My blog is called OffTopic for a reason; although I stick with subjects related to photography, I reserve the right to write about whatever happens to be on my mind. Hey, at least I'm not just regurgitating information from other blogs or websites, right? ;) In a radical departure from my usual tone I'm going to vent today. Sorry, can't help it. I just turned down an opportunity to shoot a multi-million dollar house because I know that I do not have the skills to pull off an architectural shoot of that caliber and do it justice. I am not an architectural photographer. I do, however, know someone who is a fantastic architectural photographer who will do justice to a $15 million home (and yes, that name was passed on).
What got me going is repeatedly having to deal with the growing acceptance of mediocrity as the expected norm in all areas of our lives. I could go on and on with examples; it's become incredibly pervasive. It's probably my number one pet peeve. There was a time when I used to let this kind of thing go; I used to just shake my head, chuckle to myself while mumbling something unkind and then move on. But I'm just getting a little tired of it.
This time it was Rangefinder Magazine that set me off. Rangefinder calls itself "The Magazine for Professional Photographers", so I hold it to high standards. Recently they have been publishing a monthly series of articles on Profitable Website Management written by a professional photographer who also has a background in "Web development", among other things (sales, information security...). I'm not naming names...if you want to know you will have to do the research yourself. It's not my style to call people out that way and the information is relatively easy to find.
The October article (yes, I am that far behind in my reading) was about blogging applications. That's a great topic since more and more photographers are discovering how to integrate blogging into their overall marketing plan, and many stock photographers specifically are starting to consider the importance of having their own website so they are not relying solely on the agencies any more.
Now I don't know about you, but when I read an article written by someone claiming to know what he/she is talking about, in a magazine aimed at professionals, I expect the information to be accurate. Especially when the information given is stated as fact, not opinion. And most especially when the author starts out by denigrating other photographers' blogs, making the statement that they don't know any better or just don't care.
So I was really surprised to see that this "expert" made the statement that free blogging applications are unsuitable for professional purposes, one of the main reasons being the amount of advertisements the application places on the free blogs. This expert stated that the only applications that were worthwhile for business purposes were the ones that cost money. That statement really bothered me because a lot of folks who don't know any better will read that, believe it, and needlessly spend money. And in this tough economy no one needs to spend money if they don't have to. It may even lead some folks to decide that they can't start a blog because they can't afford one of the paid blogging applications, which is a real shame.
I took a look at the author's blog (it's called research and fact checking, something from which both the author and Rangefinder could benefit). It is a Xanga blog that has been up and running for a little more than six months. I'm going to guess that the author paid for an upgraded version since there is no advertising on his blog. There are several broken/dead end links. While the blog is all about photography, his bio lists a completely unrelated occupation. And yes, there are posts on his blog talking about the poor job other photographers do with their websites.
Let me be clear, I do NOT claim to be an expert at websites and blogs. Less than a year ago I knew only very basic html and absolutely nothing about CSS. I'm still finding my way around in this world and I'm always trying to learn as much as possible. I am in no position to criticize anyone else's blog. But when I look at my free Blogger blog and the authors paid blog, I've gotta tell you that I like my free blog a whole lot better than his paid one. It's completely integrated with my website, there is absolutely no advertising on it (I still can't figure out why he said that), I can customize it any way I want to for FREE, anything that is there is there because I want it to be there (no dead end links) and if I were to obtain a domain name for it I'd doubt that many people would be able to tell that it was a free Blogger blog. So it really pains me that the author states that free blogs are worthless.
The author also advocates uploading photos to a blog, rather than linking them, to save time. I have two issues with this. First, clicking on any of the uploaded photos takes the viewer to a page that is useless from a business perspective. Usually it is just a browser window with that image, some of the authors' images take you to page where you can comment on the photo. By taking the time to create a link, one can lead the viewer directly to the image or gallery on your website. Uploading the photos also doesn't allow one to utilize ALT text. Not only is ALT text strongly recommended for all images on a webpage, it has a tremendous impact on search engine results. Google spiders can't see pictures! Maybe this isn't quite as important for a wedding/portrait photographer, but isn't the whole point of a blog to drive traffic to your website, and therefore drive business? Why have the images linked to a dead end page? I think these are very important things to address in an article that purports to instruct photographers how to set up a blog for business purposes. Do yourself a favor, take the time to properly place your images in your blog. You will be amazed at the increase in search result hits.
Like I said earlier, I did do some research and I read through some of the authors blog posts. I know the background of how and why this series of articles was written. It reminded me of a guy (or woman) who's had a digital camera for a year and decides that he is ready to start shooting weddings. Rangefinder is the one who said "yes, we'll hire you". I'm only mad at the author because he has a habit of trashing others. If you're going to take that stance you'd best be ready to stand up to scrutiny. Sorry if that's mean.
I'm reminded of an acquaintance who is a graphic designer by trade. She enjoys point-and-shoot photography and she has a great eye, as one would expect of a graphic designer. She does not, however, know the first thing about even the most basic technical aspects of photography (such as apertures and shutter speeds). She recently had a client who needed some furniture photographed for a brochure, and (I suppose) to save the client money my acquaintance did it herself instead of hiring a photographer. It was a white sofa on a green lawn on a sunny day. Anyone who knows anything about photography can guess exactly what happened; the green grass looked fantastic and the whites were completely blown out with absolutely no detail. She showed me the brochure with pride, and what was I going to say? Next time hire a real photographer? She didn't even realize that the whites were blown out and apparently her client didn't care. Her client was happy and she got paid, just like the guy who wrote the article with misinformation for Rangefinder got paid.
And yes, I am painfully aware of the irony here.