NOTE: This is a pretty long post. I'm sure I'm breaking a blogger rule of some sort by the sheer length of this post. However, if you don't have the time or don't want to read this, you can just check out my slideshow of images from the Food Blog Forum. Thanks for visiting and I welcome your comments! If you are in any of my photos, please let me know as I'd love to connect faces to names. :)----------------------------
I LOVELOVELOVE Twitter! I've had the good fortune to sign up for two amazing food blogger gatherings through Twitter in the past 6 weeks. The first was the food photography class taught by Helene Dujardin of MyTartelette.com, and the second was the first-ever Food Blog Forum's "Build Your Best Blog" (BYBB) seminar. BYBB was a one-day event put on by Food Blog Forum founders Steamy Kitchen, Jaden and Scott Hair, and White On Rice Couple, Diane Cu and Todd Porter. I was very excited about attending this seminar because I am pretty new to the food blogging scene, having just started in December 2009. A large part of why I enjoy food blogging and using Twitter is making connections with other bloggers I admire. I've been a fan of Steamy Kitchen and White On Rice Couple for quite a while, so this was my chance to learn from the crème de la crème of the foodie world and to establish new friendships with other bloggers.
Gallery 1018 in downtown LA's arts district. Approximately seventy people attended the all-day seminar. There were six sessions designed to help food bloggers, well, build their best blog!
Upon arriving at the gallery, we were greeted by the lovely ladies, Diane, Jen of Devour the World, Rachael of La Fuji Mama, and Brooke of Food Woolf. They checked in bloggers and provided our credentials and a cute "Little White Book" business card holder. There was also a raffle to be held later in the day for cookbooks by Steamy Kitchen, Trader Joe's and Martha Stewart. One lucky Food Blog Forum member was going to win a dSLR camera!
The Salty Spoon's chocolate chip cookies! First, chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite out-of-hand sweet treat in the world. Bria of The Salty Spoon made a cookie that had the perfect chewy texture for me as I'm not a crispy cookie gal. There was a heady flavor that was almost floral (really excellent quality vanilla?) that melded with the butter and delicious chocolate chunks. A scant sprinkle of kosher salt on the top added the final taste contrast that I love -- salty + sweet -- in just the right proportion. Bria has promised to post the recipe and I am happily anticipating being able to make these myself. Thanks, Bria!
KCRW producer Harriet Ells, Good Food host and Angeli Caffe owner Evan Kleiman and Deep End Dining's Eddie Lin. I have been a huge fan of Evan Kleiman's for over ten years, and I love the Good Food show on KCRW. I remember when Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining was one of the earliest food bloggers -- he got his break when he was featured on Huell Howser's show. (For those of you unfamiliar with his name, Huell Howser is a Southern California legend, in my mind at least. He travels the state looking to find the extraordinary in the everyday. There is no one else like Huell because of his unbridled enthusiasm and child-like wonder about everything he encounters. I love him!) Eddie blogs about eating the less common, more exotic foods that aren't part of the everyday meal in the US.
Gastronomy Blog and Marian of Marian the Foodie to demonstrate two points of view on having your dream career. The three-step takeaway from his presentation: 1) get clear on what you want; 2) get clear on your reasons for wanting what you want; and 3) ask yourself what small steps could I do today to move me closer to that goal. Telling people what you want to do by honing a ten-second elevator pitch will help solidify your plan of action and make connections where you may not have thought possible.
We had a great lunch from Baby Blues BBQ and Pizza Next Door. I had the opportunity to meet Jimmy of Thirsty Pig, Javier of Teenage Glutster, and at long last --my Twitter pal -- Cathy from Gastronomy Blog, during lunch.
After lunch, Adam Pearson and Matt Armendariz of MattBites.com shared their tips for finding your visual voice in food photography and styling. Matt is an experienced art director for food shoots and food photographer, and Adam went to culinary school and is a food stylist. Both are self-taught! Matt's key components for great photos are: 1) good light; 2) fresh food; 3) visual delectability; and 4) sense of place. Adam's goal when styling food is to make each ingredient look its best. To that end, he offers the following tips: 1) know your food, inside & out; 2) build your plate for the camera (i.e., prop up the food if needed, so it isn't flat on the plate); 3) undercook the food or the food may lose its freshness and body; 4) bring out texture and movement; 5) know when to use tricks (and when not to); 6) have a vision of the story you are trying to tell.
Todd and Diane continued the photography discussion with a session about workflow and gear. One of the examples that really excited bloggers was their simple illustration that broke down the direction of light in an image. They used a clock to illustrate the angles at which light can hit a subject. Twelve o'clock is backlight that hits directly from behind the object; six o'clock is the most direct light from the front -- this is very flat light. Shadows help create dimension and interest. Diane encouraged us to take a series of photos at the various "times" and see how it changes the look of the photo.
Relevant Trafik's Gary Nicholson talked about the tools to increasing the traffic and searchability of your blog or website. In addition to using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, he stressed the importance of using alt tags for images, optimizing images for the web (max 72 ppi); using key words in titles and descriptions, and avoiding spammy text (like repeating key words over and over again -- Google doesn't like this!). He also stressed the importance of making your blog easy to navigate and to share. Pick your key words before you write your article and do not use the key words more than twice in each article. Key word examples are city names, blog names and book titles. Share the permalink to your blog on Facebook and Twitter as this counts as an inbound link to your blog, thus driving up your searchability.
Jaden concluded the day with her advice regarding monetizing your blog. She said that there are four ingredients to the monetization formula: consistent content + authenticity + diversity + community. Consistency in your blog content and posting frequency increases loyalty among readers. Authenticity refers to whether your blog persona matches your real-life persona. It's important to diversify the types of ways you can reach your end-user: television, print, radio, classes, etc. She advised the audience to have more than one skill. For example, Jaden is a food writer, a public speaker, and she can shoot and edit photos and video. Bloggers were warned not to depend on ad revenue as a sole source of income. She suggested finding a "rock star" in a totally unrelated industry and find out the similarities in their success that can be translated into the food community. And, finally, speaking of community, don't be afraid to divulge your "secrets" to other bloggers. This is how you become remembered by more people as people always remember those who are helpful. It is, indeed, better to give than to receive as a blogger.
If you've stuck with me all the way to the end, I thank you very much! I hope you've enjoyed this summary of last week's seminar. There were too many photos to include them all, but you can view my slideshow to see additional pics.