More than a Number

When you start on YouTube it is easy to use subscribers as a measure of success. But I learned quickly that when it comes to subscribers quality wins over quantity every time!

My YouTube channel has allowed me to connect with photographers across the globe, to share my passion for landscape photography and the Lake District and to impart the little knowledge that I have built up over the years.

When you start a YouTube channel it is easy to use the number of subscribers as a measure of success. The more subscribers you have the more successful your channel, right?

I learned very quickly that it is not that simple and that when it comes to subscribers quality wins over quantity every time!


I Learn Stuff

One of the most unexpected benefits of being on YouTube is the feedback that I get about my work. A prime example of this concerns a recent image that I took of the tree at Otterbield on Derwent Water.

Many people made the observation that had I set my tripod a little lower the tree would not have cut into the mountain in the background creating a more pleasing composition.

The feedback that I got from my subscribers concerning this image will stop me from making mistakes in the future.

This sort of feedback is invaluable. Where else would an amateur like me get such constructive critique without having to dip his hand into his pocket.

I Get Support

Many of the people that watch my videos are incredibly supportive. They watch every video that I release and always leave a comment to let me know how much they enjoyed it.

Most of the time I try to receive praise in the same way that I receive criticism – not to take too much notice. For me the fear that the attention that I receive will at some point go to my head is very real indeed.

But occasionally, when I am at my lowest, it is the messages of support that keep me going.

Back in the summer, when I burnt myself out and had to take a break there were times when it looked like I wouldn’t return to YouTube.

But so many people took the time to let me know that I would be missed that very quickly I realized that my return was inevitable.

We Engage

Right from the start of my channel I knew that I wanted to treat my subscribers in the way that I myself would like to be treated. If I take the time to leave a comment on someone’s video then I am disappointed if they do not take the time to reply.

Today I spend almost as much time replying to comments as I do filming and editing my videos.

And it is here where relationships are formed.

I have come to know some of my subscribers through weekly interactions in the comments section. I know what they do and do not like, how they will respond to certain topics and I notice if they miss a week.

Gradually our interactions spill out on to other platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even my blog.

Eventually come the invitations to meet up. Some I have accepted, others I haven’t been able to make. When I have it has always been thoroughly enjoyable.

So far I have spent time with Mike Hutchinson, Les Ironside and Gordon Melrose and they rank in the most memorable times that I have had with my camera. Not for the quality of the photography but for the quality of the company.

We Hang Out

Right from my very first collaboration with Julian Baird, almost exactly 1 year ago, I knew that I enjoyed the social side of photography.

Jules and I hit it off immediately and remain great friends. I have embraced almost every opportunity to meet my fellow YouTube photographers: James Burns, Andrew Maguire, Gareth Danks to name but a few.

The king of the selfie became the king of the collaboration.

More recently I have had the opportunity to meetup with a few of the people that subscribe to my channel. Each time I have enjoyed it immensely.

There are people out there who enjoy what I do and have been inspired to the extent that they want to hang out with me. This is something that never occurred to me and something that I was completely unprepared for.

Geoff MacDonald

Most recently I got to spend some time with Geoff MacDonald an his charming daughter Sophie. Geoff is one of the kindest, most generous people that I have met in a long time. I like him immensely.

We met up for a shoot at Tarn Hows on the morning before they hiked up to Sprinkling Tarn for a wild camp. We spent a few hours chatting and mucking about with the cameras. The photography was poor but it was one of the most enjoyable shoots of the year.

Thanks Geoff for a wonderful morning.

I Have Guilt

For me YouTube is not a one-way street. I do not expect people to consume my content without at least occasionally returning the favour.

But as I become busier and busier with work I am finding that I have less and less free time. I have also been guilty in the past of not setting aside enough quality time to spend with my wife. Striking the right balance continues to be a problem.

As a result I find I have less and less time to watch other people’s videos, to read their blogs or even check out their photos on Instagram.

This has had an impact on my channel. Other YouTubers who used to watch my videos don’t any more and I can’t say that I blame them.

The guilt in not being able to ‘return the favour’ as I would like has become my greatest cross to bare.

The greatest fear that I have is that as my channel grows I will have less and less time to interact with the individual. And that makes me sad.

Giving Back

I have a few ideas for ways that I can give back to the people who have given me so much. I hope to announce a few in the coming months.

But if you have any ideas of how I can say thank you to the people who have supported me on my journey so far please leave a comment below.

