Creating ShootTokyo

Creating ShootTokyo

A lot of people dream of starting a blog one day.  I was one of those people and last year decided to start ShootTokyo – a friendly photography blog.   It has been an interesting and often times a frustrating process.   I knew exactly what I wanted the outcome to be but I was very confused on how to get there.   There are so many choices out there.   It was a new world of terminology and decisions that I was not familiar with.  I know some of you feel the same way by some of the emails and questions I get from people.  There are so many ways to approach building a blog…here is how I went about creating ShootTokyo.

#1 – Choose a Theme

The first thing I decided on was what software I wanted to use.  There are a lot of choices in blogging platforms but some of the more popular ones are Tumblr, Blogger and Word Press to name a few.   I actually didn’t decide on this first but rather I decided the theme I wanted and worked backwards into what platform it needed to be installed on.  I looked at a bunch of different packages on the market and ultimately decided to use ProPhoto Blogs as the examples sites were what I was looking to create; a clean site with big, bold images and the prices seemed reasonable as well.    The package is $199 USD.  They provide hand held installation for an additional $80.  From my experience it was so easy to install this extra option isn’t needed.

Prophoto Blogs

#2 – Choose a platform

This was easy for me as I chose my theme first as it is built for Word Press.   Word Press is one of the most popular website and blogging platforms out there.  Most hosting companies provide an installer and you can easily install it.   The great thing about Word Press is there are so many plug-ins that allow you to do just about anything you need with your site.  There are also many themes to allow you to achieve just about any look and feel.

Word Press

#3 – Choose a Service Provider

Now I needed somewhere to install/host my blog.   There are a million hosting options out there.   I went with   Mostly because I knew them from their SuperBowl Commercials.    Knowing that I was going to be hosting photographs which should be pretty heavy I wanted something very reliable so I went with the Linux hosting that gave me 99.9% uptime, 24/7 technical support, and an email account $179 for 5 years.  Knowing that I wanted to eventually do some type of eCommerce such as selling ShootTokyo T-Shirts I also went with an SSL (secure) option for an additional $191 USD for 5 years.   I also went with Search Engine Visibility Tool and Site Analytics for $199 for 5 years.    This worked out to be about $10 a month to host ShootTokyo.   I found that I don’t really use Search Engine Visibility much and could have achieved a lot of the same things with Google Analytics as I do with Site Analytics but I like this software and the views it gives me.

#4 – Buy a domain

The next thing I needed to do is figure out where to host my site on the web.  I needed a domain.  There are a couple of ways to buy a domain.  You can search domain names at to see if they are already being used.  If they are you can either try to contact the owner if their information is listed or you can engage one of the companies that sells domain names and hire them to buy it for you.  I found a few that were owned but didn’t appear to being used such as and www.davidpowellphotography but ultimately the owners wanted more than I was willing to pay.   The other option is to find one that isn’t being used and buy it from companies like   It is easier to get address like .net, or .org but the best choice in my opinion is always a .com.   It’s also best to avoid numbers and hyphens as the names are a little harder to remember; i.e. or

Ultimately you want something that sounds catchy and is easy to remember.   I went with ShootTokyo as I think it has a nice ring to it and it was something I could ‘brand’ around.  I didn’t think going with sounded very catchy nor could I brand with it.   Domain Names are actually fairly cheap to purchase.  I got for 10 years for $76 with auto registration.  It is best to auto register so you don’t go through the same embarrassment that Microsoft did when they forgot to renew in the UK and it went for sale on the open market for $35.  You can read about it HERE.  If you have something that is easy to misspell or mistype you might want to buy some alternative domains as well and point them to your primary domain.  For example, I bought and have it pointed to

OK…I have all of my foundational components so now what?

#5 Installing your blog

Once your hosting provider has everything set up you will be able to install your WordPress site. has an installer and the only decision I needed to make was where to install it i.e. or /blog and Go Daddy did the rest for me.  For me, I wanted the blog to be the landing page for my visitors so I installed it at the highest level of the domain.  It is very difficult to move your site later and you will lose a lot of the benefit of pages that were indexed.

The great thing about WordPress is the number of plug-ins to allow you to extend the functionality of your site.  It is also completely overwhelming when you first get started.   There are so many choices but here are a few of the key ones I installed and found useful;

Akismet – Blocks comment spam and you can’t believe how many you’ll get without it.  Mine has blocked 1,000s of spam comments from people posting links to get people to click to their site.

All in one SEO Pack – This will help with getting your blog to show up in key word searches which is useful if you want readers.

Google XML Site Map – It creates a site map making it easier for search engines to crawl your site.

Subscribe to Comments – Allows people who leave a comment to be notified of a follow up comment via email.

Popular Posts – Allows you to display popular posts out to readers.

WP-Polls – Allows you to run polls on your site (see below)

WP Super Cache – Increase the performance of your blog

WP Touch Pro – Creates iPhone, iPad and Android sites for your blog.  Access on your mobile device and check it out.

Sexy Bookmarks – Makes it easy for readers to share on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.

#6 Configuring your blog

Once WordPress was installed I simply uploaded ProPhoto Blogs Theme and I am read to get started.  I could either use one of the theme they had or make as many modifications as I wanted.  Now this is the real power of theme, you can modify anything.   I actually spend so much time on this part.    I really wanted a clean look and feel.    I spent a lot of time playing with different color themes trying to figure out what worked best.  Kuler from Adobe is a great site to see how c0lors work together.     I still didn’t have the look and feel I wanted.

