Guest Blog: Photography Blogger William Beem
Are you curious about starting a photography podcast? I ran a photography podcast – I Like Your Picture – with my wife, Lee, as co-hosts for five years. Here’s what I learned that can help you create a podcast that your audience loves.
Recording the show was always fun, but other aspects were time-consuming and a bit tedious.
Did we need to do everything that we included in our production line? Maybe not. In hindsight, some of the advice I got about podcasting missed the mark.
That’s why I want to share some experiences and insights so you can decide if a photography podcast is right for you and how you can get the most out of the experience.
Why Start A Photography Podcast?
There are plenty of articles telling you why you should start a podcast. They give answers like these:
- It’s easy
- You can help others
- It’s great to build your personal brand
- Make money!
I can think of a few different reasons to start a photography podcast.
- Do it as a passion project
- Use it to network with other photographers with interviews
- Promote your products & services to a specific audience
Most people get the impression that it’s easy. You hit the record button, talk for a while, upload to a podcasting host, then stand back as your listeners flock to hear your voice.
As with most content creation, there’s more to it than that.
What’s Involved In Producing A Photography Podcast?
The first challenge to overcome is discussing a visual topic on audio. This is not a show-and-tell platform, so your approach relies solely on your ability to have a conversation with your listeners.
Unlike public speaking on stage, a podcast is a personal experience for the listener. It’s a subtle, yet important, concept to remember while recording. Plan your shows as if you’re speaking to one person, because you are.
Choose A Format
You need to come up with a format that works for their intent. Do they want interviews from other photographers or vendors? Are they looking for your insight into photography concepts?
Interviews are great to leverage the expertise of others. If you go this route, try to do the interview by yourself. Having multiple people interview someone can get confusing for the listener. It may also become a nightmare to edit the conversation in post-processing.
If you want to avoid guests and share your own expertise, I found it helpful to have a co-host. Not only was my show much easier when Lee joined, but we had very contrasting views about photography topics. That gave the audience more than one perspective and they could see there was more than one path to succeed.
Plan An Editorial Calendar
I have 20 years of experience writing blog articles. My first articles were unimpressive because I decided to wing it and write about things that were important to me.
The truth is that audiences consume media that’s important to them. Who knew?
If you want to succeed, research and find out what your audience wants and needs.
Either option can work, but you need to be a bit specific. Photography is very broad and vague. If you’re too vague and switch from portraits this week to wildlife next week, you won’t keep a stable audience.
Let’s use portrait photography as an example. That still gives you a wide range of issues to discuss that keep your audience engaged.
You can discuss lenses, lighting, posing, wardrobe, working with models or clients, and much more. It’s broad enough to have plenty of topics, yet they’re all related.
Even better, it makes it easier to come up with episode topics because you have a guiding principle.
If your topic is too broad, you’ll struggle to develop ideas for episodes. When you niche down, the ideas for episodes come quickly.
Schedule Your Recording Time
How many episodes do you want to deliver each week? I started with three brief episodes per week but ultimately found once a week worked best.
Pick a time you dedicate to recording your episodes and stick with it. Some podcasters who create daily episodes batch-produce them in one day and drip them out.
Make sure you have plenty of time between your recording and release schedules. Trust me; there will come a time when your plans to record get interrupted. You’ll want to have episodes in the pipeline to keep delivering to your audience.
If you don’t have anything in the pipeline, you will either miss your release date, re-release an old episode, or rush to get something recorded and produced on time.
Plan and prepare in advance. It’ll save you from stress.
Stay On Target
Your listeners value their time and so should you. Don’t fill your show with banter and fluff.
Tell them what the show is about at the start and get to your point quickly. If you have intro music, I’d recommend keeping that very short – 5 seconds or less.
Some time ago, podcasters got into the habit of having an intro that went on for a minute or more, just like a TV show with a theme song. I made that mistake.
Repeat listeners don’t want to hear it, though. They just skip ahead past your intro to get to the meat of your show.
If you record with someone else, don’t have a lot of small talk at the beginning. Your audience doesn’t care. They will use the fast-forward button and that trains them to realize they don’t need to pay attention. If they have to hit the fast-forward often enough, they’ll just give up on your show.
At some point, you’re going to make a mistake or say something you don’t want on the show. That’s OK. Take a breath and say it again. That’s the joy of recording. You can cut out your mistakes in the edit.
Audio Needs Post-Processing, Too
Some podcasters just record their episodes and hand them off to others to handle the audio processing and uploading to their hosting service.
