The Three Biggest Turn Offs When Viewing Photography Blogs

I follow around 25 blogs at any one time, all of them chosen as I feel they are well worth my attention.

We’re each limited in how much time we have, so who wants to waste it on blogs and sites they’re not getting anything from?

In my explorations, a few common features pop up in photography blogs that almost always turn me away instantly. 

Here are the three biggest culprits –

1. Too many photos.

Wait, surely on a photography blog we want to see plenty of beautiful photographs? Yes, absolutely! The problems come when someone shares virtually every photo they make!

“I went out for a walk today, and here are the 37 shots I took”… Even if there are a handful of amazing photos amongst those 37, the chances are we will have stopped looking after the first dozen that aren’t. And perhaps we may never return to look at another photo here again.

A popular variation of this is “I found this old camera in a charity shop, and ran a couple of films through it to see what it’s like, see the 72 images in full below…”

Again, why not edit your work to just the very best, then share that with us?

A post with even a couple of fantastic photos is infinitely more likely to endear us to you (and that old camera), than having to wade through dozens that lead us to wonder why you shared most of them?

Even the best photographers in the world don’t have anywhere near a 100% hit rate. Share only your very best, our opinion of your work will rocket, and we’ll eagerly anticipate each new post.

2. Poor design with too much to distract from the photos and writing. 

When I find a blog I like, it’s nearly always one where the layout is clean, and simple, with a large central column for the photographs and writing to be the main feature.

Why do some seem to insist on one or two additional sidebars stuffed with distractions, nearly all of which are pushing the reader somewhere else – the latest photos you shared on Instagram, the other blogs you follow, or asking to be “liked” on Facebook?

And let’s not even begin to talk about ads, especially those ones that have those annoying windows you have to scroll down through to get to the next tiny section of text or an image before you’re hit round the side of the head with the next ad. No thanks, I’m off!

If you’ve chosen to publish a blog, then make it somewhere we can come and get lost in, without distraction, like a favourite table (with a favourite warm beverage and slice of cake) in a home spun cafe, or a familiar cosy nook in a local library. Not somewhere that makes us feels like pedestrian in Tokyo at rush hour.

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3. Photos that are too small.

It seems obvious to me that if you’re a photographer, wanting to share photos, you would want them to be at a size where viewers can fully appreciate them.

So why are so many photo blogs not displaying images at the majority of the width of the page, if not the full width?

This overlaps with the previous point, where a three column blog, say, obviously won’t have so much space in the main column for the images, so they’re compressed even further, knocking elbows with those other competing distractions.

Bonus annoyance points to those who then add some kind of thick border to the images that then makes them even smaller.

Please just let your images breathe and stand tall, at the largest size you can, then we can truly appreciate and enjoy them.

So there we have it, my top three photography blog turn offs. 

As you might already have known even before this post, I have fairly particular preferences about what I like online – but much of it is not about the work itself, but how it’s presented.

All three of the above put me off a blog, even if I do see images I love. It’s just not worth the hard work to try to find and see those images in their full glory, because of the barriers the photographer is putting in the way of the viewer.

As photographers we are visual people. Why are we not optimising our online galleries to present our best photographs, in the best way?

Can you imagine what the equivalent of these obstacles would be in a real gallery, and how hard it would make it to appreciate the photography exhibition?

How about you? Am I alone with the three turn offs above? What makes you click away from a photography blog? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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21 thoughts on “The Three Biggest Turn Offs When Viewing Photography Blogs”

  1. I am guilty of publishing small versions of my photos (640 width) due to restrictions of my Internet service. Conversely, those sites that put out “full size” images do a good job of locking up my connection and bringing things to a grinding halt before the picture loads. Even ‘double size’ (1280 width) for me is a problem: I have neither the data allowance nor connection speed to handle such things so I rarely do it. In fact any page that is slow to load ends up getting shut down before I’ll waste my connection on it, regardless of why it is a sluggard.

    1. Thanks Marc, that is quite surprising to hear, I hadn’t given it a thought. Are you somewhere very rural?

      Wow those posts like I raised in point 1 above must be incredibly frustrating for you. I would give up before all the images load too, in fact I avoid them even though I have a pretty decent internet speed! I think last time we checked a few months back when we changed service it’s something like 35 Mbps. Do you know what yours is?

