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Posted on Aug 11, 2011 in Blogging | 59 comments

From Camera to Comments: How I Blog

Well, today’s post should be pretty self-explanatory. You asked for it, and I finally got off my laurels for a hot second and am giving it to you: a glimpse into my supersecret (not really) hot-off-the-presses (hardly) blogging process. Wa-hoo!

Homepage Screenshot
Advanced apologies to those of you who don’t blog and/or don’t care, haha.

I’m a pretty basic blogger. There are really very few frills to my blogging strategy, and here are the 5 steps (yes, just 5!) I’ve followed for pretty much every single post you’ve ever seen on honeyishrunkthegretchen.com:

Step 1: I take photos.

Very rarely do my concepts for my posts come from anything other than the photos I have taken the previous day. I’m not exactly what you’d call a “planner” when it comes to blogging (with a few exceptions, like my Weight Loss 101 series and today’s post, of course.) My blog is about my life, so I do my best to capture that life through the lens of my camera and then just, you know, blog about it.

Something's Cooking

My DSLR camera is a Canon EOS 7D. Prior to this camera, I shot with an older (discontinued) version of the current entry-level Rebel model. I shoot with a 50mm EF f/1.8 prime (non-zoom) lens (a FANTASTIC starter lens, especially for food photography, if you’re trying not to spend a bazillion dollars.) All that camera-speak might not make a whole lot of sense to all of you, but for those who might have been wondering, there you go. Occasionally I also include photos on the blog that have been taken with my iPhone, like when I saw Daniel Radcliffe in NYC:

IMG_1714.jpg
I <3 you, Harry Daniel.

Credit where credit is due, I’ve learned pretty much everything I know about photography (which ain’t a lot, let’s be honest) from my brother, who is the real deal when it comes to this stuff. He’s actually been doing a series of photography posts on Anne‘s blog teaching how to take better photos with point-and-shoots and cell phones. You should definitely check them out if you’re not into the whole fancyschmancy camera thing.

Step 2: I edit my photos.

I use a program called Adobe Lightroom to edit all of my photos prior to posting them. It’s a fairly user-friendly program, and much, much cheaper to buy than the mecca of photo-editing software, Photoshop, so I highly recommend it.

screenshot_03

First, I go through my multitude of photos and flag (keyboard shortcut “P”) all of the ones that I think look good/are usable. Then, I adjust the settings of my selected photos until they look fly (white balance, exposure, clarity, and saturation are the main settings I toy with.)

screenshot_04

Photo editing is an entire beast of its own, so if there’s interest I can definitely do a more in-dept post at some point in the future. Photo editing seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be: there are all sorts of things you can do to make editing easier. You can simply utilize the auto-tone functions, use the Lightroom presets, or create setting options of your own. And LR makes the next step superdeeduper easy.

Step 3: I export my photos online.

Most blogs do have the ability to host your images for you. I use WordPress to blog, and there are little media icons at the top of the post editing page that you can click to upload any picture or video files you have on your computer. If you have a blog, you have probably at some point in time utilized these icons.

writing post screenshot media highlight

HOWEVER! It is my firm belief that if you are doing it this way, you’re doing it wrong. Harsh, but true. IT TAKES FOREVER! Each click of a button takes at least a few seconds, which might not seem like a lot but when you’re using clicks per photo file, it really starts to add up. WordPress’s hosting functionality is really slow, and really inefficient. So I use Flickr as my photo-hosting site instead!

Flickr homepage screenshot

Lightroom gives you the option to easily export your edited photos directly into Flickr. It takes all of a minute to upload multiple photos all at once.

Once they’re in there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a click to be able to grab the already formatted HTML coding by clicking the “Share” button, and copy/paste it into my blog! I generally also delete the first line of the image code so that my photos aren’t clickable (the “a href” part), because it’s really annoying to me to accidentally click on a photo and lose your place on a page.

image post-HTML screenshot/center>

I probably should note that using this method of photo hosting ate up my free account pretty quickly, so I did have to purchase a Flickr Pro account. But it’s only like $20 a year or something, so it’s a pretty negligible cost for the convenience (plus, now Flickr is an extra backup of all my pics!)

