(Editor’s Note: Jason Groupp is a St. Louis-based portrait photographer specializing in family portraiture. You can learn more about him on his website.)
Some people took up knitting during the pandemic while others started baking bread. For me, I concentrated on my podcast and it’s one of the best things I’ve done to keep me connected to and stay involved in the photography community I love so much.
Titled Something New Every Week (or SNEW’s for short), I actually launched the podcast the last week of February 2020 just prior to the whole world going on COVID lockdown. The motivation to do a podcast was about finding a way for me to continue to engage with the photography community after leaving my position with WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) in New York City and moving to St. Louis to take a new job.
In my research, podcasts seemed to provide the least technical barrier for entry, and it was a format I was more comfortable with than, say, starting a YouTube channel. I was also trying to spend as little money as possible on launch costs and, as I discovered, getting a podcast up and running really wasn’t that expensive.
The more difficult part was nailing the focus of the podcast and growing an audience. Yes, there are a LOT of competing photography podcasts out there and I had initially thought of SNEW’s as providing tips and advice from photographers. But after a few false starts, it morphed into something different and, as it turns out, much better. Now it’s really just fun but informative conversations with my friends in the photography community, which has been much more well received.
So, every week I get to talk to the movers, shakers, and yes, the influencers in the world of professional photography whether it’s the head of a lighting company, a successful sports photographer, or the editor-in-chief of a photography magazine. It took a while to hit my stride with podcasting though, so here are six things I learned along the way to help you start your own engaging photography podcast.
#1 Decide Why You Want to Do a Podcast
I know it sounds like a simple thing, but have you asked yourself why you want to do a podcast? If it’s for fame and fortune, forget it. There are millions of other podcasts out there and thousands (if not more) about photography alone. There’s barely any money in it and growing an audience is difficult. But that doesn’t mean your voice isn’t important. You just have to figure out what you want to say and go for it.
Most of the photography podcasts out there are tips for other photographers. And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this story, I tried that, and it didn’t work for me. Instead, it’s now about me pulling out interesting stories from my photography friends, which is something I’m really good at. I knew that as a person before, but I really lean into it now with the podcast. Find out what aspect of podcasting will play to your strengths and lean into it.
#2 Think of Content You’d Want to Listen To
When trying to come up with a focus or style for your podcast, think of content you’d want to listen to as a photographer. A simple way to begin is to think of podcasts you already enjoy listening to. Tim Ferris, whose podcast is called The Tim Ferris Show, is one of my favorites. I love his podcasts because they are literally just conversations with people he wants to talk to and that’s what I try to emulate.
Then, secondly, think of content your community would want to listen to. If you’re a wedding photographer, maybe interview each client about their wedding. Or it could be offering tips to people who are looking to hire a photographer. Be an expert; take the knowledge you already have and turn it into quality content. Share stories of great photography shoots and why they were successful. At the beginning, it’s going to be a bit of trial and error. But once you figure out what people are interested in hearing about, double down on it.
#3 Pick Great Guests
For your first podcast guest, I’d suggest picking someone you’re comfortable talking to, like a friend, because you’ve got to work the kinks out. Don’t start with someone intimidating or someone you might not get a second chance with if you screw it up. After you pick someone you’d have an easy conversation with, try someone you’d have an animated conversation with to get the juices flowing. Eventually you’ll want to try to land guests who have name recognition in your community because that will help bring an audience.
Have a cheat sheet for topics with your guests but, in my opinion, don’t use a script unless you are teaching something. Of course, a hot topic in your community or anything that’s controversial will also help draw an audience. But, keep in mind, a consistent audience for your podcast won’t likely show up for six months and your audience probably won’t grow until you hit a year of podcasts. In my case, I started being a lot more honest with myself and my career after six months in and that resonated with people more. It’s not an easy thing for people to do in the beginning but as you get more comfortable, don’t be afraid to say what’s really on your mind. Your guests and your audience will appreciate it.
#4 Technical Considerations
Don’t get too bogged down with technical stuff but there are a few things you should know. For podcast hosting, I went with Buzzsprout because I didn’t want to sign up for a lot of subscription-based stuff and Buzzsprout was the cheapest. For editing audio, I chose Audacity, which is free. Honestly, I learned how to edit audio through three YouTube videos. I just took their workflow and that’s what I use. I use a DSLR as a webcam and record the audio through Skype because it’s better than anything else out there, including Zoom. Though I shoot video of my conversations with guests, my podcasts are audio-only. It’s just easier to interview someone when you can see each other but I let the guests know I throw away the video because I want them to feel comfortable. For a microphone, you shouldn’t pay more that $100. I use a Blue Yeti, which cost me around that. For your podcast “studio,” find the quietest room in your house with the best Internet connection and use that location. The smaller the space the better; literally a closet is the best place to do it and it really does make a difference in sound quality.
#5 Create a Brand or Identity for Your Podcast
The idea for “Something New Every Week” came from working with a branding person. We were coming up with content ideas, and he said you should do a show with all the people you know that’s broad enough it can morph into something that’s not even photography related. I’ve often thought this podcast could be about anything since it’s “something new every week.” For a logo, you need to have something so people can identify you on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it though. Use Canva or Adobe Spark or go on Fiverr. I think I paid $5 for someone to create my logo for me on Fiverr. Remember though, it’s usually a thumbnail and it needs to be visually very clear, which is why I have a camera in the logo since it’s still an important part of my brand. For the music for your intro, there are lots of places you can get inexpensive, licensed music online. I paid $5 for mine and it’s a perpetual license.
#6 Consistency Is Key
We are creatures of habit, and we consume content the same way, so you’ve got to be consistent with your podcasting. If you develop an audience that’s used to listening to your podcast once a week and you stop doing it once a week, they’ll stop listening. It’s that simple. One way I’ve been able to keep “SNEW’s” going every week is to record several episodes at one time so I can keep a bank of content in reserve. Some podcasters release a full season of their podcasts at once, but I don’t understand that. It might work if it’s evergreen content, but my stuff is not evergreen. It’s very to the moment. I also like to build anticipation for an upcoming podcast, which gives me another way to promote it. The biggest challenge in podcasting is just doing it. If you say you’re going to do it once a week or once a month, you have to stick to that schedule. Your audience will come if you produce consistent quality content.