Most podcasters have to do their own audio post-production. You want to cut out the gaps in the conversation and eliminate the “ums” and other mouth noises you probably never knew you made until you started talking into a microphone.
Part of the audio processing is to level the sound from different sources and produce a consistent audio level. The standard is -16 LUFS.
I used Adobe Audition to help create the sound of my podcast, but you can use Garage Band, Audacity, or other audio tools.
Decide If You Need To Embed Your Podcast On Your Blog
When I started podcasting, people told me I needed to create something called “Show Notes” to include on my blog when I posted each episode.
The problem I faced is that I have yet to hear what goes inside these show notes. In some cases, I wrote entire blog posts about the topic. I also included transcripts with each podcast episode on my blog.
We’re told that transcripts have SEO benefits to help your blog get found on search engines. That’s partially true, but the benefits are overrated.
That’s because Google and other search engines like structured data, such as hierarchical headlines and lists. Transcripts typically don’t have this kind of structure, so they don’t rank well for your topic.
The benefit of a transcript, in our case, was for hearing-impaired people interested in what we had to say. We got a lovely message from a man who appreciated our transcripts due to his hearing issues.
Initially, Lee created our transcripts. She was a legal secretary and did this for attorneys for years.
Later on, I used a service that automatically transcribed our shows. If you do this, check for errors. We have some transcription errors that ranged from comical to profane. Automation gets you 90% of the way there, but accuracy can have profound implications and miscommunicate your intent.
Finally, a service like Rev.com can have a human translation for a fee.
The other side of embedding your podcast on your blog is that most people who listen to your podcast episodes will never visit the show notes page. I know podcasters who get along fine without show notes or embedded podcast players on their websites.
It makes sense. People like listening to a podcast when they aren’t connected to an Internet browser. They aren’t paying attention to clicking a link while commuting.
What Do You Need to Know About Podcasting Gear?
The important thing about podcasting is the result. Your audience wants a good show with clear audio they can understand.
How you come up with that show is up to you. It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on gear to get quality audio. The money you spend on high end audio gear has diminishing returns.
Unless you’re comfortable with audio, start with something simple that has a clean sound. You can always upgrade your gear later when you have a better idea of the sound issues you want to change.
How To Choose A Microphone
There isn’t a shortage of microphone choices on the market, but which one do you want?
I don’t doubt that you want a great sound to your audio, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on an expensive microphone. Those mics usually come with requirements to spend even more money just to get them to work.
You can get a budget podcast microphone for under $200 and still achieve crystal clear audio for your podcast
Your first decision is whether to use a USB microphone or the XLR interface found in professional audio environments.
With USB, you just plug and play with your computer. You can record directly into a program like Adobe Audition or Garage Band.
An XLR microphone requires something between your mic and computer. The first choice is whether you want a simple audio interface or a mixer. We’ll talk about the differences in a moment.
Next, there’s a choice between a condenser mic or a dynamic mic.
Condenser mics capture great voice quality, but they also capture a lot of background noise. You’ll need to soundproof your recording environment to get the best results.\
Dynamic mics do a better job of rejecting background noise and there’s nothing wrong with their audio quality. They may not have all the nuance of a condenser, but you’ll still have great quality audio for your podcast.
Finally, look at the polar pattern that determines how the microphone picks up sound. For voice recording, you’ll have the best luck with a cardiod polar pattern. That pattern concentrates the audio pickup from a single direction.
When You Need A Mixer Or Audio Interface
If you go with an XLR microphone, you have some pros and cons. One of the cons is that you need to buy something to connect the mic to your computer or to a recording device.
The positive side of an XLR is that there are plenty of options to enhance and shape your audio before it gets recorded.
A simple audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett series allows you to connect your XLR mics to a USB connection that passes through to your computer or mobile device to record. They also offer gain controls and phantom power that some XLR mics require.
A mixer does all of this and also adds more controls to shape your sound and combine multiple inputs to different outputs, including USB.
When You Need An Audio Pre-Processor
An audio pre-processor adds even more control to the sound of your microphone. It may offer tools like a de-esser to eliminate sibalance or a noise gate that doesn’t record sounds under a certain decibel level.
I use a pair of dbx 286s pre-processors for my audio recording – one for me and one for my wife, with each one tuned to enhance our different voices.
Unless you want to spend money and nerd out on audio gear the way I did, I’d recommend skipping this expense as unnecessary.
Deciding On A Microphone Stand
There are two very frustrating things you can experience while recording your podcast. One is having vibration noise from your stand affecting your recording. The other is a microphone stand that moves as you’re talking into it.
