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Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 16 of 26

Photos For Your Blog

April Bowles-Olin

Build a Successful Creative Blog

April Bowles-Olin

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Lesson Info

16. Photos For Your Blog


  Class Trailer
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2 Know Your Ideal Reader Duration:52:03
3 Put Fun Back into Blogging Duration:35:03
4 Best Practices for Success Duration:26:50
5 Developing Your Content Plan Duration:46:24
7 Your Unique Style and Voice Duration:31:49
8 Design Tips Duration:21:38
  Class Trailer
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1 Writing in Your Voice Duration:34:10
2 Exploring Different Voices Duration:28:23
3 Copywriting 101 Duration:19:45
6 Visuals For Your Blog Duration:30:04
7 Photos For Your Blog Duration:55:35
9 Promoting with Social Media Duration:39:29

Lesson Info

Photos For Your Blog

So we were talking about backgrounds and keeping them slightly neutral so that they're not distracting to whatever you are taking photos of. And I was saying how this is one of the setups that I use a lot. I have this antique window, vintage window that I usually put up, and it gives a little nice reflection. It's actually something that I've come to love to use. Sometimes I just want something white, so I'll just put up some film poster board, or sometimes I will hang a little bit of fabric, depending on the mood, depending on what I'm trying to create with that photo. So, my photography setup. We have a picture of blueberries that is pretty much like the one that is setup here. For this shot, I took this with my Nikon D90, and the camera that I've had now for a little over two years I want to say I've been using this camera, and I do really love it. But for this one, I would have gotten down like this and would be taking the photo at its level. And this is a photo that a lot of peopl...

