I have hit that point in my project where my inner voice starts telling me I’ve done enough research and now I’m avoiding moving the project forward — and it’s right.
I’m also at that point where the Imposter’s Syndrome kicks in hard core and making progress becomes becomes difficult because I’m absolutely convinced I’m an idiot for doing the project and everyone is going to hate what I’m doing, so why bother?
This happens almost every project to some degree or another; since so much of what I’m doing for this beast is outside my comfort zone, right now I get stressed just writing about being stressed about the project. It’s as if Stephen King has moved in with the voice in the back of my head to coach it in better ways to mock me.
The thing is, that voice is right. I’ve shifted from trying to figure out how I should build the things I need for this new project to diving into Youtube videos about stuff I’ve already figured out, because doing the stuff is hard and scary.
So, deep breath, and…
It’s time to set a launch date, and then go and get ready for it.
And the answer to the magic question is…. January 15.
A couple of reasons to put the launch two months out. First, there’s a lot to do, and I want to launch with a fair bit of content already available, not empty placeholders. The second and I think even more important reason: we’re headed into holiday time, with US Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, and not only will I be distracted by that and busy with other things, so will everyone else, and it’s a terrible idea to launch when people really aren’t interested in paying attention.
Some parts of this new thing will soft launch along the way, and some of them I’ll talk about as they happen if it makes sense. But for now, I really want to focus on tying everything together and getting it built and I know the Christmas holidays will get in the way, so we’ll just wait until they’re done and everyone sobers up from New Years Eve.
By the way, if you want to subscribe to the channel now and watch as I build it out, you can!
So what is this thing, anyway?
At the core this thing I’m working on is a Youtube channel about photography, but it’s really turned into more. It’s become more of a recognition that I’m getting serious about my photography again after a few years of gliding along under the “I’m just an amateur shooting when I can and having fun”. That doesn’t mean that making money off of all of this is the primary (or even secondary) goal of what I’m building, but I do think it could turn into something that generates some revenue if I do it well.
I’ve come to realize I’ve been coasting, using the “just an amateur” label to get away with “hey, it’s good enough”. To be honest, I think I was a bit burnt out on photography and frustrated that my writing about it wasn’t getting more reaction than the tiny audience I’d built. At some point I pulled back from that, sort of crawled into a hole, and for a few months earlier this year, even stopped shooting. If I did go out to shoot, I’d either look around, mutter “bad light” and go do something else, or find myself thinking “got that shot, got this already, it’s in my library” and not bother.
I really think I needed that break; one day I missed the camera, took it out and did some shooting and realized I wanted to take pictures again. When I did, I made a commitment to myself not to just
I’m tired of good enough. As I’ve been returning to using the camera, I’ve been trying to trying to start from scratch, think through what I’m trying to accomplish, think through my technique and not just fall into old (bad) habits, and so far, I’ve been pretty happy with the results.
So this project has turned into both a driver of change throughout everything I seem to be doing, both online and with my camera, and a result of my realizing that those things needed reinvention because I’ve shifted my ideas of who I am and what I want to do moving forward.
So, yeah. Quick and simple. Let’s just throw a different WordPress theme on the site and ship it.
Interlude: the department of “Damn! What about this?”
One side effect of writing all of this is as I explain all of this, pretending you loyal readers are carefully listening to and need to approve this project, is that I keep running into those “Damn, what about this piece?” things. As I was writing the above, for instance, I realized that for the videos, I need to design and create the intro and outro clips for the videos, and with that I realized I had no idea how to do that in Final Cut Pro — do you do it in FCP? And so off I went, and four hours later I now understand how to do it; it’s not a solved problem, but the solution is known. But now I need to design those clips and then build them, and…
And that’s kind of the stage the project is at right now; the task list is growing a lot faster than I’m knocking items off it. That will change in a week or so as this all settles down, but shifting from “this is a good idea” to “what this idea really requires to be done right” is a lot of detail and figuring out what you don’t know you don’t know. Like designing video effects.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but in reality, I seem to be happiest when I’m taking these big and complex things and breaking them down into the necessary pieces to make it all buildable and worth building.
In many ways, it’s not as important to me for these things to be successes; I learn a lot and explore many new things in building these out, and that’s at least half the fun.
The journey really is the reward. Although a revenue stream wouldn’t suck, either.
What I’m building to get this thing launched
So, this thing. I’ve talked a fair bit about it in general, but I haven’t really given many specifics, other than it’s a Youtube channel. That’s kind of what it started out as — it really started out as “if I can’t find a photography podcast I like, maybe I should go start one!” — but it’s grown into a much bigger beast that encompasses most of how I operate online.
To be honest, that wasn’t the goal when I started. But as I started digging in, I kept realizing that it made sense to do this piece, too, and that if I did that, I needed to do this other things, and if.. and if… And that’s how you can open up the hood of a car to change the spark plugs and realize hours later the transmission is spread out on the floor in 800 little pieces…
It’s not the first time I’ve decided to rebuild my transmission when I meant to change the plugs. It probably won’t be the last.
