Facebook “likes” : Quality not Quantity

I use my Facebook page to showcase some of my photographs and to get some feedback from people who clearly have an interest in landscape photography.  I find it a very helpful tool to help judge what works and what doesn’t in the eyes of the public… 
(Before anyone goes off on one about how it should all be “art for art’s sake”… I’ll just add that I don’t shoot anything just to appeal to my Facebook audience, and I certainly don’t avoid shooting anything just because I know it wouldn’t work on social media either…)
(I have folders full of unpublished work to prove this last point!)

Landscape photography can be a very solitary pursuit and I find the interaction on Facebook helps put things into perspective a little, and stops me going off on tangents that aren’t really that interesting to others.
I don’t go along to any camera clubs and I’m not a member of any photo society, so Facebook is a very useful sounding board for what’s working and what’s not with my photography.  It also helps that many excellent photographers follow my page and provide constructive feedback – not always positive! –  publicly and through private messages which has greatly helped me grow and develop my own style over the last few years.

Anyway, what’s my point? 
I was interested to see that Facebook has introduced a “pages to watch” feature, which allows page owners to “spy” on the number of page “likes” other pages are getting. 
I’m guessing it’s a clever marketing ploy which feeds on the ego and pushes page owners into signing up for expensive ad campaigns when they see the “competition” overtaking them in the popularity race…

It got me thinking; should I really be stressing about how many page likes I get?  Doesn’t that just lead down a road that encourages clichéd snaps designed to appeal to as many people as possible?  I kinda like the fact that I have people following my page that have diametrically opposite tastes!  There are some who will only “like” dark, moody, stuff, and others that only seem to like a photo if the sky’s blue and the sun’s out!

As I’m a scientist by profession and consequently obsessed with mathematical correlations and statistics, I thought I’d use Facebook’s “pages to watch” tool to see how many of these page “likes” actually interact with the photographers they “like”. 
This is, after all, my reason for using social media, so I was curious to how my 398 page followers compared with those who follow the photographic “big-guns”;  those pages with THOUSANDS, in some cases, TENS of THOUSANDS followers.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

I looked at the last 5 photographs posted by each page I follow and compared the “likes” each photo got with the total likes the page has.  My theory was simple:  the more people like your page, the more “likes” your work should get, right?  Wrong!

It turns out that these excellent photographers are getting, on average, around 2 – 2.5% feedback from their page followers per image.
No one would argue that it’s impressive that one page I reviewed had almost 7500 page followers, and it’s equally impressive that 220 – 230 people take the time to show their appreciation of the photographers work by pressing “like” but I was more impressed to find that my 398 followers are much more supportive! 
I calculated an average 14% feedback on my past 5 photographs!  Now, that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me, or my work, it’s a reflection on the people who are kind enough to pay attention to my page and INTERACT with it, showing appreciation where they like something and withholding that all important “like” where they think I could do better. 

I’ve always said that I’m amazed when anyone actually takes the time to like or comment on anything I’ve done, but, to find that the people doing it are SEVEN times more supportive than those following some of my favourite artists was, simply, astonishing.

So, dear Facebook.  Thanks for the offer, but, I don’t need droves of new page followers who don’t actually follow, I’m happy with the people who find my page through friends, or shares, or just chance. 
When it comes to people: it’s QUALITY- not quantity – that counts!

And I’ve been very fortunate indeed to have been discovered by so many quality people!

Bad Light stops play?

Landscape photographers are fortunate in many ways when compared to our colleagues in other photographic disciplines.

For the most part our subjects are static, we do not need to “pose” or cajole them, nor do we need to snap them before they fly off or run away. We do not have the pressure of knowing that we only have one-shot to tell the story we’re after and, despite our ego’s telling us otherwise, we rarely have the stress of knowing that our failure to deliver may well ruin someone’s “special day”.

Yes, there can be hours of walking or climbing with back-packs full of heavy gear just to get the shot we want, and yes, there can be delays and frustrations if the weather isn’t just how we’d like it, but, on the whole, I’m glad I’ve chosen Landscape photography and find it a lot less stressful than the other options.

The downside of all this though, is that many landscape photographers (and I’m including myself here) become lazy, restricting themselves to only shooting during the “Golden Hours” around sunrise and sunset, avoiding mid-day and poor weather conditions at all cost. How often do we simply roll over and go back to sleep if the weather isn’t looking too promising when we glance out of the window a few hours before sunrise on a cold, damp morning?

So, what’s my point?

Well, I recently posted a photograph on Facebook of a well-known loch in Glencoe, Scotland. The shot was taken during a particularly rainy day and to be honest, I really wasn’t convinced it was working, but, I persevered and shot a few frames. I was genuinely surprised at the reaction the image got, with more than 3000 views, shares, comments and “likes” within 12 hours of posting it online.

Now, while I was setting up this shot I counted three other photographers stop, look around at the scene and leave again without taking a single image. One even went so far as to set-up his tripod, and unpack the camera, stand around for a while hoping the light would “improve” then change his mind and pack it all up again without taking a photo!

Now, I’m not criticising this approach. As I’ve said, I’m as guilty as the next person for adopting the “it’ll be better next time I visit” attitude, but, if we adopt the approach of some of our more time restricted colleagues and try to retrieve something from a less than ideal situation, I believe our photography improves as a result.

OL_Loch AchtriochtanOL_Loch Achtriochtan_sunny

These two photographs were taken from approximately the same location, one in reasonably nice (but cold) weather in April 2013. The other taken during very heavy rain in September 2013. Both shots were taken around mid-day.

