Starting a Photography Blog and turning it into a Success Story

Starting a Blog

Around a year ago, I was starting a blog of my very own work as a platform to present my photos in the way I want and not the way social media platforms force me to. Building this place to also write down some articles was one of the best decisions to improve the quality of my photos, staying motivated and getting into contact with other Street Photographers. You probably contemplated with the thought if you should be starting a blog as well, but have no idea where to begin with. At first, all the work that has to go into such a project seems very overwhelming but I will walk you through the start of your photography blog in a simple step-by-step process. In the end, you will no longer depend on the “goodwill” of some mythical algorithms to reach your audience, but address the audience that is interested in your photos.

The following article helps you starting a blog correctly and avoiding all the mistakes that lead to frustration and failed investments. Instead, you will create a powerful stage for your creative work that will leave a mark in the online world.

Starting a Blog, but where to begin?

Reasons

Being Independent

Facebook, Instagram & Co are great platforms to share your images, but you are also a slave of their newly launched algorithms. Together with the stronger growing direction of monetizing post reach, this leads to effect that less and fewer people that actually subscribed to your content are able to see your new posts. This is not only frustrating but if you are trying to build up a business, could be damaging to your career.

In addition, the booming phase of social networks seems to be over. All the “star photographers” already have reached their maximum potential. People are also less willing to follow new and upcoming talents because their wall is already plastered with content they are not interested in. Growing a fan base in such a saturated market requires a lot of effort and good planning. Although facebook is a billion dollar company there is no guarantee that they will be around for the far future. All the followers you might have acquired might be in vain.

When you are starting a blog it gives you complete control and creative freedom. It is very unlikely that websites of any sort will become irrelevant in the future and even if there are new trends, it is easier to adapt when you are in full charge.

Thinking about Photography

If you are a passionate photographer you probably spent a lot of time not only taking actively pictures but also thinking about the subject. Whether it is a new idea that you came up with and want to translate in a beautiful picture or a cool photo spot that you want to try out. Writing down these thoughts, ideas and guides can not only be helpful for the readers but also require you to put some structure in your mindset.

Writing regularly also forces yourself to always stay sharp and not to slack down. Acquiring this new habit improves your photographic skills manifold. Articles you write may also spark a discussion and encourage different ways of perspectives.

Create your Website

Name

It might sound very basic, but remember that the name you chose after starting a blog will stick with you for a very long time. Once you have yourself established as a brand, there is no easy change without losing a bulk of your audience. Therefore you should take your time and evaluate different names and don’t take the first one that comes to your mind just because it sounds cool at first.

Typical names for your homepage would include your first and last name sometimes followed by “photo”. If you have a name that can be easily remembered and hasn’t a too extraordinary spelling that would be my recommendation. It might not sound fancy, but you can’t do anything wrong at all also.

Choosing a too specific name like “best Street Photographer in Town XX” could make things difficult if you relocate or chose to pursue a different direction in photography. Keep these possibilities in mind and don’t narrow yourself down in your future opportunities simply through an ill-minded name.

Host

So far everything was far away from the “hard work” of starting a blog, but now we have to dig through the potential web hosts. Luckily hosting a website became very affordable in the last years and the most known provider also offer a great service for little money. For a standard blog, I’d recommend to stick to one of the well-known providers and not to experiment with exotic hosts.

  1. Bluehost

Starting a blog - Bluehost

For a whopping 3.49$/month you are able to get your very own homepage including a domain and a WordPress 1-click install. This service package contains a 50GB web space which is more than enough for starting a blog.

Should you decide to upgrade to the next plan for 5.45$/month, bluehost gives you an unlimited web space. Although if you optimize your web space the 50GB should be more than sufficient, although having an unlimited storage space might be helpful if you also decide to upload videos. Have a long-term plan in mind when you are starting a blog.

2. 1&1Starting a Blog - 1&1

With a long-term plan of around 8$ a month you are able to receive 50GB web space, a domain, and a 1-click WordPress install. Plain and simple as it is.

