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As some of you may recall, we recently conducted a survey centered on blogging and the habits of bloggers. We wanted to know why you blog (or don’t), how often you blog, how you promote your blog and more. The results revealed key insights into the blogging world of creative professionals, and we gleaned several important truths which we have captured in our new paper, ‘8 Blogging Truths for Creative Professionals.’

The ‘8 Truths’ help guide you through the world of blogging, provide advice on how to leverage your blog to help grow your creative business and feature tips from influential bloggers in the creative community such as Vincent Laforet and David Airey.

From our survey results, it is clear that most of you experience frustration with how to approach blogging and our belief is that this then deters you from setting up your own blog.

Now, I know that you (like us) hate the idea of ‘shameless self promotion’ – but I think this is one of those exceptions and you will be happy to learn that we now offer a solution to this problem with liveBooks Companion Blogs.  No longer is there any need to spend hours trying to find a template that ‘kind of’ looks like your website, or toil through the troubles of hosting your blog in cyberspace.

While this is an answer to just one of your blogging qualms, we know there are several other concerns you and thousands of other creative professionals face on a daily basis, which is why we encourage you to take a peek at our latest blogging report. Let us know what you think about the report. Do you agree with the truths? Do you have any truths to add to the mix?

If you want to read the paper in it’s entirety – follow this link and request the paper.

Freelance photographer Robert Caplin launched The Photo Brigade in mid-February as a place to bring together and highlight work being published on photographer’s own platforms (blogs). By placing a premium on viral capabilities through Facebook and Twitter, he’s helping build a huge network to publicize freelancers’ work.

Miki Johnson: How did the idea for Photo Brigade come to you?

Robert Caplin: As a fairly new blogger myself, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of how to actually build a following and bring traffic to my personal blog. After months of research and good old trial and error, I found the best way to increase my traffic and find readers was by sharing my link by way of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and referring links or stories on other blogs, such as this one. I quickly realized that if I combined my Facebook and Twitter networks, I was suddenly reaching a much larger potential viewership, which only multiplied when someone else decided to share or re-tweet my link.

Suddenly, not only was I reaching thousands of people through my personal network, but I was also reaching the networks of those who were kind enough to share my link with their followers. The viral nature of social media can really work to the advantage of photographers to get their work seen by the masses. So it went to figure that if photographers as a whole worked together to build a vast shared network, all would benefit by the added traffic it would bring their websites and blogs…and that’s how the The Photo Brigade came to me.

MJ: How long did it take you to make it a reality?

RC: Not long actually. My original idea was to start a blog, but that would take a while to design (because I wanted to do it properly) and it would take time to actually build a following. It occurred to me that I could test the concept quite easily by simply making a Facebook Page where I could easily share direct links to the cool blogs I was reading and people could easily subscribe to the feed by becoming a fan.

I also started a Twitter account. Over the next week The Photo Brigade page gained hundreds of followers and within weeks had over a thousand. I should also mention that this happened completely unsolicited and 100% organically, proving how well social networking can get the word out. It was obvious that not only was there a desire for a service like this, but also a genuine need.

MJ: It seems like a lot of work for something you do on the side of your own photography business. What makes it worth it?

RC: Well, to be honest it has taken a good chunk of my time to build … but that was the hard part. I should also note that I worked with my wonderful designer Laia Prats to create the brand and build the blogs using custom templates she tediously tweaked and designed. I couldn’t have done it without her help!

Now that the blog has been designed and content has been uploaded, the rest is really quite simple. There’s no lack of amazing photography out there. Given that The Photo Brigade was built to promote the work of freelancers, those photographers have been happy to share their work. Also, with a number of shooters submitting work, it’s almost as though it’s running itself. As Photo Brigade grows, I’ll be implementing some really great tools and resources for photographers and editors alike … but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what those are!

MJ: What has the response been like so far, from contributors as well as viewers, especially editors?