I took a step back and spend some time working on a logo and once I finally decided on a logo it was much easier to build the site around that.   I spent a lot of time trying to make a logo myself.   At the end of the day I was able to get a graphic designer to help me.   It isn’t very expensive and delivers a much cleaner design.   My first attempt at my site was much busier with a drawing of the Tokyo Skyline.

Tokyo Drawing I think the final design I go with now is much cleaner…


Prophoto was the right choice as it gave me all of what I needed to change my blog around…  I wanted a very clean look and feel.  A lot of people have side panels where they can put lots of links but this is a photo blog so I wanted big bold beautiful pictures that were blocked with too many other distractions.   I wanted to make sure the navigation is clean.  I used sliding draws (look at the top left) to give readers other ways to explore ShootTokyo via Tag Clouds and Popular posts.   It is also important to make it share the site on Google+, Twitter, Stumble Upon and follow you on Social Networks like Google+ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, 500px.   I also give readers a way to subscribe by email to ShootTokyo or RSS.

Social Sharing

#7 Getting your name out there

Once you have a blog you will quickly realize you want readers other than your mom.  There are lots of way to attract readers but nothing more than creating great content.  You also need to make sure you are active on your site and active in the social networking sites.   Make sure you are genuine and active.  Don’t just spam your link everywhere.    I try to offer tips, tricks and details about photography that help people.   Promote your blog at every chance.   One great thing to remember is that editors are always looking for something to write about…so give it to them.

Shoot Tokyo in the Media

 #8 A blog vs. a photography portfolio

I realized very quickly that many of my images were getting lost to my readers as they were getting pushed further and further down the blog timeline.   It is easy when starting out to forget if you are trying to display your work, people often don’t want to have to scroll through the timeline to find your best work and a portfolio site as an addition is a great way to display your work.   I built my ShootTokyo Portfolio Site as a way to display my best work.

ShootTokyo's Portfolio Site


I know I have only scratched the surface of what it takes to create and maintain a blog.   Please do let me know if this is interesting and content you want me to expand on going forward by taking the poll below.

Would you like to see more of this type of content?

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If you like what you saw today, please share it by clicking one of the links below.   Thanks and see you tomorrow!


  • Georgie Mathew

    Hi Dave

    Congrats on your great blog and thanks for sharing how you built it.

    I’m a doctor from India and am quite technologically challenged. Last day I was trying to fix up some plugins for sharing and could’nt even find the page to do so..

    So I was very happy when I found your page. Though I may not be able to buy all the things that you’ve bought to get your blog up and running, I’d still like to use all the good (and free) stuff wordpress offers its users.. I have a few questiions regarding that.

    1.Could you tell me what does it mean by “installing my wordpress page.” What advantage does it give me?
    2.How can I install plugins? especially the ones for sharing/connect in the other social networks?

    I have hardly any knowledge of code or html. So it would be great if you could give some help on a step by step basis.


  • Georgie Mathew

    Hi Dave

    Sorry the link on my name on the precious post was incomplete. Fixed it with this comment.. :)


  • http:.// Michael

    Very good article, could you write something up about creating good content? I agree that that is the single handed best way to get your name out there, but a lot of readers, including myself are a little confused on what makes great content.

  • charleskoh

    Dave ! this is awesome stuff ! i salute you for your dedication. :)

  • Jennifer Watts

    A fantastic post. I discovered your blog shortly after the earthquake in Japan, and I found your images fascinating, an insight into real life in Tokyo. I look forward to your blog posts with a spectacular range of images. I have also (due to some research after reading one of your posts) started saving for a Leica. Definately keep up the good work, and I look forward to future posts.

  • James

    This is a great behind-the-scenes look into how you set up your blog and site. I actually took some ideas from your design when setting up my own site, thank you for the inspiration.


    very interesting subject, always wanted to start a blog thanks for the pointers

  • Dave

    Hi Michael – Thanks… I bet it would actually be hard to write up about creating good content but I love the idea… I have added to my list of things to work on. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Dave

    Thanks Charles… Look forward to see you when we are together in Japan.

  • Dave

    Thanks for your kind words Jennifer.

  • kmm

    For a linux/bsd keyboard warrior like me, “You can search domain names” means simply typing “whois <domaintosearch" in a shell prompt.

    Always feels kind of strange, when people use simple, existing commands via www interfaces, but nowadays command lines/shells are completely unknown to quite a few people I guess.. not to mention those who are really afraid of typing commands.
    It's alike to those who always say " don't take a picture of me, because I'm so ugly that it will break your camera " :-)

    Anyway, thanks for this great blog, it culminates around everything that's interesting – japan & also other countries, cultural differences, small leica/fuji cameras, interesting views and images..

  • arefti

    You’ve really put a lot of thought and work into your site beyond the photography. I never realized how much work goes into setting up and maintaining a high-quality blog like Shoot Tokyo.

  • Rocco

    Great article! Would love for you to expand item #7 tactics :)

  • Stephen

    Great article and very informative. Point number 7 is pretty on point.

  • Russ Scullen

    Great write up. Like some of the others I would like to hear your thoughts about #7.

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  • Ludovic

    Dave, have you ever thought about what you would do if you moved to a different part of the world? Would you change the name of your blog and start your social media network from scratch once again? Would you keep everything as is but post photos on the new city you live in? (Problematic to be found)… I would be very interested in your thoughts on the question. Thanks.

  • Dave

    Ludovic – I am planning to stay in Japan so haven’t planned that. I do own a lot of other Shoot URLs but Tokyo is going to remain my home.

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