photo credit: smallritual
Photography projects are a great way to improve your skills and expand your creativity (plus they're fun). These projects can take many forms and have many different requirements for participation. It seems like everywhere you look, there are group projects being hosted by bloggers, forums, and other online clubs.
Online projects can be vastly different from one another, but they all have one thing in common: you need to publish something. Sometimes the host will publish for you, and sometimes they require you to find your own avenue for publication. If you have your own blog or website, it's pretty easy to meet the publication requirements. But if you don't have your own site, things can be a little more difficult.
This article will show you a few of the methods you can use for self-publication when it comes to these projects — even some free ones. We'll also take a look at some general points to remember when participating in projects. So if you've been holding back from participating in online photography projects, pay attention and take notes.
HOW TO BE A GOOD PLAYER
First and foremost, you need to be sure that you read the project requirements and rules very thoroughly. If you don't follow the guidelines set by the project host, you'll run the risk of disqualifying yourself from the project or having to do it over again the right way. Hosts set the rules to ensure that participants produce similar project entries and keep everybody on the same playing field. Hosting a project is a very big task that requires a lot of work and organization. If you submit a project entry that doesn't conform with the project requirements, you're making more work for the host and for yourself. So read the rules 2 or 3 times before you even begin the project.
Secondly, you need to make sure that you meet the deadline set by the project host. Late entries cause a lot of hassle, especially if the host will be publishing the results of the entire project. Aside from just hitting the deadline, it's also a good courtesy to submit your entry prior to the final days before the deadline. A lot of people submit entries on the last day or two of the project and it puts a strain on the host. You may run the risk of getting overlooked or having your project get lost in the shuffle. Besides, most of the post-project publications from the host will be in some sort of chronological order — so if you're an early bird, you'll get a top spot on the list and your work will be seen by more people.
And the last topic is more of a suggestion than anything. It's always nice to have project participants post a link to the project requirements with their entry. It allows your audience to be informed about the project and it will give them a chance to participate too. Like I said, it's a nice thing to do but it's generally not required by the project host (unless they specify that it is).
The following points are a few methods for self-publication of project entries. Like I said before, each project will require different things of the project entry — some will be completely published by the host, while others will require you to publish something yourself.
PUBLISHING ON YOUR BLOG
photo credit: Laughing Squid
It's my opinion that a blog provides the best avenue for project publication. You have total control over what you publish, how you publish it, and how it looks. The ease of self-publication is downright scary. The project entry can be published as a regular post and it will have its own unique URL that the project host can reach easily.
Even if you have a blog, this may not be the best route for you to use. If your blog topic is very much different than the photography project or even photography in general, you may have reservations for what you publish. If this is the case, read on for some of the free options that may suit you better.
If you don't have a blog of your own, also check out some of the other methods for publication. What I wouldn't suggest doing is starting up a blog just to publish the project entry, especially if you have no intent of keeping up with the blog. This will eventually result in broken links and non-existent project entries if you ever decide to delete the one-post blog. But if you've been meaning to start up a blog anyways, then I say go for it!
PUBLISHING ON OTHER BLOGS
photo credit: Brett L.
If you don't have a photography blog that you can publish your project to, that doesn't mean that you can't publish on another blog out there. Most bloggers are fairly open to guest posts, and their audience is usually full of other photographers like yourself. If you want to guest post on another blog, make sure it's one that fits well with the content you'll be providing. It's also a good idea to go after a blog that you read and interact with on a regular basis. The blogger will be much more open to your post if you have an existing relationship with them.
There are a ton of photography blogs out there, so don't limit your sights to the big mainstream sites. Bloggers with smaller or newer sites will generally be more approachable because they'll be less tied up with running a large website. It also helps if you get your project finished early and have your publication written and ready to go before you approach them.
PUBLISHING ON YOUR WEBSITE
A typical website would be the next best option to the blog. Publishing something like a project entry isn't quite as easy, but it's not totally impossible. If you're accustomed to creating your own web pages, then posting a project entry should be no problem. The nice thing about a standard website approach is that you can post something and have it remain unseen by the rest of your website. Why would you want to do this? If the topic of your website isn't photography, it might seem a little out of place.
PUBLISHING ON FLICKR
photo credit: dsevilla
Flickr is actually very accommodating to publishing a project that requires photos and/or written portions. Obviously, Flickr is built for posting photos, but you can also post text and links with those photos. Add in the ability to tag your photos and create sets, and you've got lots of options for publishing a project entry.
If the project requires only a photo, then just post the photo to Flickr as you normally would. Like I said before, it's also a good idea to write a little about the project (or why you took the photo) and possibly link back to the project page so other people can participate. You can just post this text in the description for the photo, and now you've got your own project entry on a single web page.
If the project requires more than one photo (like a portfolio), then a Flickr set is the way to go. Include all your photos in a set, and you can also describe the project in the set description. If the project requires a larger portion of written work, then include that text on one of your photos in the set and link to it from the set description. You want to make sure that the project host can find your entire project entry easily.
If you don't want to include the project photos in a set (because the free Flickr accounts limit the number of sets you can have), then a common tag will also work. Then you can submit your project entry as the collection of photos with that common tag. To do this, you just add the following text to the end of your photostream URL: “/tags/[tag name]” — here's an example.
PUBLISHING ON FORUMS
Forums are another great avenue to publish content for free. You can start a new thread, post some project photos, and complete the written part of it all in one spot. Other photographers will then be able to comment on your entry piece, and they'll also have an opportunity to participate if they choose.
Just like guest posting on another photographer's blog, posting project entries on a forum will go over much better if you have an existing presence there. Don't just use the forum as a way to publish the project and never return.
PUBLISHING ON OTHER FREE SITES
Now I'm going to turn the discussion over to you. I've presented a few methods of publishing photography project entries, some free and some not. I think it would be useful if some of you offered up some additional suggestions — the cheaper the option, the better.