e often forget to take. They forget to get down on the level of whatever they're taking the photo of, and that's a really good shot, it's a really important one. For this one, I still-- I like to crouch when I'm taking photos. I don't know why, but I crouch a lot. I would get down like this and be taking the photo just like this. And you'll see that that photo is pretty similar, the focus is different. So the focus for this one is on the rim of the bowl, and then the focus of this one is on the blueberries. And it just depends on what kind of shot you want. Luckily with my camera I can push down it and it shows me where it's focusing, and I push down again and it takes the picture. Sometimes it works against me, and I feel like it's a little bit of a monster and it wants to take its own photo. However, plenty of times it comes out the way that I'm expecting it to. And then another example of this would be right over top of it. So I would have my camera turned up, right upside down on top of the blueberries. And this is another one that a lot of people forget to take, is right over top of whatever it is you're photographing. But if I am taking lots of shots of these blueberries I'm gonna be moving around a lot. So I'm probably going to start in front of them, probably going to get down on the level. Come up, I'm going to move to the side. I'm going to take photos from this side. See if I like the light, usually adjust the light. Then I'm gonna come over to this side. Because often it depends on the time of day at my house but I will take photos outside, not in direct sunlight, in the shade, right underneath where our house comes down so there's lots of shade right there. And it depends on the time of day whether the photos looks nicer from the left or the right, and I usually just experiment and figure out which I like the best. Crouching is good, and Emily Hone says, "I find that I'm always sore after a good photo shoot. "I call it the photographer's workout." (laughter) That is a good workout. Now April, just to be clear here. I know typically you said you would be shooting outside, you'd be using natural light, you'd be in the shade. Obviously we don't have shade and natural light in here. We do have some bright lights. So that is why we're just kind of setting this up. Normally we would do the actual photography, but we are in the studio, we don't have the natural light. But typically you'd be doing natural light only, right? Yes. I sometimes shoot without natural light. I sometimes will use these lights that I have that are made for photos or for videos, and I use them mainly for videos, however every once in a while I'll make a recipe and it will be too late, and the sun will be down, and I won't be able to use natural light, so I use artificial light. But I never ever like those photos as much, and sometimes I don't even end up posting them because I decide these photos aren't good enough. I'm gonna have to redo this recipe sometime when I'm gonna have the daylight and work with it then. That's also why we don't have the camera here and all of that. It's really just to give you the end result. But it is so helpful just to see the materials that you're shooting on. It's really hard to understand how simple this could be until you see that it's literally just a little bowl of blueberries and they're sprinkled around. Yeah, and you can get a photo like this that you're using on your blog, or like this one, and it's really just about taking as many photos as possible. When I take photos over the top like this one I had about, I would say about 30 to choose from, and I picked that one. The other ones weren't as good. They weren't as focused, or the light wasn't as right, or there was something about the composition that I didn't like as much. So really taking as many photos as possible is gonna be the best tip, my best advice. And yes, this is so super easy to setup on your own. Really everything for me was free because my parents brought me this stuff, but you can sometimes even find this stuff just on the side of the road. A wood pallet from a construction site, or an old window that you take out, or at yard sales or flea markets, estate sales, places like that you'll find this type of stuff too and for not that much money. So if you wanted to set something up that was very similar to this you could without spending very much. So finding the right light. This is the most important part, if you're gonna use natural lights, in my opinion. Light is your best photography friend. Put your setup and stand near a window, or glass door, or outside somewhere in the shade. Now if you're outside in the shade you also want to make sure that there aren't lots of shadows on what you're shooting. For me, the shade is all the same because it's underneath where our roof comes down, so everything looks the same. I used to shoot in a sun room. We had a house that had this beautiful sun room, and at first I thought, I can't find the right light in this room even though it's a sun room, because it seemed too bright. So I had to diffuse it, I put up some sheer curtains. So if you're finding that the light is too bright, and you're shooting next to a window or door, something like that, try putting up a sheer curtain, even if you just have to tape it up there for a second, and see what that does, see if that helps. And adjust the light settings on your camera. That's the first thing that I do. If you've got a camera that you can do this with, adjust those settings first. You'll see an example of this up here where finding the right light, I think, is important. On the left it's a darker shot. It's one that I don't like as much. I don't like the shadows as much, and it's just not something that I would use in a blog post. Whereas all I had to do was go from one side of the table to the other side of the table to get the other shot, the one on the right that I actually really liked, and wanted to use. So my suggestion is to take photos at all different angles when photographing an object, because you never know which one you're gonna really love. You can see it on the little screen on your camera but then when you pull it up on your computer often it looks a little bit different. This one I got because I was crouching again, with my watercolors down on the table, and it took me so many shots before I got this one that I was really excited about and I wanted to share with my audience. So get down on its level, stand above it, move to the side. And if you keep getting blurry photos, use a tripod, it'll help. If you don't have steady hands you often need a tripod. You can usually get one of those that isn't that expensive as well, however you want to make sure it's good enough that the tripod doesn't move too. If it's too cheap, then sometimes you'll get movement from the tripod as well. But if you're getting blurry photos and you're thinking, "What can I do to fix this to make it better," try a tripod, and it will mean a world of difference. Do you guys use tripods? I'd love to hear. Occasionally, but not always. But also, you know the thing about a tripod is a sandbag helps, often to weight it down, especially if you're having it at some weird angle. And then also if you have an animal around that might run into your tripod, it will save your camera from falling over. Ooh, that's a good one too, that's a good one. So do you see a big difference when you take photos with a tripod? I'm using a tripod when say I'm taking a lot of like letterpress things where I just want to have the same setup and be changing them out, because I want the photos to have the same positioning. Otherwise, yeah, I like to do a lot of moving around. And then I've been experimenting with some video, of myself, so I need to have that. Right, right. Yes. Sometimes I use a tripod but the other thing I like to do is just make sure