Six Thoughts On BlogHer Food 2009

You would have read, or heard, by now, about the major tidbits from BlogHer’s very first food blogging conference in San Francisco at the end of September. Chief among which would be the horrors of being served Bertolli’s frozen meals for lunch, as the very suave Rocco di Spirito waltzed around the room, impressing upon us the immense ’super powers’ we had as bloggers to shape public opinion about food.

You would also have read about the highly-informative panels that were packed into an 8-hour schedule, featuring the ‘Who’s Who’ of the Food Blogging world, and the sensational after-party organized by Ree, Elise and Jaden. As a new blogger I learned a tremendous amount from the sessions about blogging best practices, how some of the most successful food bloggers got where they are today, and Advanced Photography techniques. There was so much information out there but I’ve summarized the key take-aways in six nifty little bullets. I must apologize too for the conspicuous absence of photos in this post as I smartly left home without a camera battery that day. Now, on to the good stuff:

The Six Things I Learned at BlogHer Food 2009

1. Approach your blog with an end-goal in mind

What do you want out of your blog? Fame? Fortune? A new career? If you said ‘Yes’ to either of these, then the first step towards this dream is to treat your blog like a business and take the necessary steps to make it one. That’s what Jaden at Steamy Kitchen did. She incorporated her blog and developed a ‘business plan’, which, in her case, was a huge board pinned with images of everything that inspires her. Not a bad way to focus and keep the inspiration flowing on those days when words seem to have just dried up. Treat your blog like a job, establish a daily routine for yourself and be very, very disciplined about posting regularly and growing your audience.

2. Good photography comes with practice

If there’s one word to summarize all the photography tips I heard throughout the conference, Experiment would be it, with a capital E. And honestly, there’s no better platform to do that than with your own blog. No Editors, Art Directors or Advertisers to answer to, but yourself. While Matt Armendiariz and Lara Ferroni’s Advanced Photography session was informative in showing us how they worked for their photo shoots (you can download the presentation from Lara’s blog), it made me realize how photography is really all about pushing the boundaries of creativity by trying new things -  new angles, new perspectives, new props. Of course there’s a basic level of technical skills involved, like understanding shutter speed, aperture and ISO, but once you get a handle on that, you’re really limited by your own imagination and by your relationship with your camera.

3. Leave your fears at home

Preferably tucked away in a big wooden box secured with a heavy bolt, when leveraging your blog to seek out other opportunities. Helen at Tartelette summed it up perfectly when she encouraged us to put ourselves “out there”, building relationships with fellow bloggers, pitching editors and just making the leap to add value where we can – be it in writing, photography, food styling or recipe development. In other words, network constantly, both online (via Twitter) and offline, attending as many events as your schedules allow. Amy from Cooking With Amy confidently declared that “You almost always get the deal when you meet in person”, so dust off those PJs and put on a smile and start networking.

4. Cash, Credibility, Visibility

After you’ve got your head around this whole new world of blogging, commenting, Tweeting and networking, opportunities for fame and fortune are going to start appearing on your radar. How does a new blogger sieve through each one and make a wise decision for themselves and the blog? Amy suggests evaluating new opportunities against these three categories, while being very careful not to give content or services away for free on a regular basis or to undercut professional rates.

5. Approach blogging with a passion

This obviously applies to any endeavor you set out to do, but particularly for blogging, passion is key towards growing your audience, as Michelle at Wine Girl advised. It’s a quality that will shape your written voice, and while not everyone who reads your blog may appreciate it, there will always be a community of people who will, as long as you keep it consistent, authentic and accessible, which, when you’re passionate about something, flows naturally.

6. Even successful bloggers have their Blah days

Yes, you read that right, even highly successful and famous food bloggers find it hard to keep going sometimes, despite their immense passion for the subject. At the closing keynote, where David Lebovitz, Ree at The Pioneer Woman and Elise at Simply Recipes took the stage to share their thoughts about blogging and what their daily routines were like, it was comforting to hear that they too had days when posts took forever to come together. Of course, the process of blog writing is a highly personal one and a lot of it depends on personality and the type of post  – David, for example, has over 40 draft posts waiting to be published, while Elise often spends copious amounts of time refining and editing a post about a recipe – but it boils down to the same thing: blogging will bring its ups and downs, like any major project you set out to do. The most important thing is to “push through it” as Ree advises, or take a break and revisit the post at a later time as Elise does, and not give up.

Are there any blogging/photography tips from your experience you’d like to share? Comment below and let’s discuss!

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