Step 4: I write.

A pretty sensible next step, eh? Well, as you may have already gleaned from the screenshots that have been posted so far, I blog entirely in HTML. That means that I manually add (almost) all of the formatting and coding of the text in my posts.

Writing post screenshot

Why do I do this? Well, it’s for the same reason that I reject WordPress’s media uploading functionality: it is too slow. By blogging in HTML instead of rich-text format (you can switch back and forth with the “Visual” and “HTML” buttons in the upper right of the text window), I actually save time and ensure that all my entries come out looking exactly the way I want them to.

It’s really not as hard as it might seem. I’m pretty much an HTML n00b, so other than inputting links and photos, I mostly stick to using code to bold, italicize, or strikethrough.

Aaaand that’s pretty much it! I do use WordPress’s “link” button in the editing bar because the latest update made it fast and fabulously easy to use (including giving you the ability to easily link back to past posts, and have all your links open in a new window. Yay!)

I also center all my photos by simply adding < center > before and < /center > after each copy/pasted HTML block from Flickr. Occasionally I’ll also change the height and width of the photos manually by doing a little math (schwaaa?!) to make it look better. It might sound kind of overwhelming but I promise you that it’s really not that complicated!

Step 5: I publish.

Most of the time I pre-write my posts the night before they go up. This way, I maintain a consistent posting schedule (between 8:30 and 9:30 each weekday morning, for the most part) and ensure my posts have the most visibility possible for the entire day. But you don’t have to log in at 7 AM just to ensure your post will go out on time.

scheduling publish screenshot

I simply schedule the post to publish at a time of my choosing when I save it. Done and done. I’d say that step 5 also includes proofreading my posts, but I think you can all attest to the fact that that clearly isn’t true. Oops.

So there you have it! 5 easy steps to blogging every (week)day. I would estimate that aside from the time I spend actually taking pictures (which is an ongoing process through the day) it generally takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to blog. That includes uploading my pictures, editing them (this is obviously the biggest factor in how long the process takes — lots of photos equals lots of editing), writing and formatting my post. It doesn’t necessarily include marketing the post (through Twitter and Facebook), responding to comments or emails, or other perfunctory “blogger duties” that may arise. Ironically, blogging about how I blog has actually taken three times as long as my normal posts do, haha!

So. Questions? Comments? Criticism? (Heh.) Hopefully this was moderately interesting for at least one of you, haha. Is there any interest for further posts on this subject, or delving into photography/photo editing more? Just let me know. I’m very interested in hearing from you other bloggers on how your methods differ from my own, so lay ’em on me!

59 Comments

  1. Hosting on flickr is a good idea that I’ve never thought of. I already have a flickrpro account. I actually use Mars Edit to blog which takes less time that the actual wordpress interface but still takes time to upload the photos (partially because I use a 4 year old computer.)

    • Is Mars Edit a PC program? Yeah, the only reason that the wordpress interface works for me is because I don’t have to click anything — it’s the buttons that slow you down! Hahaha.

      • Mac. The latest version lets you import directly from iphoto (and probably lightroom) but I have an older version.

        • Hmmm…. eeeenteresting! I may have to check that out.

          • Ecto lets you do that, too. And it also lets you drag and drop photos straight into your post, which I think is teh awesome. (It’s no LiveWriter, though.)

  2. I love this post! I’m always trying to improve on the pictures that I take so I’ll be reading your brother’s series for sure. I have a Canon Rebel T1i and still have the factory lens. The next lens I’ll buy will be either a 50mm or a zoom. Is there a zoom lens that you recommend?

    • The only zoom lens I own is the kit lens, which I hate and don’t even know where I put it hahaha. Sooooo, personally I don’t but I will definitely ask my brother what an affordable step-up zoom lens would be. The lens I really want to get next is actually the 50mm f/1.4 but it’s like, oh just $400, hahaha. The 1.8 is great because you could probably find one on eBay for less than $100!

