Blogging & Photography

This Blogging + Photography resource list was created to give bloggers (whether new or not) the tools to gain a real footing in the blogging community and build a successful little corner on the web.

Oftentimes, I’m asked “how did you get that picture to be so vivid and captivating”? Or, “where did you get that…?” You name it, I’ve been asked as a blogger who has built a community for the past 5-6 years, seriously, which is why I’ve decided to come up with a direct space on my blog where I can answer such questions and offer a few nuggets for any other blogger and/or photographer trying to figure it all out on this journey of starting a blog.

Disclaimer: We are a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to affiliated sites. However, I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are companies that I have found helpful and trustworthy.

My Camera Faves

  • Best Beginner

    Canon - EOS Rebel T6i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Lens

    SUMMARY
    In the beginning, I contemplated on whether to get the Canon vs. a Nikon DSLR camera, since both are neck in neck in popularity with many bloggers and vloggers! After much research, I decided to go with this beauty and it's really good for a first DSLR camera.
  • Best Intermediate

    Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body – Wi-Fi Enabled

    SUMMARY
    Now that I'm almost 3 years into this Food Blogging game, I've decided to upgrade my camera body to a more professional one. This Canon Mark II is AMAZING compared to my previous body. Granted, I plan on upgrading again soon, but this one is definitely worth it if you're considering the upgrade or starting off on a professional note.
  • Best Advanced

    Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

    SUMMARY
    Now that I'm 4-5 years into this Food Blogging game, I've decided to upgrade my camera body to a more professional one. This Canon Mark IV is AMAZING compared to my previous body, although I now use both when creating my recipe videos (for different angle purposes). Currently, my photos have been super vivid, clean, and absolutely gorgeous!
  • Best Advanced Extra

    CANON EOS R5 FULL-FRAME MIRRORLESS CAMERA WITH 8K VIDEO

    SUMMARY
    Getting into the video world and taking it seriously requires another level of equipment. This Canon camera is not the suggested DSLR and while it has it's own Pros + Cons, the new technology on this one is the best for video in particular. It's one of my husband's faves!
  • Best Lightweight

    SONY A7 III ILCE7M3/B FULL-FRAME MIRRORLESS CAMERA

    SUMMARY
    While I am a die hard Canon fan----I do love Sony products, especially their cameras and this one was one that I came across after much research which works as a great light weight camera. It's pretty compact and is really high-quality. I recommend it for any Blogger or Vlogger!
  • Perfect for Point + Shoot

    Canon PowerShot Digital Camera [G7 X Mark II]

    SUMMARY
    This camera is perfect for any Blogger (regardless of niche) and makes for a great "Point + Shoot" camera because of it's precise capture specs, video capabilities, and aperture value, and autofocus system. I love that it's not as expensive, is more lightweight, and still offers great quality.

Must Have Lenses

  • CANON EF 100MM F/2.8L IS USM MACRO LENS FOR CANON DIGITAL SLR CAMERAS

    Having a great camera like the Canon is just the first step. Getting a better lens in addition to your starter lens is the next AND super important step. A better lens offers much more clarity in your photos, better focus, etc.
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed

    OK! So, this lens has been a new favorite! Although it's expensive, the clarity and wide lens is super helpful in creating beautiful photos! I can attest that it's worth every penny. Coupled with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens, you can't go wrong with Food photography!
  • Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens, Black

    This year, I chose to upgrade my camera + lens yet again! While having one camera is just enough in most cases, when it comes to shooting videos and wanting to have several angles, there comes a time when having more than one high-quality cameras (along with various lens) becomes a thing! If you're looking to shoot super sharp photos/videos, this lens is perfect!

other important equipment

  • Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with Horizontal Column and 3-Way Head

    I love the Manfrotto tripods and if you're willing to invest in a higher quality tripod, then this is it! It's such high-quality, more sturdy, has more adjustable capabilities, and completely reliable. Definitely recommend!
  • Manfrotto Junior Geared Tripod Head

    So, I recently upgraded my equipment and this little beauty was one that I opted for. Although, the Zomei Tripod is a great option, many of my fellow bloggers swear by the Manfrotto tripod which comes separately as a “head” and “body” combo.
  • Neewer 72.4-Inch Aluminum Camera Tripod Monopod

    This tripod is a great affordable option for anyone looking to keep their camera shots more stable. This is one of my faves before I upgraded to a more expensive one. Main important specs: Stable Tripod, Multi-Angle Center Column, Panoramic Ball Head, Adjustable Tripod Legs.
  • NEEWER PRO ADJUSTABLE REFLECTOR STAND

