With any online presence, if you’re consistent with sharing, sooner or later you’ll also have a growing audience.
It’s then all too easy to fall into the trap of posting new content – whether that’s words, images, videos, music or any combination – just to try to keep your that hungry monster (your lovely audience) fed. Even if what you’re sharing isn’t that great.
In terms of writing blog posts, this isn’t a trap I feel I’ve ever fallen into.
Whilst I try to be consistent and regular with new posts on 35hunter, I can’t ever recall posting something just for the sake of it.
As in my offline life, I’m not one for banal small talk. If I have nothing interesting to say, I say nothing.
With photographs though, I confess I’ve succumbed to that “monster that needs feeding” on a number of occasions.
How do I know?
Well, my ideal state of mind whilst being out wandering and looking to make photographs is one where I capture only the images and scenes I find intriguing, beautiful, moving, or all of these. The most important word in that sentence is “I”.
There have been times where I’ve seen compositions and made pictures that I’ve considered not stunning, but “good enough” to use as an image in a blog post, or to upload to Flickr.
Instead of the fierce fireworks of “Yes and Wow!”, it’s more like the spluttering spark of “Oh OK it’ll do”.
Worse than that, whilst not often, there have been occasions where I’ve almost been actively looking to rattle off a dozen generically “good enough” pictures so I have a bit of a stash built up for say the next three or four new blog posts.
So what drives this behaviour in the first place?
Most guides online we might read about building an audience tell us to post often, to keep people interested.
Maybe we fear if we don’t share anything new for a while, people will forget all about us, and not be interested (or even aware) when we do share something again.
But which of the following would you rather be given as a reader/viewer?
One post or photograph a month that’s fantastic, one of the best you’ve seen anywhere online that month, and well worth the wait?
Or four or eight or 20 posts or photographs a month that kind of fill a void but are actually mostly a bit disappointing, like a sugar filled snack that looks delicious on the packet but is pretty tasteless and hollow once you bite into it?
Another danger when you post less than stellar content every time – and post it often – is that your audience will start to care less about missing a post or image.
Their mentality becomes “it’s fine, there’ll be another “good enough” one along in a couple of days”.
But once they get into the habit of missing posts – and that perception that your work is often rather missable, rather than utterly unmissable, starts to grow – it’s hard to regain their interest and dedication.
Ultimately, making photographs just to prove you’re still making photographs, doesn’t help anyone.
When I’ve succumbed in the past, I’ve felt bad because I’m sharing substandard work, and you’re not getting the best of me either.
If you’re a new reader/viewer, I’d love for the picture you happen to land on first to be one of my favourite I’ve ever made.
If you’re a long time reader/viewer, I’d love it if every new photo I shared you felt was one of the best you’ve seen from me.
Halfheartedly tossing sugary snacks at the monster isn’t the way to achieve this.
So how do we change it?
Since some of the changes I made early this year, like using Google Photos as my main way to organise and edit images, and generally being more ruthless with editing, I now consciously avoid this approach.
I’ve noticed I upload far, far less to Flickr, and when I’m on a photowalk I might only take 25 photographs in total when before I might have taken 75 or 100. Most of which then get culled in editing anyway.
Sometimes I might go two or three weeks without posting on Flickr, whereas for perhaps years I would feel the need to share something more days than not.
So if you haven’t shared a blog post or a photograph in a while, don’t feel you need to share something just for the sake of it, to prove you’re still there.
Wait until you’re ready with something you’re proud of, it’ll come.
And we, the waiting and actually rather discerning monster, who much prefers delicious home cooked heartfelt meals than cheap snacks, will appreciate you all the more when you do return to feed us.
How about you? Do you feel pressure to “feed the monster” regularly to keep up with your audience’s demands (all of which are of course purely your perception), whether you have something worth sharing or not?
Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography and cycling life looks like right now.
21 thoughts on “How To Stop Making Photographs Just To Prove You Haven’t Stopped Making Photographs”
This is a part of why I put my blog on a break. Lately, I’ve been feeding a beast.
I’ve enjoyed my six-a-week schedule but at the same time I know I’ve posted some things just so I’d keep continuity. This break is a chance for me to experience life without the blog and evaluate what I really get from it so I can renew my purpose.
It’s not like I’m not writing. Eight posts are queued up for November. But they’re eight good posts.
Thanks for your comments Jim, very interesting.
I must say I have missed your blog posts, but I will also confess I don’t read every single one, and if you posted only once or twice a week, say, I would likely read every one.
Of course I’m sure for some readers once a week is too much, and for others twice daily wouldn’t be enough. We can’t please everyone with our publishing schedule, so pleasing ourselves is probably a good place to start! : )
I don’t blog, or even share photos very much at all online, but I was just reading a post on Reddit yesterday about “How using social media ruined photography for me” and it was really depressing. There was even a model who said she quit working as a model because of it. I only joined IM so I could follow a few people and organizations but I have never posted anything.
Jon, do you have a link to that post, sounds interesting. So how did social media ruin the person’s photography, because they were taking pictures they thought people want to see, rather than the pictures you really want to take yourself?
This monster will take your sugary snacks any day, Dan! 😉 I suppose how often/what you post comes down to what your goals are: Do you intend to showcase only your best work, for a highly discerning audience? Is your goal to amass lots of followers? Or are you blogging mostly for your own enjoyment? These are important questions, because your goal is going to drive your tactics. That said, I’ve experimented with all sorts of formats and schedules over the years — from posting something (anything!) every day to showing only my best work — and found there isn’t a magic formula. Ultimately, I decided to blog just for the fun of it … and it’s been a LOT more fun since I stopped feeling like every post had to be perfectly polished, or worrying that an absence would cost me readers. As you said in your reply above to Jim, pleasing yourself is a good place to start.
