A year ago this month I started this blog. For me it was a bold expansion of my online presence. I started humbly on Flickr two years ago and even that modest step into the online world seemed big at the time. How times have changed for me. Not only do I have this blog but I have added a second pure photo blog called, mostlyfotos and along the way have added an alphabet soup of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and more recently Google+. So what have I learned? A bunch of things, I think.
I knew starting out that I’m not much of a writer, never have been at school. At work I’ve written tons of emails and some documentation but I don’t think that really counts as writing. I knew that writing will be a challenge but over the year I’ve discovered that with some effort I can, at times, write some coherent thoughts. At least my photography friends have been nice enough to say encouraging things about my blog posts. While I think my posts will not win any awards, hopefully I’ve been able to write clearly enough to get my thoughts across. I find writing to be way more difficult than creating the photographs that I talk about, including both the capture of the image as well as the post-processing. Maybe that means that I’m either not trying hard enough in my photography or I really need help writing. That said, I am finding it easier to get my ideas down on the computer. Like any skill, even one that has hardly been exercised, repeated blogging has made writing a bit easier.
Before I started the blog, I made a list of 15 – 20 possible topics that I could write about. I really wasn’t sure that I would have enough to say. I found out that finding topics for the blog have actually been quite easy and I find that there are a whole slew of things that I can talk about. The challenge is getting these topics and stories written down. Tons of great ideas, it’s the execution that is the hard part. I takes me a while to write and proofread the post. I’m absolutely terrible at grammar and I’m sure, despite my effort to find my mistakes, there are a bunch that sneak through. Kirk Tuck, an Austin photographer that I’ve talk about in the past, is a prolific blogger. Not only does he take great photographs but he writes wonderfully and quite regularly on this blog. Amazingly he says most of his most of his posts only take 15 minutes or so to write. Now, if I could only do that. I know my pace of blogging has slowed down lately. I know I need to devote more time to putting my thoughts down on “paper”. One of the reasons that I started my other Photo Blog, mostlyfotos, is so that I can post something regularly, even daily, without having to write too much. On that blog, I get to highlight one photograph per day, nice and large, and just write a short caption.
I’ve really enjoyed crafting my online presence with my blog and photo gallery. Flickr is a great place for social interaction as is Facebook and Twitter but they don’t feel like my personal space. On my blog, I can really customize the look of the site. I get to test and play with my design and web layout. I have a few more changes to make but after a year I’m pretty satisfied with the look of my online properties. The concept of an online presence, your own site, really does not sink in until you try it. I remember about a year and a half ago talking to my friend Jim about his blog. I asked him what the advantage of a blog is over just using Flickr. While he probably gave coherent reasons, I just didn’t understand it until I tried it myself. I lacked the frame of reference to see the fun and benefits of creating one’s own space. Having friends and support around you certainly makes the process easier. Many of my photography friends in Austin already have a blog and a photo gallery so I had a lot of people to learn from. I get to see what they have done, ask questions and create my version based on my ideas. I think it would have been very different without the close physical proximity to people who share your photography and blogging interests.
I’ve learned a bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which is the art and science of getting more people to your blog and online sites. I’ve learned that it takes a lot more effort to get noticed on the “full internet” compared to a social site like Flickr. The big trick in photography blogs is to do product reviews. People love to read about equipment and they do research before future purchases. My little review of the LowePro Edit 120 bag and how I use it for my Sony NEX-5 is my most popular post. Also my review on the Sony TX5 (when it was new) as well as my posts on the Sony NEX-5 always seems to draw viewers. If my entire purpose of this blog was to simply attract eyeballs, I would just do a whole bunch of equipment reviews. Now you know why so many photography blogs have product reviews. I, however, want to talk more about photography and sharing what I learned as I created my images. I also wanted to sprinkle some photo-philosphy and observations that I’ve made along the way. Since I now have mostlyfotos, I have moved away from just showcasing photographs on this blog. This blog will focus more on medium and longer form posts – a mix of text content with some photographs sprinkled in. And I probably will add more reviews of the equipment I use. Not just to increase viewership but to give my reviews based on real world observations rather than just simply talking about camera specifications.
The real challenge is to find the time to do all that I want. Of course shooting photographs, post-processing and organizing these images takes a bunch of time. Add to that, the two blogs that I have and all the social media sites that I maintain, something inevitably gets bumped. I see two big camps that compete for my time. The creative tasks vs the social tasks. The creative tasks involve the photographs, taking pictures, post-processing as well as the blogging, writing articles and selecting and posting my daily photo. The social tasks are keeping up with my friends and contact at Flickr, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Between the two, I tend to stay more on the creative side. My social media sites have become more of a way to post my creative results rather than socialize. I don’t just want to “post and run” but unfortunately that is what happens given the time constraints that I have. I hope that the creative stuff that I post on the social sites gives some benefit and joy to my contacts and they can forgive me for not being as engaged socially. Balancing my available time will continue to be a challenge and I’m sure things will evolve as time goes on. Also, writing about the use of social media sites maybe an interesting topic for another post.
Please stay tuned, we will see how this space changes over the next year. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my ramblings.