People start photo blogs for one of these two reasons:
#1. When they’re looking to use their photo blogs to generate leads for their photography business and services.
#2: When they’re just hobbyist photographers and want to share their creatives with the world. Of course, while doing so, they want to make some money from this side project of theirs.
Before I show you the steps to build a photo blog with WordPress, it’s important that you understand why you want to start your photo blog. This insight will influence everything about your photo blog, right from the choice of the theme to the different monetization methods.
Let’s start by defining your photo blog’s main goal(s).
Determine your photo blog’s goals
To understand why you’re starting a photo blog, answer this simple question:
“What do I want to achieve with my blog?”
Some typical answers would be:
- Generate more leads or clients for my freelance photography business
- Sell my photos
- Generate a passive source of income
- Attract students for my photography course
And so on…
Having multiple goals is also fine. For example, it’s OK to start a photo blog with the goals to get more clients for your business and also to teach other photographers photography and freelancing lessons.
This is nothing but diversifying your blog income.
Ryan Brenizer’s photo blog is a great example of one such blog that solves many purposes:
- It serves as Ryan’s portfolio — and hence generates leads for his business.
- It sports an equipment review section where Ryan reviews a few select products — thereby allowing Ryan to earn some passive income with affiliate marketing.
- It also helps in attracting students for Ryan’s photography workshops.
You too can focus on multiple income channels. So, list down all your blog goals before proceeding to the next step. These goals will help you pick the right monetization methods.
Another thing that we need to do before you start with your blog setup is to finalize your niche.
Choosing a niche
If you are a professional photographer, you already have a niche. So, you can go on to the next section where we see the setup steps.
But if you’re just a hobbyist photographer, more so, a generalist hobbyist photographer, you need to choose a niche. Choosing a niche for your photo blog will help you attract the right audience to your blog.
Choosing a niche enables you to:
1. Offer relevant content
Once you finalize a niche, you can focus on the topics that interest your target audience. For example, a lifestyle photography blog will cover different things from a travel photography blog.
2. Partner with the right companies
Choosing a niche helps you select the right products or services to review on your blog. This is important because the needs of a portrait photo blogger are different from the needs of an e-commerce photographer.
Remember: It’s only when you pitch the right products that you can generate affiliate sales and revenue.
3. Position yourself in the market
Sticking to a niche helps you become the go-to resource in it eventually.
So that brings us to the question of how you can actually choose a niche for your photo blog.
Well … mostly, the choice of your niche will depend on your interests, domain knowledge, or expertise.
However, here are some popular photo blog niches to consider:
- Real estate
- Black and white
- Fine art
- One color
- Aerial shots
(You can find pros and cons of some of these niches in this article by Josh.)
Now with the understanding of the main purpose of your blog as well as the need to choose a niche, we are ready to look at the blog setup steps.
Here the three steps you need to take to build a photo blog with WordPress.
Step #1: Choose a domain name and hosting
The first step to creating a successful photo blog is to choose a domain name. Your domain name is your online address.
I always recommend using your own name as the domain name because it acts as a perfect branding exercise. This is even more important if your photo blog is also your online resume, which it most likely is.
Once you’ve chosen a domain name, book it with a registrar like Namecheap.
Namecheap offers great prices and awesome customer support. You don’t need to look further than this service to book your domain name.
Quick note: Most hosting companies let you register domain names too.
However, I’d recommend buying the domain and hosting separately because, at some point, your blog might grow so much that you might want to switch to another hosting. Domain transfer is a lot easier when it isn’t clubbed with the hosting.
Ok … so once you’ve the domain name, your next step is to buy hosting for your website.
Your web address or your domain name will show your website once you host it. There are many web hosting providers that you consider.
But you should go with InMotion Hosting because:
- It’s very easy to install and manage WordPress at InMotion.
- It’s extremely cost-effective with the WordPress hosting plan starting at just $2.95/mo for beginner blogs.
