Food Blog Forum 2013 – Key Points from Conference Day {Orlando, FL}

I woke up feeling really excited about the day ahead on Saturday. It was the conference day, and the Food Blog Forum had a rock star line up of many leaders from the food blogging world. I was so looking forward to what they had to say and share, and I was ready to soak up the information like a sponge!

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We started with a light breakfast of fresh fruit and various breads.

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I had a piece of whole wheat toast with cream cheese and one of the glowing fruit bowls.

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(I took really detailed notes on my laptop of all the presentations, but I’m going to share a couple points from each that resonated most with me.)

Scott Hair of Steamy Kitchen kicked things off with a warm welcome. He was soon joined by the rest of the Steamy Kitchen crew – Jaden and their two son, Andrew and Nathan – for their presentation, Redefining Success. This whole presentation really touched me because I’ve seriously been redefining my success over the last couple years. Their talk was really in sync with one of the books I’ve been reading recently, The Fire Starter Sessions.

Key points from Redefining Success:

  • How do you define success? If you don’t know how to define success, you’ll always look for it and want more of it.
  • What is your end goal? Are you trying to become a successful food blogger so you can spend more time with family? If so, maybe growing your blog so you have a TV show or book deal isn’t the solution. What are you really trying to do? For example, if you want to spend more time with your family, think about what you can actually do to do that (or part of that) now. Could you trade in a raise at work for more vacation days or more time off?
  • Reconsider your definition of success. Was it having more money? Did you really want more money so you could feel more free? Maybe the solution isn’t more money but less money and a downsized lifestyle.
  • Always start with the emotion you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t know the emotion, ask yourself these questions: Right now, I’m trying to achieve X. What will X give me? (last question is important, i.e. “sense of feeling more free”) Money is a thing that will give us a feeling of something. Power, freedom, ability to do things, opportunity, etc. Emotion must be cornerstone of what you feel success is. “family, freedom, doing things together, freedom to do what you wanted when you wanted.”

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Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple took the stage for the next presentation – Taking Your Visual Ideas to Flight. As you guys know, I love photography. Photography is one thing I know I’ll never want to stop learning more about. I enjoy learning new tips and tricks and hearing different POVs for best practices. And, I’ve been a fan of the White on Rice Couple’s photography for awhile, so I was extra pumped to hear their presentation.

Key points from Taking Your Visual Ideas to Flight (In Photo and Video):

  • Everything begins with an idea. It’s not about the gear. It’s about your story, message, and visual voice. Gear doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the idea.
  • “Your eyes are your lens, your heart is your shutter.” It’s not about what you see but how you see it.
  • Look beyond the obvious – think from a different perspective.
  • If you’re interested in starting in video, start with photos set to music. Try animoto.com to create a free 30 second video.
  • Their video gear is very light – a good quality tripod for stabilization, natural/given or basic light panels for lighting, and a sennheiser or other audio lapels for audio.
  • Music on videos is very important. The WOR couple can spend 3/4 of their time just picking the right music. It’s worth spending $30-60 for music that is just right for your video. They suggest sites like – With Etiquette, Free Play Music, and Triple Scoop Music.
  • Their favorite iPhone apps: snapseed, VSCO cam, Filter Storm, Camera+, Noir Photo (black and white)
  • Don’t let not having a DSLR keep you from capturing what you want. Use a smaller camera, like the iPhone. There’s value in the imperfect photo. Authenticity is beautiful.

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{Showing different angles from lighting and the effect on the photo}

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{Sample work setups – the setup vs final photo shots slides were fascinating!}

After the photography session, we broke for lunch. The lunch was so fun, I thought it deserved its own post, so I’ll share photos of the eats after this one.

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We returned from lunch for a session called Technology Talk: Trends & Tools with Elise of Simply Recipes and Babette Pepaj of Bake Space, moderated by Erik Deutsch. Elise is frequently posting helpful articles and tips on a small Facebook group we belong to, so I was ready to hear more of what she had to offer, along with Babette. The talk focused on four main areas: Mobile, Video, Pinterest, and Looking Beyond the Blog.