3. Hostgator

Starting a Blog - Host Gator

This smart alligator offers the most value for a very reasonable starting price at ~5.50$/month including a cooperation with google Adwords to promote your website.

All in all choosing the right web hosting provider isn’t rocket science anymore. One thing that is a must-have is the 1-click WordPress install which all provider above offer. Other than that, the speed, storage, and prices are very similar and shouldn’t make a huge difference.

Domain

Every reasonable web hoster also includes at least one domain in his package. The domain is your address under which people can look up your website after you are starting a blog. Therefore the name you choose should be short but easy to remember. Ideally, it also includes a keyword that describes your homepage. For example, if you are focusing on street photography, including the term street somewhere in your domain can land you better rankings for related keywords (although this effect has been pretty toned down in the past).

If the blog is solely focused on you as a photographer going with the standard first/last name can be sufficient as already discussed before. Also sure to go with a “.com” address. In case your desired domain is already taken as a “.com” address “.net” is also advisable but other than that I’d rather go with a different name than evading to other top-level domains.

Content Management Systems

At the moment there is no real competitor to WordPress. There are a lot of themes, plugins, and customizations available that let you start a blog individually without having a generic look. It is also very easy to learn and you don’t need to acquire any knowledge of a programming language or HTML.

Due to the popularity of WordPress most hosters of a 1-click install which literally means that WordPress will be already installed if you do choose so. Anything else will be handled inside the WordPress user panel, so you don’t need to worry about configuring your FTP-files to be fully functional or creating a wp-config file. Therefore I recommend starting a blog with a 1-click setup WordPress installation as described below.

The 1-Click Setup Process on Bluehost

As an example, I will show you the process of setting up a WordPress installation on Bluehost

First, you have to enter the Bluehost Control Panel after signing up for their Service.

Starting a Blog - Bluehost

As you can see there is already the “1-Click Button” to start the WordPress Installation.

After that, you are able to choose to install a fresh WordPress site or to import an old setup for example from your old blog. For a new Webpage, you simply need to click “Install”.Starting a Blog - Bluehost

Next up you can choose the domain of your WordPress installation. This is the name under which your blog will be found on the internet. Check if your desired domain is available and your WordPress will be installed in the following directory.

Starting a Blog - WordPress

Congratulations. Now you can enter the admin panel of your WordPress setup. Every change will now happen inside this control panel.

Starting a Blog - WordPress

As you can see there are already basic functions available like writing a post or uploading a photo.

Theme

After setting up the WordPress installation you simply begin with a blank page starting a blog, that you can now fill in with your thoughts. Before presenting the content, it is a good idea to structure your work. Depending on the type of content, different themes might be more fitting. For example, if you choose to primarily want to present your photography projects, having a theme that supports dynamic pictures on the front page might be more helpful than showing a static homepage with articles.

The Theme is also only a template that is supposed to make your life easier, so you don’t have to design your homepage from scratch. They are customizable to a point where every website looks different. If you are scared that when you share a theme with 10.000 other homepages you won’t be distinguishable, then be assured that you have all the options within a theme to make your page stand out.

Oshine

Starting a Blog - Oshine

If your blog is focused on presenting pictures then Oshine is the gold-standard. It offers a very sleek responsive design featuring a homepage to show your best shot and a very simple top navigation bar. One eye-catcher is the way the background and content move when you scroll down.

One mistake I see a lot of time when people are starting a blog is that they overload it with buttons, widgets or navigation bars. Oshine follows the “K.I.S.S.” principle – keep it simple stupid – making it easy to create a good-looking web page without undertaking a huge investment.

The full license costs 59$ on EnvatoMarket.

NewspaperStarting a Blog - Newspaper

If your goal is to publish articles along with your pictures then the Newspaper Theme might be ideal for you. Although Newspaper has a very magazine-like look at first it offers fully customizable functions to create a simple blog page to present your written articles. Newspaper is also the choice of mine starting this blog. At first, the options this theme offers are a little overwhelming but with a day worth of time, it is very accessible.

