Blogging, It's Just What You Do
I feel like I’ve been eating and drinking the photography world every single day for the past 10 years at this point, and there’s a lot of things in it that are tossed around as “you do ____ because that’s what other photographers do” or “They got successful doing ____ so you need to do that too”. This plagues every industry in some way; doing something a certain way with no basis in why or if it’s actually helping you is something I just can’t sit with. The very idea that you would feel “less than” or “pressured” simply because you aren’t conforming to some weird nonsensical industry norm crawls all over me.
For instance, something I feel like isn’t getting called out enough is this weird wedding photography standard of blogging.
(Fade In to a coffee shop where a hack sits and writes a blog about….blogging)
I think differently about blogging, for a lot of reasons. First, I grew up in the blogging world to some extent. During the heyday of people writing thoughts on websites before walls and timelines existed, my mom was a blogger who built a small following. She wasn’t a mom who blogs about “mom-ing” either, she was (and still blogs from time to time) an extremely well-read, “nerd” writer who discussed politics, philosophy, life, and theology. The easiest way to describe my mom, especially when I was a kid, is an early-adopter who stayed on the cutting edge of technology (she was pretty much the reason we had a computer), understood digital trends, and was a “micro-influencer” before it was cool. Now that I’m thinking about it, my mom was kind of a pioneer.
I suppose my deep seated ideas about how to use the internet are rooted in how my mom used it in the early 2000s and that informed a lot of what I do now.
I watched my mom be multi-faceted in her interests and discussed things adjacent to what she actually did with most of her time which was being a teacher. While I know I’m bound for the educational world at some point in my life (despite having deep criticisms about how we teach art and business in school), I spend a lot of my time learning and discussing not just wedding and portrait photography, but business, marketing, and things surrounding it. You could almost say that I’m…uh…Out of Focus. (looks directly at the camera queue Seinfeld music)
Since I’ve only jumped into the actual wedding photography world over the past couple years, there’s a lot I’m learning about the standards of what wedding photographers do online and what’s suggested in how they market themselves.
Two things that I just don’t understand (because I can’t, no matter how hard I search, find a valid reason other than “that’s just what you do”. That should never been a valid reason for anything.) are how wedding photographers are encouraged to blog, and how wedding photographers are supposed to be displayed on Instagram and other social media.
I’m not as concerned about the second one because it’s clear that very few people actually know what they are doing on Instagram or what works (me included). “You need two Instagram accounts! One business one and one personal!” This usually means you just need a vibrant, interesting account (for fun) and a sterile, boring, repetitive “professional” one. This isn’t always the case, but it mostly is. I follow a bunch of wedding accounts, and my feed pretty much feels like the same photos all day long. Not saying that lumping my life and business into @willmalone is the right way, but I know I lose interest quickly in posting the same types of photos over and over and over. Not even that the pro-account photos are always bad, but there’s definitely a de-sensitizing affect that goes on which gets people to either unfollow you or forget about you when you post the same look and style over and over. That said, the secret to Instagram success is basically just showing up every day with good work.
From what I’ve learned about the wedding photography industry over the past couple years, to a wedding photographer, blogging means simply, posting sets of your most recent wedding or portrait sessions. I keep hearing stories on podcasts about how photographers are really hard on themselves about “forgetting to blog” or “I really need to get back to blogging” and so on and so forth. As somewhat of outsider to this area of photography, my question is “What is with this weird “wedding photographer” pressure to blog photo sets? Why is it such a big talking point, and what benefit does it actually have to your photography business? I’ve even heard insane quotes about how blogging is the engine of your business, which may be true for some people, but that gives a lot of photographers a bad impression that if they aren’t “blogging” they are failing in some way.
I know firsthand that “blogging” (in the sense I laid out at the beginning of this post) is important. It’s important for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and getting discovered in Google results. When I blog a lot, my web traffic skyrockets. I went through a phase a couple years ago where I blogged every morning and I was getting an insane amount of website hits a day. That makes sense because I was typing words; if I talked about Iron Man 3, I would get included somewhere in Google results for when people searched for that movie. If I blogged about Iron Man 3 when that movie had just gotten released, I would get a ton of traffic because people were more likely to search for that movie at that time.
Of course, I’m not an Iron Man 3 fansite (at least officially. my avengers references have gotten out of control lately), so those views are somewhat inconsequential to me. If you find me because I talked about Avengers I’m probably going to disappoint you in that I only have a paragraph or two on my entire website dedicated to that topic. When I talk about photography and the different aspects of it, that traffic is a lot more valuable.
When wedding photographers blog photo sets, with almost no words attached, that doesn’t really move the needle in a substantial way. Again, I’m not looking to take anyone to task or call anyone out, I just truly don’t understand why it does anyone any good to only post photo sets, and to also put pressure on oneself to make that a bigger priority. As an extension of your portfolio, I get it, and I feel like I’m probably failing on that front. As a way to improve search-ability, it makes no real sense.
Again, I want to stress, I’M NOT AGAINST POSTING PHOTO SETS FOR WEDDINGS AS BLOGS. I’m against photographers feeling like they just have to do it, without really understand why they are doing it other than “that’s what other photographers say to do”.
Now listen, I’m somewhat self-aware; I disclosed at the top that my mom was a liberal arts micro-influencer before it was cool. I’m obviously some sort of weirdo. I get it. I actually enjoy blogging and it frees me to some extent. Sometimes I write really dumb stuff, sometimes I write stuff I regret later, but overall I enjoy the expression of writing. That’s just me.
If you’re a wedding photographer who really has to put pressure on yourself to blog as if that’s going to move your business forward, don’t do it. Don’t just do stuff because you’re told “It’s just what you do.” If writing isn’t your thing, don’t. If you’re better at the Instagram game focus on that. If you’re better at networking in person, lean into that (probably the most valuable of all business skills). Everyone has to do things differently according to their strengths, and just because blogging isn’t your strength, it doesn’t make you wrong or a failure.
I want to live in a world where “It’s just what you do.” is eliminated from the vernacular. It may be just what you do, but it’s not just what I do.
I’ve spent countless hours listening to podcasts, reading blogs, books, articles, and watching material about the wedding industry over the past couple years. As a whole, the photography world is pretty bizarre, but I’ve gotten pretty used to it. The wedding world is a whole different ball game. It’s almost like the wedding photography world specifically, has no relation to the rest of the photography world and almost ignores its existence.
Sometimes when I delve into the wedding photography world I feel like I’m walking into an Old West saloon where everyone turns around and stares at me when I walk in. “Printing? What’s that? We only deal with online galleries in these parts, boy.” Or “Online galleries? What’s that? We only deal with prints and albums here, son.”
In all honestly, I love talking about all this stuff. This post has kind of let me nerd out a bit, because I just really enjoy writing.
There’s a lot of resources out there for photographers by more famous photographers, and some of those influential photographers out there say things that make me go crazy sometimes, and I just need to get my thoughts out. It’s like how your favorite band was really really good because they used to write about real stuff that you could relate to, but then they got rich and famous and all they know to sing about is being rich and sad and in Hollywood. They just live in the reality of their success now, and some of their advice doesn’t actually track with what is really going on.
That’s the dream though right? Getting so successful that you no longer live in any discernible reality sounds pretty nice, actually.