At Photoshop World Las Vegas, one of the best seminars I attended was on how to improve your blogging techniques as a photographer. Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski, among others, gave some awesome advice. Here, I’ve distilled their talk down to 10 tips to get you going. Whether you’re just starting your blog or looking for ways to make yours better, you’re sure to find something to help you out.
1. Make It Look Good.
You could have the best content on the web, but if your blog isn’t navigable or easy on the eyes, you won’t get return visitors. Keep it simple — start out with a predesigned template (just Google “themes” + the tool you’re using, such as WordPress, to find some themes) and customize it to fit your blog’s personality.
2. Use the Right Number of Images.
Include at least one image with each post; even if the written content is great, people are way more likely to read it through if there’s a great photo or two alongside it. That said, if you’re writing a post about a particular shoot, do not include all the photos that made your edit. Pick only a handful of the very best. If you want your readers to have access to your full edit, include a link out from the post to a gallery of all the images.
3. Be Yourself!
Tone matters. While your writing should be of the best quality, blogging is not formal writing. If you try to sound overly authoritative or proper, it can come off as pretentious. Write as if you’re having a conversation with your readers. Scott Kelby sites Moose Peterson’s blog as a great example of hitting the blog tone nail on the head. And don’t be afraid to express your opinion; take a stance on your subject matter. Your readers have review sites and press releases for specs and technical information; give them a window into how a piece of equipment worked for YOU, or the pros and cons of a portfolio hosting site. Readers will return because they’re interested in what you think.
4. Post Regularly.
Regular readers will want to know what to expect from your blog in terms of frequency. Figure out a realistic number of posts you can do each week. You should post at least once a week, but don’t overcommit. Kelby was quick to say that posting regularly does NOT necessarily mean daily posting, adding that “blogging can literally ruin your life.” Take heed, fellow bloggers!
5. Don’t Make It All About You.
Though you want your point of view and your experience to shine through, your posts shouldn’t be all about your opinions. Work on bringing readers helpful insights through expressing your thoughts. Whether your interests lie in telling behind-the-scenes tales from your shoots, sharing editing tips and critiques, or discussing a new camera or lens, readers will come back if you bring something of value to them. Once people begin to see you as a reliable source, they’ll stop by to get your take on a shoot they’re planning or tripod they’re thinking of buying.
6. Keep it Short and Sweet.
The blogosphere was made for quick, easily digestible content. Your readers will be visiting a lot of sites on a given day, so give them a useful tidbit they can read through, pass along and Tweet about in pretty short order. Matt Kloskowski sites Seth Godin’s blog as a great example of this style. (Also, list posts usually get good feedback…)
7. Encourage Comments and Interaction.
Ask open-ended questions at the end of your posts when applicable, and direct people to respond in the comments. Place your social media links or email address at the end of your posts. Respond when someone asks a good question or makes a sound critique. Host a simple contest in which readers must leave a comment to win. What distinguishes the blog environment from, say, a magazine, is interactivity. Connecting people and answering questions will not only increase your traffic numbers, but it will shape your writing and make you a better blogger.
Speaking of interaction, interviews are a fantastic way to bring a new voice onto your blog, or shed light on a subject you or your readers want to learn more about. Posting regular interviews changes up your content and keeps people coming back, plus you’ve got built-in blog promotion through your interviewee. If you’ve got professional competition in your area, Matt Kloskowski recommends “taking the high road” — ask them to do an interview. You can link to each other’s sites and you’ll both benefit from the buzz and the Google rank boost.
9. Stay Organized.
Kloskowski also advises creating a blogging folder that lives on your desktop; that way, if you see something of interest, you can take a screenshot or copy a link and come back to it later when you want to incorporate it into a post. He also recommends getting ahead of the game and scheduling all your posts for a given week the weekend before. Especially if you’ve got a busy few days coming up, you’ll be relieved to have your blogs ready to go in advance. Lastly, something we could stand to get better at here at The Photoletariat — don’t wait until the night before!
10. Don’t Get Discouraged.
Don’t stress it if you don’t get comments at first; it takes a while to get the word out about your blog. Don’t be shy about asking colleagues, friends, and your first readers to help you spread the word. People will be happy to help, especially if they like what they’re reading.