But yes, the core of this new thing I’m building is a Youtube channel about photography. I’ve ended up deciding to do it in video, on Youtube, for a few reasons:
- Photography is a visual medium. It’s very hard to talk about it intelligently without visuals; that’s why I think I get so frustrated at audio-only podcasts about photography, because the main component of the thing you’re talking about is simply missing and you can’t simulate or describe it appropriately.
- The audio podcast also suffers because for a lot of people, it’s listened to while on the move, whether in a car on commute or in transit or on a plane. And that makes accessing the visuals being talked about problematic, and it’s one reason why I find podcasts that try the “look at this image listed in the show notes “ to be even more frustrating. Most of the time, when I hear that phrase, I can’t. (The rest of the time, I won’t bother…)
- The blog world is grown up — it’s a mature content form. It’s really hard to innovate in blogs, and it’s even harder as a one person show to build out a blog that can get any real notice. So much of the blogosphere has shifted to larger well-funded sites with staffs and lots of different writers working on content together. The day of the individual blog hasn’t died, but the ability where an individual blog can stick out from the rest of the world and make an impact is limited.
As I went looking into this, I found something I didn’t expect to find inside Youtube: a place where there’s a lot of innovation going on that feels an awful lot like blogs did in 2003 or 2004. I also found an environment where it’s still possible for a single person to build something that can get known and make an impact, because if you look through the various Youtube channels you see it happening. And it seems possible — not likely, but possible — you can do that and create enough of a revenue stream to turn it into more than a hobby that pays for itself.
Is this opportunity going to exist for the individual creator going to exist in a few years on Youtube? I don’t know; the history of the network indicates probably not. But it exists now, and it seems worth it, if you want to go create something, to see if it makes sense to create it in a space where the ability to make an impact exists. If I were thinking of starting something in the blogging world today about photography, I wouldn’t do it as an independent site, I’d try to affiliate with someone like Digital Photography School and write for them. But that’s not what I’m interested in doing, I want to do something that’s mine, by me.
A side note about all of this: it wasn’t until a few days ago as I was analyzing content on the various blogging sites and aggregator blogs like Petapixel and Fstoppers that I realized how much of the content they link to are actually Youtube videos and channels; a huge chunk of Fstoppers content is actually linkage to video work, not written blogs.
That, to me, seems like some vindication to my plans here.
Oh, yeah, the plan.
The Youtube Channel
The core of this new thing I’m building will be my Youtube channel. My plan is to create at least 1 video a week, hopefully 2-3. Topic areas will include:
- Day to Day Lightroom: Techniques and Workflows: in which I discuss various ways to take advantage of what Lightroom can do and show you the different capabilities you may or may not know exist in the program.
- Day to Day Lightroom: Today’s Photo: where I take an image of mine and process it from out of camera to final result and discuss what I’m doing and why I’m making the choices for that image.
- Road trips: when I go out on the road, I want to be able to bring those trips to you and film the areas I’m shooting. I’ve been struggling to tell the stories of the national wildlife refuges I’ve been visiting for a few years now via still images — and failing — and that was one of the reasons I started exploring video and audio as ways to supplement still images to help bring those areas to people. (Of course, when I started that, I was thinking in terms of enhanced slideshows and etc. silly me)
- Editorials and Essays: I have opinions. I know this shocks you to find out. And I intend to share those opinions on people. One of the first series I’m working on is what I’m calling my photographer’s manifesto, which has already grown from a blog post to a multi-part video series. I’m sorry. No, not really, I’m not. But there’s a lot to talk about with photography, and this gives me a place to add my voice in what I hope is an interesting way.
- Gear reviews and recommendations: I like reviewing stuff; when I revamped the blog the last time I brought forward reviews as its own sub-section with its own landing pages, so this is a natural for me. But there’s a pragmatic aspect to this, too — for better and worse, gear talk and gear reviews are a lot more popular than a lot of the conversation about actually taking pictures and making them good, and so I think to some degree doing good gear reviews is a way to get people to find and explore my channel: they’re the cookies that draw them in, and I hope the healthy food aspects of the rest of my channel keep them visiting and interested.
- Down the road: I really like how the Art of Photography has built out a Photo Assignments set of challenges and the discussion he does about the images submitted. I’d love to do something like that with a nature/landscape slant, but I won’t start doing that until the audience has grown enough to warrant it.
My current plan is to try to do at least one Today’s Photo a week, one technique piece at least every two weeks, and editorial/essays as it makes sense to do them. That might be weekly to start, or less frequently depending on how this all sorts out.
I’ll do road trips when it makes sense. I’m specifically planning to do this as more of a documentary style as opposed to the vlog format, because I want the focus to be on the places, not on me. Only partially because I have a face for radio. But seriously, I care about the content, not getting my face on your monitors.
All of this is subject to change, possibly massively, but I feel comfortable this is a good framework to start with.
6FPS, tying it all together
One of my worries about doing this is that it spreads my presence across multiple platforms beyond the blog. In the Good Old Days we could build an RSS feed to consolidate everything, but when Google killed Google Reader that capability died and never really got replaced.
