Looking to start your own food blog? Want to know what makes Gastronomic SLC tick? Here are all the tools I use to make this site run.
Some of the links below are affiliate links – that means I might get a modest referral fee if you go on and make a purchase from the links below.
WordPress hosting, themes and plugins
I use WordPress for all of my websites – I recommend you do too. Yes, there’s a learning curve and yes you will need to put some time and effort into it. If you like you can learn the ropes for free using WordPress.org. There’s absolutely a learning curve involved, but I can’t stress enough how much it’s worth it for your long term success. Once you’ve grasped the fundamentals of WordPress you will be rewarded with the most flexible and portable publishing platform on the planet. You won’t be locked into any one provider. The sky is the limit.
Once you know what you’re doing you will need a WordPress web hosting company and ‘self host’ your website with the hosting company. I used 34SP.com who provide me with sponsored free website hosting (it helps that I work there). Use code GSLC at checkout when buying WordPress hosting from 34SP.com and get six free months. No commitment necessary.
For the website theme I use the GeneratePress theme. It’s a quick and lightweight design which is essential in 2021 with Core Web Vitals coming along. GeneratePress also offer a number of drop in template-designs so you don’t need to spend too long messing around with design (unless that’s your thing).
Some of the plugins I current use are:
- Ad Inserter Pro for displaying ads
- GN Publisher to auto create XML for Google News inclusion
- MonsterInsights Pro for link tracking
- Simple Author Box Pro for that nifty little author bio after each post
- Wapuu Dashboard Pet cos it’s cute and helpful
- Webp Express for on the fly Webp image conversion for compatible browsers
While I use Adsense on several other websites I run, I do not currently use dynamically placed ads on the website. Instead I personally negotiate with local businesses for a bespoke ad model. The Gateway are currently our headline sponsor with double ad banners on every post and page.
Other businesses work with us through our Page Sponsor option – their business headlining specific pages of the site such as, “best burger”.
My number one piece of advice is to think about monetization from day one. I’d get ads integrated into your site and design as early as you can, so you can get comfortable with how they look and function. You might not make any more than pennies in the early days, but you will learn a ton of insight along the way; you’ll be perfectly placed when your traffic goes up.
There are several thousands people subscribed to our weekly and daily newsletter. I use the services of Mailchimp to power this part of the site. You can get started from free upto around 12,000 emails per month.
I need to use a paid option given the number of subscribers we have and number of emails sent. It costs about $30 per month to support our newsletter list.
I shoot with a Sony A7iii mirrorless camera using a Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens. It’s not cheap. This isn’t my first camera by a long shot. I started way back when with a point and shoot Canon S100 before moving to mirrorless with a Sony A6000. From there I upgraded to an enhanced lens from Sigma. Finally I made the leap to full frame with the A7. It’s the best investment I ever made in my food writing career.
The A7 body dropped below $2k a while ago while the G Master lens holds steady around $1300. That’s also another plus point. While I won’t go into the huge benefits of this type of high end camera gear – you should note – it keeps its value relatively well should you ever want to sell it on.
My one advice is to not cheap out and just use your iPhone. You’ll find yourself in a lot of low light environments (hey there dark restaurant) and your photos need to stand out from the crowd.
Food photo staging equipment for bloggers
All the plated food shots (I take at home) on Gastronomic use Corelle 10 inch Winter Frost dinner plates. They’re cheap and as tough as nails. They’re dishwasher safe and the plain design works really well for food – you don’t want anything distracting.
The counter and backdrop are ‘fake’ staging props – I use Replica Surfaces. They have a huge range of options and they look great. When natural light in my sun room fails me I use Octagonal Softbox Lighting Kits from Limostudio. Check it out here.