I'm steady, and like maybe use a wall or something for the camera as a tripod-on-the-go. Yeah, sometimes I will definitely put my elbow down if it's getting blurry, yeah. So take lots of photos, many more than you think you need. Many more than you think you need. I will often hear from creatives that, "I hate my photos," and these are usually their product photos, and I'll say, "How many photos do you usually take in a session?" "Well, I take the four you see on my Etsy shop "for this product right here." And so I tell them, okay, you are going to be amazed. I'm going to tell you to go and take 200 photos of this one product, see what you come up with, and see if you don't love some of the photos that you get. So for this one I wanted the stem to be in focus and I wanted the rest of it to be blurry, and that's what I was really aiming for, and it took me a while for me to get that. It took me about 50 photos before I got my favorite one. And that's really interesting, what is it, like a pumpkin? It is a pumpkin. Yeah, like a white pumpkin. Yep, yeah. It makes you think, too, kind of like, what's the purpose of the photo? Are you trying to get people to easily identify what's in it or just sort of give them an idea of what it is from a different perspective. So that's really cool. There's folks in the chat room, I mean they're just having so much fun. They're chasing the light, people are knocking down windows and they're trying to get more light. And actually, Big Apple City New York says, "I am moving out my New York city little apartment "next month because there is not enough light." And then we have people that are talking about thrift stores, dollar stores, the Goodwill being a great place to have props, and some of our chatters have their own prop closet going on. Yeah, everybody sort of has their own setup that works for them. They're getting their supplies from all over. Different viewpoints on tripods. Gorilla Jack says, "I'm not good with tripods. "The only time I ever used it "was when taking photos of a fountain, "and I wanted to be able to play with the settings "to capture the flow of the water." So that's a case where you may need that stability of a tripod, but maybe not for every shot you take. Yeah, yeah. Oh I like that. Yes. Thrift stores, Goodwill, those are stores that I find lots of props for my photos too. I have a collection of wood pallets, you guys, that are in all different shades and colors so that I can pick the one. I do have my favorite, the one that I go back to a lot, the one that you see in a lot of my photos because it's my favorite, but it's nice to have a little bit of variety. So I know this isn't fun, but read your camera manual. Get to know your camera. It's not fun, but it can make a big difference. Or have somebody teach you how to use your camera. This is something that I did. When I got my DSLR I thought, "I don't know what I'm doing with this thing. "I have no clue. Not a clue. "I barely even know how to turn this on, "I don't know how to take photos with it. "This is gonna be a nightmare "trying to learn how to use it." So I had a friend online who was a photographer and she offered consulting sessions. So we got on Skype, I paid her to consult, to teach me how to use my camera, and we spent an hour and a half on Skype. By the end of it I felt confident that I could take pretty pictures with my new camera. So you can decide, "Okay I'm going to read my camera manual "or I'm going to have somebody who knows this camera "teach me how to do this." Or a photographer who offers that kind of service, that's also an option. But knowing your camera really well is important. Let a color palette inspire your photos, and include objects that enhance your photos. Don't add ones that steal the show or detract from things. So I'll often think about, okay, what colors do I want in this photo, what can I add to it that's going to make it even better. For this one we went by the floral shop and I got some berry branches and added it to my watercolor. I taped down the watercolor painting. This was my first attempt at watercolor, you guys. Yeah. That looks good. I did have somebody teaching me that is an artist, and she teaches art for a long time, so... But I wanted to show this because my ideal reader loves to see this kind of stuff, this kind of stuff that I'm working on on a regular basis. So I taped it down with some washi tape, I added some berry branches. I put the watercolor palette-- not the one I used, but one that I had-- in the photo, and I think it added to it. And then here's another one where I think the brushes add to the photo. And here's the last one from this set. So thinking about the colors that you have in whatever it is that you want to photograph, and then how can you complement that, how can you enhance that. And maybe some good ideas for finding your color palette, I mean they have those paint strips you can just kind of go pick up and say, "Ooh, I'm more into this bold palette, "or I'm more into these muted colors, "or I love pastels." Do you have any other suggestions for that? Yeah, and then Pinterest, if you type in "color palette" you're gonna see so many different ideas for that. I have put color palettes up on Pinterest, but I have a board just for color palettes and I collect them. They usually will have a photo and the colors that come from the photo alongside it. You guys have seen this before, yeah. So that's another way to find some color palettes. And I will use that stuff not just for thinking about my own photos, but other visuals that I create for my blog. So if I'm putting together a workbook and I want a color palette for it I might go to Pinterest and look at a color palette from a photo and then pull that into Illustrator and use that color palette. You can use it for lots of different things, but that's a fun place to find color palettes. I suggest that you build a daily photo habit. Take photos of your life each day, or at the very least, every week, and categorize them for easy access. So I want to know right now from you guys if you already take photos on a daily basis. And do you pull them off your camera and edit them, do you categorize them, what's your process? Share with me. I'm taking photos pretty often, but I think it's not in the way that you're talking about, because it's just whatever I have done. I'm always finding time to take photos, and then of course I take photos that usually end up on Instagram. And I do most of my-- Photos for Instagram I use VSCO cam. Sometimes I take photos from my real camera and it has-- Okay, sorry-- my more professional camera, and it sends photos to my phone and I edit them on there, and then all the photos for my blog are usually edited in Photoshop. So you take photos on a pretty regular basis. Yeah, I wouldn't say there was a week that went by that I wasn't taking pictures, but maybe not every single day. And they don't have to be setup like this. I mean photos like you're just working on a project and you're taking photos. Yeah, but I'm always thinking about photos. Good, yeah. It seems like that would be the right fit for your blog, your business, and sharing them on Instagram, yeah. Yeah, I kind of share more process on Instagram and then finished stuff on the blog. And how does that seem to work? Does that work really well? I have been trying to do it more, more process. And I do, I will show the process of things on the blog if it's relevant. Yeah, I dunno. I'm still trying to figure out this whole readership thing. So you're experimenting. Yeah, it's always an experiment. Just like what I say you should be doing is experimenting on a regular basis to see what works, and doing that stuff that works really well. What about you, Sage, for the pictures that you take. Do you take pictures on a regular basis? No, I don't. I did a few years ago, I use to