As a disclaimer, I want to say that I am by no means an expert on this. I started the One Word Photo Challenge in January of 2014 and I am so happy that it’s still going strong thanks to all the wonderful weekly participants. All in all, this post will outline how I began the challenge, my various inspirations, how I’ve adjusted along the way, how I got the word out and what I do to keep it going.
Allow me to bounce around a bit, if you bear with me it will all come together…
In high school, in my digital photography class, we had various assignments. As a side project, weekly, we’d have 1 word to create an image for. Those images would be projected on the wall at the end of the week. We would vote for our favorite and whoever won got to choose the word for the next week. While I often rushed my high school assignments, something about this way of working inspired me. Having just one word. It’s a topic, so it guides you, but you still have the freedom to branch off in so many ways.
Since joining WordPress, I’ve loved participating in the Weekly Photo Challenges. However, I’m the type of person that likes to prepare far in advance. While I don’t always create new photos when I participate in other photo challenges, I prefer to. Creating new images pushes my creativity, adds to my portfolio and allows me to share things with my followers that they haven’t seen before.
I also love Cee’s challenges – particularly Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, and I always appreciated that she posts lists of future topics.
Then, I decided I wanted to host a photo challenge here on my blog. It seemed like a great way to become more involved in the WordPress community and to encourage myself and others to keep taking and sharing photographs.
Establish your goals. Why do you want to host a photo challenge?
Observe and participate in a variety of other photo challenges. What do you like and not like about each of those?
Figure out how to make an appealing challenge – something that people will continue returning to.
I covered the first and second point in talking about my challenge above. However, I’d like to outline my process for the third a bit more. For “appealing” I went with only having one word topics. This allowed me to pull from a positive past experience, and helps me keep things consistent when coming up with new topics. You may not be about consistency, and that’s okay, but I wanted some pretty strict guidelines for myself, so I wouldn’t just derail my own challenge after a few months.
Come up with a memorable name for your challenge.
The ‘One Word Photo Challenge’ might be a little lengthy, but it describes quite simply what my challenge is all about. To some it’s still confusing, but that’s what your photo challenges home base is all about (more on that in a minute). It can also be easily abbreviated to ‘OWPC.’ And once your challenge is known within your circle, abbreviations catch on pretty easily.
Decide if your challenge will include daily, weekly, monthly, yearly topics, etc.
For the OWPC I chose weekly topics. I like the idea of having at least a week to come up with something, for those who don’t look ahead on future challenges. Daily challenges stress me out, and as for being a host, I know I would not be able to keep up with that many topics, photos and posts.
It’s really up to you though. Figure out what you enjoy and will be able to keep up with.
Come up with a list of topics.
You don’t have to be like me and plan way way way in advance. However, it’s a good idea to at least have a few weeks, months, days (however you’re posting your challenges) planned out. If nothing else, this way you will be prepared.
Create a home base for your challenge.
I for one made a post announcing the challenge. It outlined my goals, rules and future topics. I’ve since edited that post over and over again as I’ve added new topics, tweaked things etc. Some of you may prefer a page, so that it seems more permanent. It’s really up to you.
Advertise for your challenge. (I suggest you begin this at least a week, if not longer, before the challenge starts. You need time to get the word out before the first topic goes live)
- Submit your challenge as a blogging event here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/submit-blogging-event/
- So that other bloggers can find it here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/blog-events-listing/
- Add a link to your page, either as a widget or menu item
- As your challenge continues, some of your followers and people who find you through WordPress’ blogging events page will join in. Then the followers of those people will discover your challenge and so forth. Word of mouth is your best method here. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a lot of participants at first or ever. All that matters is that you and those that do participating are getting something from it.