RC: The response has been very positive! The website is receiving steady traffic and it’s growing by the day. The same goes for contributors. Everyday I’m receiving emails from photographers from around the world, some I know and others I’ve never heard of, sharing their latest blog posts of their work.

Editors are a little harder to track and gauge because they’re obviously not submitting work themselves, though I’ve received a number of emails from editors praising the blog. There are also editors and directors of photography from major media outlets who follow the Facebook feed.

MJ: How do you choose photographers to feature?

RC: The featured photographers have either submitted their work from the submissions page, or I’ve reached out to the them personally. Because we receive many submissions, not every submission is featured. The best way to be chosen is to have a blog, as our mission is to encourage blogging. In your blog post we’d like to see a number of strong images with a well written explanation about the photography. We will pull 2-3 images as well as take some of the copy and post it on Photo Brigade teasing the blog.

It’s also encouraged for the photographers to supply a Twitter account so we can plug their account when we tweet to our followers about the post. By doing so, we’ll raise awareness for the photographer, and also help build the photographer’s social network. Many are adverse to using Twitter, but it’s one hell of a marketing tool. It would be silly not to tap into the millions of Twitter users out there, many of whom are photo editors and image buyers. We’re all about viral marketing and social media — the more we link to other people, the more visibility our blog gets, which trickles down to the photographers we feature.

It’s important to note that photographers should not be discouraged a submission isn’t accepted. Please continue to submit whenever you have a post you feel is worthy!

MJ: You just added three university blogs. Why was that important and how do you see them growing?

RC: While I was answering these questions, we decided to start one more! My friend and fellow photographer Chip Litherland is helping me run the Colorado Photo Brigade, which will feature the University of Colorado at Boulder. I decided to branch out further and focus on universities because there are so many photography students producing amazing work on a daily basis. I figured I could use the same concept to create a community of students, alumni, and faculty to showcase the work coming from each school as well as former students.

Obviously I’m only a team of one, and don’t have time to moderate all these blogs and make a living myself, so I enlisted the help of eager students at each university who are closer to their classmates and can encourage them to blog. The regional branches also create a wonderful place for everyone to see the end product of what each institution is producing. Each post is tagged and categorized…so if you want to reference a particular class (photo 101) or search only for alumni work or just the class of 2002, you’ll be able to. Check out our regional blogs: Ohio, Missouri, and Rochester, all with their respective Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Many more to come!

During our Future of Photobooks project, Shane Lavalette‘s Lay Flat came up over and over as a great example of innovative, collaborative, independent publishing. With the release party and book signing for Lay Flat‘s second edition, Meta, coming up on Friday at ICP, we thought it would be the perfect time to check back in with Shane and ask him to share a bit about his blog, Lay Flat, and the impact both have had on his photography career.

From Shane's "Northeast" project. ©Shane Lavalette

Miki Johnson: What compelled you to start your blog? Did your goals for it change over time?

Shane Lavalette:
I began blogging when I was in high school, at that time using my blog as a place to publish my own photographs as I was first learning the technical aspects of the medium. When I moved to Boston to study photography more closely as an undergraduate, I felt a need to be more private/considered with my own images and decided to use the blog as a space to archive the work of others — highlighting artists, photographic books, exhibitions, and conducting interviews with other photographers. So, I suppose that some of my goals with it have changed over time but ultimately it has served the same purpose, functioning as a platform for learning.

From "Northeast." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Northeast." ©Shane Lavalette

MJ: Were you surprised by how popular the blog became? What do you think are a few reasons your blog has been successful?

SL: Somewhere along the way the readership grew, which was a nice surprise. In writing my blog, my tone has always been very personal — I write about what I’m looking at or spending time with, not what I imagine others will want to see. I never set out with the intention of making a site that was flashy or felt like an online magazine. This might be some of the appeal for readers, that it’s simple and approachable. I’m not sure. But it’s really fantastic that it has grown to be a resource for others and that it continues to promote dialogue.

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Slí na Boirne." ©Shane Lavalette

MJ: It sounds like your blog helped you connect with a lot of other artists. Was that beneficial for you as a student and now as a working artist?