  3. This is SO fascinating. Mostly because our style is totally different. 😛 Love peeks behind the curtain!

    Comments:

    • I am a Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign) expert because it’s my day job and I still use Lightroom to edit and organize my blog photos. It is designed to do that and makes the workflow a ton easier than Photoshop. That being said, Photoshop is where it is at for more single-photos specific editing. Photoshop: I need to edit out that clump of dog hair on this one cupcake photo (not that that has ever happened or anything). Lightroom: all these photos from this shoot were were a little underexposed.

    • I host my photos through WP and I agree it is SUPER SLOW. But I love the advantages of having it all right there and being able to search my photo library. I have every photo tagged with keywords so it is super easy to go back and find a photo if I need one. I even have some tagged with “stock” to use when I’m writing posts that don’t really lend themselves to photography (flowers, trees, sunrises, etc.) Plus, there are some very nice WP plugins that make on-site hosting advantageous. The big pain of on-site hosting is that when my blog gets slammed with hits, the first thing to slow down is the photo upload and transfer. Because I like to upload slightly larger versions of the photos (you can click on my photos in my blog and see a larger version), during busy times, it can take 10-15 seconds to upload one photo. EXCRUCIATING. That could also be solved by me moving to a better hosting company…

    • Even though I am pretty proficient in CSS and HTML (again, day job), I write in the WYSIWYG. I just like the fact that it is a more accurate view than the HTML. I am definitely a visual person.

    • I am waiting with baited breath for the day when Windows Live Writer comes out for Mac. Le sigh.

    • I felt the same way when you talked about your methods behind planning your posts! This is why blogging is so great — anyone can do it, regardless of their preferred “style”. I, too, would probably be using WLW if there was a Mac version (or just a free version of something similar for Mac, but I don’t want to pay for anything, hahaha.)

      You definitely should consider having an external hosting for your photos. In Flickr you can still tag your photos, organize them into sets for easy review and search your photostream really easily, plus there’s just the added bonus of, you know, speed. SPEEEEEED. I just can’t stand how long the WP photo uploading tool takes, and how even searching for past photos takes forever.

      Lightroom is my loverrrrrr.

  4. WP is extremely slow for creating posts, I use Windows Live Writer for that! Hosting on Flickr is a good idea… once I start regularly having pictures worth saving I’ll start a Flickr account! Good process 🙂
    PS I LOVE YOU HARRY!!

    • I have a Mac, so right now WLW is out of the question for me, unfortunately. But I keep hearing its praises being extolled ceaselessly! Maybe one day…

  5. I found this post really interesting, honestly.

    I use Windows Live Writer to blog through to WordPress – but other than that, I am pretty clueless when it comes to html, css, etc. I like how in Live Writer I can drag and drop photos into my post, which at least *seems* quicker to me; rather than all the clicking steps to “upload” said photos.

    I have been a Flickr Pro account member for years, but I can’t imagine grabbing the html for every pic that I want to have on the blog. Doesn’t it take forever? I guess it’s all what you are used to.

    In an ideal world, I would LOVE to blog more. But, time – she’s a biatch. I get lots of ideas, take tons of photos – and then don’t bother to edit/sort through them, and whooops, time has passed me by. I get so ambivalent about editing photos, it’s ridiculous. BUT – it so TIME CONSUMING. I have Photoshop Elements on my desktop, and to be honest – I pretty much hate it. Also, most of my blogging, or at least drafting of blogs takes place on my Netbook – and there just isn’t room to have Elements on here, as well. Grr. I have Lightroom on my Amazon wishlist – just waiting for someone to buy it for me! 🙂

    Anyways, this was a just a looooong way of saying – you rock! And I want to be more like you. 😉

    ~

    • I guess just all about the method for me. In my browser I just open up flickr to my photostream, then open each photo I am planning on using in individual tabs. That way, they’re all lined up for me to be able to copy/paste the HTML (which takes like .014 seconds) and put in the post appropriately. I admit that it’s probably not as fast as a drag-and-drop method on WLW, but again, I don’t have WLW (cry!)

