. Make it inviting.

Of course, that isn’t the only place where people expect to see your work. You should have a Portfolio or Galleries with examples of your photography.

Trust me when I say that less is more. Don’t put up everything you have. Don’t create galleries just because you can do it. Just put up your best work and then go take more photos that are even better.

9: A Responsive or Mobile Friendly Design

It used to be hard to serve both desktop and mobile clients. It was hard, but only a small percentage of your site visitors who visited using a mobile device.

Those days are over. Don’t be surprised if half of your visitors are using a smartphone or tablet, and that number may grow. Fortunately, it’s very easy to ensure they have a good visitor experience.

When choosing a WordPress theme, ensure one feature is Responsive Design. That allows your site to reconfigure itself to the browser dimensions your visitor uses. For an example, try resizing this site with your browser or visiting it with a smartphone. It will look a bit different, but the experience should still work.

10: Use Good Search Engine Optimization Practices

You could write a whole book on this topic and still find people who disagree with you. I’ll give you some basics to get started (and I wish I knew them when I started).

  • Keep your Categories limited to 6-8 at most. Think of them as chapters of a book.
  • Use Tags as if they were the index for your book. Don’t create Tags with the same name as your Categories.
  • Identify a search keyword or phrase for each post. Use it in your URL, title, meta description, and inside your post.
  • Don’t let SEO techniques overrule your writing. Write for your reader first. The search engines will figure out what you mean.
  • Backlinks are important to search engines. Try to write something others want to link to on their site.
  • Link to your content. If you mention something covered in a previous post, include a link to it in your current post.

11: Fast Performance

People hate waiting for a website to load. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you use less expensive hosts. They tend to overload clients on the same server. If one of them has a traffic spike, the other sites suffer from slow performance.

You can find dedicated hosts (which are really expensive) or strike a middle ground with a Cloud VPS hosting site. That’s one of the reasons I chose Cloudways Vultr HF as my host. In addition to features like daily backups and staging sites, they also offer great bandwidth and have the capacity to support a sudden surge of traffic.

You know who else hates a slow website? Search engines. You’ll have higher search engine rankings if your site is faster than the next guy trying to rank for the same keyword or phrase.

12: Site Analytics

At the very least, sign up for Google Search Console. You’ll not only find out how many people are visiting your site and what search terms they’re using to land there, but you can also discover problems on your photography blog that may lead to a bad user experience for a visitor.

Some paid services, like Woopra, can show you what customers are doing in real-time or create Heat Maps to track customer profiles and activity. When you know what visitors are doing, you can adapt to make things easier for them.

13: An Email List

There is no better way to build your audience and support your photography blog than to build an email list. A common practice is to offer something in exchange for someone giving their email address. For example, people will give their address in exchange for an ebook, presets, templates, coupons or something of interest.

Others will give their email address if they like your work and don’t want to miss out. It can be a reminder for blog posts or a digest at the end of the week to show what you’ve done.

You can write a newsletter with information about your activities or things you’re planning to do. It’s even a good way to reach out to engage people who may be able to help you with a problem or know where to shoot in a different city.

Mostly, your email list is the strongest tie you have to the community that can build around your photography blog. Start building your list as soon as you can.

You can find a list of the best email service providers on my site at Suburbia Press.

Want A Photography Blog That Doesn’t Suck?

There are a lot of great benefits to having a photography blog. Keep in mind that you get what you give. If you want a photo journal, that’s a fine purpose.

If, on the other hand, you want to build an empire with your photography blog, expect to put in some time and do the hard work to support it. No rule says you have to reach for the limit, but isn’t it nice to know that you can?

Look at the people you think are at the top of their game in photography blogging. There’s nothing that anyone does that you can’t also do. Just as it takes time and practice to refine your photography skill, it also takes time to build up your photography blog.

The cool thing is that it’s within your reach.

Share The Message

If you liked this post, help me spread the word. Share it with your friends and family. If you have a blog and would like to join the conversation, please feel free to link to this post.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on my Contact page. Let me know what you think.

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