SL: Most definitely. In the last six or seven years, blogs have become so common that most of the people I know have one, but at the time I created mine, there really weren’t very many that focused on contemporary fine art photography.

Since the photo world is relatively small, a few of these blogs began to support an online community. And through this community, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful artists, writers, curators, gallerists, collectors, etc. These connections have been helpful in terms of my career (as I transitioned from being a student to, as you call it, a “working artist”) and also have grown to be meaningful relationships in general.

I’ve always been really interested in print publishing and a little over a year ago I began Lay Flat, a limited-edition publication of contemporary photography. As a specific example of how the blog has helped me, for both the first issue, Lay Flat 01: Remain in Light, and the recently released Lay Flat 02: Meta there are a number of contributors that I was originally acquainted with through either my own blog or the online community connected to it. As a result, collaborating with these artists and writers felt like a natural transition.

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

From "Waking Vrindavan." ©Shane Lavalette

MJ: You’ve said that Lay Flat allowed you to continue and expand your collaboration with other photographers. But it’s a lot of work, as well. Do you feel like what you’ve gotten back from this project has outweighed the effort?

SL: Lay Flat has certainly involved a lot of hard work but very aspect of the project has been rewarding for me. Growing up in small town Vermont, my interest in photography was initially sparked by looking at photographs in books (as you might imagine, there is a lack of art galleries and museums there), so in a lot of ways it makes sense that I eventually gravitated towards publishing.

It’s interesting to play the roles of a “photographer” as well as “publisher/editor,” but so far my experience is that these roles actually co-exist quite well. I don’t feel like one pulls me away from the other, though I’ll probably always identify more with the former. It is a big time commitment to begin a side project like this, but what you love doing doesn’t really feel like work.

MJ: Continuing on the topic of collaboration, you’re working with a different guest editor for each issue of Lay Flat. Why did that  appeal to you?

SL: This was an idea that came up early on, while working on Lay Flat 01. I felt like it would be interesting for both myself as well as the life of the publication to work with a new guest editor for every issue, helping to push each one in a direction that I may not have taken it alone. This has been a valuable process so far and has made working on the publication even more meaningful to me.

With the new issue, I never would have arrived at the final result without the ideas and insight that came from guest editor Michael Bühler-Rose. Sometimes collaboration requires making sacrifices or compromises, but I think I’ve primarily seen how it enriches a project like this.

There’s a lot that I’m excited about with photography and a lot that hasn’t been explored in terms of publishing, so I’m looking forward to experimenting, working with some great artists, and hopefully making some beautiful and innovative things in the process.

Photo District News has announced its 30 new and emerging photographers to watch for 2010. Check out their gallery for a images and interviews with a wide range of photographers, including a few names you’ve probably heard and several that are brand new — at least to us.

liveBooks also announced its own contest for emerging wedding photographers on Monday at WPPI in Las Vegas. The emerge Photo Competition will judge photographers on their ability to tell a story through images by asking them to upload a series of portfolios to a site for the judges. Winners will receive a prize package complete with everything to take a wedding photography business to the next level, with goodies from, Sony, LabPrints, Asuka Book, ShootQ, Rangefinder, Pictage, Think Tank, and liveBooks.

We found out from Andrew Hetherington this week that legendary photographer Larry Fink has started his own blog. It includes rarely seen images from his archives along with meditations from the man himself (although it’s run by his studio manager). New York-based photographer Robert Caplin also launched a new blog this week, The Photo Brigade. It showcases the work of talented freelance photographers and is sure to be a top destination for editors very soon.

We were also happy to see that the discussion we started with our Future of Photobooks project, a collaboration with FlakPhoto, is being continued by photographer/blogger Shawn Records on too much chocolate. Check out his interviews with Jason Fulford and Alec Soth about moving from photography towards publishing. His talk with Richard Renaldi will be posted next week.

Posted in Blogs / Books / Photography


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