Leveraging Your Photography as a Blogger with Laurence Noah

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on February 1, 2021.

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Photography and blogging go hand-in-hand as a single image can illustrate a scene better than a thousand words (not to mention, the vast majority of social media runs on images).

As photography is an integral component in blogging, in this interview we reached out to our friend Laurence Noah of Finding the Universe to talk more about why photography is so important, how to leverage it on social media, and, perhaps most important of all, keeping your site blazing fast while sharing beautiful images.

So with that, we'll jump straight to it!

Laurence Noah

How important is quality photography in blogging?

I think photography is really important for blogging. Having great photos in your content is just as important as having great writing. I think readers look to the photography for a few things. First, when writing about a destination, sharing your own great photos of the destination illustrates that you have actually been there and are writing from a position of authority. Second, we need images to inspire the reader and give them a visual of what to expect. You wouldn't want to share poor quality writing, and I see no reason to share poor quality photos either!

What camera and body combination do you take out most often when you go shooting?

I mostly shoot with an older Canon 6D. It's a full frame SLR which I have had for years, and it works well. I have a few lenses, but my go-to is my wide angle 16-35mm.

If a blogger can only upgrade one- a camera body or camera lens, which would you pick and why?

The answer to this is nearly always going to the lens. I've definitely noticed that people spend a lot more time picking a camera body, when it is the lens that is often the more important part of the equation. The only time to upgrade the camera body is if it isn't capable of doing what you want it to do, and a specific upgrade will address that issue. So that might be improved low light performance, higher resolution video. In most cases though, the lens is going to make a much bigger difference to the type of images you can get. If folks are interested in upgrading their lenses, I have a guide to the best lenses for travel photography on my blog.

We know some bloggers are hesitant about editing their images. Do you think this is necessary and what are common things photographers should watch out for in post-processing?

Ok, so first people need to realize that every single digital image has been edited. If you shoot in a compressed format like JPG or HEIC, then the editing is done by the camera before it saves the file. Things like sharpness, contrast, saturation – these are all adjusted before the file is saved. If you shoot in RAW, then you have to do the editing yourself to make it a web-usable image.

I would argue that doing the editing yourself is going to give you a lot better results than letting your camera do it. I think where people get confused is between photo editing and photo manipulation. As a blogger, you err more towards the journalistic style of editing, so whilst most would agree that things like cropping and color adjustments are fine, fundamentally changing a scene might not be. Now of course, this is up individual discretion as to what it is ok to change.

For example, if you visit a crowded location that is quiet at other times of the day, it might be fine to edit out a few of the people because you aren't necessarily misrepresenting the scene. But if you have a shot of a lovely beach with a landfill site in the background, removing the unseemly landfill site is going to give people a misleading impression of what that location is actually like.

I often see you commenting in Facebook groups about the technical side of blogging, specifically around optimizing a site for speed. Can you comment on what steps do you take to ensure your images do not slow down your site?

Sure. So there are a few things to think about when optimizing image on a website. The first is the physical file size of the image file. You can improve this in two ways. First, you can reduce the resolution of the image. If you have a theme where the template is only 1000px wide, then there's no need to have images bigger than 1000px wide. Second, you can compress the image. By default, programs like Lightroom are not great at image compression because they are focused more on high quality output for print. For the web, you can get away with increasing the compression, and the best way to do this is on upload with a dedicated image compression plugin.

The second thing to do is to lazy load your images. This means that instead of every image on your post loading when the user visits your page, they'll load as they scroll down. This hugely improves that all important first load speed. I have lots of information on image optimization and some suggested plugins for compression in my guide to reducing image sizes and speeding up WordPress.

You have over 1,000,000 followers on your Facebook page and many followers on Instagram as well. Are there any lessons learned from growing these pages that other photographers may be able to incorporate on their own social channels?

I definitely had an early mover advantage on these platforms, I think it is a lot harder to grow a social media channel these days as the competition is so intense. My advice isn't going to be revolutionary I'm afraid. Consistent posting and engagement, as well as high quality content. It's also really important to figure out what your audience want and give it to them.

But the main thing I would ask yourself before chasing numbers on these, or any platform, is what you want to achieve by doing so. Honestly, I don't personally find that Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform generate me a lot of revenue, and these days I give them minimal focus. I prefer to allocate that time to projects that do generate me an income!

A lot of photographers, myself included, are trying to get better at licensing their images. Do you have any tips on how to determine what an image is worth and, subsequently, any steps you take to ensure you're getting a fair deal in a sale?

Ah, the perennial question. The reality is that determining the worth of an image is difficult, and there are many factors at play. These include things like how rare the image is and where it's going to be used, through to your specific business model and how much you would be happy with.

The main thing is not to undersell yourself, and to carefully control the rights you give away. Don't license an image on broad terms. Specify where it can be used, for how long, and for what purpose. A good starting point for pricing is the Getty Images calculator, which can be found online. The numbers in that tend to be a little optimistic in my experience, but they should give you an idea of worth to start from. Then, draw up a in image license. There are some great free boilerplate templates available online.

Finally, if you could give one quick tip to any budding photographer that may help them improve their photography today, what would it be?

Photography is a skill, just like any other. Whilst I'd love to pretend there's some magic secret to it, the reality is that what it really takes to get better at photography is practice and perseverance. The three things that folks need to master are how to control their camera, how to compose a great shot, and how to edit their photos. That might sound easy, but under those three topics are three deep subjects that can take time to master.

If folks are genuinely serious about improving their photography, I run an online photography course. It covers all of those topics in depth, and also has information on making money as a photographer, optimizing images for the web and loads more. Basically it's everything I know about photography in one place!

Laurence Noah from Finding the Universe
We just wanted to take a moment to thank Laurence for participating in our interview. You can find his great images over at Finding the Universe!

What steps do you take to ensure your photography is working well on your blog and social media channels? Comment below to share!

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