A little over a year ago, I decided to concentrate my blogging efforts on photography after not successfully being able to blog about anything else. I opted to go with WordPress as a blogging platform, because WordPress was created to be elegant and powerful out of the box, has a huge user community, and has high levels of customization. All these features make it an attractive platform.
My intended use for WordPress, as stated, is photography, particularly photoblogging. Photoblogging is, as the portmanteau suggests, a blog that focuses on photos rather than written content. Typically, photobloggers will post photos on a periodic bases in the same manner a blogger posts articles, and the software manages comments etc. There are highly specialized software packages that are specifically tailored for photoblogging such as PixelPost, but I wanted to maintain some aspects of a traditional blog yet do photoblogging too. WordPress has specialized themes for photoblogging, so it can be photoblog only.
If you’re reading this I hope I can assume that you know what a blog is, and what WordPress is. If not, check out WordPress.org to learn about WordPress and all it can do. Also, most hosting companies have a way to install WordPress with one click. I use bluehost.com, which has a prebuilt installer for WordPress that is easy to use. With this in mind, here are my 2 cents on ways to enhance your photoblog on WordPress
Find a Photo-Friendly Theme
A photo-friendly theme can be hard to come by, but they do exist. I’m using a theme called “Piano Black” that uses dark, neutral colors that generally speaking will look good with most every photo. You can search the themes available inside your WordPress admin for themes and preview the theme before you actually install it. WordPress has some themes that are tailored for photoblogging but they necessarily support articles such as this one. I’d use one of these, except I post articles and photos.
Post Large Photos with Lightbox
Large photos are photos that look larger when viewed on a screen, not necessarily in terms of file size or megapixels. You want to keep your photos download friendly, but you also want to show them in all their glory too. I started off posting them at 800 pixels on their longest side but now post them at 1024 pixels, but I’m not strict about this. For panoramas, I might go larger. The photos on the pages on my site are 500 pixels on their longest side, and 175 pixels in the galleries, but when the user clicks the photo, the photo is enlarged on the screen and displayed in a white-framed box, all thanks to a plugin called Lightbox. Doing this can save on the initial download time and enhance photo viewing on the screen.
Galleries used to be the rave, so it seems, so maybe I’m just old school or something. Many photography sites have galleries, but I think they’re an easy way to organize photos by themes. You could probably do this manually with WordPress pages alone, but WordPress has a very powerful plugin called NextGEN Gallery. It generates a gallery tag that can be embedded in a WordPress page. I created 8 galleries on separate pages then used the menu system built into WordPress to create link to the individual galleries.
If you have a mobile phone with a camera and can send MMS messages, Postie is a must-have plugin. MMS messaging allows you to send photos and video to your blog via an email address. Basically, you set up an address whose sole purpose is to receive message for your blog, then you configure Postie to check this email address every so often (I programmed it for every hour) for new messages. You then use your phone to send a message with a picture to that account and then Postie posts it for you. It requires some technical knowledge of email setups to work, but this is not too hard to figure out. Gmail offers POP3 access and hosting company probably offers addresses too. Some smartphones have WordPress admin apps. There’s one for iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Android, Nokia (Symbian), and Blackberry that I know of. I still think that the MMS method is easier though because I don’t have to use a 3rd party app on my phone…I can snap the shot and one of the options on my phone is “Send”. I select my blog address from my contacts and it’s off.
With WordPress you get RSS (Really Simple Syndication) for out of the box, but this is a “pull” sort of syndication. There are some “push” type plugins you can use. For Twitter, I use Tweet This. This requires a Bit.Ly, a url-shortening service, but otherwise is easy to use and updates a Twitter feed when publish a new post. I use a plugin called Wordbooker. Wordbooker pushes the content from WordPress to Facebook and also synchronizes comments between the WordPress and Facebook. This is a great way to keep your Facebook friends informed about what’s going on in your photo world without having to double-post or triple-post everything.
Combine, Mix, and Match
Now the real bonus of this is that I can mix and match plugins. I can use Postie to post content on the go, then Wordbooker and Tweet This push the content to Twitter and Facebook too. This is post-once-see-everywhere, as it should be. You can mix and match various plugins in WordPress to get different outcomes.
I’m a tinkerer, so I like doing this. I hope you find my tinkering useful.