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Camp Blogaway Greatest Hits

Submitted by on May 24, 2010 – 9:00 am4 Comments

For a week now I’ve been racking my brain to write a suitable follow-up to my first post about Camp Blogaway. The challenge is by no means a lack of material but rather how to organize and present the sheer volume of valuable information that I brought home with me.

First let me say that while I was at camp, my raison d’etre for launching TasteStopping in the first place was clarified and reinforced by all the wonderful speakers and panelists I met. Every time a new insight was revealed, a helpful tip was discussed or a technique that would benefit your endeavors was explained, I found myself busily taking notes, energized by the mere thought of how the foodies I have come to know could utilize that nugget. In the process, I realized that TasteStopping exists, quite simply, to support you, the food bloggers who find value here.

And so, the old wheels have been turning as to how best to accomplish that. My ideas for finding new and increasingly effective strategies for expanding your blog’s reach run the gamut from simple time-saving techniques to connecting you to the PR side of food to this very series of posts featuring things I learned at camp.

To help me focus on what items from camp to give the most press, I thought I would hit some of my lightbulb moments below. I also invite my fellow Camp Blogaway attendees to leave a comment with one piece of information from camp that has made a difference for them.

As for the rest of you? I would love some feedback on which of these topics intrigues you the most, so that I can go a little deeper into that territory in a future post. Thanks!

Photography (thanks to Art Ramirez)

  • A dark photo is better than a photo that is too light, in which case you blind your image sensor.
  • The colors on ALL computer monitors shift over time and need to be periodically adjusted/corrected.
  • If the colors of your photos are incorrect, white balance is the problem.
  • When shooting in manual mode, you need to use a tripod.
  • The automatic setting on your camera is really only for “babies, birthdays and Bigfoot”
  • You can train your DSLR to focus for your eye (important when you feel your photos are in focus when you take them, but out of focus on your screen and prints).
  • Use the tungsten/incandescent setting on your camera if your photos look too red.
  • Use the fluorescent setting on your camera if your photos look yellowish/green.
  • Use the cloudy/shade setting on your camera when there is a lot of moisture in the air or on the ground, as water droplets (like fog or an expanse of snow) turn everything blue.
  • When you edit a photo in Photoshop, always work on a duplicate, never your original.

Business (thanks to Patti Londre)

  • Think of your blog as a brand and a business and conduct it as such. Create an LLC if appropriate, open a separate business checking account, appply for an EIN (tax id number to replace your social security number when filing taxes), etc.
  • Register your name and trademark (LegalZoom.com is one option).
  • Make money by thinking outside of the actual blog. Ad sales alone will probably not amount to much, but why not merchandise your site? Sell aprons, t-shirts, mugs, etc.
  • Start thinking of yourself as an expert and then define your area of expertise. Is it recipe development? Freelance writing? Cooking classes? Personal Chef? (Again, think outside the blog.)

Food (thanks to Kim Reddin, Judy Rowcliffe, Cynthia Traina and Nancy Siler)

  • Never put a dirty onion on your workspace or cutting board. Always wash or peel first.
  • Olives are a stone fruit.
  • There are currently two varieties of kiwis available, gold and green. (A red kiwi is in development.)
  • Your body temperature can affect your icing when trying to decorate using a piping bag (hot hands=thinner consistency of icing).

Food styling (thanks to Denise Vivaldo)

  • Undercook your food for the perfect shot (such as a roast chicken), then stick it back in the oven to cook the rest of the way once you have finished photographing.
  • Make sure your mis en place is consistent in size and shape. It photographs better and also will cook more evenly this way.
  • Cold food photographs better than hot food.
  • Make sure your prep is meticulous. For instance,  no damaged salad leaves, ever!

Recipe Development (thanks to Barbara Gibbs Ostmann)

  • Be consistent in your labeling. For example, choose “Tablespoon,” ” Tbsp” or “T’ and stick with it. Same for food names: catsup vs. ketchup, green onion vs. scallion.
  • Ingredients in a recipe should be listed in the order that they are used.
  • “Chop,” “mince,” and “dice” are the same to the average reader.
  • When deciding which recipe to use, online readers weigh three factors most heavily: description, photo, and user ratings/reviews. Do you have all three on your recipes?

Site Optimization (thanks to Danny Jauregui)

  • Create posts with novelty, such as solving culinary problems, offering time-saving techniques or unexpected use of ingredient or technology.
  • Choose less popular keywords for your post (rather than the most popular), which will help you achieve a higher ranking when those keywords are searched.
  • Name images in your post to reinforce the keywords you have selected (no more IMG titles for photos)
  • Create the same novelty mentioned above in the title of your post.
  • For your best posts, send links to your community and ask for reviews, links, a share on Stumble Upon, etc. Only do this 2 to 3 times a year at the most and only target bloggers/sites whose content is relevant to your site. (Connection needs to be stronger than simply another “food” blogger.)
  • Submit your best posts to larger sites like Huffington Post, Serious Eats, Life Hacker. Research your options and each site’s submission guidelines carefully. Don’t burn bridges!

As you can probably tell, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Now I want to hear from you! Have any tips or techniques you’d like to add, please jump into the conversation. Feeling intrigued by one of the bullet points and want more information? Let me know in the comments. My wish is your command (or comment in this case).

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Thank you to my Camp Blogaway sponsor!

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