Three Thousand and Counting. Growing my YouTube channel
In the world of blogging and vlogging, sometimes you can put lots of work into something and it will fall flat, and then other times you can have success with something that you don’t ever expect to be successful. After a few months of slowly ramping up the effort I put into it, my YouTube channel seems to be starting to gain some traction, especially with my Street Photo Diary series. I’ve just published the tenth episode on YouTube, and my channel has just crossed the 3000 mark. These two albeit minor milestones have caused me to reflect and look back on how I got to this point, and where I want to go next.
It was only really at the start of this year, that I first decided to try and start creating YouTube videos properly. My channel has actually been around for a good few years (since 2010), but previously, while I had done lots of screencasts and stuff, I wasn’t really putting any effort into it. Still, I wanted to try vlogging, so I got a new vlogging camera and a better GoPro, and the first serious attempt was with my Photo Wander series. I took the opportunity of some travel early this year to do a series of Vlogs. It was a way to get better at producing and filming these, and while some of it was moderately successful, for me anyway, it was mainly a way to hone my skills, and get practice. At the end of the day, that’s what is most important - practice.
Video has always been in my DNA. I spent most of my career working in the television industry as a motion graphics artist, but I love moving pictures. I love good cinematography and nicely shot video. I worked in the local cinema as a teenager, so that’s probably where it started. It was actually my love of cinematography that pushed me in the photography realm. I always wanted to get into shooting video properly, but I ever really thought I wold have an avenue. I actually started my career by doing a course on video and film production, but I ended up in the post production side, as I was always interested in 3d and 2d motion graphics, and I was good at it. I have shot projects as part of motion graphics work for clients, and I always enjoyed it, but I never really found a way to focus on my dream of making my own video projects, until I realised (after watching a Casey Neistat Video) YouTube is a way for me to make that happen.
YouTube gets a bad rap for many reasons. The notion of being a “YouTuber” has probably gotten some bad press due to some high profile idiots, but at the end of the day, it’s just a platform. Despite its flaws, it offers a way for the average person to access an audience that they wouldn’t otherwise have. And despite the criticism, it’s probably the most creator friendly platform out there, especially compared to instagram.
I realised that I could leverage my photography audience, and use that as a subject for my video ambitions. The whole idea started last year when my brother gave me his old GoPro. It was a first generation, so it was fairly crappy, and I got a hot-shoe mount for it which would let me mount it on my camera. I then tried to record the point of view when I went out shooting, as I thought it might make an interesting video. The first serious attempt at this was with my film camera, and I ended up making the footage black and white, as the quality from the old GoPro was so bad, while the stills were in colour. Funnily enough, I got some good comments on this, so I thought I tired making some other videos like this, the first of which weren’t that successful. I had a long running series on my website of photo collections, called “Street Photo Diary” and so I ended up using this name for the video series too.
This (below) was the first episode of Street Photo Diary It’s kind of embarrassing to look at now. It was underexposed, shaky, and pretty crappy overall. But it was probably the Street Photo Diary series that has most propelled my channel forward. With the first few episodes, it was still just me experimenting. It wasn’t until I had managed to hone the formula with the photo wander series, that I started to make the videos work.
I took the experience from shooting the vlog style of Photo Wander and applied that to how I approached Street Photo Diary. As people also liked the GoPro on camera interspersed with actual finished stills, I kept that as part of it too, and it seems to be working. While my viewership numbers are still relatively small compared to other YouTubers, I’m still a small and growing channel, and so I’m happy with how its going. My most popular episode to date (embedded below) has nearly 14,000 views, which I know isn’t much in terms of popular channels like Casey Niestat or Peter McKinnon, but it’s a big number for me.
The other thing that I did that seemed to resonate with people was add a mix of gear, tips and art into the video. I found that when I made an episode about a specific camera, even if that was only a small part of it, people resonated with it more. I also found that shooting with older, and more cult-classic type of cameras were also popular. The two most successful videos were about the Canon 5D (original) and the Sony A6000.
I tired a few things that didn’t quite work out too. I tried to do your typical vlog series, but it didn’t really work out. But then, I probably didn’t gave it enough time. I may still go back to that. I’m still doing the screencast type of tutorial videos too, and they vary in terms of the interest that they generate. A recent video about Capture One express did really well and generated lots of interest.
At the start of this year, I had under a thousand subscribers (I think - I can’t remember when I crossed the thousand mark) and now I’ve just passed the three thousand mark. I know that you hear stories about YouTubers who hit a million in a year, but I’m guessing they’re outliers. I have put a good bit of work into it, but I’m also working a job, and producing my website at the same time, so I haven’t been making it my full time project either. Still, I’m happy with how its grown. But it’s just the start.
Over the next few months I want to make it even better. I have some ideas for some more scripted style videos, and of course Street Photo Diary will continue. I’m going to try and do another two episodes before the end of the year and that will be “Season 1” effectively. Maybe I’ll end with a cliffhanger! Don’t worry though, I’m not abandoning the website or the blog. I have been busy with other work lately so it’s slacked off a little, but I have a big list of things to write about, and there’s a few big things coming over the next two months that will be generating a lot of interest so I will be writing (and making videos) about those too.
To all those who’ve watched my videos over the past few months, and left kind and encouraging comments, I want to really thank you. You’ve made it all worth while. I hope you’ll keep watching, and please spread the word and help me grow the channel even more. If you have suggestions for videos that you would like to see, please let me know in the comments below.
(Cover Image via Unsplash)
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