There are roughly 450 Million English language blogs in the world. Some of them are needles and the rest make up the haystack. You need a plan to stand out. Today, we'll talk about how to build an empire with your photography blog.
Why Do You Want a Photography Blog?
Let's start with the most important question. Why bother building a photography blog in the first place? There are plenty of sites where you can get your photography on the Internet. Flickr, 500px, SmugMug (which I detest) and others are dedicated to sharing photography.
You can post photos on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Yes, I know people are afraid of their user policies, but I can't remember a single case where any of these sites truly stole a photo to earn money.
Most of us want to share our photos. Out of all the photographers I know, there is only one guy who I never see sharing his work online. That's a shame, because he does great work and I'd like to see more of it. (I'm talking about you, Steve.)
Here's something to consider. Blogging and sharing photos are two different things. You can do both on the same site, but this post is about blogging.
Blogging, if you do it well, is a lot of work. It's a rewarding pain in the ass.
Are you sure that you want to do it?
Things to Consider Before You Start a Blog
Sharing photos is relatively painless. You pick a place and upload a photo. Pretty much done at that point.
Blogging is different because, unlike sharing for the fun of it, blogging requires a purpose.
If you want someone to read your blog, you can't write about every little thing that comes to mind. People like to visit blogs devoted to a niche of some sort.
Maybe now and then you can get away with an aside. I got some great traffic for my Just Married blog post, despite it not really being about photography. It was something personal and a lot of people can relate to someone being happy about getting married.
Had I written about some plumbing problems, I doubt the post would've had so much traffic.
Here are a few things to ask yourself before you start a photography blog.
1: What is my niche?
Let's face it. Photography is too big to be a niche unto itself. Dig deeper and get more specific. Look at a site like David Hobby's Strobist blog. David helped hundreds of thousands of readers to better understand how to light their subjects.
Even within that niche, he dug deeper into related posts like choosing rechargeable batteries. You can choose a narrow niche and still have plenty to discuss.
David built his empire on lighting because he chose a narrow niche subject, he had a wealth of information to share, and he built a community around people who were excited to learn.
2: What is my purpose?
I started this blog as an outlet. It gave me a place to think about plenty of aspects of photography and what it means to me.
That was extremely useful to me, but not quite as useful to a mass audience. That's because I started this site with myself as the audience.
You will never turn your photography blog into an empire while your blog is about yourself.
There are really four reasons for people to visit your photography blog.
- To participate in a community
- To be entertained
- To solve a problem
- To be informed
Stuck in Customs is perhaps the most visited photography site in the world. Trey Ratcliff built his empire from a combination of the reasons above, but the entertainment factor of seeing beautiful photographs from around the globe resonates with people from all walks of life.
Sharing those photos daily propelled Trey to create more sites and products that developed a thriving community and educated others (including me) so they could learn how he creates his images.
3: Does Anyone Care?
We can't all travel the world and many of us really don't want to spend our lives on the road.
That doesn't mean we don't have something to share, but it begs an important question. Why should anyone care about your posts?
Your photography blog needs to address things from your reader's point of view.
I think that the reason people visit blogs is because of pain. That comes in two varieties.
1: Acute Pain
Something hurts and it needs immediate relief. This is the kind of pain you feel when you need an answer right now and you'll go to great lengths to find it.
One of my most popular posts is about relieving this kind of acute pain – How to Fix the Adobe Creative Cloud Login Error.
That problem was a major pain for me and I knew it had to impact others. That's why I wanted to share my information to resolve it.
Here's something interesting about blogging about acute pain. It generates plenty of traffic and comments, but it does little to build a community. People in pain want a solution. They aren't here for anything else and most of them never returned.
I'm glad I could help people in acute pain, just as I'm thrilled when I find someone else who has an answer to a problem when I'm in trouble. However, it's not the sort of thing that will help you build an empire with your photography blog.
2: Chronic Pain
Did you ever have an ache that was annoying, but it wasn't so severe that you needed to address it right away? That's where you build your empire.
Let's look at Strobist and Stuck in Customs as examples.
Photographers want to learn how to create better photos with lighting, but their lack of knowledge isn't keeping them from taking photos. The Strobist blog addressed a chronic issue and showed people how to address their pain point.
We all need a break from our routine. We see the same thing at home, on our commute, in our place of work. Even TV gets to be the same. Stuck in Customs provided us with an escape. It offered a daily photo of someplace different. Even when Trey visits your town and posts a photo, he seems to show it in a different way than you've ever seen it. Visual entertainment allowed people to escape the chronic (if mild) pain of their mundane existence.
Both David and Trey built enthusiastic communities from people who experienced chronic pain of some sort.
Chronic pain is your sweet spot.
What is Your Unique Angle?
OK, are you still with me? If you still want to build an empire with your photography blog, you need one more thing.
You need an angle. Your angle.
You can't just copy someone else's photography blog and hope to achieve the same kind of success as your idol. That's because people enjoy something that is fresh, new, different and unique.
It's been done before.
Have you ever noticed that cover bands never really get national attention? Why should they? They're copying someone else almost verbatim.
That doesn't mean you can't take the same photo as someone else or cover a topic that's already covered. The fact that competition exists is a good thing. It means there is a market for the material.
You just have to do it in your own way.
Let's go back to the cover band example. There are countless cover bands who are never going anywhere.
Then there is Tina Turner.
Tina covers everyone from the Rolling Stones to Al Green to Robert Palmer. The songs were great before she ever got to them, yet she isn't just another singer covering someone else's songs.
That's because no one else is Tina Turner.
She's unique. Her voice, her stage presence and her performances are all part of her unique angle, even if her material came from someone else.
Serving Your Audience with Your Photography Blog
You don't have to take on the world with your blog. It's better if you don't try to be all things to all people. Find out who you can help and start from there.
There are plenty of local photographers in every community who serve their market. Weddings, sports, portraits, headshots and events all need photographers.
Approach your blog from your market's point of view.
A common approach is to show your work from a recent client or photoshoot. A better approach is to think about your next client and serve their needs.
So do you write about John & Susie's wedding, or do you address the pain points of a couple looking for their wedding photographer?
They may not care about the last couple you shot, other than to assess your work. However, they may be thrilled if you can provide them with some information they aren't getting anywhere else.
Your portfolio should be enough to show the quality of your work. Your blog serves a different need. Blowing your own horn isn't really the most useful thing you can do to earn new business.
The reason to build an empire with your photography blog is really about building your business. The best way to serve your business is to serve your audience.
What's in Your Blog?
If you have a blog or are starting to think about creating one, tell me about it in the comments and share a link to your site.
On the chance that I haven't talked you out of blogging, we'll take a look next week at some of the things you need to include in your blog.