When I first started The Styled Suburbian, I knew it was going to be a lot of work. The writing, prep, organization, photo taking, editing – it all takes a lot of time and effort. What I didn’t realize is that I’d make so many mistakes but on the flip side, I’m so glad I did. I’ve learned SO much. You can read all of the articles in the world about the best platform to use, how to gain more followers, what not to do, don’t use this filter, post this time of day, etc. You will never really know until you start your own blogging journey. If you’re truly passionate about your blog and what you’re promoting, you’ll have a ton of fun along the way and will want to dedicate all of your free time to this hobby. Below are the five most important things I wish I knew about blogging BEFORE I started.
The Platform: WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
When I first started The Styled Suburbian I joined WordPress.com. It was a great choice in the beginning – I read articles, watched ‘How To’ videos (what is a widget?) and started with a free theme. What I soon realized was if I ever wanted to grow my blog, I needed to use ShopStyle Collective product widgets (see image below) and other specific plugins that were not available with WordPress.com. WordPress.com is great if you are looking to create a simple website with some writing and photos. If you want an area so people can shop your looks, subscribe to emails, “pin” photos, etc, then you need WordPress.org.
Part of me wishes I knew this ahead of time (and it would have saved me the $120 price tag to move my entire blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org), but in a way I’ve also learned so much about what it takes to build a website. You can read all of the ‘How To’ articles and purchase the ‘How to Blog, Work, and Still Have Time to Clean the Bathroom’ book (yes, I did), but you’ll never really figure out what works best for you until you try.
My husband Sam is the man behind the lens 90% of the time. We both knew nothing about photography when we started. We did a little research online and purchased a Nikon D5500 (beginner DSLR camera) before our honeymoon. We were fortunate to be able to borrow my boss’s very nice lens (he has multiple cameras and photography used to be a big hobby of his) for the trip. When we came home, we knew if we were going to be serious about blogging that we had to invest in a good lens as it makes a huge difference in the quality of the photos. Once again, we did a little research, asked his friend Nick (a photographer) about which lens is best for portraits without spending thousands and voila: we had our Nikon D5500 camera with a new 50mm f/1.4G lens with auto focus. (If that sounds like a foreign language to you, don’t worry, it still does to me as well).
Scouting locations and weather are two major components as well. Cloudy days are much preferred over bright, sunny days. With both of us working full time jobs and blogging on the side, we usually pick locations that are close to home (lakes, Boston, side streets). As much as I would love to have beautiful flowers and gardens behind me for all of my photos, it’s just not realistic.
I did not know anything about editing or what apps to use when I first started. I didn’t want to spend $100 on photoshop to only then have to learn how to use it. Start with free apps. My top two free editing apps are VSCO and Lightroom. Lightroom is great for changing the white balance if you are forced to take some photos inside during bad weather (yellow lighting turns into crisp, white, perfect lighting). VSCO took me a little while to get used to, but it’s by far my favorite. It has so many different filters (90% of which look natural) and you can adjust everything from contrast, brightness, sharpen, saturation, color, highlights, shadows, etc. After you dedicate some time to exploring the app, you’ll be a pro in no time. The key to editing: You do not want a photo to look edited. You want it to look as natural as possible. So if that means just changing the white balance or removing that one zit that popped up last night, do that.
When I first started blogging I knew nothing about Photoshop or how to create those fancy product collages (see photo below). Once again, I spent hours googling, “how do fashion bloggers create those cool outfit collages”. I recommend starting with the Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 free 30 day trial. I did as many collages as I could think to do in those 30 days and the first 15 days were spent teaching myself how to use Photoshop. When it comes to collages, prep is key: 1.) Brainstorming what kind of collage you want to create (ex. Fall Outfits Under $100) 2.) Finding the pieces (ex. stalking Banana Republic, Old Navy, etc and piecing outfits together) 3.) Screenshot and edit all of the outfits.
After my 30 day free trial was up I was asked to buy it for $100.00. Ugh. I was just starting to get the hang of it and now I had to pay another decent amount of money to continue to use it? Instead, I once again did some research and found TurboCollage6. It’s only $20 and does 80% of what I was doing with Photoshop for my collages. The major difference I’ve found is that it does not have the lasso tool to remove shadows or backgrounds of screenshots. It also does not have any of the fun symbols to add to a collage (you have to screenshot those elsewhere in TurboCollage).
February 18, 2017 Update: Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 is on sale this Presidents’ Day weekend for $69.99 instead of $99.99. If you’re on the fence about buying this program, this weekend is a great time to take advantage of the lower price!
Blogging is a second full-time job. Almost every moment of my limited downtime is spent scheduling, prepping, editing and organizing. I usually prepare two outfit posts a week (depending on weekend weather to shoot photos) with one post being some sort of collage. Sam and I usually shoot photos during Saturday or Sunday mornings (8-10am) or afternoons (3-5pm) as these are the best times for lighting. It also takes a good amount of time to prepare your clothes (ironing, steaming, etc), makeup, hair, etc. Preparation is key to keeping followers and gaining new ones.
I truly believe if you create content you’re passionate about and proud of, good things will follow. Have fun with it! Who knows where I’ll be in 6 months – maybe I’ll do a follow up post then 🙂 If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me. One last thing I’ve learned – ask questions! The blogging community is full of knowledge and one of the best ways to learn is to ask questions. I also joined the Style Collective blogging community – it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and grow your following: sign up here. Enjoy!
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