I’m happier with the “bad light / poor weather” shot and feel that it adds to the drama and rugged feel of the landscape. Now, I know this light will not suit all possible landscapes, but, from now on whenever I get the opportunity to set out with my camera, poor weather may influence my choice of location, but, it will not stop me from heading out!

Don’t let “bad light” stop you either!

Photobook project update

It’s been a few months since I announced my grand and somewhat ambitious plan to create a photobook and (possibly) photographic exhibition based around a series of photos I’ve taken during the course of the last 12 months or so. 
The preparation and planning for the project took quite a while and has involved (to date) 21 road trips to various parts of the country covering several thousand miles in the process.

I’ve travelled by car, foot and steam train during this time and it’s still not quite finished.  One or two of the locations would benefit from different weather conditions so I have a few more road trips and hikes before I can say I have what I need!

ImageThe challenge (I’ve found) is to create something new each time I visit locations that over the past year or so I’ve visited many times and come to know very well indeed.  The fact that the British (and in particular, west-coast of Scotland) weather is so fickle has been a benefit and a hindrance.   No two days are the same (in fact at times, no two hours are the same!) which helps keep the motivation levels up as there is always something new to see and shoot, but, at the same time waiting for an hour for the light to be “just right” only to have a rain cloud bubble up at the wrong time and ruin everything is rather frustrating to say the least!

As the photographic stage comes to an end (I’m hoping the last of the work will be shot around December), my attention now turns inevitably towards writing the narrative around the work, linking the images and explaining the concept behind the whole project.   I’ve already started scouting locations for the exhibition and drawn up a list of relevant media outlets for publicity purposes.
I will also need to find a publisher – or considering self-publishing – and, there remains the small matter of financing the end product, i.e. the book!

It was always my plan to finance the shooting and travel myself, but, to fund the end product through social crowd-funding. 
At the moment, my preferred option is Kickstarter, although as with everything, this is still under consideration.

Details of the crowd-funding drive will be shared on Twitter, Facebook and here on my blog when the time comes.
Subscribers who pledge to the project will receive a variety of special offers and gifts, AND my eternal gratitude!

So, thank you for reading this update, I’ll post another soon!

Please make sure you “follow” my Twitter feed and “like” my Facebook Page as these will be the only places to find out about the crowd-funding launch and to take advantage of advanced notice of prizes and competitions.  
I have some very special gifts to announce for funders and can’t wait to actually announce the theme / title of this, as yet, untitled project.



Photobook progressing well

My Facebook page followers have known for a few weeks now, but, I thought I’d update my blog on the subject too…

I’ve been working on a Photobook for a few months now, it’s a themed book, mainly travel / landscape themed work and shot entirely during the course of 2013 at some very specific locations in Scotland. (Mainly in Perthshire, Highland and Western Isles)

I’ve begun work on the layout and the text, but, still feel like I have only around half of the photos I want to include.

So… I guess I’ll be out with my camera a lot over the coming few months!

Stay tuned for some sneak preview shots over the coming weeks! 🙂


Had a few hours to kill today, so found myself at Loch Chon in the shadow of Ben Lomond, then after a lovely wander (and lunch) at Stronachlachar on the shores of Loch Katrine, spent an hour sitting on the pier at Inversnaid and watching waves of rain climb over the hills to the west but not quite make it across the loch to where I sat…

Beautiful day on the quieter side of Loch Lomond.

Even resisted the normally irresistible urge to have a beer in the Inversnaid Hotel!

As always, photos will be posted on my Facebook page :


Please feel free to visit the page and “like” the page (not just the photos) for regular updates and future competitions! 😉

Doors Open!

Great weekend for anyone planning a visit to Glasgow.
Doors Open is an annual event where visitors are given the opportunity to visit some of Glasgow’s historical buildings, many of which are normally closed to the public, all for free!

Great opportunities for photography (they even run a competition to make it interesting!) or just good old curiosity…


This year, I’m hoping to get along to the following (amongst others!):

  • Barrowland Ballroom (former dance hall, current music venue in the heart of the famous Barras market);
  • Brittania Panopticon Music Hall (oldest surviving music hall in the world, place where Stan Laurel first took to the stage);
  • Govan Old Church (home to the Govan stones, a collection of 5 ancient Pictish carved stones and a sarcophagus);
  • Lighthouse (Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s first public commission);
  • Tobacco Merchants House (preserved 18th century merchants house in the centre of the city);
  • Western Baths club (19th century gothic style swimming baths, still in use today!);

As always, any photos will be posted on my Facebook page.

Please feel free to visit and “like” the page for updates on this story and all future work…



Shoot when you can!

Work (the paid variety this time) takes me to the town of Dumbarton this morning.

As Dumbarton Castle features in at least three of my current photo projects, and despite the fact it’s currently blowing a gale and raining on site, I’m taking my camera gear with me… just in case the opportunity presents itself.
Ever the optimist, plus, I’ve yet to try out my waterproof casing, so fingers crossed that I get some useful shots! 🙂

I guess the moral of this post is, BE PREPARED!  I rarely leave the office now without a camera.

As always, any shots deemed good enough, will be posted on my photography Facebook page.

Feel free to “LIKE” my Facebook page to keep updated with my work, and also, to be in with a chance of winning some exclusive “like” only downloads, screen savers and limited edition prints!

Walk and Photoshoot!

Woke this morning to some beautiful clear blue skies so I’ve decided that, as most of my real work is up to date, today should be a “Photo Day”

Not sure where to go today though.  Choices are:

Stirling old town and castle;
Kilmartin Glen;
Dundrennan Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway;
Rannoch Moor…

No doubt I’ll end up somewhere completely different! 😛

Keep updated, and see the results of todays walk by “liking” my photography page on Facebook, or, following this photoblog! 🙂


photo blog of John McKenna