LASTLIGHTS.NET was born in September 2013. At first, I was using the domain name for my Tumblr blog (i.e. domain masking for lastlightsnet.tumblr.com ) that I started around the same time, but soon set up a WordPress-powered photo gallery website that looks similar to how it looks today (see it on Wayback Machine ).
It was purely for my self-satisfaction. I didn’t care about web traffic or how fast the website loads, so uploaded all the photos as PNG (the highest quality format but much larger file size than JPG), because I didn’t want to compromise image quality for speed. It sounds narcissistic 😅 but the website existed just for my own pleasure.
In 2015, I started writing blog posts regularly to share tips and experience shooting long exposure photos at blue hour, and in October released a short 10-page eBook titled “Taking Your First Very Long Exposure Shots at Twilight and Dusk”. This was a free eBook that anybody can download by subscribing with an email address.
Web traffic to my website was pretty low (10 to 20 pageviews a day 😅), which didn’t help the eBook get noticed, so tried submitting guest posts to dPS (Digital Photography School website) to gain some exposure. My first guest post was published in August 2017. Since then, I’ve published a total of 18 guest posts with dPS (11) and PetaPixel (7).
I don’t get paid for these guest posts, but they let me add a link to my eBook in “Author Bio” section, which helped me acquire a few dozen new subscribers every time a guest post went live.
At the same time, I was busy writing a full version of the eBook with an intention to sell to my subscribers as an upgrade. Due to my perfectionist nature, it took me 3+ years to write a 41-page long eBook, but finally released at the end of November 2020. It’s titled Mastering Long Exposure Photography at Blue Hour (a shameless plug 😅 but still available at USD9.90!).
By that time, the subscribers count was increased to 650 (thanks to 18 guest posts over the years). I had no idea how many out of 650 subscribers would purchase my eBook, but it turned out that 6 sales were made in the first month.
I’m not sure how people typically think, but I don’t see this number as a big failure, but it was far from success that I had envisioned. While feeling upbeat about people really buying my eBook and giving 5-star reviews, it was more of a disappointment, considering the time and effort I had put in, not just for releasing the eBook, but also everything else I had worked on.
A lesson learned here is that the majority of so-called subscribers have no intention to pay a single cent. 😅 That said, this mindset is all too common, as many people tend to expect everything to be free on the Internet. So, in order to succeed in this model (i.e. offer a freebie to collect email addresses, then promote a paid product), we probably need tens of thousands of subscribers to start with, as only a tiny percentage of subscribers can be converted into customers.
In the entire 2021, I made another 6 sales from my quarterly newsletters where I promoted the eBook. Sadly, every time I sent out newsletters, some people unsubscribed 😅, so my subscribers count has now been reduced to 560.
Then, came November 2021, I rather abruptly decided to close my WordPress-powered website that I had run for the past 8 years. Simply put, I gave up. It wasn’t just the eBook that didn’t do well, but web traffic wasn’t growing at all, still hovering around 10 to 20 pageviews a day after all these years of blogging to share tips and experience. At that point, I found it meaningless to continue any longer.
I went onto cancelling web-hosting (which saves a few hundred USD a year), but kept the domain name on second thought, and just like in 2013, used it for my Tumblr blog, running under LASTLIGHTS.NET by domain masking once again.
In 2021, decided to end my aspirations to “get noticed” as a photographer. Stopped running WordPress website, stopped submitting guest posts to PetaPixel. I’m now with Tumblr, just posting photos for my self-satisfaction without expecting any recognition. I’m happier this way. 😅
— Joey J 📸 (@lastlightsnet) February 13, 2022
For a short while, I enjoyed simple blogging with Tumblr (posting a photo with a short description only) but started to feel pressured to post new photos regularly (although nobody is waiting for it 😅).
To me, it’s impossible to post a new photo every week, as I only shoot twice a week on average, and I only want to post photos that I consider to be good enough. There’s nothing worse than ending up posting so-so photos just to keep the schedule (e.g. posting on every Sunday).
I became increasingly uncomfortable with the “blogging concept” where new posts are expected regularly. Then, came up with an idea to set up a photo gallery website, just like the one that I used to have at the very beginning.
For such a website, there’s no better platform than WordPress. I coded my new website on the local server environment, then signed up for web-hosting again and went live in mid-April (under LASTLIGHTS.NET domain by removing domain masking from Tumblr).
In this gallery website, besides the home page featuring top 24 photos of all time, there’s one gallery page per year (e.g. 2022 Gallery). What I do is open a new page in January every year, then keep adding favourite photos to the same page throughout the year whenever I shoot something worthy of inclusion. In this way, I have no pressure to post on schedule.
So, after several years of hustling unsuccessfully, I’ve come back to how it started, which is to shoot and post for self-satisfaction. 😂 No, I’m not feeling bitter, as everything I went through was an interesting experience, such as releasing eBooks, making some sales, learning how to automate email marketing, getting guest posts published, etc.
Now back again on WordPress with the gallery-centric website, this is a new dawn for LASTLIGHTS.NET. At the end of the day, I love both photography and running a website regardless of getting recognised or not, so there’s no reason for me to stop!