15 thoughts on “More than a Number”

  1. For my part, just knowing that you’re continuing to do as much as you can (without leaving Mrs. Sale upset about it) is enough. I watch and comment because I like what you do, pure and simple. You’ve always taken the time to respond to whatever blathering I add to the comments and I’ll understand if there’s a time or two where you don’t.

    1. Keeping Mrs Sale happy is what I do best Theresa. I’ve been doing for 16 years, I’m not going to stop now! 🙂 The same goes for replying to comments. If my channel grows to a size where it is no longer feasible to reply to all comments then I will remember who has supported me from the beginning. Loyalty is important.

  2. Chris,

    As always a very insightful and thought provoking discussion.

    Finding a proper work – life balance can be challenging…finding a proper work – hobby – life balance you need to be a bloody juggler. One of your attracting features is your honesty and humility (okay that’s two), just stay true to your priorities. Those who matter will understand.

    As for a thanks to those who have supported you? Keep being you, that’s what brought them into your life to begin with.

    Just my thoughts

    1. A proper work/life balance David, now there’s a thing! I have a plan to leave my current job at the end of 2020 (unless I get made redundant first). I have 2 years to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I’d better get a wriggle on!

  3. If I may venture an opinion Chris, In many ways I believe the comments and support you receive are a form of a thank you from your audience.

    I know for myself that after watching one of your vlogs, I want to comment to say how much I enjoyed the vlog and to – sometimes indirectly – say thank you for putting the time and effort into creating such interesting and informative videos. Having tried myself, I know it’s no easy task to put together engaging content. I haven’t given up by the way in doing my own vlog, just at this juncture work and family circumstances are taking up a lot of my time. Hence the lack of comments and photos from me recently.

    One idea I have if you want to keep up with your supporters photos or videos and give back is to do what you did before. Every now and again throw out a request for people to submit tips to #chrissephoto, like you did when you asked for tips on Black and White photography. I think by showcasing some of your supporters work it acknowledges them. I know for me I was thrilled and felt included. Or alternatively perhaps at the end of each vlog have a 30 second montage of what’s been posted to #chrissalephoto.

    Cheers mate!!

    1. Thanks Kevin, as always you help me to see things with a little perspective. I had been thinking of resurrecting #chrissalephoto. I will definitely do that. Thanks again for your input. Always helpful, always appreciated.

  4. I think there is no bigger Thank You to your supporters than the polished product that you are uploading for us all.
    The photographs and videos, they just take me back to my youth and I can savour the Lakeland Views at any time I logon by looking back through your catalogue of amazing Vlogs. We owe a great deal of thanks to you Mr Sale for the hard work, trials and tribulations in creating so many evocative pieces of work. I am disabled, spend a lot of my time at home browsing the web and dreaming of visiting places like I done when I was a youngster. Selfishly when younger I took very few photographs to record my time in the hills dales and fells…. I am a man of the moment I thought at the time… there is no way a photograph can capture the feeling of actually being in the Lakes, of savouring the freshness of the air, the smell of the woods when it rains, the grass when sunny, and the bracken and heathers….. I was wrong.. your Vlogs have reminded me and re-kindled the thoughts and smells and the feeling of actually being there with your amazing Videos, and still images ( my first time visiting your Blog , I have a lot of catching up to do now.. some AMAZING images on here ! )

    Anyway.. I digress…… there can be no better thank you from the community than the growing numbers of support, I perchance think that you sometimes lose grasp of the excellence of your work, and the impact it has on other peoples lives. i for one feel uplifted every time I see scenes I remember well… and also places i have never visited. Yes, you do induce a lot of emotion in your vlogs that makes people want to visit these places, that is without a doubt, I have given myself hope that in the near future ( milder warmer weather ) I too will be able to personally stand in some of these locations and smile to myself, knowing that i eventually got here, and that you inspired me to do so.

    thanks again Chris… keep up the good work ( albeit family and friends come first, always take care of the good Mrs Sale and your commitments before exerting too much effort on colouring other peoples lives, it’s hard when you have a talent to not be pulled and pushed into situations where you are governed by the monster that you have created 🙂 )

    Regards Alex

    1. Hi Alex, as usual thanks again for your comment. I sincerely hope that you make it up to the Lakes at some point and if you do it would be an honour to go out and shoot with you. I didn’t realize that you had a disability. How bad is your mobility? I can think of a few places that are easy to access, and I know James would be up for joining us.