have weekly photoshoots with my husband, who would be my photographer. But then as my business has grown and I've got more clients, I switched over to a lot of stock photos, but I do check my favorite stock photo sites once a week. And tell me about, have you seen a difference using stock photos? Do you feel like it's affected things in a positive way or a negative way? I feel like I'm, I don't know, able to convey better what I'm trying to say in my blog posts through the stock photos just because I'm able to find exactly what I want. If people remember my blog from a few years ago there'd be lots of really goofy pictures of me like trying to act out a certain point, or me posing like how a stock photo person would pose. So I don't know, I'm just finding a lot of variety in the stock photos sites. I'm able to pinpoint exactly what I need. Which are your favorite sites? Death to Stock photography. I also like Pixabay. And Unsplash, I think somebody mentioned that too. Yeah, anything that doesn't look too stiff. I remember one week I was going through a whole bunch of blogs and on three different life coaching websites I saw the exact same stock photo. It was just very bland, and it wasn't speaking to me, or speaking to the people that I want to reach for my blog. That is one of the cons of using stock photography. I've seen the same thing happen before. It was a photo of a desk with an iPad and a cup of coffee and you put your own photo into the iPad and I saw the same one for about five different people. And these people have really large audiences, and I'm their ideal reader, pretty much for each one of them, so using that same photo, it kind of, I don't think it affected me negatively towards their brand, but I knew that it wasn't theirs, I knew that it wasn't branded. It felt slightly off because I had seen it over and over again. So that's another thing about using stock photography, and sometimes you'll see it on the same sites. But it sounds like it's also saving you some time. It's saving me a lot of time, yes. I do edit the stock photos too, so that they look like fit into my website a bit more. I put the title of the post on them, and I up the saturation a lot. People have told me that the photos on my website are glowing because I do up the saturation so much. Okay, so you make some adjustment so that it doesn't look the same, and it's saving you time, it's working for you. So what would you say to adding a daily photo taking habit, if it was just like snapping it with your camera phone, like the tea that you're having or the magazine that you're reading, or whatever it is, just so that you're getting in the habit of taking photos. Would that be realistic? That could be realistic. I would definitely have to get into the habit of doing it, and taking a lot of bad photos first. But yeah, it would give me more photos to pull from when I need them. Do you use Instagram? I don't use Instagram, actually because much of my content is not visually-based. But I have many friends telling me to get on to Instagram. I don't know, still thinking about it. Because I'm already on so many different social media platforms I have to be really strategic with my time. Yeah, definitely. Your ideal customer, I think, would like to see some of that behind-the-scenes stuff about your life, and it would be a really easy way to take photos and share at the same time. And with Instagram you can use those fun filters, and those fun applications, and not allow it to take over your entire life. Sometimes I spend way too much time on Instagram, but that's my own problem. So I have a sticking point that you must edit your photos. You can use something free like PicMonkey, and that's really all you need. You don't have to get Photoshop, you don't have to get fancy, you can do so much with PicMonkey or something else that's free. I'm gonna show you some before and afters. The before is on the left side, the after is on the right side. And the after is just a little lighter. It has a little bit more light. I've edited out a little bit of the blueishness of it to make it a little bit prettier. Then the hydrangeas, the same thing. On the left is the before, on the right is the after, and it just gives it more light, it just looks a little bit prettier. It's a photo that I'm proud of. Another example is this hairstyle, which I was testing out to come here to CreativeLive for this workshop because I'm super girly and I think, "I get three days, I get three different hairstyles, "so I'm gonna try some different hairstyles "and see if they work." So I was trying this messy bun idea. The one on the left is unedited, and the one on the right is edited, and it just shows off my hair a lot better. And when I shared this picture, which I'm gonna talk about upcoming, but when I shared this picture on Facebook, my ideal reader, they were like, "Oh my gosh, I love that you're sharing "this hairstyle with us. "We want to help you pick out hairstyles." I had people emailing me hairstyles, like, "Look at this link on Pinterest to this messy bun, "this would look really good with your hair." So we've talked about getting your readers involved. They love to be involved with stuff, with part of the process. If you use a photo of someone wearing or using one of your products, she needs to look like your ideal customer. So if you sell some sort of product, jewelry, if you sell handbags, if you sell clothing that you sew, whatever it is, and you're taking photos of that person wearing it, they need to look like your ideal customer. If not, there's going to be a disconnect with branding. So for instance, I'm really girly, and for somebody for me, if I am being sold some jewelry, I would like to see somebody with a messy bun, or with wavy, curly hair. I would like to see somebody in some sort of dress that would be appealing to me, showing me how that I could wear jewelry, how I would wear it. So what wouldn't work for me is if somebody had neon blue hair and she was dressed in all black and she had a lot of piercing and tattoos all over her arms. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are lots of people that that works for, that that's what they want, and they're not gonna go for somebody dressed like me. They're gonna be like, "That's not my style, no way." So you just have to be using the style that works for your ideal reader. This is the same for your blog posts if you're posting pictures of people. You want to find photos that are similar to what your ideal reader is like. So if you're posting photos of a person, she's probably gonna be in all black, and your ideal reader is gonna love it. Do any of you guys post photos of products and you struggle with using somebody that is your ideal reader? We have a lot of struggle with that in our chatroom actually. Everything from, I don't know who to ask, to I find interesting scenarios on the street and I take the photo, but I'm embarrassed to go up to the person and ask for their permission to use it. R. Howton says, their suggestion is if you're uncomfortable taking pictures of people, start with taking pictures of your friends and family, it's much less intimidating. But there is some challenge around this. Yeah, absolutely. So starting with friends is probably the best way to go because your friends might be up for it, and lots of times your friends have similar style, or you have some friend that has similar style to you. So that's one way to go about it. And then you can also try to see, try to put some feelers out there, even on social media, saying you're looking for somebody to wear your jewelry. Maybe you give them a free pair of earrings for coming and modeling for you, or you give them even more, like earrings, and a necklace, and a bracelet. Hey, I would probably take a couple of hours to model some jewelry if it was the right business, if it was