What? A website in 2020? A blog in 2020? Am I in a time warp? Maybe, but hear me out. I get endless questions about how to get known, recognized, or respected in this crazy photography world of ours and one of the most effective ways I’ve seen to accomplish this is to build something that is YOUR OWN.

Social media is a default brain space for the less inspired. Social media is based on someone else’s algorithm and someone else’s advertising. But a website, mailing list, and database of actual readers is something you can build on into the future. Think long play as opposed to short play.

A site can be a conversation as opposed to a soundbite. Now, I’m not telling you to do what did. I’m only explaining what I did and why and how this approach has been a wonderful part of my life since the early 2000s. I have no ax to grind, no client to impress, and no goal of building a massive following. I use this site because I love doing so.

I know creatives with 40,000 people in an email database. This is FAR beyond the power of 40,000 IG followers. I’ve heard of a photographer that has 400,000 people in his database. This, my friends, is a career. A sustainable path for being able to do YOUR work and not the work that the next fickle client finds temporarily important. Maybe this isn’t for everyone but it’s worth contemplating.

24 Comments on “Create:”

  1. I love your site, and here, your encouragement to others to buck the social media trends and to dig deeper into their own site/blog. A decade ago (?) I had a site like your’s — all kinds of tabs, all things I liked and enjoyed (photography, books, music, relationships, etc..) and had something to say about. But then “professionals” got a hold of me, and it turned into a photography website without even a little writing. And since then, I have felt lost, without an internet “home.” So I post on IG and I post on FB and I have followers and people who message me and say, “Where can I see more of your writing?” Watching your video above really felt like it was sent to me directly as a message. B/c THAT is the exact question that goes around in my head — do I start another website, start a blog, does anyone even read them anymore, would anyone visit a site, etc… Yesterday I deactivated FB so that I could focus on no longer posting on social media and instead creating a place of my own where I can publish/post. And today I see your video. Thanks Dan. You’re one of my favorites, and though I found you years ago through photography (even had a review with you in DC years ago), I’ve stayed for all the other content — Lyme, book reviews, how to do a photography project, how you journal, etc… So, thank you for putting it all out there and showing us all of you, and not just the photography part.

    1. Aileen,
      We have been “together” for quite some time and from my perspective, it always makes me happy to see your name in the comment section. I would start a site/blog and populate it with longer form material. AND, I would start a book document alongside, encapsulating the “best of” work that lands on the site. Then, two or three times a year you make a print version of your “best of.” I think magazine is great format for this. Had I any real time to work on my own stuff I would be doing JUST this very thing. It’s healthy and it’s fun. If you want to continue social along the way, at a slower pace, then so be it.

      1. Dan, I was thinking some form of best/favorite work magazine type of compilation. I’m not at a point where I have enough or large enough body of work to make individual books or expo.

        1. MC,
          That is totally fine. I do that regularly. In fact, I have an idea for an offset book based on work I did over a twenty-year period.

  2. no style? pfft. whatever man.

    i’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out how to make this switch and get the site more active. much to the horror of my teenage daughters, i’ve completely given up on the ‘social’ apps. bec still believes something needs to be there so, she’s taking over the IG feed.

    a chat with you sometime soon would be good. lots of questions on how to approach this. i also need to fill you in on my latest endeavor…

  3. Probably the best website in the world, made possible by the best people in the world 🙂

    I am so baffled when people have given up on their own websites and just surrendered all content to social media. This means you don’t own your content anymore and you have zero control. It could all be gone tomorrow. My own site has been going since 2007 or so with now close to 1000 blog posts. It DOES mean that suddenly those of us who have stuck to always having a website full of content have an edge, suddenly people are so used to just getting sent links to IG accounts, that when I sent them a proper website link with my portfolio clients are impressed. How low we have sunk!

