Expert Advice: Blogging
With so much of our attention on Instagram in recent years, it can be easy to overlook the value of a good old-fashioned blog. Even as you gain followers on your social media platforms, blogs are still an excellent opportunity to share your photography and attract people to your brand. The text, along with alt tags on your photos, are great for search engine optimization because it gives search engines content to find. But increased SEO isn’t the only major incentive to blog.
In general, a blog is a website on which someone writes periodically about personal opinions, activities, and experiences. For photographers, it’s where you can show your personality and describe your creative process.
Not only can a blog increase your online presence, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to show your audience a little bit more background on you as a professional photographer and as a person. I’ve heard from lots of art buyers and photo editors that they enjoy looking at photographers’ blogs. Sharing behind the scenes shots and fun stories helps clients get a better sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you.
To some photographers, blogging comes naturally, and the content flows like champagne mimosas at a Sunday brunch. For others, the thought of baring their soul to strangers is, well, unbearable. But fear not, it doesn’t have to be that hard.
I always recommend having a balance between personal and professional content as clients will want to see that you truly embody a love for photography and content creation, while also showing your unique personality. It also gives them an idea of what it could be like to spend a day with you on-set.
First and foremost, your blog is your greatest, free marketing tool! The posts don’t have to be too frequent or too long, but you should plan to post something at least once a month. Make sure to embed your blog into your website, so it reads as: http://www.photographername.com/blog. This formatting ensures that the user won’t be navigated away from your website and they can continue to view your images on that same domain. If blogging doesn’t come naturally to you, try to break up your posts into a manageable schedule. You could set a weekly day that you always post a tear sheet or behind the scenes photograph. Some blogs like WordPress even allow you to pre-schedule posts so you could plan a month out to save time and create a routine for your workflow.
So there are two types of blog practices that are ideal for photographers: blogging and microblogging.
A typical blog post could be anywhere from 250 to 1000 words and include multiple images and descriptive paragraphs. Let’s talk about some examples…
Kyle Dreier, food photographer, based in Nashville has the perfect balance of longer blog content and shorter, image heavy blog posts. He’s publishing at least once a month (sometimes even more), but everything he’s sharing is a clear reflection of his work.
On his blog, Kyle explains his artistic process and why he captures food and still life in particular ways to embody his clients’ brand. In addition to sharing his creative insight, this blog shows his audience the playful aspect of his personality he brings to the set. What I enjoy most about Kyle’s blog is that he’s able to cover a variety of content, while maintaining his voice consistently throughout each post. He clearly mentions the client and project in the post introductions…showing me that he not only loves what he does but also takes pride in it.
Portland, Maine photographer Greta Rybus finds the most impact through microblogging, which is essentially short, frequent posts ranging from a few sentences to a paragraph or two. Greta’s brand has a simple elegance, and she translates that style over to her blog. Greta uses her blog to share her Instagram posts, recent publication spreads, and mini galleries of work she’s not ready to integrate into her web edit.
Greta’s strength in storytelling is apparent in her project galleries, and as you scroll through her blog, you see she continues this narrative in her posts by sequencing images with minimal text. The spare branding approach she has works nicely on her blog, and she’s gained a significant Instagram following along the way.
Then there are photographers who do both traditional and microblogging style posts. Take a look at lifestyle photographer Pete Barrett’s blog. Pete has a balance of shorter blog posts, what we’d consider “micro-blogging” and then he also goes more in-depth on project based-pieces he wants to share with his audience.
There are two reasons that Pete’s blog is working for him. Pete is a busy commercial photographer…he’s sometimes in pre-production for months and works on sets with dozens of people for clients like Microsoft and Vista Print. Because of the large scale of Pete’s assignments and his busy schedule, when he does sit down to write a blog post, he fleshes it out and gets as much content out of it as possible, cross-posting it to social media and sending it via e-blasts.
Pete is from Jupiter, Florida but he and his family live out of an RV traveling the country most of the year. That’s where he brings in the micro style posts. Just an image or two with a descriptive caption that lets his audience know what he’s been up to recently.
This style of writing easily fills the rest of his blog up with snapshots of his travel experiences (that are ideal to use for his micro posts) to keep it relevant and up to date.
Pete’s blog also serves as a platform for him to share his personal work, and for projects that are still works-in-progress. His ongoing series “The American Worker” recently took him to Cape Disappointment off the Coast of Washington state, where he covered the daily adventures of the United States Coast Guard.
Lastly, you have photographers like Natasha Lee in Santa Monica who uses Instagram as her blog. And she’s using it well. Notice how she has a personal caption about her subject, then she spaces down to add in all relevant hashtags.