      1. Hi again Chris. Yes I have quite limited mobility due to a spinal condition and old injury… I could hardly walk ten years ago…. it’s been a struggle… but I do get out and about these days. I keep imagining I could still manage some low fells and summits.. but to be honest, it would be a slow slog and possibly painful experience. I never say never though… and often can get out and about using a stick on easy terrain. Still a keen photographer ( hence my love of micro 4/3 ) To be fair most days out my wife accompanies me.. and ends up carrying half my gear lol. On a more serious note though… I am awaiting more surgery in December for arthritic foot condition. Sadly may not be able to make any more trips this year…. but rest assured that your vlogs and videos have set my wife and myself on a fitness drivev( weight loss ) that should see us visiting many of the low lying areas that you have photographed in the new year. Thanking you here for the inspiration and the new goal we have set…. hopefully I will someday get to meet yourself and Janes if all goes well and we can meet up sometime in warmer seasons after I have regained a bit more fitness. Until then we will be watching, and re-watching your vlogs and stream for even more inspiration 👍 Regards Angela and Alex

  5. One thought on sharing the joy….

    To me as a friend and a true fan of your work i think quantity I just as important as quality.
    For me it really dosen’t matter if you miss a week because other things have become more important.
    As I said in a recent vlog comment “relax just because you’ve missed a week dosent mean your fan base is going to run to the hills”.
    Lets face it this little hobby of ours can be incredibly expensive I regularly walk around with £1000 hanging from my neck and nearly double that in my backpack.
    So we all want to enjoy the hobby and use the equipment we have probably worked long and hard to aquire.
    That’s all from me Chris keep up the good work AS AND WHEN !!!.
    Cheers for now Mike Hutchinson.

    1. Cheers Mike, I don’t think it’s the fear of loosing subscribers that keeps me producing weekly content but I do really miss the interaction when I don’t post. Cheers mate, hope you are well.

  6. I’ve been struggling with the subscribers equals success thinking for a while. I find it frustrating to put so much time and effort into creating a video and promoting it on various social platforms only to have a handful of people watch and even fewer comment. Don’t get me wrong, I have no wish to become that guy who gets so popular that he no longer acknowledges any social media comments. (We both know those people)
    That being said, I have one subscriber who always comments and has been quite supportive and occasionally instructive. For him I am thankful. I guess I should start looking at it the other way, quality over quantity.
    Thanks for reminding me that it’s not all about the numbers. Although I admit, I’ll probably continue to get frustrated 😉

    1. Hi Mike, it is tough to get going, I understand that as well as anyone. It is demoralizing when you put so much effort into creating videos that no one watches. I have another channel that I am working on with a friend of mine and progress is slow. You have to enjoy the journey otherwise you won’t stick at it long enough to get established. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “patience is a super power”. Keep plugging away mate.

  7. I must admit I haven’t watched any videos on landscape photography lately, because with my very limited options to take landscape pictures myself at the moment they have a way of pulling me down. For the time being, I’ll stick to astrophotography/deep sky photography videos, trying to get a good grasp on this very complex matter.

    For the same reason I haven’t made any videos myself yet, I wouldn’t know what to talk about for 10 minutes straight that would be of any use to anyone. Do I care about the number of subscribers? Not at all.

    It’s an inherent flaw in social media to have a measure of “success”, such as friends on FB, followers on IG or, well, subscribers on YT. What that number tells you is not so much about your success in your particular field of expertise, but how many people approve of what you do. In the end that doesn’t even pay for your equipment in most cases, it’s just a number that you check on regularly and that you fret about when it doesn’t rise or, heaven forbid, even drops.

    So what is success in landscape photography? It’s to enjoy the great outdoors, to get in touch with like minded people and spend quality time with them.

    I’d prefer watching a Chris Sale video over any other photographer’s videos, because I feel I can relate and because Chris actually cares about the people who watch his videos.

    1. Thanks Thorsten, what a lovely thing to say. It is difficult when you see one of your friends struggling but a joy to see you discovering a new form of photography.
      For me social media is a wonderful way of reaching out and connecting with other people. After all, would we have become friends if it hadn’t been for social media? However, in my opinion too many people forget the ‘social’ aspect of it and it just becomes a storefront for whatever it is they are trying to sell. And that becomes very boring, very quickly.

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