    1. FBJ,
      I love your site. C’s too. I feel like it’s actually you and your quirks. (And Star Wars references….)

  4. Ah yes, so many good points in this, pretty mush sums up my thoughts on that. I don’t believe in that only share one thing to be successful, you may get attention but I wouldn’t call that success. Quick story…

    I redid my site, and started blogging (even videos though I still suck at those) earlier this year, pre-pandemic. I design the whole thing, I’m a technical guy, that’s my thing. It’s a bit like yours, about everything life and photography which is more about sharing my journey and what I learn along the way. I have a whomping 6 subscribers, including mom, to my newsletter!

    So about the type of audience you get… one day I shared a blog post on FB and got 20-30 clicks and the same day posted a reply on here and God knows why got clicks maybe 4-5. When I looked at the stats, the average time spent on my site from FB visitors was 20 seconds and from shifter was 4-5 minutes. Moral, I’ll take my 6 subscibers any time over hundreds of quick likes and share on social media and I don’t really bother sharing things there anymore.

  5. I’ve been following you for a few months now (that always sounds so seedy!) and many of the things I’ve heard you say have been percolating through my brain. I’m slowly shifting my mindset based on what you, and others, have said and am seeing more and more that I should just do what I want, how I want, when I want and stop chasing something that is quite frankly unobtainable. I’ve been enjoying my photography a lot more recently because I have ‘let go’ and stopped caring so much what anyone else thinks of my images. Time to dust off the the website that has been stagnating these past few months and start writing blogs again!

    1. Hey Lynn,
      If I can get you to shift then I feel like I’m doing something right. I think you can turn the caring on and off. You leave it off until you need that feedback. Until then, you just grind on making the work that is yours. And remember, blog is good, letters are good too. Paper, in the mail.

      1. Yes, Dan, letter writing – its pretty much a lost art! I’m part of a Whatsapp group of some close school friends and one messaged recently to say she had been clearing out some of her stuff at her mother’s house and had come across a pile of letters from us all when we were in our late teens – she says she has enough material to blackmail us all for years 🤣 But it is something that crossed my mind recently – I can recall the excitement of receiving a letter from a friend. Maybe time to reinvent the wheel!

        1. Lynn,
          I Just put a letter in the mail to someone I’ve been corresponding with for twenty-years. Blackmail sounds fun.

          1. Dan,
            How cool! Not sure about the blackmail – I think anything I wrote at that age would be cringeworthy!
            I was looking at the times on the posts and thinking ‘that’s odd’ until I figured you’re 8 hours behind me, lol. Time to hit the sack to dream up blog posts and decide who will be lucky enough to receive a handwritten epistle from me.
            Enjoy the rest of your day and upcoming weekend!

  6. If I were younger, and an aspiring photographer, this advice would be important to heed. The long game has pretty much passed me by. I am in my seventieth year, and my photography is hobby that i enjoy sharing with family and friends, as well as a few random followers. I have a wordpress site that gets used rarely, because I don’t have that much to say anymore. Ello is a platform that works well for me, and doesn’t have the algorithm bs of instagram, since it is a place specifically for creatives. I keep instagram because there are friends and family who won’t bother to go anywhere else.

    I enjoy your posts and website, though it might not always apply to me.

    1. Hey Chuck,
      I’m fortunate. My wife asked the other day “You could literally not talk to anyone the rest of your life and be happy?” I said “Yep.” Kinda explains my feelings about social.

      1. Daniel, with you all the way. I’m there to post photos and I never actually talk to anyone unless someone asks a question. I have been crazy during lockdown because I can’t do what I usually do three or four times a year, leave the house and the spouse and go away and be by myself, cabin in the woods, house sit, whatever…serious introvert here, INFP.

        1. Chuck,
          Me too. My extrovert was fabricated for my job. The real me has an Introvert tattoo on his neck.

    1. Jakob,
      I just checked a bunch of sites I love and not one was “legit.” I know I’ll do it at some point, however.

      1. It’s not “illegal” for now it’s a google ranking thing, and some browsers/firewalls “warns” the user when entering a site without SSL.

        Anyways love the way you are using the site content wise, that’s the important part 😉

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