Being on WordPress’ blogging events page was one of the most important steps for me. When I started the challenge I didn’t have a lot of blog interactions, so while posting about my challenge on my own blog was important, WordPress’ page allowed for people who didn’t yet know of my blog, learn about my challenge. Here’s what my event listing looks like: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_event/one-word-photo-challenge/
As for adding a link to my own page, I’ve experimented with both widgets and menu links. For those of you that follow me, you’ve probably noticed that my menu and widgets keep changing lately. I edit them then decide I don’t like how they look a day later. In any case, I’ve settled on mentioning the OWPC in my about page and having a image based widget in my footer.
This one is optional, but it’s a nice touch. As you peruse other challenges, and the blog posts of those participating in the challenges, you’ll learn a lot of bloggers like badges. Small images to post to their blog posts that visually show what they’re participating in, allow for a link back to the original challenge post, and make for a shift in blogging content.
Here’s what my first badge looked like – after quickly being thrown together in Photoshop:
And here’s my new one, after I decided I wanted to begin to brand my blog and challenge a bit better:
I’m not going to go into depth on how to create a badge on this post, but if you have any questions please ask in the comments. If you’re not a Photoshop user, a great, free site to check out for all your social media badges, headers, etc. is Canva. WordPress has even done a couple posts about it. All the images you see on my other WordPress site were created in Canva.
Create your first challenge topic blog post, including a link back to your challenge’s home base. Since it’s a photo challenge, it’s also a good idea to come up with some images of your own to include in the post on the topic. And since it’s your first post you may want to introduce yourself and reiterate what your challenge is all about.
Here’s my homebase: http://jennifernicholewells.com/2014/01/28/one-word-photo-challenge/
And my most recent post: http://jennifernicholewells.com/2015/08/04/one-word-photo-challenge-foggy/
You’ll notice that a ton has changed since my first post and my most recent. Just as I have, you will learn along the way the best way to format your posts. I’ve learned that it’s good to include a lot of information in each post about what’s coming up, what the challenge is about, etc. Not everyone will click the links you’ve included to read what’s on your home base, past posts etc. And you have to realize you may have hosted a challenge for 5 years, but someone’s just discovered it today. Think about what they’ll need to know as a new comer to the challenge.
Follow up with your participants. In your post, ask that they tag their post with a specific phrase, that they leave a comment with their blog post’s link, or that they ping back to your post. Make sure there’s a way you can find the blogs of those that join in. And when you do find them like and comment. Encourage participation by being a good host. And, like me, I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing the creative things others come up with for your topic – sometimes things you never would have thought of. You’ll also like becoming part of a tight nit community, where you recognize those that join in week after week and come to know them a bit better.
Here’s what I now put at the beginning of every single post. It includes information on the challenge, future topics, tags, etc. I get that it’s pretty lengthy, but it makes the lives of those who participate a lot easier. (Click here to see this in an actual post)
Decide how you want to list you contributors.
- I simply include a link back to every post on my next week’s blog post. Click here, and scroll down to the end of the post for an example.
- Cee (I hope you don’t mind me using you as an example) chooses a few bloggers to feature each week, based on posts that really grabbed her from the week before.
- Michelle (the same for you), for her Weekly Pet Challenge has bloggers submit their post links to a Mister Linky widget on her sidebar, then creates a round up of images on her blog each week.
- Update 8/9: As Terri mentioned in the comments below (thank you for doing so), you can also use inlinkz to host link parties
Each option works great. I’m sure there are even more ways of doing so out there. Just decide what you like best/what works best for you.
(Just an fyi, but if you use a link up tool, you can’t embed the widget to a wordpress.com post, this only works on wordpress.org. However, if you prefer to use a link up tool, you can still provide a link in your post that will take visitors to the link up page where they can see all the contributor links.)
Sorry to leave this on unlucky thirteen…Hope you’re not too superstitious.
Watch your participation numbers, photo skills, followers, love of blogging, etc. grow and continue to post new topics and to tweak your challenge as need be. It’s great to listen to and learn from participant’s opinions on these items as well.
Read more about hosting a blogging event here. As WordPress outlines, there are more ways to host a blogging event and more ways to promote it. What’s above comes strictly from my own experience.
Do you host a challenge? Do you plan to? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments below.