Resources for Food Bloggers

 


 { 1. RESOURCES: STARTING A BLOG }


If you’re browsing this “Resources for Food Bloggers” page, it’s probably because you’re already a blogger looking to improve your blog, or maybe you’re thinking of starting a blog and are not sure how.

Blogging Platform + Hosting Space

I started Dish by Dish initially on wordpress.com, the free blogging platform for beginner bloggers, in late 2012. Later on, when I realized that having a free blog was good, but stifled flexibility in designing my site, I moved over to wordpress.org and bought hosting space at Bluehost.

Although I no longer have free hosting as I previously did with wordpress.com, being self-hosted has a whole world of advantages – I have the flexibility to design my site as I wish, and can even add ads to my blog (which helps offload the cost of ingredients and enormous amount of time I spend creating and testing recipes!)

BluehostSince being with Bluehost for more than one year, I can vouch that they have execellent customer service! They respond usually within 5 minutes on the LiveChat help option, and always solve any issues I have.

Bluehost is definitely a service that I love and strongly recommend.

Blog Theme + Custom Design

I also worked with Sara from Moonsteam Design to customize my site, and with her patience and experience, we launched the new self-hosted site in October 2013.

The theme I now use for this blog, the Foodie Theme Pro, is created by Shay Bocks, and is meant to be used together with the Genesis Framework.

If you’re a food blogger, I strongly encourage you to get the Foodie Pro theme, which has so many functions that make a food blog user-friendly and easy to manage.

Installing the Foodie theme was definitely one of the best decisions I took this year – it’s an extremely versatile and flexible theme that allows complete customization so your blog will reflect your personal style, while remaining fresh and clean.

My page views have also gone up since implementation as it creates a stickier site (i.e. readers find more relevant content and explore the site more than before)!

If you’re into all the technical details, here’s a Guide to the Genesis Framework that you can download.

 

Starting Out: Food Blogging for Dummies

Blogging has many facets, and food blogging is just one of it. However, there are many more aspects about food blogging that covers more than just typing words onto a draft and publishing it.

I first started reading Food Blogging for Dummies (by Kelly Senyei,  creator of the Just a Taste food blog).

I’d strongly recommend this book for any new beginner blogger, or even bloggers who want to understand the art of food blogging better. It’s all-rounded and gives you a good general picture of what it takes to be a food blogger.

 


{ 2. RESOURCES: WRITING A FOOD BLOG WELL }


“TO BE A GOOD FOOD WRITER, YOU MUST FIRST BE A GOOD WRITER”

As the revered Dianne Jacob tells us, to be a good food writer, you must first be a good writer. I’ve read her book, Will Write for Food, from cover to cover in the past one year, and it never fails to bring me new insights.
Dianne reminds us to “show, not tell”, and for me, that was one of the most important highlights that brought my writing (about food and other things) to a whole new level.

It is important for a good food writer to bring the reader right to the heart of the kitchen, or the table, where the scene you are describing is unfolding. If you can do that, you would have succeeded, and to a pretty good extent.

 


{ 3. RESOURCES: FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY }

When I first started this food blog, I thought to myself that I would just focus on writing well; but I struggled terribly with taking good food photos. At first, I used my lousy camera phone to shoot whatever I had just cooked (in terribly yellow kitchen light). And boy, I don’t even know how I dared to upload those photos for the world to see, but the truth was that I did.
Eventually after some prodding from my cousin Shawn, who told me that “food that tastes good should necessarily look good”, I decided to try to work on my camera skills. The first time I did was to use a point-and-shoot camera that had been collecting dust. I stopped using my camera phone, and while the quality of the pictures taken did improve, I still found myself frustrated with how boring and uninteresting my food photos looked.
I was about to tear my hair out from feeling so frustrated when I discovered Lindsay from Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography E-book. At a really good price of just $19, this book literally pays for itself. Lindsay takes you through the step-by-step process from arranging food, styling it and using props to create a story, all the way to lighting and using your camera, up till post-processing the images. For a quick review of what’s in her book and to watch a video of it, click here.
Tasty Food Photography
If you were to compare photos from May 2012 when this blog was first started to the photos that I take today, you’ll see that there has been some significant improvement.

Of course, having a DSLR camera also helped. After upgrading to the Canon EOS 650D, I’ve never looked back. I don’t understand why I didn’t switch to a DSLR earlier on, and it makes such a world of a difference! I also purchased an incredibly useful lens that is both affordable and achieves amazing results for food photography – the Canon 50mm f/1.8.

