Monotone: WordPress Photoblog Theme

Monotone is a pretty cool photoblog theme for WordPress that’s been around for a few months now. Unfortunately it was only available on WordPress.com, and through the Automattic Subversion repository as reported by Jeff on Weblog Tools Collection.

Noel Jackson, the author of the theme, recently revealed that Monotone is now available as a .zip download on the Monotone demo page above. Now it’s easier for self hosted WordPress blogs to try it!

What’s so great about Monotone? It displays a large image in each post like Pixelpost and other photoblog themes, but it does it in a neat way. WordPress allows the blog author to upload and attach images to their posts. It’s then up to the author to insert the image into the post and tidy up the html. Monotone takes this one step further. There’s no need to insert the image into the post at all. The theme takes the first attachment and displays it at the top of the post, with the post content below.

I’d love to use it, but unfortunately I have several years worth of posts that would need to be modified because I used Flickr to host my images until recently. Then I used my own site, but inserted the right html into each post, so they’d all have to be modified unless I hacked the theme to ignore old posts.

RSS feeds display the image too, although I discovered that the feed for the demo site includes some huge images. Probably just an oversight when Noel was uploading images.

Judging by Noel’s comment here, it probably isn’t completely straight forward to install. You probably need the GD library and a hefty server with enough RAM to load and manipulate your images. Anyone tried it? Use my theme tester plugin if you want to test it on your blog without upsetting your visitors!

Digging into the photo archive

I ran a photoblog on ocaoimh.org before I started inphotos.org, and I posted some photos to my blog at Holy Shmoly! too. Unfortunately the first site is no longer around, and the img tags were somehow stripped from many of my posts on ocaoimh.ie while I was running a development version of WordPress a few years ago. Now that WordPress has a native gallery function I think it’s time some of these old images saw the light of day again.

Most images were shot in 2004 and 2005. Some of the scenes photographed back then either look very different now, or have ceased to exist in the case of the petrol pump in Blackpool! Most of them would have been shot with my trusty Sony 717 I expect. Great camera.

(Oh great, the gallery is broken! Must fix later…)

11 SEO tips for your photoblog

Richard Hearne offered some great tips for making Irish photoblog mcawilliams.com more visible on the search engines and they’re very good general search engine optimization tips that can be applied to any website.

He has grouped his tips into the following categories:

  1. Site Architecture
  2. On-Page Optimisation
  3. Off-site Optimisation

Richard’s post is well worth reading, even if you don’t have a photoblog. I know I learned a thing or two that are already paying off!

I have a few more tips to add to those above. Most of them are geared towards the photo blog community rather than general blogging sites, but read on even if you’re not running a photoblog!

  1. Join Photoblogs.org before you do anything else. It’s the center of the photoblog universe and it’s worth participating in the community there.
  2. Join VFXY and Cool photoblogs. VFXY displays thumbnails of their member’s blogs which is great for driving traffic. Coolphotoblogs is a photoblog directory. I’m a member of the former, but something went wrong with my application to the latter and I haven’t bothered figuring it out yet.
  3. Join Flickr, Zooomr, 23HQ and any other social photo sharing site you care to mention. Zooomr are offering premium accounts to bloggers still I think. You can host your photo there, saving your bandwidth costs. It’s also a very good way of exposing your photography to a wider audience. Thanks to Flickr I’ve almost made back the cost of hosting this website through sales of my photos.
  4. Taking a leaf from Richard above, if you host your images on Flickr, they require a link back to that picture’s page on flickr.com. Make sure you don’t leak page rank by adding rel=’external nofollow’ to that link. The same applies to Zooomr and 23HQ of course.
  5. Visit the Photoblogs.org wiki, especially the tips and tricks page and how to get traffic to your photoblog.
  6. Write. Search engines can’t do much with an image, but if you describe the image in a small paragraph of text that will help. In a similar vein, every photo should have a title. It might be tempting to number the image, or call them “Untitled #98″, “Untitled #99″, “Untitled #100″ and so on, but that won’t help people find your website.
  7. As you’re now writing, link. Link to other sites and blogs and do it often. Photoblogs don’t link enough. Where’s the conversation? Everybody has their heads stuck in the sand doing their own thing, afraid that they’ll lose visitors for good if they leave their site. Link to specific blog posts and those posts will be sent a “ping” or a “trackback”. That tells that blog’s owner you’ve been talking about his work. It also plants a link to your blog right in his comments section where his visitors can find it and follow what you said about his work. Here’s a ping my blog sent to an older post on my site. My feed reader post has lots of external links. Oh look, there’ll be a ping from that link too! Links really are the lifeblood of your blog.
  8. I may be biased, but I recommend you use WordPress to host your photoblog. It has support for pinging and trackbacks out of the box, a facility some other photoblog software don’t have. If you don’t want to host a WordPress blog yourself, open a blog on WordPress.com and check out what people are posting about photography, photos and even flickr. It’s a bit more limited than a regular WordPress blog but you’ll get a good feel for it. Best of all, you can export your blog and host it yourself when you feel up to it!
  9. If you do use WordPress, install Ultimate Tag Warrior so your posts are categorised in a fine grained manner. Tags do wonderful things for search engines, and this is a must have for any WordPress blog. Note that tagging support is going into WordPress right now, but it’s still being developed. I think a small script to convert UTW tags to WordPress tags is called for. Hopefully I’ll have it running here within the next few days.
  10. Join Google webmaster tools and enable “Enhanced Image Search”. Read more about it here but I’ve noticed an increase in hits from Google Image Search since I opted in to it.
  11. Claim your blog on Technorati. Here’s the Technorati page for this blog. Add an icon to your user account to encourage clicks on your stories there.

