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David Nightingale on Photo Blogging.

chromasia-web

This is the first of a 4-part transcription of the video Making the Web Work for You. Featuring an extended conversation on blogging and social media with three influential leaders in the Photography community: David Nightingale (Chromasia), David Hobby (Strobist), and Seattle’s own Chase Jarvis (Chase Jarvis’ Blog).

Make the Web Work for You Pt 1: David Nightingale

Mohammed: Thank you, everybody, for coming. Hope you’ve enjoyed your Photo Friday so far. This is going to be, I think, one of the more interesting lectures and workshops throughout the day. I’ll tell you why. This is David Nightingale’s second year here. And the reason he’s here… I was following his blog very closely, I sent a link to Karen a couple of years ago and said, “You’ve got to check this guy out, and get him to come here for Adobe PhotoPlus.” And this is why he’s here. The same thing with David and Chase.

The word spread out through the Internet. And today, we’re going to get some fantastic insights about how they’re using the power of the Web to get their pictures across, to get this information and insights about the world of photography, whether it’s on camera, the lighting for David. Whether it’s just some great images by David or Chase and some of the commercial work that he does.

So, what we’re going to do is we will have David, Chase, and the other David give us a little presentation. And then we’ll open it up and we’d like to make is as interactive as we can, just to get the discussion going and throw some questions around. So, we’ll take it from there, all right? So, David?

David Nightingale: What Mohammed didn’t tell you is we’re going to spend about 10 minutes speaking and have a quick discussion among ourselves, and then we’re going to open it up for you. So, what we’re doing is we’re just pricing what we’re doing in about 10 minutes. We’re going to try to leave an hour so we can talk about other stuff. We do things in a particular way that works for us. You might want to do other stuff. So, what we’re going to do is start bouncing ideas around and hopefully you can get something that’s important and relevant to you, not just hear what we’ve got. So, about 10 minutes each. If you can hold questions until the end, because you may find as we talk about this story between us and mine’s kind of the start of the story, then David extends the story and then Chase goes on from there.

So, maybe your question is answered. If not, hang onto it and when we get to the Q&A session, you can throw it in then.

Right. Chromasia. I set up a website in 2003. At the time, I was working as an academic, so I used to write a lot of stuff, but it was academic stuff. It had nothing to do with photography; I was a psychologist. So, I used to try to get published in journals, I used to edit books.

And I used enjoy writing until I became an academic. I got fed up with writing in the academic style. So, I started a textbased blog where I could write about academic ideas, but I didn’t have to have referencing it. I didn’t have to worry about my colleagues reading it and going, “Oh, well, no,” because soandso said, “Haven’t you read the arts book?”

So, just a way of writing that I started adding pictures too. Round about the end of 2003, I discovered photo blogs. Have you come across them? There’s about, oh, photoblogs.org, I’ll talk about in a little while, there’s now about 30,000 photo blogs listed. When I registered my site there, there were just over 2000 listed.

But, I discovered some of these sites would post an image a day. So, many of you may have seen DaytoDay Saloon Imagery from Canada. Sam Giovanni in Toronto. He’s posted an image every single day since 2003. And they’re nearly all based in Canada, sometimes when he’s on holiday.

I’ve not managed that. Most years, I’ll manage 300 days out of 365. Sort of missed some out. But, that was the target I set myself in February of 2004. Registered for major photo blogs, and I started chatting to other people.

So, there’re other photo blogs out there. You can go and see the listings. You visit, you leave a comment. They can come and comment on your site. And at the time, photoblogs.org was a ranking site. It was ranking sites in the sense that people picked their favorites. You’d list your favorites and the software would add it up and there would be a top 10.
So, within about four or five months of registering, Chromasia went to number one at photoblogs.org. And it stayed at number one until they decided that the whole system was unfair, because everyone went along and looked at the top 10 and said, “Oh, I like those too,” and clicked the button.

New people coming up would say, “Hey, this isn’t fair. My work’s great at well and nobody’s looking at it.” So, in the end, they changed it to a tagging system. So, the ranking went. There are other ranking sites that popped up, because everyone knew that Chromasia was now number one at VFXY.com. We’re number two at photoblogs.org.

So, the whole problem goes forward. Once you get exposure, once you get seen, there’s a momentum about your presence on the Internet. So, when we set out this is from June, 2004, this is what the front page of my blog looked like. Obviously, it changed each day. This is just a shot of a mannequin in a shop window.

We also have category pages and archive pages. That’s what the archive page looked like. I write about each entry, I put the exit dates, there’s a link for the comments. This is the most recent comments. The usual sort of blog stuff. But, the front page was a single image.
At the time I did the screencaps yesterday but at that time, I had 176 entries, people had left 1620 comments, and my readers had written 44,000 words or thereabouts. So, you can see there was a reasonable amount of traffic. Maybe 10 comments per entry. Quite a few words had been written.

Look at my blog now. There’s the front page. It’s exactly the same. It’s one big picture. The pictures have gotten bigger. I’ve been tracking screen resolution over the last few years, and it used to be most people would have 1024. Now, most people have a 1218. So, there’s a JavaScript on my page that will check the resolution of people’s monitors and put up an image to fill the screen.

Look at the archive page, it’s much the same. We’ve got a link to our tutorials there. If there’s something new and I’ll talk about that in a minute. But, essentially, it’s the same idea. A picture a day, me writing about it, people commenting on it.
So far, I’ve put up 1428 images. People have left nearly just over 40,000 comments, and between them, they’ve written 1.3 million words on my blog. So, this is starting to turn into a huge, big thing.