      I usually use 1024px images here, and typically a post will have 1-3 images. Does it load ok for you?

      1. Yes Dan, I’m out in the middle of nowhere and my connection is via satellite dish. The max download speed is 10 MBPS. You didn’t read that wrong. It often runs half that – or not at all if the weather is bad. Upload is even slower at around 1 MBPS. If we go over our data allowance they slow it down further! This is why I avoid pages full of stuff and hate auto-run video (nothing uses data faster). Also why I use few and small pictures.
        A 1024 picture is okay, but a ‘native’ 5k image is cause to leave the page. It’s frustrating to say the least.

      2. The downside of all that space and remoteness! 10Mbps doesn’t sound too bad.

        I dislike autorun videos and sound, and the kind of sites where you have a text review in front of you (and that you’re trying to read), ads all up the side columns then a video review (of something completely different!) in the corner, and THEN something pops up to ask you to subscribe!

  2. My biggest turn-offs are :
    – You just start to read a blog, and I mean just start, and a pop-up appears asking you to sign-up for a news letter or similar.
    – Autoplaying videos especially the ones that follow you around the page
    – Adverts that are obviously click bait. I often wonder who clicks these for them to keep appearing. No issues with adverts in general, just these click baity ones.

    1. Phil, yes, yes and yes! But I would add that I dislike adverts in general, unless they are something relevant, like, say, an ad for a hand made camera strap company that a photography has used and loved and wants to promote them.

      That first one is possibly the worst. There are sites I used to follow but stopped because of another reason, but occasionally might go back to, to see what they’re like now, and a pop up like reminds me why I left!

      What’s even worse is when you ARE subscribed to a site, and you still get pop ups because you’re viewing on a different device or not allowing cookies. A prime example of how artificial intelligence is, well, pretty stupid!

  3. I have tried to make my site lower bandwidth suitable, the ‘original’ file is viewable ‘on demand’ rather than as the first default. I struggled with rural for years too, but recent ugrades to the local infrastructure have resulted in us now having the fastest internet available to consumers at 140Mb or so.
    I recently changed the theme. Like you Dan, I was looking for the theme that didn’t overcome the content (I stil think the widget area is a bit big but i don’t have many there).
    The same for me as a commenter above for put-offs, if there’s a pop-up begging me to sign-up before I’ve even scrolled enough to read the first paragraph, that’s deeply annoying to the point that further visits might not happen unless it’s a really, really good site that can outweigh that.

    1. Congrats on the broadband upgrade, I know you’ve been anticipating this for ages! That’s a pretty radical step up too!

      It baffles me how many photography blogs have a cluttered, chaotic, even ugly design, given that they are themes chosen – if not designs created from scratch – by people for whom the visual image is highly important.

      There’s a great photography site I used to follow and gained plenty from over a few years that I gave up on because at the top it ALWAYS had an ad, then a message saying scroll down to read the article. I just think that is so rude and disrespectful to a reader, to ask them to buy something before they’ve even had a chance to read a word…

      1. Yes, agreed. I have a banner for a Redbubble store link but only really because, in the absence of much else in the way of social media presence, it is my only, very subtle ‘shouting’ about my work being for sale!

      2. I think that’s absolutely fine on a photography site, and another reason for optimising it for the viewers’ experience. If they see the images displayed well online, they’re more likely to want a print. It’s unlikely someone would be interested in a print based on seeing a tiny image they couldn’t appreciate the detail or impact of.

  4. Excellent post. I’m going to take it to heart and make some changes on mine.

    I love your layout. Maybe I’ll steal it? I don’t know. But I do really love the cleanliness of it.

    1. Thanks! I’ve just looked at your site and I think the images are displayed really well, large and clear.

      My personal preference is to see one large central column so what your reading/viewing is in the centre, not offset to one side. And I’m just not keen on a sidebar full of other elements, just because 1) it means the main column is pushed off centre, and 2) it distracts (and detracts) from the main content, and some of the elements are sending people elsewhere, like Flickr, Instagram etc.