    In conjunction with my tripod, I’ve recently purchased this adjustable reflector stand, which comes in HANDY when making my recipe videos. Using this stand along with the Manfrotto head (mentioned above), has created the perfect combo for getting perfectly aligned overhead shots and recipe video content. Definitely one that I recommend! Lastly, I love the fact that it can be adjusted extremely high for the times you choose to use a zoom lens, if you have one.
  • Aputure Light Storm C300d Mark II LED Light Kit

    With having to do a cookbook in not so great weather these past few months, I finally took the leap on investing in artificial lighting! While sunlight is my biggest resource for a majority of my photos, this lighting has replicated natural light in such a way that I no longer have to double-check the weather as it relates to being able to shoot my food photos! I so recommend!
  • SANDISK 128GB EXTREME PRO SDXC SD CARD

    While you may be thinking about all the external parts of your camera, it’s super important to remember this little plastic piece. This right here is a LIFESAVER. Trust me, there’s nothing more annoying (or saddening) than to be taking a photo only to realize that there isn’t anything to store your photos on. Not only is this little SD card important for that reason, but this specific Extreme Pro version is super fast and I chose to purchase a large storage space to avoid buying another one any time soon. No worries–it also comes in 16 GBs, 32GBs, and 64GBs.
  • DJI Ronin-SC - Camera Stabilizer, 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal for DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

    I can't tell you how much of a LIFESAVER this piece of equipment has been! Having a Gimbal when shooting video truly helps you be able to get various angles while keeping things extremely stable. Definitely something that I recommend investing in!
  • Aputure Light Dome II (34.8")

    This piece goes with the above light kit! The 34.8" Light Dome II from Aputure is a 16-sided modifier that offers quality of light options and wide compatibility with Aputure lights, as well as those of the many other manufacturers that use popular Bowens front accessory mount.
  • SanDisk 1TB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card

    Chances are, if you're shooting a ton of still images + videos, you'll eventually need a larger memory card, especially if shooting in 4K! This is why I recommend investing in a 1TB memory card if your budget allows.
  • Wireless Headset Lavalier Microphone System

    Again, yet another overlooked but important piece of equipment, especially when doing videos. I found that having a Microphone system, I've been better at recording videos that offer clear, high-quality volume/sound. Of course, the prices range for these and you can always purchase something cheaper, however, I love the mid-price range and quality.

Editing Software

  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

    Ok, so I'm not that great with Photoshop, but luckily my husband takes care of the photography, so he's good with this! As for its effectiveness---this program works wonders! It's priced at $149, but like many other Adobe programs, it's worth the investment.
  • Final Cut Pro

    When it comes to editing my recipe videos, my go-to software is Final Cut Pro---the latest edition. It's an awesome entry-level program, which can also be used on a professional level for those of you who are tech-savvy.

BOARDS + BACKGROUNDS

When it comes to photo backgrounds, I’ve had my share of them. However, I can definitely attest to Ink and Elm’s backdrops which are highly premium and are super easy to clean and store. Plus, they have so many options to choose from, so you’re able to build a nice variety for your photography needs.

For a little upgrade, you can purchase these Best Ever BackDrops which are super high quality and they are so flexible and sturdy. Granted, they are a little expensive for those of you who might be beginners, but so worth it.

Currently, however, I custom make my background boards with Erickson Surfaces, which are absolutely beautiful, sturdy, and easy to wipe clean! Definitely worth the investment in my opinion.

OTHER AFFORDABLE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BACKGROUND IDEAS + DIYs:

  • IKEA LINNMON TABLE TOP
  • ANTIQUE AND DISTRESSED SHEET PANS
  • CERAMIC AND PORCELAIN FLOOR TILES
  • CRAFT AND CONSTRUCTION PAPER
  • NATURAL PARCHMENT PAPER
  • THIN PLYWOOD
  • FOAM BOARDS
  • WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS
  • CLOTH LINENS

Awesome books to invest in

  • Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (2nd Edition)

    When it comes to reading books, I'm VERY meticulous since there are so many books out there. However, after doing extensive research, I found this book to be an amazing option when it comes to breaking down the mechanics of photography in general as well as food photography (specifically). This book dishes up the basics on everything you need to know to make great food images, from getting the right camera equipment to mastering the key photographic principles of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. She offers tips on styling food using props, fabrics, and tabletops; and she explains how to improve your photos through editing after the shoot. A MUST!
  • Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera

    After doing extensive research, I found this book to be an amazing option when it comes to breaking down the mechanics of Food styling and the photography behind it. This book dishes up tips + tricks when it comes to ensuring that your food looks perfect at all times. Tons of pictures and a whole lot of information worth buying and knowing!
  • Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography + Styling