Key points from Technology Talk:

  • Mobile: readers are increasingly using mobile (phone/tablet) devices to access blogs, so it’s important to make sure your sites have mobile friendly formatting. Look into responsive themes. If you’re a blogger, be sure to check your stats so you know where your traffic is coming from so you can best offer your content to your readers.
  • Video: Video is content you can create and repurpose everywhere. You can post on FB and people can watch there, you don’t have to go off the site to get there. Video makes it harder for someone to steal your content, too.
  • Pinterest: It’s been an SEO world, but it’s moving to a Pinterest world, with Pinterest being the #1 source of traffic for about 1/3 of the room at the conference. Consider using hash tags and calls to action on your pins and pinning in the morning or night for best traffic.
  • Looking Beyond the Blog: eBooks, DIY apps, etc. are good ideas. Babette has created Cookbook Cafe as a way for bloggers to curate their recipes and share them with readers in a way that is great for both. Bloggers can create an interactive web-based eBook or iPad App.

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Food bloggers tell stories with their posts and recipes, so the conference organizers thought it would be interesting to hear more from Disney, one of the best at story-telling, about the story behind one of their newer restaurants. So, we next heard from a Disney Imagineer, Tim Warzecha, about the process and work that went into designing and developing one of Disney’s restaurants, Sanaa, which features African cooking with Indian flavors. The team put together many different pieces to provide an experience that is what the guest imagines Africa to be like. They created idea boards and narrowed down many ideas to focus on the beads of a necklace. From there, they explored many other traditions and ideas, big and small. They created lamps that looked like African robes and shaped the building like a necklace, which also looked like a water buffalo. The restaurant took about 5-7 years to complete with about 2-3 being spent on the design and concept. No detail was too small. The baskets at the front of the restaurant are over 100 years old, are something traditionally seen in an African house, and took 2 years to source!

One of the most interesting things I learned was how the team looked at challenges as opportunities to reinforce their theme. For example, they had several columns in the center of one of their rooms, and they turned them into trees and decorated some with beads like those from the inspiration necklaces.

The food was inspired by the trade route that ran through Africa. Here’s the Sanaa menu if you’re curious about the eats. I wish we’d had more time so I could check this place out!

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Our final presentation of the day was about Grassroots Community Building by Jeff Houck (food writer for Tampa Tribune/TBO.com), David Leite (Leite’s Culinaria), Julie Deily (The Little Kitchen), and Lindsay Landis (Love and Olive Oil). Their presentation really got me thinking about the community here at The Chic Life. I’ve never really thought about my blog having a community. Most of the time, I think no one’s really reading unless they leave a comment or something. But then, I’ll talk to a friend who remembers that cool sandwich I had last week, or I’ll see someone post one of my photos on Pinterest saying the recipe they tried came out really great, or I’ll get a random comment on a recipe I posted two years ago, and it reminds me that you’re out there. I’d like to think more about what I can do to foster this community and make it something you guys like, enjoy, and find useful. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment or email me at thechiclife at gmail dot com.

Key points from Grassroots Community Building:

  • Know the importance of not just putting stuff out there, and then putting more out. You have to engage with the community.
  • Consider adopting a “no comment left behind” policy, or something similar, where you try to respond to all comments on the blog, twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Anyone you interact with is a potential community member.
  • Think about intent. What is your intention in gathering this community? For example, David said he would rather have 80 people engaging and building each other up than have 800 not.
  • Be authentic. Be yourself. But have a filter.

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And that’s a wrap! Phew! That was longer than I originally intended, but there was a lot of good info shared at the conference that I wanted to share with you!

Next time – our amazing and fun lunch experience eating kid-style a la Disney!

Leopard & Ruffles {Outfit}

I got a new toy. A photo-related toy. I got a Promaster wireless remote shutter release!

