Travel blogging tips from the experts: Canvas of Light

Dan Today’s travel blogging tips article is a little bit different, in that I’m interviewing a travel blogger who focuses on his photography rather than his words.

As I’m a big fan of photography, both taking and looking at, this seemed like a perfect interview to run.

Daniel Nahabedian is the author of Canvas of Light, a site where he shares photography from his journey, which he started in 2009.

Currently living in Chiang Mai, and with a history more varied than a patchwork quilt, Daniel shares his thoughts on photography blogging, differentiating a blog in todays crowded blogging space, and the importance of being yourself.

Tell us a little bit about Daniel, and your site,

I am a previous HR officer recently converted into a Travel Photographer. I left my job back in 2009 to travel as much as I can and I ended up settling in Chiang Mai, Thailand after I fell in love with the city.

I am a self-taught photographer (started early 2008) interested in travel and foreign cultures. Being a multi-cultural person myself and speaking 5 languages opened many doors and made me want to learn more about the world.

profile Why did you start writing a travel blog?

I launched my blog on blogspot long before I planned to travel. It was a way for me to share my photography with friends and have my own space for creativity . Later, when I started traveling, my photography became more travel oriented and I decided to share all my discoveries with anyone interested out there.

Your site is very much about your photography - how does this differ from a traditional travel blog and do you have specific challenges to overcome?

My site is a Travel Photoblog. You will never find reviews, “how to” and “top-ten” posts. Also, unlike many travel bloggers, I do not monetize my blog. I consider it more like a portfolio of my work and a way to share knowledge with whoever is interested (and not only the travel blogging community).

The only challenge I face is to try to attract both worlds (Travel Bloggers and Photographers) and keep my posts interesting enough for them to come back. I don’t just post a photo with a caption, I also try to provide some useful information.

How do you define success in terms of your travel blog?

Success for me is when a magazine editor discovers my blog, likes my work and contacts me for assignments. My goal is not to make money through advertisement but to be able to get published in various magazines. Success is also when I receive a mail from a random visitor who tells me: “Thank you, I learned something new!”

What aspirations do you have for your travel blog?

Of course I would love to see more visitors on my blog. This would mean more and more people are interested in different cultures and the outside world. I would also like it to be a blog where people come to learn about Travel Photography and share tips.

Do you follow any metrics in terms of traffic analysis / site ranking, and how important do you think these are?

I mainly use Google Analytics to check how much traffic I get, which posts are popular and to try to improve my website accordingly. I try to pay attention to SEO and let my website grow naturally.

What techniques have you used to improve your traffic, and how successful have these been?

The most important move I have made is to switch to a self-hosted blog with my own domain name. I used to be on blogger and my traffic skyrocketed in 3-4 months when I switched to WP with an eye-candy theme.

I also participate much more in social media networking, sharing and commenting other bloggers’ work. Finally, posting regularly and giving away free stuff like free tips and free photo critiques make people happy so they often come back for more.

What sort of time commitment do you put in to your travel blog on a weekly basis?

You mean on a daily basis? *wink* I spend a minimum of 2 hours per day on my travel blog. This includes research for my posts, editing some photos for my blog, trying to improve my theme (and trying not to mess it up), replying to comments and sharing on social media.

I also used to post daily, but I realized I am spending to much valuable time I could use for pitching, researching and shooting for other publications. My blog doesn’t bring me any money, I have to focus a little more on finding an income.

If there was one thing you wish you could have known before you started writing your blog, what would it have been?

Finding your own voice. Write the way you want to write. Readers will visit your blog because you are honest and genuine. I tried at first to copy others, especially popular travel bloggers, but that just didn’t work for me so I decided to stick to what I know and like.

What have you found to be the best way to go about generating an Income from your blog?

I don’t generate income with my blog, there are no ads and no text links. It’s all free information. However, all the photos are also for sale and from time to time, a few fans buy a print or two but that’s not very often unfortunately.

How do you go about promoting your travel blog?

I am lucky to be on the border between Photography and Travel blogging. I have a wider range of people I can reach. I usually use social media to promote my work. Every post is shared on twitter, on my Facebook profile and on my Facebook Fan page. Otherwise, I don’t promote it aggressively. I just let it grow naturally.

If you have questions or problems with your site, where do you go to find answers?

I usually start by asking my best friend Google. If it doesn’t provide any answers, I turn to the Twitter and Facebook community to ask my questions. The Travel blogging community is really helpful.

Travel / photo blogging is becoming more and more popular. How do you differentiate yourself in such a crowded market?

I try to keep my blog simple. It is not crowded with ads and random posts that are found everywhere else. I also post big photos while most bloggers put up small thumbnails you have to click on. Too many bloggers focus on attracting other bloggers or the “cubicle-dweller”. It’s becoming a closed world.

I want to reach everyone, travelers and non-travelers and provide a way for readers to escape for a minute and maybe learn something new. My goal is not to make everyone abandon their jobs and go discover the world.

And finally, what key advice would you give to people running, or thinking about setting up, their own travel blog?

The Travel Blogging world is getting really crowded. Every person going on a trip dreams of writing about it and making money out of their blogs. Think first WHY you are setting a up a blog. Is it personal? For friends and family? or a way to fund your travels? My advice would be to stay genuine, find your own voice and don’t try to copy others.

Write about what interests you. There are far too many “top-10-bests” and “How to” posts. Don’t do it just because it works well. People want to read stories by people.

And finally, don’t just focus on “me, myself and I”. Give back to your readers, offer free tips, offer information, free photos. Let them leave happy and they’ll come back.

Many thanks to Daniel for taking the time to participate in the interview. You can find out more about Daniel and his superb photography on his website at Canvas of Light, plus you can find him on Facebook. Also, don’t forget you can check out more in this series of travel blogging tips by following the link. Enjoy!

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