Canon EOS Rebel T4i 18.0 MP DSLR

Canon 50mm f1.8 lens
There’s still a lot of work for me to do regarding lighting and food styling, but I’ve got Plate to Pixel (by Tartlette author Helene Dujardin) and Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (by Nicole S. Young) to help me take my photos up to another level.
I strongly recommend Helene’s Plate to Pixel. She has the warmest, easiest to read voice and her photography skills are absolutely stunning – plus she guides you through how she creates these amazing photos. Definitely a keeper, and a book that I’ve read through at least three times since I’ve bought it.
Plate to Pixel - Digital Food Photography & Styling
For more a more food photography tips, read my detailed post Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers.
Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers

{ 4. RESOURCES: PHOTO EDITING }


I use the free photo-editing program called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It’s quick and easy and free to download, and for basic photo editing needs like mine, it is sufficient. I’m still far from being a wonderful photographer, but I must admit that these are the main resources that have helped me make a difference in my food photos.


{ 5. RESOURCES: KITCHEN TOOLS I USE }


So far, some of the wonderful tools that have honestly helped me in the kitchen include this doughnut pan, and this julienne peeler (see how I’ve used it to make zucchini noodles, and a delicious Asian slaw!).

Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler

Doughnut Pan

 


{ 6. RESOURCES: COOKBOOKS I REALLY LIKE }


Since I started cooking and writing this food blog, I find that most of my free time is spent reading and indulging in cookbooks. But more importantly, cookbooks with a specific story behind.

Some of my favorites are Dinner: A Love Story (which is hilariously funny and comes with interesting anecdotes and so many easy-to-use practical dinner recipes to make your dinner table the place to relax and enjoy family time) , Written Together: A Story of Beginnings, in the Kitchen and Beyond, (the story of how my favorite blogger Shanna Mallon and her husband Tim met over her food blog and how they got together, along with a few treasured recipes from her Grandma and others) and Paleo Everyday (practical Paleo recipes that will leave you satiated and happy).

Dinner A Love Story

Written Together by Shanna Mallon

Paleo Recipes for Every Day

 


{ 7. RESOURCES: MAKING MONEY FROM A FOOD BLOG }


As of September 2014, my largest source of income from the blog is through display advertising (banner ads).

So far, I’ve used BlogherSovrn (previously called Lijit), Gourmet Ads, and YellowHammer Media for my banner ads. Right now, my only first-tier ad network is Blogher, which I use for both my above-the-fold 728×90 leaderboard ad and my above-the-fold 300×600 right sidebar ad. Blogher doesn’t allow you to upload your own passback tags unless your site has been grandfathered in (i.e. been with Blogher for a very long time). I use Sovrn for the rest of the ad spaces on my blog, for which I use either Gourmet Ads or YellowHammer as passback tags.

Feel free to drop me an email if you have more specific questions on how I use ad networks.

It is possible to make some decent income from display advertising, but the most important thing is learning how to optimize your ad spaces – this is something I’m still playing around with, and most of what I’ve learnt so far comes from this super-informative book by Kiersten Frase – How to monetize your food blog.

How to Monetize Your Food Blog

Once in a while, I also earn income from affiliate links – this basically refers to links which give me a percentage in commission when a reader clicks on the link and buys something through it. The price is exactly the same if the reader were to buy the product using another link – the only difference is that I get compensation for the recommendation.

The affiliate programs I use are Amazon Associates, E-Junkie and ShareASale.

Most importantly, I’ve also signed up for Food Blogger Pro, which is a database full of videos teaching you how to improve your food blog in order to monetize it! I’ve watched most of the videos so far, and Lindsay and Bjork (the teachers) are amazingly good at explaining concepts in a simple, easy-to-understand way. I strongly encourage you to sign up for it if you wish to improve your blog in order to eventually make money from it!

Food Blogger Pro Learn More

For extremely detailed and monthly-updated analysis of how to make an income from a food blog, take a look at Pinch of Yum’s monthly income reports. The people behind Pinch of Yum, Bjork and Lindsay, are truly an inspiring couple that really show the rest of us bloggers that it is possible to do what you love and earn a very good living from it.


{ 8. RESOURCES: GETTING TRAFFIC }


Getting traffic to your blog is incredibly important – especially when you’ve spent so many hours creating recipes and writing posts that are worth reading. While organic search traffic is definitely important, it may take time for your blog to be easily found when people are searching for recipes online.

What you can do however, is to share your recipes on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc) and to submit your food photos to “food porn” sites that accept photos of a certain standard (each site has a different criteria, so if your photo is declined by one site, don’t be disappointed, just try submitting it to another site!)

I’m still learning how to do this, but so far, what has really worked for me includes Pinterest, Tastespotting, and FoodGawker. These are by far the top traffic-referrers for Dish by Dish, and I believe for most food blogs as well.

 


{9. RESOURCES: USEFUL ARTICLES ON BLOGGING }


In the past two years since I’ve started this food blog, I’ve read hundreds of articles about blogging and food blogging in general – here are those of the articles that have really helped me and I believe will be useful to you too!

I will also update this list every few months (or as and when I have articles that are worth your time to read.)


I hope this has helped you, and if you have any specific questions that aren’t covered here, please feel free to email me at felicialimhuizhi (at) gmail.com or leave a comment!

 

Simple Healthy Breads & Treats (E-Cookbook)