something that I really loved. So you could also put some feelers out there like, "I'm looking for a model for this. "This is the kind of person I'm looking for," see if anybody is interested in your area too. But yeah, starting with friends is the easiest way to go, that's absolutely the easiest way to go. Or if you are your ideal reader, which people were saying that they were, then you do it. Have somebody take your photo, whether that is a professional, or whether that is a friend. You say, "Hey, come on over. "We're gonna have a really fun time. "You can take some photos of me "and then we'll have some wine, "I'll make you dinner or I'll take you out to dinner, "or we'll go get manicures," or something like that to make it fun, and ask a friend to come and take some photos for you. So that's another option too if you want to be the person in the photos. Also consider other visuals for your blog besides just photos. So infographics, visual quotes, vector images. Look to magazines and other blogs for inspiration. Magazine layouts give me a lot of inspiration sometimes, for looking for other things that I could put up on my blog. Do you guys use anything besides photos on your blogs? I would love to hear if you put up visual quotes, or if you use infographics or anything like that. Yeah, I've used visual quotes before. And how have you found it? Does it work well, does your ideal reader like it? Yeah, they love quotes, and a lot of them get pinned, because it's cute, who wouldn't want to pin a nice quote. Yeah, yeah. And how do you make them? I use PicMonkey, and a little bit of Photoshop. So you think that somebody who wanted a free version, that they could do it all in PicMonkey? Yeah, I love PicMonkey, and it's so easy. Okay, perfect. For these types of visuals I use Illustrator. So I have not used PicMonkey for putting together quotes or anything like that, and I was wondering if that was a good place to do it. But I'll show you some examples from my blog. These are two different quotes that I have put up that I have put together inside Adobe Illustrator, and I put them up just as a blog post in and of themselves. And they're also something that people tend to really like, especially on social media. I will tell you, if you want more likes and shares on social media, visual quotes is the way to go. If there is a way to incorporate quotes into your branding, you should be doing them on Facebook, at least, because they get tons of like, tons of shares. Pinterest as well, but Facebook is one of those places where people say, "How can I get more interest?" That's one of the ways, is to put something like this on there and you will see your likes go up, you will see more people becoming fans of your page, more people sharing it. I love quotes, and visual quotes, and I've been playing with video quotes too lately, which has been so much fun. Do you recommend putting your URL on the quotes, or just leaving it off, or doing a combination? Sometimes I put my URL on them, and sometimes I don't. It's usually dependent upon the visual that I'm putting together. Lots of times, I would say 75% of the time, I do put my URL on it, just because if it's on Pinterest so that people know where it came from. And that's a good way so that you get credit for whatever you're doing. And then these are a bunch of other visuals that I've used. The top one is a testimonial. So instead of just putting the testimonial on there, I just put it in some color. Or a "sign up it's free" button was under something for a newsletter. "Marketing for creatives, "sign up below to receive additional marketing tips." Then I have a quote, and I used that within a blog post. So instead of putting together something like this, I did something really simple and just put it in one of my main fonts, and that was something that stood out to people. Then I also sometimes will do "click here to tweet" and I will put whatever the click to tweet is, and it makes it obvious, it stands out. Sometimes I will just put it inside the blog post as text, but if you want it to stand out you might consider putting a little visual together for click to tweet. For anybody who doesn't know what that is, it makes it very easy for people to share your stuff on Twitter. So you just go to, you type up whatever you want your tweet to say, and then it will give you a link, and you use that link so that people can just click that link and share your tweet, so they don't have to write up something themselves. Then on the right I have pages from my Marketing for Creatives guide, and I put these together so that people could see kind of inside of that book, because it's not something that they can go to the book store and flip through, it's something that they kind of have to rely and trust me that I'm saying they're gonna get what I say they're gonna get. So I wanted to give them a sneak peek, so I took some of those pages out, put them together in Illustrator, put a little drop shadow behind some of them, and put that up. And some people said to me, "This made me want to buy "because I saw the pages inside "and I saw that they were designed really nicely "and that they included pictures, "and that helped me say yes to buying your book." So if you have a digital something, you might consider putting together a visual of what stuff looks like on the inside. That is excellent advice. It's almost like getting a little preview before you make that decision to buy. You had a couple of great-- Yeah, we had some great comments that came in from the chatroom, and I'm curious to get some feedback from our students here on what the people in the chatroom are thinking. We had a comment here from Ahayla in the chatroom asking for suggestions on how to keep track of the photos that you take in order to find them when they're needed. Now do you guys have a system-- I know you take a lot of photographs. Do you have a good system to find them when you need them? Because sometimes you may not need that photo until you do a specific blog post months from now, so how are you gonna find it? I guess mine is, whenever I'm photographing I'm usually gonna be posting within the next month or something, so I actually organize, the way I organize it is by month, so at least I know, did I make this in March, then those are where the photos are. And my trick I've been doing lately, because you have your edited file and then you have a JPEG that you're actually putting on the Internet, and while the title has probably changed from the original file, I leave the number on there, just so that it's much easier for me to do a search and find if I really need the raw thing again, or the edited layer file. And that's gotta be a great feeling when you're six months down the road and you're like, "Yes, I remember, there was a perfect photo that I took," and when you can actually find that... Yeah, at least I can reference because then that stuff is in another file and I have those organized by like type of things I'm blogging about, like by material, so that I can find them easier. Because I was having a problem. I was like, "I don't remember what month this was in," so now if I just leave the numbers on them then I can find them if I need them for some reason. Maybe our professional photographer has some suggestions. I use Lightroom, which you can categorize them really easily, and you can have keywords in there. You can label things with colors. When I have something that I know that I want to find later I'll mark it in a certain color for something, or I'll put it in a certain catalog for something. I just use Lightroom. Great, and Jennifer, we've got great ideas. Something similar, and I only did it for about a month so I really need to build this habit of taking more photos and categorizing it. But I use iPhoto to store my photos and they have a tag feature where you tag it with