Yes I think we have to write because we want to write, and enjoy it. Soon as it becomes a chore or just about feeding the monster, it’s time to question our motives, I think.
It’s an excellent idea to review this periodically I believe too, as you may have started a blog for one reason, then a year or two down the line that reason has evolved or doesn’t exist anymore.
I think quite a number of people start a blog just because they think they should, without giving much thought to what they want to say (or if they have anything to say/share), then it fizzles out rapidly and they become disillusioned with blogging completely.
That said, there’s only so much preparation and planning you can do before you just have to dive in, write and post regularly and see how it evolves.
I know when I started 35hunter one of the potential names was around the numbers 35/2.8, because at that time I was obsessed with shooting film on old compacts with 35mm f/2.8 lenses. I settled on the more general name 35hunter because I didn’t know how long my 35/2.8 experiments would last. Of course, it didn’t last all that long!
I wouldn’t have envisaged back then that a few years down the line I’d be writing only about compact digital cameras and bicycles. But if we give our blog a bit of room for future expansion, it can grow with us, as we’ve both found.
It’s something I’ve thought a lot about this year as well Dan. I like the idea of better content less often but there is often a (self-imposed) pressure to post lots and often. One of my favourite blogs is Wait But Why. Matthew Inman posts excellent content but at the rate of one post every few months. They are deep, amusing and very well researched and much better to read than quick sound bite content. I’ve tried the little and often approach myself but there ends up being a lot of pressure to post for the sake of it.
Richard, what do you think is at the core of the pressure to post new content? What happens if you, say, halve your regular posting frequency?
Blimey if I halved my posting frequency at the moment, my blog would be non existent!
Joking aside, I think that we are made to feel like content has to be uploaded very frequently or people will forget that our blogs are there at all. Seth Godin makes a very good point around this. We tend to treat the internet like old forms of advertising and promotional media – whoever shouts the loudest and the most will be the most likely to get heard.
However, what the internet is actually for is creating connections. I think your blog does this really well and your post on valuing comments more than views points to this too. So I guess if someone has a lot to say, or just blogs a couple of hundred words daily just to get things off their minds and that works for them, then fine. That’s actually the way that Seth Godin writes. Or if someone else only wants to post a deeply thought out piece of content every few months and that works for them, then also fine (Tim Urban’s Wait But Why is a great example of this). I guess there’s no right answer other than to say that it should be what works for the individual and the style of content that they create.
Interesting thoughts Richard, and yes I think blogs have actually become more valuable and popular for making connections because they feel like a place for slower and deeper interactions than most social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc). The blog might be akin to a favourite restaurant you go to for a couple of hours to enjoy the food and conversation, whereas social media is more like a fast food takeaway where you grab a snack as you drive through. I know which I prefer!
I do agree we should find the pace that works for us as blog authors, but, I also think we need to maintain some kind of publishing frequency to gain traction and momentum.
It’s that balance between finding enough discipline to write often, but keeping each post worthwhile too (worth writing for us, and worth reading for the reader). I don’t think any kind of publisher or creator or artist can just sit back and wait for inspiration to strike. We have to create(!) certain disciplines and routines that give our ideas the outlets they need to come into the world.
Like that quote that’s been attributed to various writer’s – “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at 9 o clock each morning.”
I’ve certainly found in the perhaps 15 years now I’ve been blogging in some form, that noting down ideas when they arrive, and revisiting them in regular writing sessions to create articles, is a very effective and sustainable approach.
I do like blogging and really must write more. I write a lot by hand in my journal but then ought to translate some of that into blog posts. It was Issac Azimov who said that the secret to having written and published over 400 novels was to write from 6am to 12pm every day. Just to sit there and write (or type). He probably churned out a lot of rubbish in that time, but the good stuff added up to a huge body of work! Photography is no different I guess – you have to take a lot of bad pictures to get a couple of good ones. Merely sitting thinking about it does not a good photographer (or writer) make!
Yes, as Woody Allen said, 80% of success in life is just showing up!
Show up and do the work. Yep my no. 1 piece of career advice to anyone,.
One of the reasons I didn’t post anything to my blog for a couple of years was that I started to feel I was posting because I thought I should. Why I thought that when I had an almost non-existent audience I don’t know!
Now I am starting up again but much more with the aim of posting what and when I want to rather than on a schedule.
Sounds like a good plan CT. I think the ideal for a blogger is finding that sweet spot between how much we want to say and post, and how much people want to read.
Post too often and as a writer it’s difficult to maintain the quality, and as a reader it can be overwhelming.
Post too little as a writer and we can lose momentum and a steady “thread” or narrative through our posts, and for readers I fear too little means they might lose interest and unsubscribe.
Having said that I do follow blogs that post fairly infrequently and I stick around because when they do post something new it’s worth the wait.
Best of luck with your “revival”.
Yes, I can identify with this very much, and have recently taken steps to share much less on Flickr and only use Instagram for my phone camera. I want to get back to the feeling that I took a photograph just for myself and that being enough. But it’s hard for me to resist sharing everything I think is half good. At the end of the day pretty much no-one except myself cares about my photographs anyway!
Thanks for sharing your experiences Michael. What do you think it is that makes you want to share your pictures in the first place?
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