Instagram lets you caption images with up to 2200 characters, and you can add up to 30 hashtags which can make you more visible and increase your following/likes. You can also tag or mention the client or products featured in the image which can catch someone’s attention.
One of the downfalls with using Instagram as your blog is that you’re going to miss out on the SEO enhancements that a typical blog can give you. Also, Instagram doesn’t hold metadata, so if you upload an image and someone screenshots, the only thing tying you to that post is if your username appears at the top of the post. What’d we’d recommend is that you use Instagram in addition to your blog, not instead of a blog.
BLOGGING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Anytime you publish a new blog post, get as much use out of it as you possibly can! Post a link on your Facebook page; tweet about the post (and include the link to the blog) on Twitter; Instagram an image from the blog and write a caption to tease your followers to click the link in your bio. Think of other ways that you can get the most traffic out of a single blog post.
I’d also advise posting links using bitly, a link tracking service. Bitly creates trackable links for you, so you can see how many people click each one.
SEO AND METADATA
For each image you’re posting to your blog, make sure the metadata is intact and informative enough that if a person were to save the image on their desktop, they’d have enough metadata stored in that image’s File Info to trace it back to you. This can be done simply in Photoshop and Lightroom by entering in particular keywords such as your name, location, what specialties you shoot, your web URL and in some cases the client.
In Photoshop under File > File Info… you can enter keywords to embed SEO metadata
In Lightroom, under Library you can enter your SEO keywords under the Keywording bullet. You can add personal details under the Metadata bullet.
For SEO tags, I’d create several that you plan to use (or already use) on your website and directly copy them to your blog. You can use your name, location, your photography brand, the client, what the shoot was for, and any descriptive words you can include. Adding SEO tags can do way more to improve your SEO than not using any or using irrelevant ones.
So everyone I work with knows how crazy I am about using analytics and reading digital data! It’s just as crucial to track your blog’s analytics as it is your website’s. Through analytics, you can see what posts generate the most buzz and which may be falling flat, which is valuable intel! You don’t want to be wasting your time writing posts that no one is interested in reading.
There are a number of ways to track how well your blog posts are doing. Number one being Google Analytics. It’s easy to set up and will give you a great deal of useful information. A few things you can track through Google Analytics include:
- Number of visitors to your blog
- How long each visitor stayed, what pages/posts they viewed
- Where those visitors live, what language they speak
- What pages they entered on, what pages they exited from (which can help you see which posts continue to be popular over time. For example, our Writing a Photographer Bio post continues to bring in thousands of visitors a month, even though it’s over a year old)
- Traffic sources to your blog
In tandem with Google Analytics, I would also recommend enabling an RSS feed with your blog so that users can subscribe to your posts! Be sure to add the RSS feed of your choosing to Google Analytics results since many people never actually click through to a site when viewing through reader and/or email feeds.
Expert Advice: Face-to-face with Clients
Here are some recommendations to keep in mind when you meet face-to-face with a client..
So one-on-one portfolio meetings are usually with one or two other people and quite casual, lasting less than 20 minutes. I’d do a little research on the person you’re meeting with first.. look them up on LinkedIn, social media… see if they have their own website- most photo editors will- and see if there’s any common ground between the two of you. It’s nice to have those candid moments during the meeting—it shows your interest and preparation, plus the client will feel more at ease.
Walk them through your portfolio, explaining your creative process and offer up interesting stories or details about your experience on that shoot. Listen. Speak. Listen. Speak. You’ll find that some clients are really expressive and chatty when looking through your book while others like to flip through the pages quietly. This is what you’ll have to gauge yourself… whether or not they feel like talking while they look at your work.
Don’t ask the client to critique your photography or your presentation. That’s not their job and it will make you seem like an amateur. Just guide them through your work, then express an interest in their projects. Show that you’re interested in what they’re doing, but no hard sell. They may ask you about any personal projects you’re working on… sometimes to see if you are actually an inspired photographer with their own ideas, sometimes to see if it’s something they’d be interested in seeing.
Don’t expect to get an assignment on the spot and don’t be upset if you feel like you didn’t get the praise you were hoping for! The purpose of these type of meetings is for creatives/photo editors to get to know you and to hopefully build a up comfort level so that they will ask you for a bid when an appropriate project comes up.
Be sure to take along your print book (obviously!), your print promo or leave-behind as well as business cards.
A few days later, it doesn’t hurt to send a hand-written thank-you note keeping it short and sweet thanking them for the meeting! From there, an occasional email or print promo update is appropriate (every few months) especially if you have some news to share. It’s also smart to connect on LinkedIn so you can keep track of their career path (photo departments are very referral based—you never know when a good prospect moves to a company that would be perfect for your photography) plus it helps you to stay on their radar.