certain keywords. So it might be overwhelmed, or happy, or apple, or blueberries, so that when I do need to go back for a photo I can just type in the keywords in the search box and then those photos will pop up and I can take a look at them and see if I want to use them on my blog. I need to do more of that actually, it was really helpful. Do more of what works, remember that one? That's my ah-ha moment for this session. That sounds great for the type of blog that's not about a project. Did you want to add something, Jane? I share photos in a lot of different places, and I put them, make extra categories just on my phone, and also I'll do them in Dropbox. It will also do the tagging of the colors. But I like to have them in all different places, so I'll find it eventually. I'm a Dropbox kinda chick too. Yeah, that helps a lot. So we're gonna take a look at some of your blogs, and the visuals on your blog. Saw her bring up the stool. Who would like to come up? We've seen a couple of blogs already but who would like to come up so that we can take a look at their visuals? We're all here to learn, right? Right, that's the only way to do it. Jennifer, you wanna come up? I guess. All right, come on up. My visuals are a hot mess. It is okay. We are not expecting perfection, you guys. We are not in any way expecting perfection. There's Jennifer! This is a really nice picture of you. Tell me about this. Was this a professional picture? It was. I found a coupon on Groupon, and it actually was a friend of a friend, so I worked with him down at the beach to take some professional photos for my website. I've tried to do, I guess the banners or the headers for my website just on my own, using like PicMonkey or even KeyNote or Pages in Apple, but I felt like I just need a photo because it's simple, it's done, I don't have to rely on my non-design skills to get something up there. So that's why I chose the photo there. All right. It's beautiful, it's engaging, you're making eye contact with us. I feel like you're my friend when I look at this. What do you guys think? Similar feedback? Yeah. Okay, so let's take a look at, where do we get to your blog at? That is the blog, if you scroll down. Oh, just scroll down. Okay, here we go. What type of visual is this, where did you get this? That one, someone made the background. So the file folder, the keys, they made the background, made it available and free on their website, so I took that. This one is specifically highlighting a worksheet which is that project task list that I made myself in Pages, which is like Microsoft Word, and I added that to that photo that they had for free, that image that they did. All right, so this is a professional quality photo, and it highlights what you want, what you want people to pay attention to. Ooh, look at this one. This is just showing what they get when they download it. Okay, perfect. What about this photo over here? That one I got off of Creative Commons, Flickr. It was a free photo. How long did it take you to find this one? A long time. And what about over the visual over here? I took that as a screenshot. Well that's a quote. Obviously I need to step up my design skills because it's just plain, but the other one beneath that, I just took a photo of my actual computer, screenshot. Here's an example. All right. So screenshots also can work really well for visuals, they're actually really great. And for quotes, for when you're using putting together something like this, my best tips are to use two fonts, usually. Maybe three if you want to have one kinda of flourish, one something that's emphasizing just a word or two, and usually to emphasize something within the quote. So use a main font, and then have one other font to emphasize certain words. That tends to work really well if you're not a designer, you're not a graphic designer, to make something that looks really nice. But this is something that people would share that you could put on Facebook. All right, let's see if we can get back here. What about this one? I made that. It's also a worksheet that I made. The one thing about this is some of these are getting cut to the point where-- Is there a way that you can go in there and modify it so that you can show the part that you want? I think it's the thumbnail. I'm not sure that counts for the thumbnail but I don't fill out the thumbnail, so I guess I should start doing that so that it really shows up a lot better. So this is the image that you've got right here. If you had this top part of the thumbnail I think it would show us a lot better what this blog post is gonna be and get me more excited to click on it. It is kinda plain. So if there's some way that you can-- No, not just that, but when you just have the boxes there and you can't tell what is that. If it said, "This is your practice worksheet," I would know, okay, I'm gonna get something when I click on here. We have just a general line of conversation going on about where you're viewing it. We're looking on a browser right now, which is on a computer, but let's say that you have a lot of your customers on mobile, on their iPad, on their mobile devices. How do you plug that into that consideration of it all? That's where a web designer would come in really handy, so that that person can make sure it's mobile-friendly. Some themes work better for a mobile format, but you definitely wanna make sure that you blog is gonna work on an iPad, on a phone, that's really important. Some people, their traffic, 80% of their traffic comes from people looking on mobile devices. So you definitely wanna make sure it works. You also wanna make sure that your stuff works on different engines, different search engines. So Google Chrome, Safari, trying out all of those different sites to make sure it doesn't look funky on some. And that's where somebody who is tech savvy can really help you in that regards, and would help you so that you don't have a huge headache trying to figure that out on your own. And that you're picking visuals that work across a lot of different platforms. That's important when you're looking at the templates, because we had some questions in the chatroom about-- This is a WordPress template. Do you remember which template this is? It's Genesis Framework from StudioPress, and it's the Balance theme. I know we have some comments in here. Love my Spare Time says, "I look for themes that are responsive designs "since it's automatically built "to work with all of your devices." And I know when you're looking through the templates on WordPress they will say if they are responsive, so that's something to look for. Yeah, definitely. I like how you have at the end of this post, "Enjoyed This Post? Get hooked up with "course making goodness sent right to your inbox," with this beautiful picture of yourself. This is great that you have this opt-in. We're gonna talk about email newsletter opt-in, but if somebody has read your entire post, they're liking it probably, and so having an opt-in at the bottom with a photo of yourself, that's great. You're probably gonna get a lot more people opting in who just click from social media and find a post if they're really into it. Right, exactly. One question that just keeps coming up in my head. I'm not a photographer, I would love to practice and get better, and make beautiful photos like you do. But my question is I know you talk a lot about marketing and business on your website. What photos do you use for that? Do you use the blueberry photos, do you use the ones with the watercolors for those types of posts? That's a great question. Usually for those posts I put up a picture of myself. So I'll be outside, smiling usually, something like this photo right here. I have a lot of those photos, and I'll just choose one of those to put with one of those posts. Because it's me giving you advice, a smiling face, "Welcome