This article discusses the what’s, how’s and why’s of running a photography blog.
You’re a photographer, you’ve got a camera – probably one of those flashy SLR jobbies – and you have a harem of groupies who follow you wherever you go, and you make a quarter of a million quid out of a moderately sized photo shoot. Yeah, baby, that’s what it feels like when you’re a shit-hot ‘tog. Or so I’ve been led to believe.
In reality – and especially now that digital SLRs have become relatively affordable – the vast bulk of people reading this blog will be amateur photographers. Really good amateurs – hell, fanatic amateurs, even.
The most fun thing about being an amateur is that when you learn something, you get massive results – if you imagine ‘photography skills’ to be a scale from 1 to 1000, where 1 is a tadpole in your fishpond without much photographic skills to speak of, and 1,000 is, well, the photographer mentioned above, it will take you a few years to get from 1 to 500, and it’ll take you a lifetime of dedication, practice and study to make it from 500 to 750. The last few hundred? Well, never mind.
The point is that you need to keep yourself busy in a constant learning loop: Reminding yourself what you are good at, and what you’re not, will increase the quality of your work across the board. I find that the best way to do that is to start a photography blog. It acts as a visual notepad which happens to be visible to others.
Setting up the blog
Photocritic runs on WordPress, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It’s easy to use, easy to customise, doesn’t cost a penny, and can be made to look quite good.
WordPress comes in two particular flavours – over on WordPress.com, everything is taken care of for you: You create an account (for free!), and can start blogging right away. The downside of the dot-com version is that there are limits to how much you can customise your blog. The upside is that you need next to no technical skill, everything is very well documented, and if you can use the Internet, you can use WordPress.com
The other flavour of WordPress is just-the-software, which lives on WordPress.org. This one is a little bit more complicated to install (I can set up a wordpress installation in about 20 seconds now, by SSH’ing into my slicehost server, wgetting the installation package, and setting up a database – but if none of that means anything to you, don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is).
The key difference with the .org version is that you need to download it and install it onto your web server. It gives you a lot more choices, and you can hack the code to suit your needs, if you know a little bit of PHP.
If you don’t have a web server, you can either choose a shared server (cheap – I have great experiences with Dataflame), a virtual server (cheaper, but more complex. slicehost is the platinum standard here), or a dedicated server (expensive, more complex, but much more powerful – Photocritic was hosted on Layered Tech for years, warmly recommended)
Whichever version of WordPress you use, the community around this particular blogging platform is iron-clad, which means that a) most questions you come across have already been answered, so a quick Google search should sort you out, and b) if you have a question that has never been asked before, someone will answer it for you very quickly.
Finally, there are lots of free blogging solutions out there – WordPress is my favourite, but Livejournal is pretty good, Google’s Blogger is pretty nifty, and there are scores of others – shop around if you aren’t quite convinced! If you’re only going to post images anyway, why not use Flickr?
Set up two blogs!
So, you’ve chosen which blog you’re going to use. Now, if you don’t have a website already, I would strongly recommend setting up two blogs right from the start – one for every blog entry you do, and one for photos you are particularly proud of.
The latter can act as your portfolio, and if you’re clever about how you categorise your photos (Just like on Photocritic: if you click ‘lens mods‘ in the sidebar, you get all the articles I’ve written about lens modifications. You could create categories such as ‘portraiture’, ‘nude’, ‘architectural’ and ‘concerts’), it can turn out pretty well.
The former is your notepad – where you write down all the ideas you have, photo shoots you did, and things you learned from them. Photos you like and why, photos you would love to have gotten right, but why they went wrong, etc.
Your portfolio is great to pass to people you want to impress. Your portfolio? You can either decide to keep it to yourself (in wordpress, you can hide all posts from non-logged-in users, and then just don’t give away any log-ins) just like a real note-book, or you might decide to open it up so others can benefit from your learnings, too.
If you’re worried about prospective clients seeing your work-in-progress or emo musings about ‘the rain’s so cold, I’m so sad, and I can’t figure out how to work my fucking flashgun’, then just do it under a pseudonym – that way, they can’t find you in Google, but you still get the benefits of helping others along who are stuck on the same things as you.
You don’t have to be a writer
I know I wank on about things at great length about all and sundry in this particular blog, but that’s because I’m fond of writing. I’m fond of photography, too, of course, but that’s not the point – the point is that even if you don’t write a single word, you can still create a photography blog that is useful to yourself.
Whenever you do a day’s shooting, post your 3 favourite, and your 3 least favourite photos from the shoot to your blog – I used to do this, and it was great on my ego seeing how my ‘least favourite’ photos today are better than my ‘zomg this is amazing’ photos from a few years ago…
Right, I think those were all the learnings I had to impart for now. I would love for you to tell me if you set up a photography blog, though – post a comment below with a link to your blog so I can have a look? Thanks!
The photos in this blog are from a photo shoot I did with the Bristol-based band Kortez last year
Do you enjoy a smattering of random photography links? Well, squire, I welcome thee to join me on Twitter – Follow @Photocritic