In a conversation this past weekend — and so many more over the years — I have held back from strongly making the case. No more.
If you are a photographer, you need a photo blog.
This needs to be said because on my latest survey, more than 88 percent of you admitted that you had no photo blog.
I’ve hinted and suggested. Now I’ll just tell you. Here’s why you need a photo blog in 2016.
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You want control
Facebook, in the earlier days, encouraged businesses to create their own fan pages. We went out and asked our friends and associates to like these pages. Many companies even built huge followings. Awesome.
Then one day Facebook said they would not allow you to communicate directly with the people who had chosen to follow your page. Going forward, the best way to reach your followers was to — your guessed it — pay Facebook.
They might be your followers, but Facebook still owned the platform. They could turn off the information flow anytime they wanted, and so they did.
On a platform you control, no one can block your work with a flip of a switch. Pick a solution that you control.
You need an official presence on the web
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a professional, you need an official presence as a photographer.
Let’s say you decide that you’d like to do some volunteer photography work. Your recipient will recognize that you take your work more seriously when they see a website or blog rather than just a Facebook page.
Your photo blog is also helpful when potential customers look for you. Let’s say someone sees one of your photos and wants to purchase a copy. You make it much easier for them to reach you with an offer when you have a blog with a contact page.
This also holds true when commercial organizations contact you about potential licensing — and they will. You have a much easier time commanding what you are worth when you look like you are professional.
It is the best way to create your personal brand
I know you might have a Facebook page or an Instagram stream. That’s good, but it’s not enough.
You are beginning to create a personal brand when you start sharing your photos. Having your own photo blog allows you to show who you are as a photographer, why you take photos, and what value you can provide. And you can can do it in a way that is uniquely you.
You don’t have to fit into someone else specs. Who cares whether some company likes square photos or not? You do you. Create your own photo blog, and you can showcase your work exactly the way that appeals to you. That will be the first step to cultivating your style and building your brand.
It is easier to build a fan base of people who know, like and trust you
Know, like and trust are the holy grail for marketers, but it also helps when you are building your tribe.
Give your fans somewhere to not only follow your photos but engage in your story.
When you post your next amazing photo, it is easier for them to bookmark and share from your photo blog. Let’s face it, social media sites are subject to mood swings. The link you share today might be disabled tomorrow because a suit decided becoming more exclusive was more profitable
When you have a show or an announcement, speaking directly from your own site is the surest way to get the word out. On a social site, your post likely gets buried in a timeline’s blizzard of updates. On your site, you can make it stand out and shine.
It ensures people see your newest and best images
On a blog that you control, you can keep your newest or best images in a prominent place. No matter when someone visits your site, they will see specifically the images that you want to showcase.
On a timeline, they see the last thing you photographed. That might not have been your best day. Always showcase your work the way you want to be seen.
If you have to promote a site, it might as well be your own
There are obvious benefits to showcasing your work where there is built-in traffic. By all means take advantage of the extra reach social sites provide. But when it is time to promote a site, you might as well promote your own. Why do the work to benefit someone else?
Remember the Facebook fiasco? Businesses that spent a lot of time and money promoting their Facebook pages were suddenly left with nothing.
It motivates you to keep shooting
There is something about the unspoken agreement that you have with your audience that motivates you to keep shooting.
You don’t want to leave your page stagnant, so you have to produce. Or look at it the other way. You want to keep shooting, so the empty page of a blog is a great prompt.
As you keep shooting, the feedback you receive from your growing audience will provide extra motivation.
You can tell your own story
You can structure your presentation in any way you want to best tell your story or accomplish your goal.
Do you want to embark on a Project 365? Use a structure that shows off your photos in a calendar format. Highlight the ones that make you particularly proud.
Do you want to showcase your passion for birds? Structure the site in a way that you know is best to highlight your feathered friends. Narrate your own story. It is your voice.
Frequent updates lead to better search engine performance
Google, and the other search engines, love sites with frequent updates. Keep your blog fresh, and they will reward you with more visitors.
Let’s say you agree with me at this point. Here’s your next question.
What kind of photo blog should you get?
Are you primarily interested in just showing your best images and maybe selling direct to consumers?
Zenfolio is your best option. They make sites just for photographers that are extremely easy to set up. Zenfolio showcases images beautifully, as they understand that will be most important to you.
The service also comes with a blogging feature. They also have the added benefit of a sales capability. You upload your photos and set your prices. Zenfolio processes the transaction and, through one of their partners, delivers the images. You keep the bulk of the profit.
SmugMug Pro is another similar service, which is trusted by many professional and enthusiastic photographers. I find them to be a little more expensive for a similar product to Zenfolio.
Do you want to have a blog more like a traditional site where you also write more of your story?
Wordpress is the standard for the majority of blogs on the web. The service is based on open source software that you can personalize. Purchase themes and additional plugins from independent developers and you can create practically any look and feel.
There is a bit of a technical learning curve, but most bloggers who use Wordpress swear by it.
If you are nontechnical, try a cloud-based service like Squarespace. I’ve been a fan of Squarespace for a long time, because they are incredibly simple to set up and manage. Their templates seem to be created with photographers in mind because they show off your images big and beautiful.
Unlike Wordpress, Squarespace comes with a help desk. If you run into a problem, support is a fast email away.
Follow this action plan to get started
Choose a domain name. The simplest approach would be to use your own name with some form of photography. For instance, I went with LynsPics, because it was simple and said what I needed it to say. I could have gone with the more formal LynfordMortonPhotography, but that wasn’t the message I wanted to send.
You can choose a name that also communicates a specific genre. I could have chosen something like Lynford Morton Portraits. Remember, you have to freedom to make this uniquely you.
Use a service like namecheap.com for a simple, yet cost effective way to purchase.
Choose a blogging service. Remember we talked about Zenfolio, Wordpress or Squarespace? Choose the one that fits you best. If you choose Wordpress, you will also have to purchase your hosting separately. Sites like Hostgator and Bluehost are popular options.
Select an email service provider. Part of the power of a photo blog is your ability to build an email list of your followers. These are people who choose to hear from you and are eager to get updates.
When you want to promote a show or sell a product, the surest way to reach your tribe is to send them an email.
Use an email provider so Google doesn’t flag you as a spammer. Many have free options for customers who are just starting out.
Try Mailchimp, Constant Contact or GetResponse as easy and reliable options.
Start now and keep going. The easiest way to make progress is to start. Jump in now. This is the best time to make your mark on the world, and you need your photography blog to do it.
With all apologies to Billie Holiday, Facebook may have and Instagram may have, but God bless the child that’s got his own.
Watch me create a photo blog in less than 30 minutes
Helpful links to sites mentioned