This is my traffic rankings for Alexa. We’re ranked 7000th in the UK, 12,000th in New Zealand Pakistan are up there at the moment; that’s fairly recent 24,000th in the United States. So, you can see we get a lot of traffic. Not as much as David, I’ll tell you that. But, a lot for just a site that’s about photography.

And this is kind of just a typical day. I don’t know if you can see the text. But, last Monday, we got 12,000 hits because David linked to some stray bits well, 12,000 unique visitors. A normal day would be somewhere between 2500 and 7000. So, I got an extra 5000 visitors because David mentioned some of my pictures on his blog and people came over and they looked and traffic goes up.

So, what we added at some point, people started getting in touch with us and said, “Please, can I buy one of your prints?” And I thought, oh, great, somebody likes my work. And I was selling them at cost and adding on postage and making no money at all.

And then, people started saying, “We’d like to use you for a commission. How much do you charge?” I said, “I don’t know.” So, we worked something out. And people said, “I want to license you images, how do you do that?” So I went off to Corvis.com and downloaded their paperwork and went from there.

So, we added a front end to the site. What we now have… The blog is still there, the blog is still the same. I’ve got people who have visited right from the start and they drop in and they talk about how their kids are growing up and I post a picture of the kids. There’s a story, there’s a narrative, and there’s a group of people who know each other.

We’ve also got a commissions page, a galleries page, prints, stock, store, and tutorials. And I just want to quickly go through those, because these have arisen as a result of the blog having traffic and people coming to me. So, I want to give you some ideas about what we’ve done about the various different things.

The commissions’ page works OK if people find my work. So, they’ll see it. They’ll see he commissions page and they’ll look and they’ll flip through and they’ll go, “We really like the stuff you’ve done with the beach. We like the stuff you’ve done with the kids. Get in touch with us.”

This is kind of good in the sense that potential clients if you go to a lot of photographers’ portfolio sites, there’s about 10 pictures. If you go to my website, there’s about 1420. So, if somebody wants to look at the range and scope of the work I can do, they can easily do that. But, it lacks a proactive component. I’m not actively doing anything with it. It just sits there. If people stumble across it that’s great. If they don’t, then they don’t.

If you look at the website as well, you’ll see that we offer prints of every single picture. So, you might think that we do is a lot of traffic in prints. Because I thought it was a good idea to do prints. If people like the pictures, they’ll buy the prints. But, they don’t. If we sell two prints a month, that’s about the best we do. Despite the fact that we’ve got 20,000 people looking at the site.

So, it’s badly implemented. They’re priced wrong. They’re not cheap, but they’re not expensive, they’re not exclusive. And it wasn’t customervisitsdriven, it was something I thought we should be doing, and we don’t market them. So, it just sits there for the time being until I can code all my templates to take it down and do something different.
The stock images again, this works well for some clients. They can come along and browse through and go, “I like this image a lot to use for something. How much would it be?” It’s not like Corvis, where you go through the whole licensing process, pay your money, and you’ve got your image. They require some sort of interaction between the client and me. But, it works reasonably well but again it’s not massive business.

The stores are OK. I manually add things to it occasionally. We did a book on Bailey Photography earlier on in the year and had a hundred copies sent to us so we sold those. So, I put it up and it comes down. We’ve had a lot of productive work really, but as it is, it works OK.

Now, the thing that works well… If you go through my work it’s not photo realistic. There’s a lot of Photoshop work. So, what we always get in conversations is, “How did you do that? How did you do that? How did you do that?” So, my wife said, “Do some tutorials, write some tutorials. People keep asking me how you do this. People will buy tutorials again they won’t.”

There’s millions of Photoshop tutorials on the Internet. People are not going to buy this stuff. So, she talked me into it in the end. We launched them. Now, there are nearly and thousand annual subscribers. We have an active forum; there’s people checking in every day and it works really well. And the reason it works is, because it’s established in response to customer visits and demand. It was structured, we had a forum we set up that we rent for a year before we put anything online asking people what did they want to cover. How much would they pay? What other features would they want? And that’s proactively marketing.

So, we had the traffic. People say, right OK, this is what you do. This is what we want to know about. Because we are starting out as a photo blog. So, there’s other people who are blogging, they are taking photographs, they are post processing them, they want to know how I do what I do. So, that kind of works well.

David Hobby:  That’s interesting.

David Nightingale:  I’m almost at the end of my bit. What I am doing now is thinking about the sort of stuff that Dave is going to be talking to you about. The sort of business term is about how you can monetize a blog. How you can make more money from it. So, things like Amazon.com book sales. So, there’s books I like. Let’s talk about it. So, I put them up with a link with three thousand people in any given day, some of those are going to buy it. So, I am in the stage where I am thinking I’ve got a lot of traffic and the tutorials come directly into that as a response to what people want. What else do I need to do? So things like affiliate sales and spinoff one to one training instead of online training, networking with other training organizations like GBB. Like Harry mentioned, Henry is not here, he is continuing to write the blog. PPSOP, Picture Perfect School Photography in the states.

So, that’s me. It’s a very positive history of how from 2003 I went from a blog with about two visitors to a business that runs full time. That’s me and my wife run, and I am standing here in front of you. So, almost by accident. But, we are starting to get the hang of what we are doing now.

So, I’ll hand you over to David.