How Korske Ara of World Photo Day Uses WordPress

World Photo Day comes around once a year on August 19, and celebrates our passion for photography. Originally founded way back in 1837, photographer Korske Ara revived the event in 2009, and it’s been going strong ever since.

“Photography is a powerful method of communication that we can use to uplift, inspire and initiate change in our world. A picture is worth a thousand words and those words can be in any of the 6,500 languages on planet earth”. Korske Ara—Founder, World Photo Day

The public face of World Photo Day is a WordPress site. We recently caught up with Korske and chatted about his goals for the event, how his WordPress theme and plugins help achieve those goals, and about his choice of hosting plan. We also discussed how his networking and marketing strategies have evolved over the last few years.

Hi Korske. Tell us how you’ve networked with like-minded people to raise awareness of World Photo Day.

As an online celebration, social media has been key in starting the conversation around World Photo Day. I jumped on Facebook and Twitter to get the ball rolling. You can reach a lot of people online that you can’t necessarily reach when you’re working in person.

Today, we’re talking to individual people and starting conversations on social media to keep growing the World Photo Day project. There’s definitely value in both online and offline conversations.

Talking to the right person offline can have a huge benefit when it comes to your online reach!

Is there a team behind World Photo Day? How did you recruit them? How do you manage them?

For the last seven years, I’ve run World Photo Day predominantly solo, with occasional help from friends to code components of the website and to create content. I’ve also had mentors that have provided some great advice over those years too.

This year, we started heading down the path of creating an even bigger World Photo Day celebration which meant we needed to grow our team. We have five Software Engineering students working on parts of our gallery, two Digital Marketing interns, and a variety of partners working alongside us to provide professional support to our predominantly student team.

We manage our tasks using Wrike, an exceptionally powerful task management application that allows us to keep track of everything that’s going on across all our projects. I highly recommend anyone that is managing a project to check out Wrike. They even offer a free plan.

Tell us about your website, including the role it plays in your business.

Our main website, is all about sharing great photos from around the world, captured by ordinary people. We also use it to provide information to our participants about how they can get involved in World Photo Day, to celebrate their passion for photography.

What would you like to achieve with it?

The primary goal of our website is to promote a global gallery and competition where participants can share their world with the world.

Our goal is to inspire photographers around the world to reflect on photography and the ability we have to capture and share powerful stories and moments.

Why did you choose WordPress as your platform?

We chose WordPress as our platform because of its ease of setup and extensibility through a variety of plugins.

Which theme and plugins are you using?

The World Photo Day website uses one of the most popular premium WordPress themes on the market, Avada, which is available at Themeforest. We chose Avada for its customisability and built in style support of many popular plugins.

The World Photo Day website runs with both free and paid plugins. Free plugins include: Yoast SEO, Akismet and WooCommerce. Our premium (paid) plugins including Gravity Forms, WPML and The Event Calendar PRO.

Did you get any help when creating your website?

I have a background in Linux Systems Administration and Web Application development, and did a lot of the original work to set up the new WordPress website. Most of the challenges were overcome by referring to the documentation of the relevant plugin or feature I was trying to implement.

What did you learn along the way?

The biggest lesson we learnt was around the planning and writing of content, and this is something that we are still working on now that our core website is online.

Do you have a basic hosting plan, or have you upgraded?

Because we accept large photo uploads into our gallery, we found that our website wasn’t suitable for regular shared hosting. Because of this, World Photo Day was hosted on cloud hosting from the beginning.

We’ve used both Linode and Digital Ocean in the past and loved the support of both services. We choose ServerPilot as a control panel to reduce our server administration workload.

World Photo Day is now being migrated to a scalable Amazon AWS platform that’s leveraging a variety of services including EC2, S3, EBS, LAMDA and REKOGNITION.

Our choice to move to Amazon AWS has been based on our need to scale quickly to handle an increase in traffic on World Photo Day.

You certainly have a lot of photos! How do you back up?

We manage automated backups of our website using AWS CloudWatch event triggers. Our content is also mirrored across multiple AWS Regions.

Would you like to share any tips about maintaining WordPress and keeping it secure?

We have a staging environment that runs automatic WordPress updates, and we get a notification each time WordPress or a plugin updates. This allows someone to double check it hasn’t broken anything before we run updates on the live site.

Because we work on our website every day, installing WordPress software updates isn’t such a big issue. That said, we also have a lot of custom application code, and a vulnerability scanner like that offered by Acunetix or Detectify has been an important addition to the repertoire.

What plans do you have for the website from here?

At the moment we are working on translations to increase our participation around the world, and we are working to move features that are being managed by WordPress plugins into our custom web application.

We’ll continue to use WordPress into the future as a marketing platform along with a WooCommerce store.

Let’s talk about marketing. What were your early strategies, and how have they developed?

This is a really tough question because I didn’t start off with a defined marketing strategy. World Photo Day started when I decided that I wanted to create something that would keep me occupied and out of trouble as a 21 year old.

I’ve always been driven to inspire, challenge and encourage people in pursuing their dreams and purpose. It’s not really a marketing strategy but the result is the same. Create value for others and they will support you and your idea.

As the event grows, there’s a lot developing behind the scenes. We might need a catch up in a year to see what’s changed!

Thanks Korske. Is there anything else you’d like to add about what it took to get World Photo Day to where it is today?

The development of World Photo Day has been based on an investment of time and consistent growth over seven years. That’s not to say I didn’t get things wrong or that I applied the most effective method to grow. I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes over the years.

Ultimately, I’ve found that developing a character of discipline, determination and perseverance is more valuable than designing a well drafted strategy.

For anyone looking to start or build their business, I’ll quote Dale Partridge from StartupCamp:

Results require both time and consistency. One hit wonders and early successes lack the depths to be called proven. Consistent positive results over long periods of time, will always outpace a phony attempt of “fake it until you make it.”

If you’d like to learn how to use WordPress to bring your website idea to life, check out our course, Introduction to WordPress.

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