I started with a simple table-top stand. Actually, it was designed a a mic stand for a bass drum. The problem was that anything that caused vibration in the desk transferred sound to the mic.
Next, I tried a free-standing mic stand with a boom arm – the sort you see a guitar player use on stage. It was pretty awkward to find room for the base of the stand near my desk and sometimes the boom would drop.
Finally, I used something that clamped onto my desk and had an articulating arm to position the mic. This worked best, but don’t go cheap. The less expensive versions use springs that squeak when you move the mic.
Get Some Headphones
When you record, use headphones to monitor the conversation. You need to make sure that you hear yourself and your guest at the right volume level and ensure there arent any distorted sounds or other problems.
If you hear something wrong, it is always better to fix it first than try to save a bad recording in your post-processing software.
You don’t need audiophile headphones to monitor. I have a cheap pair of AKG headphones and an expensive pair of Sennheiser headphones. The cheap pair that cost less than $20 works fine.
If you have a co-host, you may need a small headphone amplifier. These devices allow you to plug multiple headphones into one jack on your mixer or computer. The only annoying part is that the electrical plug is a bit wide and takes too much space on a power strip.
Depending upon your equipment, you may have the option to use Bluetooth earbuds or headphones. I prefer using wired gear for a podcast to reduce potential for interference, but work with what you have before you spend money on something else.
What Are Some Things You Don’t Hear About the Reality of Podcasting?
You may hear about all the positive aspects of podcasting. I truly enjoyed producing our podcasts and found it rewarding.
That said, it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are some other aspects you ought to consider before you begin your show. Here are a few things I discovered.
You’ll Put Yourself Out As A Public Figure
I was utterly unprepared for the reaction I received when I started releasing podcast episodes. That’s because I earned my first real hater.
She told me I was an imposter and shouldn’t be allowed to talk about photography or have my own podcast show.
I also received congratulations and compliments when I started. The positives were greater than the negatives. However, you get a bit of both when you put yourself out as a podcaster.
It’s a public stage, and some haters don’t realize that you’re a person with feelings, so they hurl insults for some reason only they understand.
Don’t let them get you down. Over time, you develop a thick skin, and the hater goes away. If you do a good job, more folks like you, and your audience grows.
Once You Start Paying, You Never Get To Stop
I’ve operated two podcasts and stopped production on both. However, there are some continuing expenses.
You need a podcast hosting service to host your files and simplify adding them to directories like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, etc. Don’t host your episodes on a web server because you may get shutdown if you have a traffic spike.
Once your show ends, you still have to pay for hosting if you want those episodes to remain available. It isn’t expensive, but it’s a monthly bill. When you stop paying, your episodes are gone.
The other thing that may cost you money is a podcast player on your website. I use a player called FuseBox (formerly Smart Podcast Player). It’s great, it’s beautiful, and it has an annual fee.
You can find a basic podcast player from your podcast host to get around this fee.
It’s A Lot Of Work
Once you set up your gear, you pretty much leave it alone. That’s not the hard part.
The work comes with the planning and preparation for your show. You have to come up with episode ideas and plan them out.
Once you record your show, it’s time to edit them so they sound great and eliminate the gaps and odd noises in the audio.
If you create show notes on your website, you have to create a new post with those details. Don’t forget the featured image for that post, so there’s some graphic effort to consider.
You may want to include timestamps in your show notes to let people know where to find key points in the episode.
How do you create time stamps? You listen to your show and make notes of where those specific times are. The longer your show, the longer you listen.
You can outsource this work, but that adds to your time and expense to produce a show.
You May Not Make A Dime
I know some folks who’ve made a lot of money because of their exposure in podcasting. Most people really don’t make much, or anything.
Advertisers want a big audience, and yet advertising doesn’t pay that well. You could find some sponsors or perhaps recommend affiliate products. If you have your own product or service, definitely mention it.
You’re going to need to keep repeating this message on episodes. If you’ve ever listened to Pat Flynn on his Smart Passive Income podcast, you probably know about Freshbooks accounting software.
That’s because he’s mentioned it hundreds of times. That’s what it takes to get the message on a podcast to sell someone else’s product.
You have to decide if your podcast is a marketing effort or a labor of love.
Welcome To The Joy Of Photography Podcasting
Starting your own photography podcast can be very rewarding and enjoyable. It’s also a lot of work. You put yourself out on a public stage and share your experience or thoughts with people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.
Your first episodes will be your worst, but don’t let that stop you. Recording your show helps you refine your own views of photography and adds to the enjoyment of it.