BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: Q & A SERIES
This Month’s Discussion:
Photographers Photo-Blogging? Useless or useful?
Photographers are no longer only a collection of their images. They can now benefit by showing their clients a fuller definition of themselves. The blog format can be a modern scrap book where even a photographer’s tests can become something a client can respond to. As a rep, I look for photographers who think critically about our industry and can respond to it’s ebb and flow. Because not every shot taken goes into a portfolio, I look to see that a photographer is not only testing but also tackling the inevitable roadblocks on shoots, while maintaining a sense of humor about it all. I want to see the work evolve, even if that means making some mistakes along the way. While I certainly don’t think a blog is a requirement for established photographers, it certainly has the power to build a community and be a marketing tool for those looking to voice their opinion. On the other side of the argument, if a photographer presents bad work or clearly does not have a voice, it certainly colors my view of their photography and their position as a creative professional. The mistake sometimes made is that a blog can be your only marketing tool. In my opinion, blogs should never presume to take the place of a solid website and a clear, concise portfolio.
On that note, I thought we’d open up this discussion for this month’s Q&A series. I contacted the authors of my favorite blogs and asked their thoughts on the role of blogs and their relationship to the creative process. Below, you’ll see their answers, images, and links, as well as my list of a few extra blogs you should make sure to check out. Thank you so much to everyone who participated and contributed to the discussion!
– Jacqueline Bovaird, Assignment Representative,
SPENCER JONES, PHOTOGRAPHER
The reset button has been hit. The world as we know it will change in many ways. I think blogs will play an important part in this transformation, not only in the world economy, but in the creative process and in the way we see and use photography. How will designers adjust their approach to marketing, how will advertising campaigns solicit consumers, how will consumer magazines and newspapers keep their readers, and how will the printed paper compete with online sources? The list goes on. Where do you get your information from? Where do you get your inspiration from?
For me the two blogs that I look to are Design Mind and Stone Thrower. Design Mind takes an intellectual approach to the creative process. As the blog for frog design they are “fanatical about improving the world” I believe they are and will continue to be a leader in the evolution of how we create for a consumer driven world. As for Stone Thrower I love their content. It’s both a blog and a magazine. They encourage people from our industry to get involved. Even though it’s a young forum I feel that it’s a great source to follow.
As image makers, we all have to try and figure out ways to stay current and compete. Keeping up with blogs and being informed about the evolution of the field is the only way I see to survive this transformation. How will you survive?
I think the effect of a photographer’s blog is whatever the photographer puts into it. Some blogs are self promotional. Some blogs are more of a diary, a personal account of shoots and travels. Some are used as an outlet for thoughts on photography. It seems to me that if the underlying approach is genuine, the blog will be successful. By successful, I mean that the photographer’s points will come across as honest and thoughtful. I regularly read about 10 different blogs. What draws me to reading these specific ones is a common thread of the author’s voice being sincere and compelling.
I started blogging in a state of downtime, after discovering the vast world that is the photo blogosphere. I thought that blogging would keep me thinking about photography in a time when I wasn’t necessarily taking a lot of pictures. I was really enjoying reading other people’s thoughts about photography and wanted to chime in with my two cents. I don’t think it’s a requirement for photographers to have a blog. However, I do think it gives readers and potential clients an insight into the photographer’s personality they might not otherwise get.
EVAN KAFKA, PHOTOGRAPHER
I don’t have a blog. I have often thought that it would be a nice outlet for my personal work, but I have yet to find the time. I know that if you create a blog that attracts a following, it can be an incredible marketing tool. The blogs I do tend to follow are mostly equipment related or technical. For the most part, I find photographer’s blogs to be too self absorbed and aggrandizing. I suppose that they should be, but I don’t find them very interesting to read. Some of the other industry blogs seem self righteous and arrogant to me. I can’t really get interested in most of them.
A photographer’s blog is a way to build community. I find that one links to another that links to another… and it’s how I find out what’s really going on in the industry. My own blog is a place for me to reflect and to give praise to my peers. I like being able to share ideas in a forum and see what other people are thinking. Magazines like PDN are great but they are monthly and don’t always have everything I want. I find that blogs really have content that I am looking for and that I find relevant as a photographer and they are constantly being updated. I read about 3-5 blogs a day/everyday…and by read I really mean skim.
