Blogger Hangout: Building a Successful Photo Blog

On Tuesday I did a G+ hangout on air with the community manager from Blogger at Google in Mountain View. At the last minute we were joined by photographer Patrick Smith, who brought the perspective of a more traditional photo blogger.

It's a wide-ranging discussion (video after the jump) and we answered a variety of viewer questions. If you have any related Q's of your own, feel free to drop them in the comments afterwards.

(Nice frame grab, huh...)


Cleaning Up Your Webcam

I don't do this for every Skype session, but when something is going to be archived or YouTubed I usually will take a couple of moments to give my webcam a little help in getting a better quality image.

The first thing I do is to kill any hinky light sources that might mess htthings up—especially with some of the franken-fluorescents that populate my office. Also, there's a sliding glass door right by my desk that gets direct sun in the afternoon, so I covered that.

But still, you can do more proactive things the help the image. Rather than clean up my background (literally) I tend to drop a seamless behind me. That also helps to get a better, more consistent white balance out of your webcam.

(Note: I used white paper, but the webcam saw it as light gray and dropped the exposure on me by about a stop. Next time, I think I'll use light gray. That will give the webcam an easier tone to hit and it should up my exposure by a stop. Those things only run on full auto.)

And to get a good key light, I pointed a hot light at the ceiling in front of my desk. In this case I used a 20-yr-old White Lightning Ultra, because it was the only big flash that has a good modeling light but no noisy fan.

In this case, the computer (which usually dominates as a light source and nukes glasses) became my on-axis fill. I just dialed in my monitor's brightness to get a good ratio.

SInce it was well under the key, you can easily see through my glasses even though the 24" monitor is right in front of my face.

Hopefully, this interview will be of interest to any current or potential photo bloggers out there. Any Q's, ask in the comments.

Thanks for watching!


:: ::
:: Patrick Smith's Photo Blog :: (Definitely check out his work.)


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Blogger Patrick Smith said...

Thanks again, DH.

Totally caught off guard as I thought the invite was to just watch. How I got roped into talking in bad light is beyond me! Yet fun and informative.

Cheers, P.

July 19, 2012 8:59 AM  
Blogger Glimpse said...

Hey guys that was a great hangout, lots of sound advice and good to have ideas from several viewpoints. I started my photography blog at the beginning of the year with much gusto and have run into many of the issues discussed. Would you agree that a large percentage of blogs may generate rubber neckers but few generate work? Or is it a case of generating awareness by any and every means available?

Thanks as always for sharing your insights.

July 19, 2012 7:59 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Definitely the latter. If you are only going to blog to try to convince people to hire you, you are missing 98% of the point. And worse, your goal will show in your writing style.

Aim to be relevant to a wide audience, so that audience will grow. Then good things can come from that. Would you start a blog if you knew that only one out of every ten thousand visitors were going to offer you work?

It's a hypothetical, but nonetheless depressing ratio. And if I would have thought about it that way I probably never would have started up a blog.

That said, if that were my goal (and my outcome ratio) I would be getting multiple jobs a day from the blog alone.

Aim to produce the best quality of a product that you can. Then wait and see what happens.

July 19, 2012 8:43 PM  
Blogger Andrew Tomasino said...

Patrick and David. Rad to see you both speaking your mind about blogging. I recently started two blogs myself with Google Dynamic Views. The biggest problem I'm finding is ...

A) I'm a joke when it comes to making my blog sleek looking. With (I hope) the exception being my photographs (also why I chose Dynamic Views)

B) I've got NO clue how to make my site increase in its overall search-ability. So far I've just two Analytics and a Webmaster Tools that I'm hopeless in navigating. One blog is geared towards my paid work and the other is just a visual journal of my everyday life.

So, should I be okay with a stock Dynamic Views profile? or does it pay to have someone make it look more unique? And, if there is any light that you can shed on making your sites as incredibly searchable as they are that would be awesome. Thanks in advance!

Also David, keep up the walking regiment my friend your progress is definitely showing. (shirtless hangouts in no-time).

July 19, 2012 11:57 PM  
Blogger Glimpse said...

Thanks David, I hear you loud and clear! I must say as much as wanting to get images out there, one of the main reasons I started to blog was to be able to express opinions, share experiences and ideas.

Mmmm ten thousand visitors... I can dream!

July 20, 2012 12:13 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Much as we are about photos, search-ability comes from text and metadata. I think dynamic blogs may look good, but their emphasis on visuals do not make them optimum for search IMO.

Speaking of that, you do not even rank on the first page for ANDREW TOMASINO BLOG:


So, wherever you are, maybe some words to allow Google to search you would be nice... :)

July 20, 2012 11:02 AM  
Blogger fishtoprecords said...

I'm the "Pat" who asked there are so many blogs because there are so many professional photographers who can't feed their families.

You missed an easy answer: Quoting a character played by Tom Hanks: Its supposed to be hard, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

July 20, 2012 1:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Golden: "Lenses, you marry; cameras, you date"

July 21, 2012 1:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Golden: "Lenses, you marry; cameras, you date"

July 21, 2012 1:48 PM  
Blogger hht420 said...

Knowing what you know now, would you change anything about how you started Strobist? Such as content, post quantity, post length, format, etc.

July 23, 2012 12:39 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Hard to say, as I tend to own my mistakes and learn from them if possible. That learning process is very important and shapes the site. So I think it would be best to make them all over again...

2012 is very different in the blogging genre than was 2006. So I would certainly do things differently if starting a blog now, for instance.

The best thing that happened to be was to be a pioneer in a niche before it became crowded. That makes up for a lot of mistakes, IMO.

July 23, 2012 2:19 PM  

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