- It’s blazing fast, thanks to its SSD technology.
Step #2: Choose a theme
When you’re just starting out, it’s okay to start with a free theme. When you set this theme up, you’ll realize the features that you need the most. These insights can be very helpful when buying a premium theme.
Here are two beautiful free WordPress photo blog themes.
Free Theme #1 – Photo Perfect
Photo Perfect is a responsive WordPress photo blog theme that showcases photos using a masonry style.
It features a full-width image on the homepage. You can use this slot to display your best pic. Not only that, when users hover over any of the displayed images, they get the option to navigate to the corresponding blog post or to preview the image in a large lightbox.
Free Theme #2 – Photomania
Photomania is another effective photo blog theme for WordPress.
Its homepage search feature makes it especially suitable for you if you want to enable your readers to search (and buy) your photographs. The buying feature is not inbuilt, but there are free plugins that will help you add it. Also, this theme comes with a huge slider on the homepage.
So those were the free options.
But if you can start with a premium theme, by all means, do.
Find below 3 of the most amazing premium WordPress photo blog themes.
Paid Theme #1 – Divi
Divi from Elegant Themes is a multi-purpose WordPress theme that can help you build any WordPress website. Photo blogs included.
One of the biggest advantages of going for a theme like Divi is that more than a theme, it’s a theme builder. It comes with various elements that you can drag and drop on your page and build your website the way you imagine it. Plus, you can update your site’s design as you like.
And as you’ll know, sliders are a very desirable feature in a photo blog, because they offer fancy ways of showcasing work. Here’s where Divi scores full marks.
Divi’s slider module lets you place sliders anywhere on the site. You can easily adjust the height and width of the sliders. You can also control the animations and the hover colors for the sliders.
Pricing: Divi comes as part of the Elegant Themes membership that starts at $69 per year. You get 87 themes and 6 plugins as part of this membership.
If you like Divi and are sure about using it forever, you can consider going for their lifetime plan that comes at a one-time fee of $249.
Here’s an example of a simple yet beautiful photo blog created with Divi.
Paid Theme #2 – Beluga
Beluga is a beautiful photo blog theme that almost ticks every point in every photo blogger’s theme wishlist.
Beluga, too, comes with a page builder, but unlike Divi, it only has a limited number options — just enough to build a fantastic photo blog.
Because Beluga has a live preview feature, you can view the website as you make it.
Another super-useful Beluga feature is its inbuilt slider maker that lets you create customized sliders to add to your blog.
Other notable features include an incredibly user-friendly interface for adding content, album management (so you can categorize your pics easily), and infinite scrolling.
This theme is an absolute steal at $79.
Paid Theme #3 – Border
Border is a stunning WordPress photo blog theme that comes with a huge and fast-loading homepage slider. If you don’t want the slider, you can go for the other display options like Masonry or Grid of thumbnails. All the layouts keep the focus on the images.
Border also lets you sell your photographs through its store template.
One thing that I absolutely love about Border is that it has a beautiful balance between design and content. So you don’t just get to share your photos with your readers, but you also get to share their stories in style:
Another excellent feature is the inclusion of the project page template. If your photo blog also happens to be your resume, you can use the project template to highlight special projects.
The project template shows details like the client, the project story, and all the pictures from that project album.
Priced at $75, this theme has sold over 4000 copies. And you can buy it without fearing any saturation because once you add your pictures to this theme, you’ll practically own the design!
After themes, you’re going to need some plugins to add additional functionality to your blog. Let’s look at some useful plugins.
Step #3: Install relevant plugins
One of the biggest functionality that photo blogs need is the one for adding galleries and sliders. Although I’m suggesting plugins for these, I’d strongly recommend you to go with a theme that gives you this stuff inbuilt.