I think a blog provides insight into the photographer in a more well rounded way. Photographs are only one part of a photographer. A blog allows a person to show what interests and inspires. Blogs definitely help build a community. They become a place to share thoughts, ideas, concerns…whatever. They allow me to see more deeply into the industry around me. You have the ability to see what people are doing, where they are going, who they are looking at. Blogs allow people to speak their minds and many times I find I share the same thoughts or opinions. I think it is not a requirement to have a blog but definitely an asset as a photographer. If the blog is bad no one will read it so I don’t think that matters. If its good it will get read. I have no idea if anyone reads mine or if its good or not, but I enjoy the process of posting things. I am definitely more interested as a result of blogging. I am constantly searching out material for my blog and as a result I become more engaged in the world of photography.
The blog is a good place to show recent work that you wouldn’t otherwise include in your portfolio. It is not essential, but does seem to provide a bit of community. Locally, I subscribe to wecanshoottoo.blogspot.com to keep up with current shows and nationally i belong to thisisaphotoblog.com for a monthly, assignment-based photo collective that keeps me in touch with photographers around the country I might otherwise not have known.
Essentially, I think the root of a good photographer’s blog should provide a broader, authentic depiction of their photographic and personal world. It’s a great way to communicate their character, and the photographic professionalism behind their images. For many photo editors and art directors, the ability for them to ascertain your photography background, may help them determine weather you’re appropriate for a specific job. Basically, I think a good photographer’s blog should provide a little background on who your are, and what you shoot, in a proficiently edited format.
I use NewsFire, a feed reader, and subscribe to about 20 industry related blogs. So in a day, I read about 15 blog posts. I try to not be a lurker, just reading and not commenting, so I comment on at least two or three posts that I connect with. I think Rob’s A Photo Editor, is a must read. Rob has been in the business for many more years than I, and he has a great writing voice. He cuts through a lot of BS, and is a bit of a photo industry visionary.
I think the blogs add to the photo community, as the job can be a very solo existence. Photo blogs seem to help bring like minded people that much closer. Kinda like those terrible “Hello, my name is…” stickers at corporate meet and greets. I think if you haven’t thought it through as part of your self-promotion, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Placing an ad in Communication Arts, and updating your website a few times a year isn’t good enough. Some writing skill, consistency, and a good layout can go a long way. An out of date, stale blog, with no real writing doesn’t really service the photographer. Remember, everyone likes fresh bread.
ROBBI SIEGEL, GLASSHOUSE IMAGES
I read an average of 3-4 blog a week but those are mainly blogs related to the photo industry, not necessarily a particular photographer’s blog. I would say that if I’m interested in a photographer’s work then I’d be much more inclined to check out their blog. It just gives me a little more insight into the work and the person. But it’s not something I would return to regularly, it would just be that one time while I’m reviewing their site. They often have more work on the blog or other areas of interest that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. If I don’t like their work, I definitely don’t waste my time on their blog.
My blog allows me to show off a bit of my personality. I think with so many photographers out there, it is important to distinguish myself not only by my work, but how I work, and why I make certain choices. I can describe shoots and jobs while showcasing my photos. I can talk about an article that featured me or a project I am working on. It also allows me to showcase work I wouldn’t necessarily put on my website, but am proud of for different reasons. Hopefully this will keep people interested and give someone someplace to go if I haven’t updated my site in awhile.
I think certain blogs can definitely help build a photo community. My personal blog has links to my friend’s blogs, as well as other blogs I use as inspiration. Another blog I started is a collective of photographers with the sole purpose of building a photo community. We give each other assignments to stay creative and inspired, and then give each other comments and feedback. Photography is a very competitive business. It is important to get support! I definitely do not think it is a requirement for a photographer, but I do think there are advantages. When I have the time I love reading peoples’ blogs and in most cases it makes me more interested. But I also think you have to be selective with the work you showcase because it could definitely hurt to have work that is mediocre online, even if it isn’t in your permanent portfolio.
Thank you everyone who participated!! Keep a look out for next month’s question and email blast!!
If you have any ideas, comments, or if you’d like to participate in our monthly email Q&A, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Jacqueline Bovaird. I am always looking for new voices to add to this discussion.
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