You can purchase it also for 59$ at EnvatoMarket

Optimization

WordPress is only the foundation of your started blog. Plugins offer additional options that make the life of a blogger a lot easier. Additionally, they also improve the user-experience and let you rank better in google search results drawing in a bigger audience. Some of them are essential to run a successful blog long-term.

All the Plugins I present are free of charge. You can add them through the Plugins tab in your WordPress panel by searching for them.

Envira Gallery

Download

As a photography blogger, having an overview of your galleries and pictures is needed to not lose control over your image collection. It lets you customize the way you want to present your galleries and is capable of being integrated easily in your articles.

Imsanity

Download

One of the Plugins that doesn’t seem to be very apparent, but helps to run your blog a lot smoother. It automatically resizes the images you upload to a web-friendly size. Using this plugin has many advantages.

  • Decreasing load times for your user improves their experience and reduces the bounce rate. Also, keep in mind that people with slower internet connections will visit your blog. Therefore reducing the size of your images should be of your concern, although it might not make a huge difference for you personally.
  • Google takes the page load speed into consideration for your ranking in the search results. If you want to rank highly for your keywords you should optimize your load speed and Imsanity is one part of this agenda.
  • Reducing the reservation of your web space. Depending on the web-hoster you only have a limit amount of disk-space. Since there is no visible difference in quality for web-optimized images there is no drawback in using a smart plugin like Imsanity to save some space.

SumoMe

Download

I know all the big social sharing buttons might be a little annoying or distracting. But remember that all the hard work that you put in your article and the hours of writing and researching for the next big article should also reach a wider audience. The social sharing plugin SumoMe allows you to put sharing links close to your articles, so people that found your article helpful can easily share your work.

Therefore I view SumoMe as a nice service starting a blog allowing my audience to share articles that they want their friends to see too. Since you will have a hard time landing a good search result ranking, in the beginning, a lot of traffic will come from social media first. So optimizing your page to make a bigger impact on Facebook or Twitter can really facilitate the start of your blog.

Yoast

Download

Surely you don’t want to rely solely on your social media audience to visit your photography blog. It would be nice if other people from your town or your niche would visit your blog that isn’t connected with you yet too. This is where Yoast comes into play. Yoast helps you optimizing your blog and articles to land better search result ranking when starting a blog, simply by giving you a checklist that you need to work through.

Google ranks search results on keywords, their position and how often they appear. Of course, there are more factors like backlinks, that you can’t optimize easily, but everything that can be optimized on your page can be supported by this little helper, netting you more visitors that might follow your blog in the long run.

If you seek to begin a photography business, landing in the first three search results for your desired keyword is also essential to gain new customers outside your social circle. Starting a blog is a good advice to promote your business in the long run.

Starting a Blog - Consumer Market

Successful Blog Tips

Knowing your Audience

Firstly you should like the content you produce yourself. It doesn’t make any sense to force yourself to write articles that you don’t like at the first place and become like a second job to you. If it feels more like a chore than a fun activity in your spare time you are heading in the wrong direction. On the other hand, there are already plenty of blogs out there and it will be difficult for you to gather an audience without catering to a very specialized niche that isn’t already covered yet.

If you think that camera comparisons will be successful then you have to compete with other blogs that do exactly that for over a decade with millions of readers and a budget you can’t hold out against. Again, if this is what you really want to do and don’t mind that the articles might only be read by a handful of people then go for it, otherwise search for another related field.

Maybe your passion is Street Photography and you create wonderful black and white images, then people will be interested in your advice on how to create similar results. The audience might not be so broad in total, but at least you are covering a topic that no one else has so much knowledge about than you.

Starting a Blog - Heilbronn

Additional Value

Blogs started originally as some sort of diary that people wrote their personal thoughts and experiences into, to share them with the world. Truth is, that unless you lead a very extraordinary life, people won’t be very interested in your stories. Readers that invest their time to read your articles want to learn, be entertained or benefit in any possible way. If you can’t create such a value then there is no reason to read it.