to Blacksburg Belle." Sometimes I will use something different, like I may use one of those quotes, and put that in the visual. I may do something a little bit different, and if I think it works for the post, put like a bowl of yarn, or something like that, because I know that the majority of people reading my blog, that they're makers, so they would enjoy something like that. Especially if, like I'm talking about I use an example of a jewelry designer, then I might have a picture of jewelry, or something like that. But for the most part, those posts I use a picture of myself. Okay, that sounds good. Thank you for letting us look at your visuals. You have beautiful photos of yourself. We have about five minutes, so we can do one more quick hotseat if somebody else wants to get up there. Awesome. Okay, who's gonna come up here? Sage, all right, come on. All right, Sage also has a great picture of herself right here on her sidebar, something that everybody's gonna see. She's smiling, it's inviting. I suggest that you have a picture of yourself, especially if you are a service-based business, and you're working with people one-on-one, or in group coaching, or in group courses somehow, because they wanna know who they're learning from, who they're working with. So let's talk about this first image we have here. This is a stock photo that you found, that you upped the contrast? Yes, and I added in the title too. You added in "editor's notebook." And what about this one? Stock photo. "You Were Right the First Time: "Trusting Your Subconscious Mind" All right. I want you guys, as we look at these photos, I want you to tell me what you think. What are the words that come to your head and what pop in to your mind, because we didn't do that for Sage yesterday, so that's a great one to think about as we're looking at these images. What kind of brand would you think that she has from these types of photos? So far, what words are popping into your head? Professional. (laughter) Okay, so that's what you want, right? That's what you're trying to do. We're gonna get some feedback from online too, it just takes a little extra time. Yeah, we would love that. "How to Stop Feeling Hopeless About Money" Okay, so this is a perfect photo for this. You've got your credit cards right here. Stock photo. Stock photo. And are we using the same photo? Yeah, I have a roundup post once a week, so I use the same photo so people come to expect it. That makes sense if you're using a roundup, definitely. "Why I Blog and What It's Done for My Business" Oh, I wonder where this one came from. That's promoting this workshop. Yes, it was part of the blog tour for this CreativeLive workshop. Okay, so this is a stock photo too. "How to Dump Your Guilt and the Fear of Success" So something I would also say about these is the stock photos that you're picking kind of have a similar feel, except for this one. This one stands out as not really meshing, to me, with the other ones. I'm not exactly sure why, but that one stands out to me. However it seems like you are using these photos in a way, even though they're not yours, as a branding tool, and doing a pretty good job of it, I think. I do my best. What do you guys think? We're getting a lot of pretty interesting feedback for you if you want to hear it. Pistachio says, "Oh, great logo. The red pin for an editor." And then Mahogany Media-- I'm sorry, excuse me-- The Witticist says, "Dang, I love her font. "Jealous. Want it." Yeah, people are all about the fonts. Vanilla Girl also loves the fonts, as well as Emily Hone. They also like the sidebar there. They like what's going on in the right sidebar and the way that that's broken up. And they also like the advice to get a professional photo because your site is coming across as having a more professional theme. They were seconding that too. And another smart thing you've done is add the title to the photo, so that can be-- I saw you put that on Pinterest so that you can cross index. Yeah, 60% of my subscribers come from Pinterest, so I try to have something that they can pin all the time. But before you actually said that you didn't have a visual content, so maybe you have it more so than you know. The thing that people really like visually about my site is actually under Free Stuff, in that bar. It's not the photos with my blog posts, because those are the stock photos, it's my e-books and worksheets. And how do you make your worksheets? I make all of my worksheets using Microsoft Word, and then I save them as PDFs. So pretty much anybody could make worksheets for their site. Yeah, I wouldn't say I'm very tech savvy, so yeah, Microsoft Word works great for me. It looks very professional. Yes it does. Neat. I made a conscious choice to use the same font that came with my theme, when I make the worksheets. That is something that, if you want your fonts to become part of your brand so that if somebody sees that font they automatically think of your website, you want to use it over and over again, in everything, and you want to pick the right fonts. Again, that's where a designer would really be great to help you figure that out. But some themes already come with that done for you, and they picked fonts that look really nice together, so then you can use those again and again. Polynesia says, "It looks very well organized "and it seems easy to look through." I know that's your goal, so... I like to keep it clean, easy to navigate, editorial, that's what I'm going for. The tips are coming in from the chatroom. People are really appreciating this. They do say that they would love to see some more of your own photography, just to kind of show off a little bit more of your personality and your character. Another idea from The Witticist is to have your photo image looking towards the content area, rather than looking outward. So just little things there that could help make your content come together a little bit strong. It's that directional eye thing, right? Yes, it's just trying to get the viewers to look where you want them to look. I'm gonna have to join Instagram now, I'm gonna have to start taking pictures everyday. And I think also, with your bubbly personality and the way that you are, I think some of your own photos would really add to your own site as well. I just worry they're gonna be a lot of my dog. (laughs) Of your dog. Well think about the topics that you have coming up, and start to think about what photos would correlate with those topics. And if you don't like it you can go to the stock photos. So if you take photos and you're like, "Eh, this isn't really working for me for this post," that's okay, maybe you're not there yet, you're not feeling it yet, and that's all right. And then you can take something from the stock photography. But if you start building up that habit and start taking them on a regular basis you're gonna be more and more impressed with your own photos. You can try to imitate some of the stock photos. See the pictures that you're drawn to, and then try to make it up on your own. Explore it that way, and that might help you figure out how to do it better. That's an amazing tip. That's really great. It's kind of the same thing as reviewing magazines for headlines. Similar concept, right? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's a great tip. If you're trying to figure out how to take certain photos, for sure, that's how I've learned how to take some good food photography, to take photos of my recipes. I started looking at how do people do this and make it look really nice, and then replicating that type of photo, and that's exactly how I got better and better at taking those types of photos. Yeah, that's a great tip. Well I hope that was great feedback for you. That's the point of the hotseat. We're here to help. Thank you so much Sage for being a part of that. (applause)