    This book is another thing to get on your list of must-haves! Another winner in sharing amazing tips + tricks to making your Food photos look great. It breaks down the importance of natural light, different camera modes and settings, how to fine-tune exposure, telling your story with light, and MORE!
  • Picture Perfect Food: Master the Art of Food Photography

    Snapping unbelievably gorgeous food photos has never been simpler than with Picture Perfect Food, your all-in-one guide to delicious-looking images from prolific photographer and educator, Joanie Simon. Whether you’re an up-and-coming food blogger, looking to break into commercial photography or capturing food just for fun (and your Instagram account), this approachable collection of tutorials will have you taking tantalizing and tasty shots with every snap of the shutter.
  • Final Cut Pro Efficient Editing: Smart, quick, and effective video editing

    If you're into making videos or want to understand how to best use Final Cut Pro, besides YouTube videos, I suggest getting this book! Explore the best ways to use FCP, from importing and editing to finishing and exporting the final cut, unlock the power of editing in the magnetic timeline to make huge changes or subtle adjustments easily, and finish your project with pro-level color correction, effects, transitions, audio, titles, and captions.

HOSTING, WORDPRESS PLUGINS, THEMES, + WEBSITE TOOLS:

When it comes to getting started on your blog, there are a few backend tools that you’ll need to consider for a successful blog and site. While there are MANY options available, I’ve created a short list of ones that I recommend.

  • Web Hosting

    Website User Top Picks: Blue Host, Siteground, WP Engine, and my current host: BigScoots—their Customer Service and support teams are amazing and ready to help, always!

  • Wordpress Themes

    OUR FAVORITE: The Genesis Framework (With Genesis, you’re going to want to purchase the Framework ($59.95) along with a child theme(prices vary). This makes up your entire site’s theme and layout.) Simply visit Studio Press Themes for WordPress.

    Of course, I’ve chosen to build my website out from scratch, however, we still use the same framework.

    Others: Foodie Pro, Daily Dish, and Elegant Themes.

  • Website Tools

    Email Marketing: I previously used MailchimpIt’s great and super simple and customizable. Then, I switched my email marketing to ConvertKit, which most bloggers rave about. But now, I currently use Flodesk which has been a dream so far! I’m all about the design/aesthetics of things and this platform does a great job at highlighting that!

    Other tools that are useful: ManageWP, Codeable, Google Apps, Cloudflare, Google Analytics (Your BFF for life!), Canva, Yoast SEO, Ahrefs, and more!

  • Wordpress Plugins:

    Akismet (Spam Blocker).

    Yoast SEO (a great starter tool for anyone learning SEO and wants to ensure that their blog posts meet SEO standards).

    Broken Link Checker (I like it because it makes me aware of any inside or outside links that are broken on my site that need fixing).

    Pinterest Pin It button (super easy for readers to “Pin” your images with just one click).

    UpDraftPlus (for backing up your site).

    WP Super Cache (helps to keep things rolling speedily on your site).

    VaultPress (Great for Security + BackUps).

    WP Recipe Maker (Great organized recipe cards that are great for SEO also)

    Gravity Forms (Great option for your website forms).

    Imagify (Image optimizer that reduces your image size to minimize server resources).

    WP Rocket (allows you to speed up your site and enhance overall performance).

Ultimately, while creating and managing a blog takes a lot of work (especially when you’re doing it seriously and running it as a business), it’s still all about having fun, understanding your readers, and making killer content that represents who you are!

I’ve learned along my journey, that it DOES TAKE TIME AND PATIENCE to get this thing right! You’ll definitely have a few rocky moments and yes, it’ll take a few tries and re-tries. But overall, the road to blogging is one that will teach you A TON and you’re sure to walk away a few times saying, “Aha”!

My Advice

“Go into this journey knowing who YOU are and be authentic to YOU the entire way.”

Whether you choose to have a Food Blog or anything else that requires creativity, business savviness, or just plain dedication, just remember that it’s all a learning curve that happens only through experience. Always look at others in your niche for inspiration (BUT never compare yourself or aim to be like anyone else), educate yourself on ways to best market your blog/business to your audience, create a Vision Board so that you have a physical blueprint of your goals, remain CONSISTENT, but most importantly, remember who YOU ARE and remain authentic to YOU, always! Your community will appreciate you for who you are.

Be sure to stop by our Contact page if you have any questions or my About page to learn more about Orchids + Sweet Tea, why I started, and what to expect.

xx, Shanika