Blogs have become the latest digital tool in a wedding photographer's camera bag. These dynamic, online publications don't take up any space or weigh even an ounce, yet if wielded like a true digerati, they can be as effective as any marketing method around.
Short for weblogs, blogs started out simply as a way for Joe Websurfer to chronicle his everyday life. Soon, they evolved into a barrage of Web sites where citizen publishers can post topics on everything from politics and pets, to food and football.
A large number of wedding photojournalists have already carved their own space in the so-called blogosphere, finding that blogs are tools with many uses. These blogs are part portfolio, part calling card. They give brides and grooms a glimpse at the photographer's personality, and they even create a virtual community centered on his or her work.
“It's turned into a huge marketing tool for me,” WPJA award winner Craig Mitchelldyer says of his blog.
When it comes to starting a blog, imitation is often the greatest form of flattery. Like Mitchelldyer, Karin Von Voigtlander created her blog after getting inspiration from other blogging photographers.
“I really liked the way blogs kept people in touch with their clients, and how it enabled photographers to show off their work on a very immediate and regular basis,” she says.
She also found it a great way to keep her audience, ranging from the brides and grooms and extending to other photographers that admire her work, updated on what she was doing. “It's a one-sided form of communication, but it's something that they can always be checking on,” she notes.
Setting up a blog is the equivalent of loading a camera with film or a memory card. From there, it’s a matter of filling the blog with content and constantly updating it, lest your clients think you’ve been out of work for a while.
Several Web sites offer free software to launch, run and publish blogs. Soemarsono currently uses free software called Blogger, found at www.blogger.com. Mitchelldyer, meanwhile, recently switched from Blogger to WordPress, which is also free, since it was easier to route through his Web site.
A company called Six Apart offers a trio of blogging services: TypePad, Movable Type and LiveJournal. While Movable Type and LiveJournal offer free software and hosting, TypePad offers basic service that includes 100 megabytes of storage space and 2 gigabytes of bandwidth for $4.95 a month.
Von Voigtlander uses iBlog, blogging software for Mac OS X that costs $19.95. A couple photography blogs she liked used it, so she opted to pay for software instead of using a free service. Her blog is found at www.kvphotography.com.
Photos make up much of the content for the typical wedding photographer's blog. Once WPJA award winner Raymond Soemarsono gets back from a wedding, he posts several photos on his blog, a practice he's incorporated into the business strategy of his company, Apertura Photo. “It's like a teaser,” says Soemarsono, who with business partner and WPJA member Erwin Darmali maintains a blog at www.aperturaphoto.com/blog. “It's showcasing some of our favorite images from the wedding and it whets our client's appetite for the rest of the images.”
The text, meanwhile, can also play a major role in bringing the wedding photojournalist's personality and style to the forefront. In addition to expanding on and explaining certain techniques to an audience, the written content is where viewers of the blog can really get a sense for the person behind the lens. Other blogging photojournalists can tell the stories behind the photos to really set the scene.
One of Mitchelldyer's recent wedding posts shows a collage of wedding pictures strewn out on a black background. In the text, he posts a couple of fun observations from the most recent wedding. “It was a blast, great people, great fun, and oh yeah, the Bride has a twin sister, the Groom has a twin sister, and the mother of the Bride has a twin sister! Good times!” he wrote.
“I think of it as a way for people to get to know me better since it's important for my personality to mesh with theirs,” says Mitchelldyer. Mitchelldyer also posts other freelance work he does for newspapers or advertising campaigns.
During the wedding off-season, Von Voigtlander likes to post pictures and reviews of product samples like albums. She says that has piqued both orders and interests in the products. Soemarsono, meanwhile, links to other wedding vendors he likes to work with on his blog, in exchange for getting linked back to his blog.
This all creates a steady stream of visitors to the Web site, which in turn develops into a great word-of-mouth tool. Brides who are thrilled with their photos often post links to their photographers' blogs on Internet message boards. And while not everyone that winds up at the site may be searching for a wedding photojournalist at the time, there's always the chance that someone in his or her circle of friends is.
“The more people that see it the better,” Mitchelldyer says.
With new technology come some pitfalls, which is why some photographers warn against getting too personal on their blogs. Mitchelldyer found out the hard way when someone hijacked a picture of his favorite photo subject, his daughter, and posted it on a mother-daughter message board.
Luckily, a loyal reader whom he had never met recognized the picture and notified Mitchelldyer, who then had the Web site take it down. Nothing bad came of it, but Mitchelldyer for some time stopped posting photos of his daughter until his audience protested and he started posting the pictures again.
Von Voigtlander is also wary, deciding not to post pictures of herself or her home. No need to let an anonymous online community know what a home with thousands of dollars of photography equipment inside looks like from the outside, she says.
Overall, the pros seem to far outweigh the cons when it comes to wedding photographers maintaining blogs. Updating blogs, our award-winning photographers say, is a cinch, requiring only a few minutes of extra work. The results can be rewarding too.
“A Web site is a more static portfolio that's updated every quarter or so, but a blog is more dynamic,” Soemarsono says. “It gets updated with every event we do. It lets us show our personality, and it's fun.”
— by Paul Ziobro for The Wedding Photojournalist Association