When I started blogging, I didn’t know where to begin. I wish I’d had a comprehensive list of food blogger resources to help me get started!
Whether you’re just thinking about starting a blog or are seeking better tools for an existing one, I hope that my experience can help. Today I’m sharing my favorite food blogger resources, including recommendations for web hosting, WordPress plugins, photography resources, and social media tools.
Each and every item listed here is a choice I made after plenty of research. I truly believe these are the best of the best.
This page may contain affiliate links. Your price remains the same (not higher), and I try to pass on a deal when I can. I ONLY recommend products that I use and believe in.
How To Start A Blog (Create Your Website)
To get started, you’ll need to choose a domain name (your website address) and a web host, which is the place where your blog “lives” on the Internet. I recommend a self-hosted WordPress website, which means you can use the WordPress content management system with the
ability to own your data and use any plugin. Plugins let you add features to your blog. You’ll also need a theme to make your site look good, and you want it to be mobile friendly. Below are my favorite resources for hosting, themes, and WordPress plugins.
SiteGround Web Hosting – I did tons of research before selecting a web host for my blog. The factors that were important to me were (in no particular order):
1) Speed, 2) Price, 3) Scalability, 4) Minimal down time, 5) Customer service
SiteGround beat the competition in all of these aspects. They offer a number of plans for different levels, all including free domain name registration. I’ve been through multiple plans with them as my traffic has grown, and their support has been second to none through it all. They also have some incredible server side caching that helps improve site speed more effectively than any WordPress plugin alone.
If you’re just starting out, you should also know that the WordPress setup process with SiteGround is a breeze. They’ll walk you through plan selection, domain name registration, and WordPress installation.
StudioPress Themes – The theme used on Wholesome Yum was created by StudioPress on top of the popular Genesis Framework. I can’t say enough good things about it. Even though I have a background in web development, WordPress isn’t my specialty and I don’t have the time to create my own theme. Finding a quality one was important to me, and is worth the investment. StudioPress has dozens of WordPress themes to choose from – all of them gorgeous, blazing fast, mobile responsive, secure, flexible, and easy to customize.
WordPress plugins add functionality and features to your website. I have a couple dozen that I use and love. Here are a few of my absolute must-haves:
WP Ultimate Recipe – My go-to recipe plugin. Use it to create a recipe card, track ingredients, create nutrition labels, and more. I’ve found no other recipe plugin that beats WPUR when it comes to features, ease of use, speed, and SEO. I love that it’s optimized for Google, mobile responsive, and has amazing support from the developer.
Yoast SEO – When it comes to showing up in Google Search, quality content is #1. Once you have that, though, some other things can help. This WordPress plugin not only improves your site’s SEO from a technical standpoint, but it also helps you improve your content to be more search engine friendly.
SG Optimizer – If you want your audience to stick around (and if you want Google to like you), your site needs to be as fast as possible. Caching is a way to save pre-loaded copies of various site resources (including content, images, scripts, and more) to make them load faster for visitors. There are various plugins that can do this using different methods, and I’ve tried half a dozen solutions. SG Optimizer, which is available only if you use SiteGround Web Hosting, has been the best so far. It integrates with SiteGround Performance Services, many of which operate at a server level, making them more powerful than anything that is only a WordPress plugin on its own. You can ask SiteGround about enabling SG Optimizer once you’ve signed up.
EasyAzon – Becoming an Amazon affiliate can add a stream of passive income. This plugin makes the process of creating affiliate links faster, easier, and more flexible. You get useful features like images and automatic integration with Amazon affiliate programs from multiple countries, increasing your potential reach. All of that being said, I recommend always being honest and only linking to products you genuinely support.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer – Large images can be one of the biggest factors slowing down a website, especially an image-focused one like a food blog. Your image dimensions should be no larger than what will fit into your theme. Compression is important as well. This plugin automatically compresses images when you upload them without loss of quality, and can also reduce their dimensions automatically. There are multiple options out there for services that do this, but this one is the best combination of compression, features, and price.
