Thursday, July 1, 2010

Better Family Photos - First Anniversary

It's been one year since I started this blog (and a little more than 3 years since I started becoming serious about learning photography). Here's a self-evaluation.
My first purpose for this blog was to improve my photography. After ninety-something blog posts, I've learned more about lighting, TTL, exposure (particularly with using manual exposure and the zone system), and postprocessing (especially layers and masks). In terms of tools, the best tool I've found is the handheld umbrella.
As for results, to be honest, the improvement in my photos isn't as dramatic as during my first year of photography. Mostly what I notice is that there are less mistakes (in exposure, lighting and composition). You can see the differences for yourself in my web albums which are grouped chronologically by month: http://picasaweb.google.com/creadvty .
Perhaps one benefit in terms of my development is that I haven't stopped learning the past year, except when I stopped posting during the last quarter of 2009.
In addition to learning photography techniques, my second purpose was to share what I've learned. I don't have a real metric for that, so one proxy indicator I suppose is the number of visits and page views. I measure stats through sitemeter and Google Analytics.
The first full month when I started tracking statistics was September 2009. For that month, the blog got 49 visits and 85 page views. It peaked in October at 159 visits and 288 views, then declined steadily. I felt disheartened by the decline, thinking it was some sort of Google error, so I stopped blogging until February.
In March of this year, I resumed posting on the blog and also started promoting the blog by responding to queries in forums and posting relevant links to the blog. Visits jumped from 50 to 472, and views from 56 to 995. I continued doing this in April, and started posting more frequently. Instead of once weekly, I started posting twice weekly or more. Overall stats remained about the same but I started getting more referrals from Google. In May, I hypothesized that by posting more frequently, I would get more referrals from Google so I posted more but was less active in forums. My hypothesis was wrong, and the stats dropped noticeably. In June, I resumed activity in forums and the stats went back up.
Interestingly, the amount of time I spend on posts (including replying to queries in forums) is roughly the same as the aggregate time spent by people visiting the blog. The past few months, I've been getting around 470 visits or so a month, with an average time spent of 2 minutes 19 seconds per visit, or a total of a little more 18 hours. At about 15 posts per month and an hour on average per post, plus time spent writing responses on forums, I guess the time I spend on the blog is about the same as the time others spend on the blog. It would be nice if that statistic improved significantly but at least it's "break even" in terms of time spent.
Going forward, I would like to focus on improving the photos I produce. To that end, here are my resolutions for this blog.
1. Less discovery, more practice.
I feel like I've learned a lot but haven't practiced enough. For the immediate future, I will be focusing on real world results, even with old techniques. Will do my absolute best for at least one shot per weekend.
2. Copy shots to learn.
I have a lot to learn from other photographers. Instead of merely analyzing their photos, I'll try to execute them and hopefully learn something in the process.
3. Critique.
I will provide and solicit critique (something I haven't done much of at all until this point). www.Photosig.com is a great site for doing exactly that. I just very recently created an account and am already learning a lot.
4. Connect with and interact with more photogs, online and off.
Silly me, how can I learn and share unless I reach out to other photogs? Should have done this a long time ago.
5. Organization + linking / tagging.
For the blog, I see that people are interested in one-stop resources. To help the blog function more like that I will organize it better through linking and tagging. At one point I had organized the blog by linking the post to the roadmap for family photogs, but I removed those links. I will restore those links.