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If you consider yourself a photographer, chances are you’ve heard of or even consulted +David Hobby’s blog, Strobist (http://strobist.blogspot.com/). In fact, members of the Blogger team are known to check Strobist for lighting and photography tips. Recently, David stopped by Google Headquarters in Mountain View to meet with us and to discuss his experiences with Blogger. Afterwards, he kindly agreed to be interviewed for this Q&A.

How long have you been using Blogger? How did you get started?

I started Strobist with Blogger in early 2006. The goal was to share what I had learned about photographic lighting while working as a photojournalist for the past 20 years. I had no idea what kind of pent-up demand there was for that kind information. Within a week, the site was getting five thousand views a day. And it just kept growing from there.

Has your content changed over the years?

Absolutely. The very first content modules were Lighting 101 and On Assignment. 101 was a basic, start-from-zero lighting course, and OA was all of that information put into practice in the field. There are several threaded courses (for lack of a better word) within the site. This creates large group of enthusiastic lighting photographers.

Today, the blog is essentially an ongoing conversation with that demographic. In 2006 it would not have made sense to start a print magazine about photographic lighting. In 2011, if Strobist were a photo magazine it would be one of the largest in ones in the world. That never ceases to amaze me.

How many hours do you spend updating your blog? What are some elements of your daily blogging work?

That is hard to quantify, actually. I think I work a little more than full-time, but with very atypical hours. I am writing this at 1:00am. But yesterday I took a couple hours off in the afternoon to go on a 6-mile hike. That said, I was probably thinking about blog-related stuff during most of the hike. So does that count as working? I think so. Honestly, I consider the thinking done during a 6- or 9- or 12-mile hike on a nice day some of the most well-spent and productive work time of all.

How were you able to make blogging a full-time job?

Blogging regularly is a full-time job pretty much automatically. If you are into it, part of your brain is always churning ideas and free associating. Turning it into a full-time income is a different matter. I started with Adsense and Amazon Associates, then moved into direct (no agency) CPM advertising. I have a group of great, long-term advertisers who I consider partners and for whom I am very grateful. They provide the gas for the whole operation.

Incidentally, I do not think the economics would have made sense (certainly in the beginning) without Blogger’s being free. But not just free -- robust, stable, easy to use, etc. This is a huge thing, and I don’t think a lot of people fully comprehend how valuable an asset that is.

I mean Gutenberg was great and everything. But you still had to buy the press, service it, have people to run it and buy paper and ink. The combination of the internet and ‘free’ is amazing. We live in magical times.

What was the best advice you received when you started out blogging?

In 2006 there was not a lot of advice floating around, really. I learned a lot from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net. But you really had to be willing to feel around in the dark a bit, make mistakes, take chances with your voice, etc. I have always been a big admirer of what Nick Denton has done with Gawker Media. The voice and vibe have always been so spot-on. You knew from the moment you read the first post that this was not just an extension of traditional media. It was a whole new ecosystem.

But if I was to offer a single piece of advice now, I would say that you need to create content that is good enough for readers to want to tell someone else about it. If you can do that regularly, everything else will fall into place. If you can’t do that regularly, you are gonna be pushing water uphill. Content first, figure everything else out later.

What’s your next big project?

Right now there are two big new things happening with Strobist. Now that there is a group of a few hundred thousand photographers coalesced around the idea of lighting, what could you do with that? Most are amateurs, but many are super talented and full of enthusiasm. I want to explore the continuum between pro and amateur photographers to find out which people are using their photography to affect real change. And then to write about them to create a positive feedback loop within the rest of the community.

The Chinese version of the site, which we created more recently, gave us a chance to rethink everything from the beginning with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. That, coupled with the huge numbers of emerging middle class photographers in China, is very exciting. You have a traditionally closed society which is exploding into the information age. If we can play a small part in raising the bar for the photographic portion of that conversation, that’s very exciting.

Who is your favorite photographer / what is your favorite photograph?

Oh, that’s tough. My “inspiration” folder in my browser has hundreds of websites. But I am really drawn to the work of two photographers -- Greg Heisler and Dan Winters. Their portraiture is absolutely transcendental.

But as far as a single picture, (and other than my family photographs) the one that has had the biggest effect on me is the shot of the Afghan refugee girl, done by Steve McCurry in the early 80’s. I couldn’t stop looking at it. Eventually, it made me walk away from an engineering degree to become a newspaper photographer.
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