Photo Gallery by Supsystic
This plugin lets you use images from your site’s media gallery and create beautiful image carousel, polaroid, and full-width style galleries. All the styles come with pre-made templates, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
This is the most downloaded WordPress slider plugin. You can use it to create unlimited sliders and add them to posts, pages, and widget areas. You can customize a slider’s height and width, pause time, navigation style, loading icon among other options.
If your main blog monetization method is to sell your photographs, you’ll love this plugin. Sell Media enables you to sell and charge fees for commercial, editorial, and personal usages of your photos.
Sell Media uses PayPal for collecting payments.
Photo blogs tend to have hundreds of photos, and so they become very slow because of all the image loading. The Lazy Load plugin is a great solution to this problem.
Lazy Load speeds up a site up by loading only those images that are visible to the user in the browser’s fold area. The images below the fold area get loaded as the user scrolls.
Lazy Load doesn’t have any settings to configure. Just activate the plugin, and you should be good.
Image SEO plays a big role in ranking a website. This is a lot more important for you because for you, images make most of your blog content. Yoast SEO helps optimize images with alt tags and titles, so that search engines understand what your photos are about.
A quick image optimization tip is to use descriptive names.
So, instead of using default image file names like IMG-12847340304e9558, you should write optimized file names like New Orleans wedding photography or New Orleans wedding pictures
In addition to these plugins, you should also consider an image compression tool like Optimizilla.
Ideally, you should never upload an original image to your blog because an original file can have a huge size. Too many such high-resolution pics can kill your site speed.
So, before uploading your photos, run them through Optimizilla and reduce their sizes without degrading their quality.
With that you should have a functional photo blog ready. Let’s now look at ways to start making money from it.
4 effective ways to monetize your photo blog
Once you setup the blog, you’ll realize that setting it up was, in fact, the easiest part of the process. The real challenge is to monetize it.
But as I mentioned earlier, when you build a site with clear goals in mind, making a monetizing plan is never a problem.
Here are 4 of the most effective photo blog monetization techniques you can start with:
#1: Generate leads for your photography business
The most common way to monetize a photo blog is to convert it into a lead generating machine for your photography business.
A very nice example of a photo blog that generates business leads is Gratisography. Gratisography is Ryan McGuire’s side project where he publishes photo posts frequently. He has also released these photos for free even for commercial uses.
He links to his main business website, Bells Design, from this side project. This photo blog project is quite interesting because Ryan is primarily a web designer and offers design and not photography services.
(Hobbyists, are you listening?)
In addition to generating leads for his web design business, Ryan also endorses Shutterstock on this blog.
He has even added a donation button to support this project.
Another good example of a photo blog generating business leads is Girl With A Camera. Girl With A Camera is photographer Ashley Baxter’s photo blog. It links to Ashley’s portfolio website.
A thing to note about Ashley’s photo blog is that although it’s primarily a photo blog, Ashley writes content too to support her work.
If your photo blog is also your resume, write a bit about your photos. This will help potential clients understand them better. Also, search engines love ranking sites that aren’t bare on content.
#2: Sell your photos
Selling your photos is an excellent way of monetizing a photo blog.
We’ve already seen a plugin that will help you do so.
The theme Border also has a full store module you can use to start selling.
Because you already have a niche, you can also start reaching out to web designers and agencies that build websites in your niche. Such companies are always in need of beautiful images to add to their client sites. And so they could be your first few customers.
#3: Sell your products
One of the most profitable online money making tactics is to sell your own product. This is also the most lucrative option because you pocket all the profit. So, see if you can develop your products.
Photographer and blogger, Emily Lucarz offers various Photoshop actions and workshops on her blog.
#4. Market affiliate products
If you don’t have the time or bandwidth to develop your own products, you can sign up for affiliate programs of other products and review them on your blog. Each time a visitor buys based on your recommendation, you’ll get an affiliate commission.
You can start reviewing:
- Shooting equipment
- Photoshop actions
- Photography books and courses
But remember to only choose the products that your niche cares about.
Wrapping it up…
So that’s all you need to know to start and monetize a WordPress photo blog.