Sumo – This plugin offers tons of different features, but my favorite one is the social sharing icons. It makes it ridiculously easy for visitors to share your content, is highly customizable, and mobile-friendly. I tried several other sharing plugins, and this is the only one that didn’t slow down my site while still looking good.
Updraft Plus – The most popular and reliable WordPress backup plugin. It’s totally automated and can save your backups in the cloud. The free version is plenty functional, and the premium version offers additional features if you need them.
Producing Quality Photography
People are visual, so it’s no surprise that taking stunning photos is an important aspect in helping your blog grow. Great pictures will not only grab your audience’s attention, but they also help you succeed in driving traffic from social media sources and from Google. You’ll need a good camera and photo editing software – and no less important, you’ll need to know how to use both. Below are my favorite camera and accessories, the book I used to learn about food photography, and my recommended photo editing software.
Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Camera – A quality DSLR is so important for food photography. I got my Canon 80D in 2016 and absolutely adore it. For a while before that, I thought I could get away with manual settings on a point & shoot camera, but there is absolutely no comparison. If you’re looking for a good lens, I highly recommend the this 50mm lens – it’s top notch, versatile, and affordable.
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Tripod – A good tripod makes getting the right shot so much easier. Not only does it keep the camera steady for ultra crisp pictures, it also frees your hands to reposition props, take pour shots, and more. The adjustable arm on this tripod makes it a breeze to get photos from any angle, and I also plan to use it for overhead video soon. I use mine with this ball head, which saves a lot of time and hassle in adjustments.
Lowel Ego Lights – When it comes to photography, lighting is everything. Believe it or not, all the photos on Wholesome Yum were taken using artificial light. Natural light is phenomenal, but quality artificial lights give me more control and consistency. Quality is the operative word there, and the Lowel lights (I have two!) truly deliver. They have the right color temperature, diffusion, and brightness for taking professional looking photos. You can start with one Lowel light and use a bounce card, but having two is even better.
The Food Photography Book – The ONLY guide to food photography that you’ll ever need! All the shots you see on Wholesome Yum today are thanks to the practical techniques in this book. I’ve purchased several books on the topic, and this one was by far the best. The format is easy to understand and apply, with just the right level of detail. It covers everything from lighting to camera settings to food styling to editing, and so much more. If you want to learn to create professional looking photos from one easy-to-use source, this is it.
Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom – If you’re serious about taking your photos to the next level, Adobe products are the gold standard. You can get Photoshop or Lightroom through Adobe Creative Cloud starting at only $9.99 per month, so it’s still totally affordable! And, if you buy the book above, that will guide you through exactly how to use them.
Managing Social Media
Social media can be a great way to grow your online presence, but it also gets incredibly time consuming. Reaching your audience most effectively can mean posting many times throughout the day, to multiple platforms. Scheduling and automation tools are crucial if you want to maintain your sanity. There are many options out there and I’ve tried out dozens of services. Below are my favorites.
Board Booster – A Pinterest scheduler I can’t live without – almost all of it is automated. You set up a few secret boards, then the tool uses those as a source for pinning to your public and group boards. It will post for you at optimal times and has safeguards in place for issues like duplicates. Board Booster also has other features to help you clean up your boards and analyze board performance. Get a free trial with this link.
Tailwind – This Pinterest scheduler helps you build a queue of pins, then posts them at the most optimal times for traffic and repinning. I use Tailwind alongside Board Booster. Tailwind has a flat fee structure, which is great. It also has useful features like board analytics, scheduling at an interval, and tribes for sourcing quality pins from others in your niche. This link gets you a free trial!
Mass Planner – An affordable, feature-rich scheduler for all your social platforms – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+. It takes a bit of time to set up, but once you do, it can automate a lot. Use their campaigns feature to pull data from various sources (I prefer RSS) and post on a schedule of your choice, with lots of customizations. Use this link for a free trial!
MailChimp – Every blog needs an email newsletter, and you’ll find that your subscribers are your most loyal followers. I’ve tried several email marketing platforms, and always came back to MailChimp. They make it easier than ever to manage your list, create segments, and design beautiful newsletters – both manual and RSS driven. The analytics, A/B testing, and triggered email features are just icing on the cake. Sign up using this link and get a FREE $30 credit!