It was through other bloggers that I learned How to Start a Food Blog and found many resources I use today to run Vanilla And Bean. If you’re interested in starting your own blog or are already blogging, I’ve shared the resources I used to get my blog going. Many of the links below are affiliate links which means Vanilla And Bean receives a commission should you purchase through clicking on a link (the price is the same regardless if you buy direct or though my affiliate links). Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions about my experience with these resources.
First things first! You’ll need a domain name (URL) for your blog. Your domain name should follow the name of your blog, so people can find you easily. Head to godaddy.com and search for the domain name you want and grab it!
WordPress.org is a free web platform software to run your blog on. It’s basically the car without the interior (we’ll get to the interior). They offer many free and for purchase themes (the interior). A free theme is a great place to start if you’re not quite ready to purchase a theme. Check out the reviews on the themes before you choose. There are other options for themes below (like Foodie). You’ll find a great deal of online support forums here if you need help along the way.
You’ll have to have a host to store all the content you’ll add to your blog. Bluehost is my host of choice. I started with their basic hosting plan but eventually, as my blog started growing and traffic increased, I moved to a self hosted VPS plan which allows my pages to load quicker and I experience fewer episodes of down time. They have top-notch 24/7 phone and convenient and effective online chat support.
The interior of your blog (car) is the theme. Foodie Pro Theme is the theme I run Vanilla And Bean on. Foodie is clean, easy to use, and offers some level of customization without breaking the bank. While I’ve had a few kinks with Foodie, support has been outstanding and prompt.
I found Foodie Pro at Studio Press Themes . They have so many for purchase themes to choose from, offer excellent support and expert advise through a blog with all kinds of tips and how to’s on running a seamless blog for us who are a little less techy (like me).
MailChimp is my choice for managing Vanilla And Bean’s email list and sending out my weekly updates to subscribers. MailChimp’s interface is super simple to navigate, is uncluttered and offers its services free with tiered pricing as your readership grows. They have practical analytics and top-notch customer support.
After choosing a domain, setting up hosting, choosing a theme and getting my email list management system in order, I turned to learning more about the tech side of blogging, food photography and monetizing my blog.
Tasty Food Photography by Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum, is a fabulous ebook for new food photographers. It helped me improve my photography quickly. Her book is through but to the point and written in terms that are easy to understand. Lindsay also includes tutorial videos with just the basics for Lightroom and Photoshop.
I have read Plate to Pixel cover to cover and continue to use it as a reference. Helene’s book covers everything a beginning food photographer should consider in order to get that perfect shot. From lighting and styling to aperture and ISO. This book is through and written so that anyone can quickly improve their food photography when applying her advise.
How to Monetize Your Food Blog by Kiersten over at Oh My Veggies, has been an essential resource for me to better understand blog monetization. She has amassed a wealth of information in this ebook and it is one that I refer to often. Kiersten is candid, yet practical and has included embedded links to help you navigate the often murky waters of blog monetization.
Inviting Readers to Your Site:
TailWindApp: Pinterest is by far my top driver of traffic. However, pinning takes loads of time. After testing several apps for automatic pinning, I finally chose TailWindApp . They make is so easy to schedule pins far in advance so I can focus on other things, like, writing content, photography and making drool-worthy recipes for my readers! I highly recommend them!
Other sites to post your food photos to include:
The equipment I use has been acquired over time. Some was bought new, others through careful shopping on Craigslist. Renting equipment is a great way to get to know what kinds of camera and/or lenses will fit your budget and photography needs. Local camera shops are excellent resources for equipment information. Stop by and pick their brain! If you are in the greater Seattle area, Kenmore Camera is my go to store for support.
I shoot in 100% natural light and all my images are captured in RAW. This is not negotiable for me due to the quality of light, sharpness and color I want for my photographs.
Camera: I first started taking food photos with a Cyber Shot point and shoot, and my iPhone. I realized I needed a something a bit more powerful so I eventually purchased a DSLR, Canon 6D. This camera continues to surprise me every time I pick it up by all that it can do. It produces incredibly sharp images and handles low light and moving subjects with ease (think food action shots!). This camera does not disappoint!
Lenses: My go to lens is a Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. It is an excellent lens for low light situations and continues to impress me, especially when shooting at low f stops. This lens can capture light that you’d swear is not even there. It produces sharp, bright images with beautiful bokeh. It makes a fabulous portrait lens as well if food is not your only subject. I also shoot with a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L that I’m just getting familiar with. I wanted another fast prime lens since I shoot indoors mostly and in natural light, that would capture a wider area, and one that I could also use for landscape photography.
Closeup Filters: I use this Macro Filter Set to get up close with my food photography. They’re easy to use by simply attaching the filter to the lens and shooting my subject much closer than I’m able to with the lens’ I currently own.
Tripod: I rarely shoot free-hand mainly due to the low light situations I encounter most of the year. I use an older Giottos tripod that was purchased years ago. It is still sturdy and continues to function well despite the demands I place on it.
Processing and Editing Software:
PicMonkey is a free application I use mostly to build long boards for use on Pinterest and to add text graphics to images. The interface is super simple to navigate and has excellent customer service if you get stuck! The application is free with upgrades available.
After editing in free apps for a while, like Picasa, I wanted to be able to pull more out of my images. I purchased Lightroom 5 and started working with it to develop my photographs. While it took me quite some time to become comfortable working with the program, and there is still much I don’t know, it helps me pull out the best qualities in my photographs. Shooting in RAW helps as well. I also use Photoshop Elements to create GIFs and some text elements.
Askimet checks each incoming comment to make sure it’s not spam. This will save you a great deal of time once comments start coming in. Less time sorting through comments, more time creating content and building community!
Backup Buddy gives me peace of mind for keeping my blog data safe and secure. I put a great deal of work into my blog and the last thing I want is lose all of my work. Not only is the interface easy to use, but it fully integrates into the back-end of my blog so I can monitor and schedule back ups.
WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast is an essential plugin if SEO is not something you’re familiar with. It’s an easy way to see if your copy is optimized for search engines and is essential in keyword support. This plugin is a must!