Hopefully, you understand, that your personal experiences might not appear as helpful as a simple guide for creating a certain photo style. Throwing in a personal story here and there is beneficial to show your personality and connect with your readers but it shouldn’t be the sole fundament of your successful photography blog.

Write Regularly

I don’t know a current number but would assume that up to 80% of blogs fail in the first six months simply because there weren’t any articles published anymore. We all know the feeling when we are enthusiastic at first and feel like we are able to dedicate a lot of time to our new hobby. But after the first enthusiasm, the everyday life hits and we have to prioritize where to spend our time. Often people find excuses not to blog anymore or that they don’t have a topic in mind to write about.

If you are starting a blog with the long-term goal of attracting a broad audience of readers you should be able to endure those tedious times and still publish articles on the regular. Studies show that blogs that release more than one article per week also increase their amount of readers by a fair amount. Both search engines and readers enjoy it when content is updated on a regular basis. Blogs that only publish one article per month, for example, appear to be outdated and “old-fashioned”. As harsh as it seems the internet is a very fast forgetting medium and if you want to make an impact you have to produce content non-stop.

Personally, I have one or two “evergreen” articles in my archives that I would be able to publish in weeks where I find myself totally uninspired or unmotivated to write something new. That saves me from putting out articles that I am not entirely convinced of, just for the sake of publishing something.

Put your personality out there

Before, I wrote that people are not interested in your personality and that they rather read articles that are helpful for them in other ways. On the other hand, the biggest difference between your personal blog and big platforms is you. Don’t be afraid to put a picture of yourself on your blog and tell your story. What were the reasons to start photography, why are you interested in the genre you are executing, or what your next photo shoot plans?

Even posting a selfie or personal photo from time to time shows that there is a real person behind the blog instead of an anonymous corporate. Maybe you are living in an area where it is easy to reach out to other photographers and organizing photo walks or meetups. Although people don’t know you initially they might not only become regular readers of your blog but friends in the real world.

Monetizing your photography blog

We all wish to be able to live from the hobby we exercise to make money along the way. In reality, most of us work in corporate 9-5 jobs that we might not even like. The thought of living solely from the income of your blog is very tempting, but in reality, it is only a waste of time to spend a single second thinking about making money from your blog.

As already mentioned the field is filled with big players that are able to profit from the millions of viewers they attract each month by putting ads on their homepages. There is no reason why companies should invest in a newly found blog that hasn’t any content out there and doesn’t have any proof of running for longer than the initial launch month.

Compare yourself to any other digital start-up nowaday. Even Facebook or Instagram, although providing a service to millions of people, didn’t make any money the first years and only started later to establish a successful business model. Now compare that to the maybe hundreds – or if you work hard thousands – of monthly visitors at the beginning. There simply isn’t an easy way to make money from the start.

Work on your content first and if you attract a fair amount of monthly visitors you might start to monetize your blog.

Starting a Blog - Red Dress

Growing your Audience

Basic Principles

If you are lucky you already made yourself a name in the photography world and can rely on your friends and social media followers to visit your blog. But if you are just starting out and are not blessed with thousands of fans then the beginning can be really frustrating when the visitor count stays in the single digit area.

Unfortunately, the internet isn’t a fair area where quality always succeeds. You could be the best writer but, if your blog is practically isolated from the outside world than there is no way to garner some attention without the right strategy.

Here are some tips to spread your quality content.

Guest Posts

Use the audience of another blog to gain attention for your own website. A lot of blogs are very open-minded to guest posts since it offers a win-win situation. Quality content can be acquired pretty easily and the writer receives exposure and a backlink to his blog. Make sure to reach out to blogs that serve a similar area than your own. Publishing a guest post about architecture photography when you yourself are a portrait photographer doesn’t make really sense. Even if you have a short increase in visitors, most of them will bounce very fast and not stick to your site for very long.

Also don’t be shy to simply ask another blog if you could publish an article, even if they don’t offer such a service on their website initially. A simple no won’t hurt your blog, but if they allow you to publish your guest content and it satisfies their audience you will see an increase of readers in the long-run.

