Getting Your Photographs Out There
In coming up with my first tutorial here for the site relaunch, I was thinking back at some of the things that have really helped me over the years. One of the most important habits you can get into is Photoblogging. Now what is photoblogging and how do you get involved?
Well a photoblog is a website much like a blog, but instead its focus is on pictures instead of written words. You can still write obviously, in fact some of my favorite photoblogs are often people who write extensively about their photographs. The whole point in participating in such a ritual is to improve as an artist and as a photographer. I should add at this point that this is much different than a portfolio website. With a portfolio, you want to show off a very refined look at your best work. With a photoblog, you’re not afraid to make mistakes. In fact, that’s the point. I think the 4 coolest thing you will get out of a photoblog are:
1) You establish yourself as a photographer. I know folks who are self taught and have no prior experience in photography other than taking occasional snapshots. When you’re starting out, its sometimes hard to define yourself as a photographer because you just don’t have the experience. This will throw you into a lot of experience. If you are a long time serious photographer and you don’t have a photoblog… well I won’t say much except why not? Its never too late to start and its certainly never to late to improve.
2) You will meet people online with a similar desire to get better and share their work. This is probably my favorite thing about photoblogging. Over the years I’ve made some really good friends. Even met most of them in person and become “real” friends. Its a social media way of sharing, but its much more niche than something like Twitter or Facebook. Nothing wrong with big social media, but we’re talking about a very specific interest and subject.
3) You will improve. This is a given. When you get into the habit of sharing your work “uncensored”, it forces you to try things over and over until you start getting the results you’ve envisioned in your head. The other thing about it is you’ll see newer work side by side with older work and this will make the improvement in quality very obvious.
4) You will expand your abilities and interests. Between a project that makes you create more work consistently and the social element I’ve described, its simply natural to start expanding your interests and subject matter.
So how do I begin?
There are lots of resources out there and open source software for starting a blog. In the late 90’s I used to hand code everything which was a huge pain. In 2001 I started using Movable Type which is an open source blog application that lives on your web server. It does require a web host and a domain name, but this can all be set up fairly easily. A few years later I switched everything to another application called WordPress which is today the most popular blogging platform on the web. WordPress basically comes in 2 shapes – an account based service at wordpress.com, and a downloadable, customizable version of the software you set up on your own server space. I’ve always used the latter because I like to tinker and you get much more power out of the downloadable version at wordpress.org. Just remember though that more power means more time tinkering around and getting things like you want them. Don’t let the blog set up stop you from getting something up and going. The drive here is to get photos posted, not get derailed building a website.
In the last year, two web services have sprung up that have simplified things even further. Posterous and Tumblr are two fantastic sources that allow you to (for free) start a very powerful media blogging app. You can even hook up a custom domain name to one of these. I have accounts on both, but originally preferred Posterous due to its “email” blog capabilities. I can take a photo on my iPhone and email it to my Posterous account and it instantly takes the subject, attachments and text and creates a blog post. Tumblr now does the same and both of these services have really nice social media capabilities built in. I think either of these services are the best way to go if you are new to creating a photoblog. WordPress and MT are great, but they require more know how and will take you much longer to get up and running.
So you’ve got your site set up, now you want to start promoting it. I like to think of it this way: Lets say you’re trying to meet people so you go to a party. You don’t really know anyone. You have 2 options. First, bring a good bottle of wine and second, start a conversation to break the ice. We will assume that you’re own photos are like a good bottle of wine. Beyond that you should start looking for other photoblogs you like and leave comments. This is the best way to get people to look at your own work – start the conversation. Use twitter and tweet when you post new stuff. Use Facebook. If you really want to get to be a power user when posting, check out some of the techniques from Episode 29. You can also try getting listed in directories such as photoblogs.org or submitting your work to group pools on Flickr, but I think the most effective approach is going to be the personal touch of conversing with people who’s work inspires you.
And speaking of inspiration, I thought I’d leave with a list of the folks who’ve really inspired me over the years. In no particular order:
Bob Smith, Orbit1, Davin Risk, Gayla Trail, Heather Champ, Katya Horner, Wade Griffith, smudo.org