Mid way through year 1, unaware creating a blog was a project for year 2, I had already decided to make an electronic record of my course work as I found it had a number of advantages over hard copy. Namely :
- Accessible from any internet connected device
- Ability to link pages/posts/images from within the blog and thus easily integrate and reuse relevant work for a variety of project submissions.
- Latest versions / drafts of work available.
- No need to synchronise work between portable media and main PC
- No need to physically transport sketchbooks
There were however a couple of issues I had experienced and one in particular concerning domain names – this issue is discussed in more detail at the beginning of the Blog Diary post.
Further although creating, maintaining and regularly contributing to a blog is the central element of the “In Search of Specialism” brief I had decided I wanted it to also be a more general website that would be able to support a number of additional functions including, additional pages, image galleries and eventually an e-commerce facility.
Accordingly I decided to create 2 websites -1) A record of my HND course work stevesf8.org.uk and 2) A website that could be the basis of my professional practice as a photographer. www.55red.co.uk. This decision delayed the start of active blogging for the brief whilst the websites where created but with some additional effort on my part the number of blogs caught up to the expected profile and progress since has been regular and consistent.
There is a blog post discussing more fully the issues of website design that can be accessed from the brief page or here website design considerations.
I also researched a number of websites / blogs to see what is considered good practice / design. Overwhelmingly the phrase that came out was “keep it simple” This is reflected in the limited colour palette used on the sites, the uncluttered pages and hopefully simple user navigation to find what they want. I have deliberately avoided the use of gimmicks such as garish colours, too many fonts and random sounds on the site as personally I find them irritating when encountered on other sites.
Social Media, in truth I have only dabbled with Facebook and Twitter in that without a definitive product or service to sell it seems. frankly, a fairly pointless activity. This seems particularly true of Twitter, as whilst it is possible to build a following, evidenced by the fact that the few tweets I made continue to attract new followers weeks later, it feels like a mutual appreciation society of people who have a common interest rather than a means of identifying potential customers. However I do feel there is value in being able to contact fellow creatives (e.g. models, mua’s and so forth) in this manner, particularly as these applications are designed for the smart phone generation i.e. they are personal and always available compared to more traditional structured applications such as email.
This has led me to think about the fact that my primary electronic communication channel is email and whilst I can’t envisage this stopping I plan to review how easy it is for potential customers to contact me through alternative mechanisms.
Finding blogging content for the HND site is straightforward as it documenting the work I have undertaken that I want considered for my HND both in terms of written material and the ability to easily share images.
Material for the public site is more of a challenge in that subjects for a more public audience needs more consideration, careful drafting and review prior to publication in order for it to be engaging, relevant and to a degree entertaining for the audience.
In terms of the style of writing I have tried to make the posts easy to read even when discussing technical subjects, light hearted where that’s appropriate in order to engage with the reader. The feedback generally received suggests I have achieved this goal.
Overall I have found the process of blogging has proved an excellent way to demonstrate the process of completing my HND. The discipline of regularly blogging has been beneficial in demonstrating not only progress of individual projects /course briefs but also the rise in the general standard of my photography over the period of the course.
I feel this is demonstrated in the quality of images published over the duration of the course and the professional practice’s I have been able to adopt. An example of good professional practice is having a client area on 55red.co.uk where images can be published on password protected pages so proofs of shoots can be rapidly reviewed and shared with the client / target audience.
An example of how this works this can be seen with images of my new granddaughter by going to www.55red.co.uk select Your Photos, then POPPY with password “Evelyn”.
This facilitates the process of discussion and selection of images for final editing and printing and has proved successful with a number of projects / shoots such as various shoots for Media Make Up group, SSAFA (Military Charity) and most recently the advertising photography brief shoot where I was able to share 100+ proof images with the model within a couple of hours.
What could be improved :
Hosting. There have been some technical issues with the hosting company although this has definitely improved in recent months, further it can be occasionally slow to load at peak times. This needs to be balanced against the modest charges, approx. £50 a year to host multiple full function websites. I will continue to monitor performance and may trial a move to a different provider.
Site Navigation. Stevesf8.org.uk is primarily designed to be navigated from the originating brief as the main audience is subject lecturers for marking purposes and its natural to start from the brief and explore the content in relation to this.
It is also possible to select all Blog post but not pages on a given subject from a drop down menu on the main blog page.
55Red.co.uk has a similar design, due to the common WordPress theme, but allows users to more freely explore the site either for contact and background information or to review images.
I feel the combination of these flexible navigation routes provide a user friendly way to navigate the site and find the relevant material to your query.
Steve Edwards Feb 2015.