Actually, I bought it late last year at a local camera shop when I was going to use it with my Canon Rebel. However, I was pretty certain after the purchase that I’d switch to Nikon, so I never used it. I bought my camera at the same store, and they told me I could exchange the remote. The only trick…they didn’t have it in stock. I thought I’d have to wait a little bit till I could make the exchange, but it didn’t end up coming in until this past Wednesday! I couldn’t make it to the shop Wednesday, but I happily went there on Thursday. After teaching Zumba and having dinner with my friends, I came home and excitedly started setting it up to test it out. Sadly, it didn’t work. I stayed up well past midnight trying to get the silly thing to work, and it just wouldn’t. I thought I’d done everything right. I followed the instructions on the remote and camera manual. No dice.

I googled for a solution. It seemed like a lot of people were having the same problem as me. The camera was turned to the remote setting, and though I got the camera to focus, it wouldn’t fire. All the posts online seemed to say the cheap remote was the problem. MIne was certainly not cheap. I finally gave in and decided to call the camera shop and if they couldn’t get it working over the phone, I figured I’d just go by the store. The phone call didn’t work, but the in-store visit sure did. As it turns out, if you’re not using the Nikon wireless remote, you’re not actually supposed to turn the camera on the remote setting. Doh! Once we put it back to normal shooting, it worked like a charm. I’m just so thankful I purchased my remote at a local camera shop because they were so helpful in getting my remote to work. Had I ordered it online, I would have been SOL.

I was so pumped up about being able to use my remote, I came home and took photos of the outfit I put together for a double date later that night.

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Can you tell this is my first photo with the remote? I’m like…hey, is this thing on?!

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If you listen closely, you can hear hubby’s screams of joy at not having to take my photos any more.

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Outfit:

  • Destroyed denim: Zara
  • Ruffled tank: Ella Moss
  • Necklace: Urban Outfitters
  • Leopard print pumps: Vaneli
  • Bracelets: J Crew, Aldo, Sashi

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{My wireless remote}

We went out for a double date at a local Greek restaurant I’ve always wanted to try. We ate flaming cheese, baked chicken, lemony roasted potatoes, and honey-sweetened fried doughnuts. Delicious and fun.

Photography & Lightroom Organization Series: My Photography Workflow

When I originally started planning this series on Photography & Lightroom Organization, I expected to write just one post to cover all points. Now, I’m planning to write multiple, smaller posts that will be easier to digest and organize. I already shared the intro (which explains how this whole series came about), and now I’m ready to discuss my photography workflow. At first, my workflow was just going to be a simple sentence at the beginning of the Plan section, but after some thought, I decided that it could use some elaboration and a dedicated post. Plus, I was inspired by the workflow posts linked at the end of this post. Not to mention, I also thought this would be easier for people to share their workflows, since I’m hoping to get lots of reader feedback on each post of the series. You guys are a wealth of knowledge, and I love it when you share your know-how. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire me to change my workflow?

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{I made a diagram for this post. Is my geek-ness showing yet?}

My Photography Workflow

  1. Take Pictures – Duh! You need photos to edit and organize. But, I often will shoot photos for multiple blog posts (or for personal use) in between importing to Lightroom. Some people like to shoot one set of photos and then import right away. 1photoshoot to 1 import. I just shoot whenever I feel like it and import when I have time. I can have photos from many different events on one card at one time. Currently, I have photos from about 10 recipes, 1 themed Zumba class, 1 wedding, and a couple random blog posts. I use Lightroom to keep these straight by organizing them at Import. Once I’ve imported all the photos from the card, I format the card in my camera to delete all the photos and make space for new ones.
  2. Import to Lightroom – Some people import their photos from their memory card to the computer and then to Lightroom. I choose to import straight to Lightroom. Since Lightroom is so powerful and actually creates your folder(s) on your computer and puts the images in them, I find importing straight to Lightroom saves a step. I add all my metadata and keywords during import.
  3. Work with Files – I do almost all of my photo editing in Lightroom. I go through all my photos, decide which ones to edit, and edit the selected photos.
  4. Export .jpgs – I export the edited photos as smaller-sized .jpgs for use in blog posts, etc.
  5. Clean Up – I usually wait until I’ve published the blog post for the related photos before I go back to Lightroom and clean-up those I don’t want to keep. I usually do this so if I change my mind about any photos while I’m working on the blog post, I can go back and select a different one (or a couple) to edit and export. Usually, once I’m done with the blog post, I know with more certainty which photos I want to keep and which I want to delete. I used to be lazy and skip this step, which helped my laptop filled up with superfluous photos quite quickly. Not good. Now, I delete extra photos almost immediately, and I find it’s much easier to do this as you go, rather than returning at a later date and reviewing old folders.
  6. Move External – I don’t have a good system at the moment for when I move photos to external storage. I just recently moved all my photos through 2011 to an external drive. So far, my computer is still pretty empty, so I’m in no rush to move the current photos off.