With a few changes to your photoblog you can drastically increase the traffic to your site and share your work with a wider audience. You never know, one of your photos could become a viral email attachment sent around to thousands of people in offices and homes.

Clearing out my feed reader

My feed addiction has got to stop! It’s a great way to keep up to date on my favourite blogs but when it gets to over 300 blogs then something has to be done. That means cutting back on my subscriptions. Unfortunately the first to go will be those photoblogs that don’t offer a full feed, or only show thumbnails. If I had time, I’d visit your blog every day but I don’t, and it’s impossible to judge the merits of a photo from a tiny thumbprint of an image.

Without further ado, here’s the list of blogs I have dropped from my feed reader. If you’ve come here because you saw traffic to your blog through a link in this post, please consider a full feed. I’d be back like a shot because I enjoyed your photography enough to subscribe in the first place!

Your feed readers are the most loyal of your readers and they should be treated accordingly. Give them something to get their teeth into instead of a small morsel and you’ll find that traffic to your blog increases, you’ll get more links to your posts and maybe even more comments by an appreciative audience.

Here are the photography related blogs that stay.

And a lot more but I got tired of copy/pasting everything.

Coming up on Monday: search engine tips for your photoblog. Don’t miss it!

Irish Blog Awards shortlist

Sob! Inphotos.org didn’t make the shortlist! I should have put that vote link and logo in the header like I did last year. I have been shortlisted for “Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere”. I guess it’s for that WordPress thingy, eh? Thanks to everyone who voted for me. It’s really appreciated!

Plenty of great links on Damien’s shortlist post, including a couple of photoblogs I hadn’t visited. Here’s the shortlist, go pay them a visit. There are some excellent images awaiting your viewing pleasure!

My dream photoblog theme

  • The blog will have two displays: compact and full.
  • Compact format: on the front page of the blog it shall display one primary photo on the left hand side of the browser with description, permalink and a comments link. On the right shall be a dozen thumbnails from previous posts. Above and below the image will be “Next” and “Previous” links to newer and older posts. These links must point at permalinks, not /page/X/ urls.
  • Clicking on a thumbnail will refresh the left hand side of the browser, displaying the new image, description, permalink and comments.
  • As I like to write about photography I want to display the last post from my Words category under the main image of the front page of the site.
  • Articles in the Words category will be displayed one by one like the default “compact” format of the blog.
  • When a user clicks on the permalink of a photo the display will look the same as the front page but it will not have the newest post from the Words category.
  • Full format: Clicking on a “Show all” button above the thumbnails will load a new stylesheet that will make the page appear in a more traditional blog format with multiple posts per page and the newest at the top. Much like this page. Next and Prev links have to morph to /page/X/ links.
  • Search engines and non-css aware clients will see a “normal” blog with multiple posts per page.
  • Browsing a tag or category archive will follow the same compact/full format as above.
  • Need space for advertising as well. Top and sidebar.

Colin Finch is working on a photoblog theme with thumbnails in the sidebar. He’s using the “optional excerpt” feature of WordPress to handle the thumbnails. Unfortunately he’s battling with Internet Explorer because it’s not behaving. Can someone lend him a hand?

Yes I want a photoblog, and a regular blog, with a cherry on top please.