      And hey! I totally understand the timesuck that is blogging! Good thing I don’t have much of a life, eh? 😉

    • Ooh, something new for me to try out! And yayyyy, you have no idea how flattering it is to hear you say that, since your posts inspire me to take action just UMMM all the time. 😉

      (Are you going to HLS? I feel like I should know this.)

  6. Have you ever used LiveWriter???? It’s like the best thing EVER for blogging and makes it so much easier than doing it in the small screen wordpress gives you use write in!

    • Are you talking about Windows Live Writer? No, I haven’t been able to try that baby out because I have a Mac. But I do hear that it’s pretty much amazeballs! Maybe one day they’ll make a Mac-compatible version….

  7. This is so helpful for people like me that aren’t techy. And the comments are helpful too! All the little tips help curb frustration that causes me to close my computer and say forget it. And there’s been plenty of those moments! 🙂

    • Yeah I’m so glad that people are commenting with their own methods — I am definitely not above fine-tuning my process and changing things up to make it easier on myself (easy way = the best way. Always.) 🙂

  8. Such a helpful post! I have like zero time right now between work and a kid so this helps me better understand the time commitment involved which means for now I’ll just read and comment on blogs!

    Thanks!

    • It definitely is a time commitment for sure. But still worth it. Maybe when the bebe gets a little bit older, though, I know I’d love to read your blog! 😀

  9. Thank you so much for posting this information! I love, love, love your blog. I have just started my blog and this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I use a WordPress blog and I am now thinking that Flickr is the way to go for pictures.

    • Thank YOU, Natalie! I’m glad you find it helpful! I definitely LOVE using Flickr, not only because it makes it easy to upload and post my photos, but it’s a whole social site in and of itself! Great for faux-photography buffs like me to get inspired. 🙂

  10. This was a VERY useful post. I’m considering moving from blogspot to WordPress and the Flickr idea sounds great. I have a Mac. So do you like Mars Edit? Is that what you said you’re using? I’d LOVE more posts on this. BTW, found you from Widrick’s tweet. Thanks!

    • I have a Mac too. (I’m never going back! Hahaha.) The first commenter, Lee (http://inmytummy.com), is the one who uses Mars Edit so you should definitely ask her about how she likes it! I don’t use any specific program yet — just WordPress itself. Glad to know that the post is helpful!

  11. I loved this post!

    I wiah I was as committed to my blogging as you! I’m just kinda lazy and working between two slow computers sucks! I have to edit my photos on Photoshop on my laptop and then transfer to the desktop, which is old and connected to the Internet by dial up!

    But I can only hope one day to have faster resources! Your brother told me that I should Lightroom though and maybe when I have some extra money I may have to check it out!

    • Oh good, you talked to the bro about it! Yeah he really knows what he’s talking about. How come you have to transfer your photos from the laptop onto your desktop — is your laptop not connected to the internet?

      • Laptop is not connected to the internet…whomp whomp…at least not while I’m at home.

  12. I’m a PC girl so I blog using LiveWriter. Which btw, changed my life!!!!

    In fact, I’m currently considering buying a Mac but the LiveWriter issue is really holding me back. I think I may just run a virtual Windows desktop and use LiveWriter that way or use Mars Edit (which I’ve heard great things about).

    • I tried doing that and got really confused, so if you figure it out, please let me know! 🙂

      • I have Parallels on my Macbook, which lets you run a PC machine inside your computer but I rarely use it. It freezes up sometimes and consumes a lot of pwoer, so I don’t really think that’s a good longterm solution for me. But maybe if you have a high-powered computer… mine’s a little ragged around the edges these days. Anyone want to give me $1700 to buy a new one? Kthx.

  13. Great post and thanks for the step by step instructions. I definitely need to get lightroom!

  14. I love this post. I love watching people at blog conferences to see *how* they blog. (Creepy?)

    Can you do more photo-editing posts, pleeeease?

