Whether you’re hoping to start (or improve) your food blog, craft blog, or just own personal spot on the web, these are my favorite resources that I use and recommend.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are companies that I trust and enjoy using.
Starting and Hosting your Own Blog
I host my blog, The Artisan Life, through DreamHost. Making the transfer from Blogger was painless, and it was easy to import all of my old posts. DreamHost offers easy one-click installs for WordPress as well as domain name hosting, if you don’t already own your own domain name. If you do own your domain, you can either keep your current registration or transfer it to DreamHost. My favorite thing about DreamHost (besides its proven reliability and commitment to green energy) is that you can have unlimited subdomains at no additional charge. At one point I had three different WordPress installations through the same $10/year domain registration!
After about a year of blogging with WordPress, I made the switch to Thesis Theme and I love it! It makes SEO very easy and makes it possible to do nifty things like install a widget space anywhere on your blog you’d like. I also enjoy being able to customize my content and sidebar widths to the exact pixel without any coding. My page load times have decreased and I’ve been receiving more search engine views since I made the switch and I wish I’d done it earlier. The free WordPress themes are fine, but the free products are usually free for a reason, when you compare them to paid options. You can pick the plan that’s right for you (they range from $87-$197 and you can upgrade your plan at any time by simply paying the difference.
There are two things that changed my food photography world: one was my camera and the other was an ebook.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need the world’s most elaborate camera to take nice pictures, but a DSLR helps. A ‘basic’ DSLR does the job just fine, though. I used a Nikon D3200 for about two years before deciding to upgrade. For a slightly smaller investment, the Cannon T3 is another fine place to being your work with a DSLR camera. Of course, any camera will work when you’re just starting out, but both of these camera options are an easy way to learn about DSLRs and improve your photography.
The e-book that changed my food photography is Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum. It is amazing! I know it makes no sense that reading a book improved my photography in the space of a single morning, but it did (and I’ve the pictures to prove it!). I wrote an entire blog post demonstrating how dramatically my photography improved after reading this book. Tasty Food Photography also helps demystify your DSLR camera by showing concrete examples of how features like aperture affect your photography. It also details how to edit photos to improve them and how to take, well, tasty food photos with a point and shoot, non-DSLR camera.
Once you’re starting to get comfortable with your camera and have read up on food photography, you’ll probably want to up your game even more with props and backgrounds. I’d been using a couple painted boards for photography surfaces and a curtain for my backdrop, but then I bought some vinyl backgrounds from Ink and Elm. By the way, that isn’t an affiliate link or anything – I just love their backdrops!
Craft & Etsy Photography
Why do I have food and craft photography listed separately? Maybe the educator in me just really likes breaking things down into distinct categories! No, it’s because I wanted to highlight a different e-book: Jewelry and Other Small Item Tabletop Photography.
This is the book that finally convinced me to start shooting in RAW. I was afraid to try the format for about two years, but now that I shoot RAW, I’m never doing back! This little book is geared towards Etsy sellers, but has lots of great tips for “tabletop” photography, which includes craft photos. The author, Rose, outlines some basic differences between JPEG and RAW, and tells you the starting points for editing that you’ll need to do with a RAW file. It really removed the fear of the unknown for me! If you don’t do Kindle, the book is also available from the author’s Etsy store.
Under this section, I also want to list my new camera and favorite prime lenses. As much as my blog matters to me, the prime motivation behind improving my photography was my Etsy store. If you have a DSLR and you’re not getting product or blog photos you want, it is, sadly, probably you. I know my poor photos were all me! If you’re still using your kit lens, that is probably also a contributing factor. If you’re not happy with your photos using your DSLR, invest in yourself and your knowledge first, prime lenses second, and then maybe an upgraded camera once you get everything “down” and truly know your camera.
I absolutely love my 50mm prime lens. The kit lens can technically shoot at this focal length, but, wow! You can absolutely tell the difference between photos taken with the kit lens and the 50mm prime (fixed focal length) lens. If you’re looking to upgrade your photos, getting away from the kit lens is defiantly the place to start! Not convinced that something non-zoomable is the right choice for you? The fantastic YouTube channel PhotoRec Toby has a post on “5 Reasons to Own a Prime Lens” that will change your mind. I use my 50mm for a lot of my product shots, especially when I need an up-close view.
The 50mm is pretty up close, though, so sometimes I need to switch to my 35mm prime lens! This allows me to get full overhead shots of recipes, projects, and products that I couldn’t do without a stepladder using the 50mm. Honestly, I could probably just stick with the 35mm lens for most of my product photos, but I love that I don’t have to do as much image cropping with the 5omm. When you’re taking a lot of pictures, saving that time required to crop for every single one can really add up!
Writing a Blog
There’s a lot of free advice on blogging out there. (Most of it is “content is king!!). As an intelligent person, you know you frequently get what you pay for. If you ant to move up from free advice to a high-quality, year-long program that will actually help you improve your blog, I highly suggest Blog Brilliantly. The course includes videos, downloadables, access to a private FaceBook group for support, and more from one of the first ladies to quit her job and travel the world full time. The community is fantastic and the advice invaluable, even if you’ve already been blogging for a while.
So there are the most influential things that have really helped my blog grow and improve over the last two years. I hope these resources help you, too! Please let me know if you have any questions.