Reach out to Influencer

Similar to guest posts you can also reach out to influencers by including them in your regular articles or how-to guides. Surely you have role models and photographers that inspire you. For example one of my biggest inspirations in black & white photography is the Sydney based photographer Markus Andersen. When I wrote 10 Street Photographers to follow I reached out to him and even got a heart-warming answer where he was very thankful and informed me about his new book coming out.

An opportunity that would hardly possible without writing this blog and writing e-mails to other photographers. Again, this should always be a win-win situation. Create quality content about people that inspire you and reach out to them. Everyone will be honored that you took the time to write an article why they are your role models. Also, most of the photographers I wrote to are very humble and thankful, I never received any backlash for informing them that I included them in an article. Don’t be shy just because a photographer has 100.000 followers, they are still humans after all.

Photo Collections

The third variation of creating quality content while including a huge amount of other photographers is by publishing photo collections under a certain topic. For example one of the first articles I released was the Top 50 Collection of my personal favorites from 2016.

After reaching out to almost 50 photographers the article was relatively well received with over 5.000 views for a recently started blog. Once again this was a win-win situation. Every photographer was mentioned on his personal website, Instagram or Facebook page and for me, it was a lot of fun digging through the archives of 2016 to collect my personal favorites. In addition, I received a lot of positive messages and every included photographer received a fair share of exposure.

Photo News Websites

Other than writing a new article for a different blog you might also submit your article to an existing outlet dedicated to photography news. Sometimes these articles may go viral netting you thousands of new visitors. Most of them will never visit your blog again, but some might stick and follow your blog.

When I wrote the controversial piece “understanding aesthetics” which got also published on Petapixel and has been shared for more than 20.000 times I saw a huge increase of visitors for a few days. Of course, this number drops very fast, but the positive thing is that also other websites pick up this article and help spread the visibility of my website.

Web sites where you can Submit your articles are:

PetaPixel

DiyPhotography

Fstoppers

or you may also pitch me an article through my contact formula.

In Addition, you can also try your luck on boards like

BoredPanda

Reddit

Most of the time you won’t receive more than a few dozen new visitors, but if you happen to create a viral piece of an article you might attract thousands of readers.

Marketing Budget

One very tempting idea would be to invest money in different ad services to promote your blog. Depending on the service, the money spent might not only have little to no impact but also damage your future development. If you thought about spending money on Facebook ads to gain more likes I would refrain from that. I saw multiple pages trying this approach but they all failed within a short amount of time. The problem is that you might see a short-term increase in visitors but in the long run, the algorithms are penalizing your honest ad investment. Which means that in order to receive the same of attention you need to spend money again and again.

Starting a Blog - Bald

Successful Examples

After presenting all the theory of starting a blog I want to present a few examples that reach thousands of readers every day.

Eric Kim

Blog

Starting a Blog

There is no way around Eric Kim when you search for any topic about Street Photography in Google. He started the blog more than a decade ago as a personal hobby and made a full-time business out of it, although all his content is free without any additional monetizing. The blog with over 500.000 visitors each month offers a lot of exposure for his workshops that are often sold out a short time after the announcement. His blog is very minimal, but the content is extensive and over the years he grew a steady audience that reads his articles and e-books.

Streethunters

Blog

Starting a Blog

Lead by the three Street Photographers: Spyros Papaspyropoulos, Andrew Sweigart and Digby Fullam they have featured more than 100 Street Photographers in their initial vote for 2015. The final article received more than 100.000 views up to now and established their brand in the Street Photography field.

Chase Jarvis

Blog

Starting a Blog

As an all around photographer Chase covers a lot of topics. In addition to written articles, he also publishes videos on a regular basis.

 

 

Final Remarks

Starting a blog can seem like a very tedious and overwhelming activity at first, but the reward is very well worth it for me. To connect with photographers from over the world and establishing a platform that is 100% suited to my personal needs is priceless.

Hopefully, I was able to motivate you starting a blog and help you to complete the first process to create your website.

If any questions are left unanswered feel free to leave a comment or contact me.


Stay Curious

Sebastian Jacobitz