  15. I think this was a very interesting post- as a non-blogger (horrors, i know) i have NO idea what goes into creating these pieces that show up on my computer every morning from you and all the other online blogs i stalk. It was cool to have a glimpse into all the hard work that goes into it- but also realize that if YOU can learn it, anyone can! i kid, but seriously- very cool 🙂

    • You know, I should be offended by your joke but it’s true soooo…. yeah. If I can do it, REALLY anyone can!

  16. Great post Gretchen! I’m glad to see that someone else blogs pretty much the same way I do. I love Lightroom. 🙂 I don’t use flickr to host my pictures although it’d be a good idea since I have a paid account on it anyways. I think I’m going to test a few posts via flickr pictures and see how it goes.
    PS: have you ever used Picasa or Gimp? I need to teach one of them to middle schoolers and don’t have much experience in either.

    • I’ve never used either of those programs, actually, although as I understand it Picasa is just like Flickr but by Google (rather than Yahoo, which is who owns Flickr.) I’m excited to hear that someone has a similar method to mine, though! I was starting to feel like the odd man out. 🙂

  17. I haven’t been using WordPress for very long, but i noticed how incredibly slow the pictures were taking to upload and knew there had to be a better way! I’m also going to check out windows live writer, i just hope it isn’t too advanced for me .

    • I haven’t used it so I couldn’t say, but it definitely seems like it’s easy enough to use! Everyone else swears by it!

  18. I would just like to say that I just wrote my first “scheduled” blog post thanks to your instructions! It will be posting at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning while I am sleeping in!

  19. I would LOVE to hear more about editing. I’ve switched photo programs so many times, I feel like I’m completely lost and probably have 8 copies of every photo I take on my computer because I can never decide which program to use. 😉

    And I know you don’t use WLW, but is there an advantage to still hosting through Flickr? Like does it save space on your own bandwidth or something?

    • I don’t really have any stats or anything to back up whether it is, but I have to imagine that it must save bandwidth for the blog to host your photos elsewhere. I definitely have never had an issue with images not loading quickly enough or anything like that, or not loading in Reader, which I have seen happen with other bloggers that do use WLW so maybe…? It’d be interesting to see the comparison though!

  20. I do it the exact same way when I’m using a mac! I use Windows Live Writer when I’m using a PC and it’s awesome and saves a ton of time. I wish it worked on macs!

  21. I need to reknew my flickr pro account. I want to find a place to host my photos (besides my hard drive, photo bucket or buying an external hard drive) since I have so many. I like that you can tag them because when I want “stock” photos or old photos when do a “look back” type of post I can never find them.

    Thanks for seeing how you do it. I love seeing how other bloggers to it. I learn a lot and take bits and pieces to make what I do even better and easier. Thanks Gretchen!

  22. Hey Gretchen! First time visitor (from Katy Widrick’s site) and I have to say that these are fabulous tips. I started blogging again after a hiatus and it’s really great to learn from other bloggers. Loveeee the scheduling feature! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much, Erin! I’m glad that I can help!

  23. My wife sent me a link to your blog saying that “Gretchen takes great photos, you should check it out.” I agree with her and the photos here are really great!

    I would just like to mention that we use Smugmug to store all our photos. Although its more expensive at $60 per year, it also allows for unlimited storage and with an Amazon S3 account you can also store RAW versions and HD video. Another thing that I like is that with one click you can re-download an entire gallery. This is a good feature if you’re like me and you loose track of the images stored on your hard drive.

    • Thanks for the tip, Paul! And the compliment. 🙂 I’ll definitely have to check SmugMug out. I’ve definitely heard of it!

  24. Gretchen, I love your blog!! I used to be really big into blogging about 5 years ago. I was a daily blogger for about three years. Always fun to see how different folks go through the process. I am new to WP, my first blog is on Blogger.

    xo,
    Suzi

  25. I’m a little behind, but thanks for this post! I would definitely be interested in a photo editing post!

    And, I love the Flicr idea; didn’t know about that! And, didn’t know about the publish automatically feature! So useful!

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