Do you ever ask yourself, “what if I had known everything I know now when I first began blogging?” Well, I asked myself that question and here’s what I came up with. In the name of community, I wanted to share what I used to think and what I think now.
I’ll be blunt, I knew nothing. Well, let me clarify that a little bit, I knew I wanted to write a food blog, but that was the extent of it. Since that day on September 12th, 2009, I have learned a ton about blogging and all that it entails but more importantly, I have learned a lot about myself which has been a nice surprise. But I’m a realist too, I know I have so much more to learn because I am learning daily and there is always someone out there who knows more than you, and hopefully willing to to share.
Picking a Name(s)
When I began, my blog address was Tastes Better With Friends. Honestly, could I have picked a longer blog title? But as much as I tried, I couldn’t get away from that name. Sure, I would have loved a name that was shorter or more about me and who I was. But it just wasn’t meant to be and it does Tastes Better With Friends, so I was happy with that.
At the time, I knew it wouldn’t fit as a Twitter handle, but that was insignificant for me (at the time), I still had to figure out this blogging thing. I ended up going with EthanAdeland as a Twitter handle and although, I don’t have the synergy with my blog, it hasn’t been the end of the world.
What I’ve Learned
Whether we realize it or not, we are creating our own brand. Our blog title, Twitter handle, tone of content, online personality, avatar/pictures are all part of how others see us. The name(s) may be how the public may initially “see” you, but as in life, it is how you conduct yourself that will be the true determination of how you’re eventually known and judged.
On a personal note, be mindful of the picture you use as your avatar on Twitter. People will come to associate you with that picture/brand. In twenty years, I’ll likely still have this picture because it seems to freak people out when you change. Although, I’d like to have a smiling picture posted one of these days. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a seamless transition.
To Host or Not To Host
At the time, the idea of the blog being hosted by WordPress.com was comforting and a weight off my virtual shoulders. It was free and I didn’t have to worry about things like self-hosting and picture resizing. However, the downfalls were not truly owning my own content, knowing eventually I may want to self-host (and have to transfer all the content) and of course having to add the dreaded wordpress.com at the end of my address. Honestly, what was I thinking? I was asking people to remember a four word blog title and I was now throwing another word at the end of it! With all that to remember, to the 42 people that found my blog in September 2009, thank you!
What I’ve Learned
If you truly believe you want to blog, my suggestion would be to spend the extra time and money to self-host as soon as possible. My biggest stumbling block was not knowing anyone early on that offered those services and I didn’t want to simply rely on a Google search to find someone and it seemed too daunting to tackle it on my own. But I feel that within the last two years, there are more people offering blog transfer services, although perhaps, I’m just more in the “know” so it appears that way.
Whether you realize it or not, a self-hosted domain name shows others your commitment to your blog. By starting right away, you won’t lose any traction you’ve made with regards to Page Ranking and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Most importantly, if you truly value your time, you won’t have to re-size hundreds of pictures like I had to do!
Cooking From a Cookbook or the Heart
I love cookbooks and as a cooking enthusiast without any formal culinary training, cookbooks are a necessary and wonderful guidance both in their recipes and pictures. It’s one thing to read how to prepare it, it’s another entirely different matter to know what it’s supposed to look like!
I didn’t go into blogging to be a recipe developer or claim to be an expert. I just wanted to cook, learn, become knowledgeable and have fun along the way. When I open a cookbook and prepare someone else’s dish, I have the feeling of being transported into the kitchen with that person, so the thought of not crediting them never even entered my mind. Dorie Greenspan mentioned at the recent International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) that when she writes, she tries to envision herself on her reader’s shoulder with them in the kitchen offering a helping hand. I’ve since discovered the matter of crediting/citing is quite the ongoing
question heated debate.
What I’ve Learned
When I do put my own spin on a cookbook recipe, I will still acknowledge the author with it being their recipe by stating “Adapted from so and so”. It saddens me when I don’t see others doing the same. And honestly who are we kidding? Most readers are smart enough to know when something has been “borrowed” without credit. That’s a sure-fire way to lose readers and even more importantly lose respect of the food blogging community.
As important as it is to cook with a recipe, I have learned it’s equally important to develop some original content. I feel that doing so helps with your own knowledge in the kitchen, but it also gives you credibility amongst other bloggers, especially those that are more accomplished. Of course, without any formal training, that does have some limitations. I’m not whipping up a four-tiered cake anytime soon without a recipe, but when I am feeling totally adventurous, I just go with wherever my mind takes me. Some of my most rewarding posts have been letting loose, opening the fridge, figuring it out on my own and just making it happen, like bacon kale chips or taking my grandma’s brownie recipe and adding avocado to it.
When I began blogging, it never even occurred to me the importance of mouth-watering-food-porn pictures. I thought the story-telling would speak for itself, but as I’ve found out, it doesn’t. I began taking pictures with my trusty Canon point & shoot, but not all the time apparently as my third ever post can attest to. How could I not have taken a picture of chocolate pudding?! Early on, I wasn’t concerned about lighting, plating, props, anything.
Photography does matter in a food blog and if you’re not a professional photographer or a very accomplished amateur photographer, it’s going to be a grind. It’s easy to get disappointed when you stack yourself against more accomplished photographers. But don’t get down on yourself or at least try not to very often. As long as you see improvement, you’re going about it the right way and as I learned, you’re never alone when it comes to feeling insecure about your photos.
What I’ve Learned
If you can swing it, making the investment to a higher quality camera is never a bad thing. I’ve invested in a Nikon 3100 DSLR camera. More buttons, more confusion, but in time, better results. It’s ok to play with the automatic settings while figuring it all out, but don’t be scared to take off the training wheels and go to the manual settings. Practice, practice, practice and more practice. I need to heed my own advice.
Lighting is key! Wander your house to see where the light shines through and at what time. Go outside if you have to and yes, sitting in the snow is acceptable and actually applauded. Go to Michaels and buy some whiteboards. I have no idea why it took me so long to do it.
Props are awesome! I also happen to have a problem with props now, as in that everything I see is a potential food blog prop. I will likely write about this problem disorder of mine, but in the meantime, consider adding some character to your photographs with some well-thought out and inexpensive props. A spoon always goes well with a bowl of soup or some cookies on a funky dish or in the words of Penny De Los Santos, anything “crusty” tends to work well.
A Retrospective on the Retrospective
Alright, if you’re still reading at this point which is exactly 1398 words, I thank you! I had plans on writing about blog content, tweet-ups, being a part of various on-line communities and a bunch of other topics I’ve learned along the way, but I think the time has come to wrap this post up for the time being.
I hope this been useful, it certainly was for me. There is a lot that goes into blogging and yes, it does have its challenges, but at the end of the day or a post, it’s all worthwhile.