That makes giving people an easy way to stay in contact and keeping them informed more complicated. Fortunately, we have an old mainstay we can use: the email newsletter mailing list. If you look around the web, you’ll see large numbers of sites are asking you to sign up to a mailing list of some sort or another. That’s because, declarations of the death of email notwithstanding, they work.
I haven’t used a mailing list recently because I haven’t felt that it added anything except one more touch point that had little value. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make this mailing list useful for more than tracking my new content, and I think I’ve found some ideas I like. Right now, here’s what a typical (every 2 weeks) newsletter is going to have in it:
- What’s New with Chuq
- Six Links and Videos
- A Photographer to Follow
- Toy/tool of the week
- What’s on Deck
I think that’ll keep it short and quick to read, but one of the things I’ve been intrigued by for a long time has been helping people cut through the noise and find the interesting and good stuff, and that means curated linking. By limiting it to 6 (which ties to the title name. See? I be marketer!) I force myself to make choices what to share, and by limiting it to 6, I don’t overwhelm you with options that you’ll end up skimming and probably skipping. I tried something like this with my For Your Consideration web site experiment a few years ago, and I think what I learned there will help me set this up to be a better and more relevant thing for readers. We’ll see.
I expect you’ll see the mailing list before launch; it’s currently #2 on my to-be-built list so perhaps in a couple of weeks. I won’t make a big deal of it but I do believe it makes sense to have it running with a few issues of content available before I start promoting it to people.
A funny thing happened after my trip to Morro Bay: I got multiple requests for prints, which hasn’t happened in a while. And to be honest, I’m not really set up to handle requests well, much less sell prints on an ongoing basis — and I haven’t really worried about it because there frankly hasn’t been any need for it.
But ongoing print sales seems to make sense with the other changes, as a possible minor revenue and as a way to be able to send out prints as gifts and promotions and giveaways, so I’ve decided it makes sense to set something up.
Doing it via my SmugMug site doesn’t make sense — none of those images have been optimized for print and are uploaded with watermarks. The amount of work to change that would be immense. Instead, after looking around I’ve decided to set up shop on Printamerica.com, which seems to fit my needs pretty well. I like the idea of setting up some of my images for printing on iPhone cases, both for my own use and because I think that might be of interest to my followers.
One thing I like about this service: I can at some later date set things up to funnel custom prints to me through them at 100% commission, so if/when I decide to offer custom and signed prints, it’s basically a checkbox. Not something I’m going to worry about to start, but it’s nice that ti’s an option if I ever decide to do it.
Since some people want these prints for Christmas, this is the piece I’m going to put together next. I don’t see it as a big revenue opportunity — that simply isn’t true of prints these days — but it’ll be nice to have, and one small aspect of putting together something that shows that I’m serious about my photography, and making prints available is I think a signal of that being the case.
For what it’s worth I’ll only be selling prints of photos that I consider to be portfolio quality and that have passed muster in my custom printing here in the office, so initially, it’ll be the images I’ve processed to put up on my own walls plus the two I’ve had requests for. I expect to have this up and running in the next week or so.
Lots of minute tweaks, too
Those are the big improvements and new things coming along as part of this project. To make this all work well together, there are lots of smaller bits and pieces that need to be changed. For instance:
- The front page of my main site needs to be rebuilt to better support these new things. The good news is that I’m still happy with the site design and it works fine for my everywhere else, but the front page needs a new design.
- I need to rethink my Social media usage to get serious about reaching out to new people rather than just posting stuff for the existing audience. I’m in process of doing a full audit of my usage right now, and there are a number of things I’ll have to improve to support this.
- I’m thinking of tweaking the theme on the Smugmug site. Overall, it’s pretty good but could use some updating, and I want to change the front page to a different look. I also realized I needed to make some larger structural changes to the way I displayed images on the site, but those are already done… (yay! A ticked box on the todo list. Finally!)
And down the road? If this grows to some audience size of some size to be determined, I’ve sketched out some ideas to do a Patreon or something like that, or perhaps some kind of membership, and what kind of extras I can offer them. But that’s for some time long in the future. It’s good to do enough thinking/planning to know how these things can be plugged in later, but it’s a really bad thing to put the cart before the horse and think these are the features you need to get running at the start.
At the start, what matters is pretty simple: the content, the infrastructure to support sharing that content, and the marketing and promotion to get that content out to interested people. If you don’t get those pieces right, especially the content, none of the rest matters.
What about Occam’s Fireaxe?
I’ve wrestled about this for a couple of weeks, but I’ve decided to put the podcast on hiatus so I can focus on this project. I think it makes sense not to split my attention, even though I enjoy the podcast and the process of creating it.
How will this change the blog?
Not much, actually. Photographic topics will shift to video on Youtube, but I’ll be posting pointer articles to them when I release them. The rest of the content I’ve been writing about will continue on the blog as happens now.
So, that’s my current view of this project. Mid January is the date I’m shooting for and seems reasonable, but we’ll see. All of the above is subject to change, of course, as I build it out and learn more about what I’m trying to do. I’m curious what you think: if you have feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you about them, either via email, twitter or Facebook. Let me know what you think.
And now, back to building this stuff…