Blogging Basics for Photographers: Blogging Software and Services

Blogging Basics For Photographers - Part 2

In this second article of the series, we’re going to delve into some of the popular blogging platforms and try to come up with a good picture of what software and services make sense for the blogging photographer.

Other articles in this Blogging Basics for Photographers series:

1. Deciding Whether to Start a Blog for Your Photography
2. Blogging Software and Services
3. Web Hosting and Blog Set Up

From the top, I’ll let you know that this article (and series, in general) will be heavily biased toward WordPress as a blogging platform.  This is what I know and use, and I think that it’s the best all-around blogging platform out there.  That said, there are plenty of other great blogging services and software available, and we’ll take a look at them below.  I invite any photo bloggers out there to chime in with your thoughts on these or other blogging platforms in the comment section at the bottom of this article.  Moving on now…

Domain Names

A domain name is basically your Internet website or blog address.  It’s what you see up the address bar of your web browser, like http://www.yourdomain.com.

You’ll often see domain names shortened to www.yourdomain.com or even yourdomain.com when somebody is telling you what their website address is.

One of the first considerations in choosing a blogging platform is deciding what kind of domain name you want.  Is this blog going to be used as part of your business?  Is it strictly a hobby blog?  Or, maybe just something to share with friends and family?

Some services work better than others for using unique domain names.  Typically, self-hosted blogs (where you use a server that you pay for and upload your blogging software) are used with unique domain names.  Hosted blogging platforms (where the service provider offers both the blogging software and hosting space) come with a semi-customizable domain name like “domain-name.hosting-service.com“.

Blogging Platforms

Here’s a quick rundown of 6 blogging platform options.

1. Blogger

This is the mighty Google’s baby.  Blogger is perhaps the simplest blogging platform to get up and running on.

With Blogger, your domain name will look like:  yourdomain.blogspot.com.  The very popular lighting blog from David Hobby, Strobist, runs on Blogger – strobist.blogspot.com.

Rich Legg also uses blogger, but uses his own domain name on the platform, which isn’t too hard to do.  Google provides a walkthrough of how to do this here.

Blogger has its own limitations with things like design and commenting.  Customizing Blogger designs can be challenging depending on the level of customization that you are shooting for.  You can stretch those limitations to an extent, but you’ll never have the full control of a self-hosted blog.  However, for a lot of people, the power that Blogger gives you is plenty enough.

2. WordPress.com

Don’t confuse WordPress.com with my more general references to WordPress software as a self-hosted platform.  I know this sounds confusing, but the WordPress people (aka Automattic) have created an all-in-one software and hosting solution with WordPress.com, much like Google’s Blogger.

If you use WordPress.com as a blogging platform, your blog URL will read like: your-domain.wordpress.com.  Note, however, that WordPress.com also offers you the capability of using your own domain name.

3. Typepad

As with Blogger and WordPress.com, Typepad is another popular service that offers an all-in-one blogging solution.  Typepad offers a number of service levels.  The most basic package is the micro-blogging service, which is free, but has lots of limitations.  For example, you’re limited to one basic design.

If you upgrade to a “pro” account, you can get unlimited storage, the use of thousands of designs, and have the ability to use your own domain name, such as your-domain.com rather than just your-domain.typepad.com.  Pro accounts start at $8.95 per month.

4. Movable Type

Movable Type is a powerful self-hosted blogging platform, which means you need to use your own server to host the software and content.  Movable Type comes from Six Apart, which also offers the Typepad hosted service mentioned above.

Movable Type is a very powerful and is used by some very large companies to run polished blogs.  As long as you are planning on running a blog as an individual, the license is free.  If you are putting the blog under your corporate umbrella, then you need to step up the the business license version at $395.  Licensing details are here.

I’ve never used Movable Type on a blog; however, I hold it in a pretty high regard based on others’ comments and endorsements.

5. WordPress

WordPress is open source software, which means that it is free to download and use it for personal or commercial use.  Development never ends for the WordPress community and there are always new versions and features becoming available for it. Photography Bay is powered by WordPress.

If you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty, you can do some really powerful stuff with WordPress. Even if you don’t want to get too messy with the backside of the software, there are plenty of ways to use it to build a very beautiful blog.

There are thousands of free “themes” available for WordPress.  Themes are sort of pre-packaged web designs that work nicely with WordPress software and are fairly easy to install. Additionally, you can find premium WordPress themes at prices ranging from $10 to $300 or so.  Finally, if you want something totally unique and suited to your personality or vision, you can have a designer create a custom theme for you.

The WordPress free themes directory is here.

Some premium theme resources for WordPress are listed below:

PremiumWP

DIY Themes

Woo Themes

You can look into custom designs for WordPress at the following sites:

Unique Blog Designs

Daddy Design

Dizzain

6. Custom / Specialized Platforms

The photography blogging niche is growing rapidly, and there are many custom solutions being made available from web designers.  One that stands out to me is Amelia Lyon’s blog, which is a brandable dream package powered by Into the Darkroom.

There are other custom solutions out there, and there may even be someone in your area who can work with you face to face if that’s what you like.

Obviously, if you’re hiring someone else to do the work, you’ll be spending some extra cash up front.  However, you may not have to worry about any installation or design headaches along the way.  It’s also nice to have an expert implement your idea instead of trying to hack away at the code yourself.

Which Blogging Platform is Right for You?

So, are you up for something simple like Blogger, WordPress.com or Typepad?  If so, those are easy enough to get going with great walkthroughs on each of the sites.  In no time, you’ll be embedding your photos and sharing your knowledge for the world to see.

If you want to go about it on your own and use a more powerful software option like WordPress or Movable Type, you’ll need to sort out your own hosting and get your blog software set up.  And that’s just what the next installment of Blogging Basics for Photographers will cover – Web Hosting and Blog Setup.

Questions and Comments

Got questions about blogging platforms?  How about tips or advice for those of you who use one of these options, or you have other solutions that work?

Fire away in the comments below.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Great peace,
    People can also try SquareSpace, it’s not free but has a great features. Also Microsoft has Windows Live Writer, which let you compose posts and then submit the to your blog.

  2. says

    I’ve used Movable Type (MT) for years. When it was time to start my photo blog, I switched to WordPress. MT is very powerful and configurable, if you don’t mind doing some development work or hiring someone to customize it for you. The default templates are very mundane and there just isn’t a decent community of people providing great themes for it, like WordPress.

    Six Apart seems to be willing to leave behind the individual bloggers who helped them start-up and would rather sell MT to corporate clients, shuffling off individuals to TypePad or Vox, which each have their own limitations.

    WordPress seems better designed for the end user who is interested in a plethora of easily configurable options and plug-ins, where MT is a system that isn’t as well integrated and often requires you delve into HTML and CSS development to create the site you want.

  3. says

    Rich Legg actually uses WordPress now. ;)

    I helped with the migration of Blogger -> WordPress as Google/Blogger will soon be discontinuing the FTP service that Rich was using. You can still aim a domain name at your Blogger blog, but WordPress has proven to be more powerful and flexible for many users, including Rich.

    • says

      @Sawyer – You’re right. Rich is now on WordPress (he was still using Blogger at the time this post was published, which is why I included him as an example).

      Good work on the migration though. It was done very seamlessly, and looks polished.

      Also, you make a good point about the discontinuation of FTP service from Blogger. And, I agree that WordPress is definitely the more flexible option. Thanks for you comments.