      I read an article years ago by a marketing guy when social media was just taking off, Facebook and Twitter especially. He was saying that because everyone was trying to jump on these new bandwagons, their main websites and blogs had their Twitter and Facebook pages/excerpts featured very prominently.

      The trouble is, your profile on FB/Twitter isn’t your own, its theirs. It’s a little outpost or satellite, like having say a small stand in a huge exhibition full of other small stands. Whereas your own website/blog is like your home store (or your own planet, to follow the satellite analogy), where you can set it up and decorate it however you wish, have people’s full attention, and share your message.

      Imagine the offline equivalent, you own a lovely coffee shop in small town with its own unique atmosphere, but then the walls inside and out are plastered with posters saying “we also have a tiny little coffee stand in the middle of the city, why don’t you go and visit there instead?” Just doesn’t make sense – when people have found your online “home”, you want to keep them there.

      The compromise I personally find best is where the main site is optimised with a single column, then a small selection of “further reading” options is at the end of the post, whether this is other related post within your blog (I use a widget called Top Posts and Pages which seems to be fantastically accurate at featuring three closely related posts), archives, most popular posts etc, then if you want to let people know about your “outposts” like Flickr, Instagram etc, have them below this.

      I mentioned Om Malik’s blog the other day, and it’s an excellent example of a blog that’s highly optimised so it’s so easy to read, and very clean and simple – https://om.co/

      This is all personal opinion of course – some people I’m sure love busy, chaotic blogs! 🙂

  5. I agree with you on all your points, Dan, and would add one more: people who put a copyright notice right through their photos. If it’s needed, it should go below the photo, out of the way of the actual image. It’s pretty stupid in the first place as it can be easily removed by anyone with some graphics software and a bit of time.

    Until recently, I had the same problem as Marc Beebe: a horribly low bandwidth, so sites with huge numbers of images were just impossible to cope with. Not only that, but I couldn’t upload my own images at anything like a reasonable size. My upload speed then was 0.5Mb – and kept cutting out! It’s better now as we got high speed fibre a few weeks ago. But we (husband and I) live in rural Wales and high speed broadband hasn’t always been available here. However, even now I can load pages easily and quickly, I hate blogs with too many images per post – I lose patience with them. As you say: focus on one or two photos per post.

    Oh and I wish I could stick to following only 25 blogs at a time! I just keep finding more I enjoy. However, what I tend to do these days is unfollow some and put them, instead, on my blogroll – so then I can visit them from time to time but don’t have to have a huge number of posts in the Reader.

    1. Oh yes good one Val. Even those with a signature in the bottom right of the photo, I don’t see the point and it can only ever be a detraction from the photo. I think a photo should be completely unadorned by anything.

      I’m envious of your location! We’ve been to Wales on holiday perhaps six or seven times in the last decade. Love it. We don’t like the journey so much (anything from 5-8hrs+ from where we are) with kids, but broken up with a couple of stops along the way it’s not too bad. And once you see those hills it all becomes worth it.

      If a post has high quality photos, I’m more tolerant, and might be happy to view up to ten if they’re exceptional. But mostly two or three is enough, and as I said in the post above, I can’t bear those blogs where they shoot a whole roll with a new camera then share every single photo – the good, the bad and the ugly!

      I know I have blogs in my Reader that haven’t posted in months, and quite possibly won’t again. But sometimes I go back to them and browse through the archives, rather than forget about them entirely.

      1. I’m originally from England (London) but town life got too much so we came out here. Much nicer.
        I also still read blogs that haven’t posted in ages – if they have posts worth reading, they’re worth reading any time. In fact there are some blogs on the site I started blogging on, that I still read, and those blogs are pretty defunct now.

        Oh, one point about the ‘busy’ type of blog, I have another blog (for my memories, through childhood and up) and I have a side panel in that but it’s more for keeping track of the people who comment and having a few widgets. My main blog, I try to keep plain and simple layout-wise, with a custom menu above the content and a footer with the other stuff. I prefer clean and simple layouts, too.

      2. For some blogs, a chaotic look is absolutely in keeping with the content. But generally for blogs where you want people to take their time and enjoy the images, and read the text without distraction or pressure, then you have to use a design that enables that, ie clean, simple, plenty of white space, no sidebar distraction and so on.

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