Class Description

There are over 200 million blogs on the Internet, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd? A quality blog boasts great content, a powerful voice, and relevant, useful information. The problem is, putting all of those pieces together, understanding how to find the right audience, and marketing your blog is no easy juggling act.

Join the founder of Blacksburg Belle and author of Marketing for Creatives April Bowles-Olin for a comprehensive course dedicated to teaching you how to write, create, and market a successful blog. Drawing on the same methods she’s used to help successful entrepreneurs around the world grow their online presence, April will teach you how to find your own voice and get more comfortable writing like yourself. You’ll learn how to develop a strong editorial strategy, attract the right readers and write engaging headlines that will drive traffic to your site. April will also explore some of the key problems that hold bloggers back -- from writer’s block to boredom to insecurity about what you’re writing -- and explain how to overcome them. Best of all, April will teach you how to save time and have fun while contributing to the success of your blog.

After just three short days with April, you’ll possess the perfect foundation for better copywriting and creating a powerful, traffic generating blog.



This course is absolutely amazing. April is so enthusiastic and inspiring. It is clear she has spent a lot of time preparing for this course with a wealth of useful information in the videos and the workbook and the resource pack. Having just launched my new photography website, I have been looking for ideas and help with the blog- a new area for me. This has made me feel excited about my business. It's helped me plan my blog posts for the coming months and highlighted the importance of a good blog for keeping a website fresh. I found myself excited for each new video and sad when it was all finished! I've purchase a few courses through Creative Live but this is my favourite so far and April has a lot to do with that.

Kristina Zambrano

Where to start? ... Um I took my blog to the groomer ha! you guys must be thinking how on earth you take a blog to the groomer pretty easy actually you just go and click where it says "Build a Successful Creative Blog with April Bowles and you are taking it to the groomer. Now leaving my pet-related talking if you are creative and have no idea where to start in blogging this is your place to start she (April) will teach you everything about the blog world with a touch of joy, fun and creativity. She will take you from Zero, Nada, Nothing to Something or better say to a brand new groomed blog. And if you need more to convince you to get this workshop you just read April Bowles "26 post you gotta read - blog tour" and if that doesn't make you get it, then you are totally not ready to Blog. Thank you so much April for everything you shared with us.


This course gave me both the impetus to begin the blog whose domain I was sitting on for nearly a year and the skills to do it well. April was - and still is - supportive and helpful to all of the people who participated in the course. It became a community of people, supporting and helping each other to follow through with the amazing instructions that she gave us during the course itself. The resources she gave us are still useful, and the connections I made on her site and the sites she pointed us to have made my blog successful in only a few months. AWESOME course!