A couple of weeks ago, we did a guide on how to set up your own photo blog (and, of course, how to make Google love your photography site from a few months back). What struck me, however, is that while having a photo blog is a good start – what should you do to take it from a merely funky collection of photos to a fantastic, highly successful blog?
I decided to have a chat to my friend John Cassimatis, who runs a very popular, very successful, and a near-award-winning blog over at johncassimatis.com…
On getting into photography
John has had an interest in photography ever since he was a kid. Like so many of us, his passion was ignited by being given a camera for Christmas. Dabbling off and on, he became more serious about photography when he was at university, and started using a Canon EOS 500, following a photo journalism course. Of course, this degenerated into doing darkroom work, and he has been hooked ever since.
“Every day, I’m looking at photography sites from around the world”, says John, explaining where he gets inspiration to delve deeper into the murky world of photography. “My most recent discovery was christophbangert.com, and I have a lot of respect for this type of photography, and the impact it can have. I’m also inspired by photographers like James Nachtwey”, he says – and encourages everyone to have a look at his talk at the TED’s Prize Wish.
Other cool projects John and I have a common love for is Just what I see – wicked photos taken with a very limited medium; a photoblog taken entirely with the Apple iPhone. And a bit of Photoshop, of course.
On photo blogging
John originally started off using the Serendipity blogging photography software, but ended up having a change of heart. “I switched to WordPress, because it’s more widely supported, and it’s available as a one-click install ISP”
“I originally set up my photo blog as a way to be proactive with my photographs and show my family what I was doing.”, John explains. “I was taking hundreds of photos and leaving them on my hard drive”. Which, to be honest, is not a particularly useful thing to do with your photos. Interestingly, it turned out that more people than just his family started paying attention “I’ve been receiving more and more comments lately and I really enjoy that people are returning to look at my images”. The first tastes of internet success aren’t enough yet though, grins John, and lets the cat out of the bag; “I’d like to hold a real exhibition in the future but I think I’d be too indecisive of which images to include.”
As with anything, turns out that blogging is a very gradual process: “I’m still learning”, John admits “I need to be more disciplined with my posts, but I’m very particular in what I show. I’ve prepared countless images for upload, only to change my mind in the last minute.”
On equipment and processing
Seeing some of John’s photos, you’d think he uses full-on professional equipment – but not-at-all: “I have a variety of cameras that I like to use. My primary camera is a Nikon D70, but I always have my Holga 120 with me. I have a few lenses for my Nikon, a 50mm 1.4, the standard 18-70 3.5, and a 80-300 zoom lens. Recently I’ve been using a Mamiya 645j with a 80mm prime lens, as I’m trying to get back into film. I have a small tripod I use and multiple memory cards and batteries.”
Of course, taking the photos is only part of the story… “Everything I shoot with the Nikon I shoot in RAW format, and edit it using the Nikon software and Photoshop. I try to stay true to what was shot as much as possible, only adjusting the colours and sharpness etc. With the film cameras, I scan the negatives and only resize them. I try to have them as close as possible to how I shot them in the first place.”
Tips for future photo bloggers
So John – any top tips?
“Make it for yourself, create something that you like and don’t worry about what others think. The focus should always be on the work. I created a very minimalist-looking site so the focus would remain on the photographs.”
All photos in this post are © John Cassimatis
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