The Building Blocks of Success in Blogging and Photography

Last week, Antoine Khater from “All Day I Dream About Photography” asked me this question: “I noticed that you have started your blog in Jan 2007 that’s about 4 months later than ADIDAP and you have much more readers & traffic than I have. So I was wondering if you have any feedback/comments about what should improve at ADIDAP?” So as a generalized response, I’ve put together a few thoughts on building oneself up as a photographer and a photography blogger. In almost a years time, here are the things most important to what success I’ve had.

TIME

As with anything in life, the more you put into something the more you get out of it. Putting in the extra time is the number one thing you can do to ensure your own success. In my later years of college and grad school, I’d get to campus at 8AM and stay until 2AM the next morning — that’s a 16 hour workday after taking some time out for eating and taking breaks. I had many accomplishments in grad school, and it was only possible because of the extra time and effort I applied on a daily basis.

AS A BLOGGER: I can’t work 16 hour days anymore because other parts of my life require my time, but I do put a good deal of time into blogging on a daily basis and I try to manage my time wisely. On average, I probably put four hours per day into the blog… sometimes more, sometimes less. I do a lot of different things related to the blog each day: reading, writing, networking, socializing, research, marketing, thinking, designing, organizing, analyzing, etc. Four hours of blogging activities per day may not be for everyone, but I think that time and success are directly proportional.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: I wish I could spend more time working on my photography, but at the moment most of my free time is directed toward the blog. But again, I’m certain that the more time you put into it, the greater the rewards will be. Putting time into photography includes things like continuous learning, taking photos, organizing photos, processing photos, promoting photos, selling photos, and whatever else you might choose to do as a photographer.

CONTENT

Project Content Overview Diagram
Project Content Overview Diagram
by cote [CC by-nc]

In the worlds of blogging and photography, content is at the root of what we can offer to others; It is a foundation on which we can build our success. Good content can take many forms: educational, informative, inspiring, entertaining, provoking, opinionated, and so on. Without good content, there’s no amount of networking and marketing that can make up for it.

AS A BLOGGER: I try to provide useful posts that teach or educate on a given topic. I also try to throw in the occasional inspirational and thought provoking piece to keep things from getting too academic and dry. I also post consistently in frequency and quantity, and having a weekly schedule keeps me on track. Consistent posts will result in consistent readers; inconsistent posts will result in inconsistent readers.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Content is also key in your photos. Always show your best work to your onlookers and give them a reason to follow you. As with blogging, consistency is important — don’t upload 50 photos one day, then go dry for 2 months. If you’re putting in the time and posting good photos, people will follow.

NETWORKING

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know… this is so true, online and off. You don’t have to be buddies with everybody on the block before you step into the scene, but you’d better start making friends fast. People are the Internet’s most powerful asset, and if you’re ignoring that notion and trying to go it alone you’ll be going nowhere fast. And when I say “networking”, I’m talking about the give-take relationship between you and another human, not the “Add XYZ as a Contact?” in one of your social profiles.

AS A BLOGGER: Other bloggers are your allies, especially those who write about the same topic as you. If you have the competitive mentality toward other bloggers, you’re missing the whole point. Find bloggers who inspire you and impress you, and start forming that relationship. Leave thoughtful comments, visit their site often, send an email, chat/IM, call them, link to them, tell your readers about them, just don’t stalk them — know your bounds.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Same thing as with blogging, other photographers aren’t your enemy — the market is big enough for everyone. You can learn a lot by following the work of other photographers on their blogs or through a photo-sharing site like Flickr or Zooomr. Meeting up with other photographers for a group shoot or a photowalk is also a great way to boost your network and gain some important allies.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media and networking can be closely tied together, but there are differences between the two. Social media is a tool that can be used to gain some serious exposure, but it’s not free or without effort — it will cost you a lot of time if used correctly. There’s a huge difference between signing up for a social media account only to promote your own work versus signing up for a social media account to become part of the community and make valuable contributions. Whatever you do, focus on no more than 2 or 3 social media communities and stick with them… the returns will come in time.

AS A BLOGGER: My favorite social media sites are StumbleUpon, photographyVoter, and Digg. It can take a long time to build up a profile on these types of sites, but after a while things get easier. There’s always mystery around how these sites work and what you can do to use them for instant gratification — but there’s really no mystery once you get the whole community thing through your head. The biggest mistake I see people make with social media is to submit nothing but their own work. Submitting your own work is not a big deal (I’d say it’s even encouraged), but exclusively submitting your own work shows very clearly what your intentions are and people aren’t so dumb that they can’t see through you.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Social media is a little less geared toward photos than written works, but the same sites mentioned above can be used quite easily with photos — especially StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon also has a lot of good discussion groups just for photos and photographers. Digg is also supposed to be coming out with a photo section, but I’ve seen many photos make it to the front page in the news section.

PROMOTE OTHERS

The act of promoting others is the glue that holds all of my points together. I promote other people that do great things at every chance I get. If you’ve ever had somebody praise your work and give you a little spotlight of your own, you know how good it feels. Promoting others takes time, but in doing so you’re sharing great content, making new friends, contributing to the social media, and making somebodies day. It doesn’t cost anything to promote the work of others and it’s a great way to show somebody you like what they’re doing.

AS A BLOGGER: I do things like weekly roundups and photodumps to make mention of the things that impress me. I also do the occasional article or review that completely focuses on other people. I use del.icio.us to bookmark my favorite articles and I show those bookmarks on the sidebar of my blog. I also have a photo feed in the sidebar from the Epic Edits Flickr group to show off the work of my awesome audience. I’m not stingy when it comes to linking out, but I don’t link without reason… meaning that it’s got to bring some kind of value to the people who visit the blog.

AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: Promoting other photographers isn’t quite as easy as with blogging, but there are plenty of ways to do it. Social media is probably the easiest way to accomplish this, but things like forums and discussion boards are also good places to drop names (and links) to other photographers or particular photos that inspire you.

IS THIS THE PERFECT PLAN?

No way, not even close. Everybody will have different levels of success with different avenues. I’m merely pointing out the things that seem to work for me, but only on a very high level. If I went into all the details for each of the things I mentioned, you’d get tired of reading before you hit the bottom. If anybody has other suggestions for success with blogging or photography, feel free to share them in the comments. And if anybody has specific questions for me regarding any of this, don’t hesitate to ask — there’s not a lot that I won’t answer.

UPDATE: Skellie has posted a similar article on How to Get 1,050 Subscribers in 3 Months. Quite an amazing feat, and there are plenty of good tidbits in her article.