Please note: I went over each of these steps at a pretty high level because we’ll be discussing these in more detail in the other posts of the series.

While I was researching tips and tricks for this series, I stumbled upon these great posts on Photography Workflows, which you may also find helpful:

Next up in this series, I’ll go over:

  • Folder and file naming conventions
  • How to move folders without creating Lightroom errors
  • How to work with your photos / deciding what to delete and keep
  • Utilizing external storage (making space on your computer for more photos!)
  • Advanced organization considerations

Reader question: What’s your photography workflow? Do you like it? What do you want to change or why do you use it the way you do?

Photography & Lightroom Organizing Series Intro

Hey guys!

Note: If you’re a reader of TCL for food or fashion (wait a minute…you’re just reading for Bailey photos, aren’t you?), you may want to skip this one. This post is an introduction to a series I’m writing on Photography and Lightroom Organization.

So, I somewhat recently ran into a major issue related to photography and blogging. I managed to fill up my entire laptop with photos, making it very difficult for me to import new photos or new blog posts. I shoot in RAW, so this didn’t actually take very long. My problem was that I was being lazy about not only organizing my photos, but also about learning best practices for doing so. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was too busy to research, so I just didn’t try. I procrastinated. This was a big mistake. I was also afraid of moving all my photos to an external drive because I was worried I’d do it the wrong way and/or the drive would crash and I’d lose all my photos. I didn’t clean my photos up as well as I could, sure. But, the more serious issues was that I didn’t come up with a good system to follow. So, with a laptop full to the brim with photos, I knew something had to change, and I needed to get it together. I did the best thing I knew – I consulted the experts.

I contacted 4 fellow food bloggers and professional photographers to ask for their tips and feedback. They are:

(Check out their blogs and web sites – they’re amazing!)

They were all wonderful and sent me their tips and strategies. I happily read through them, and when I had the time, I started implementing some of their suggestions. First, I worked on fixing what was broken – I created a system for how I wanted to organize my photos, and I stuck to it. Afterwards, once I had some free time, I re-organized all of my old photos and moved most of them to external storage. Now, my photos are organized (and stay that way with every import), and my laptop has plenty of space for new photos.

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I’m not an expert in photography, Lightroom, or organization. But, I did think it would be helpful to others if I shared the information I collected from my photo gurus, as well as, my experience with organizing photos. The important thing to note is that there isn’t one right way to do things. There are many ways, and you’ll want to tailor your solution so it best fits you. Hopefully, some of the information from these posts or resources I share get you on the right path.

In this series, I’m going to go over:

  • My photography workflow
  • Folder and file naming conventions
  • How to move folders without creating Lightroom errors
  • How to work with your photos / deciding what to delete and keep
  • Utilizing external storage (making space on your computer for more photos!)
  • Advanced organization considerations

Stay tuned for more follow-up posts to come!

Oh, and if you’re a professional photographer and/or advanced Lightroom user, please feel free to weigh in at any time with your thoughts. I’m sure you have great feedback, and I invite you to share your know-how if you want.

Do you use Lightroom? Do you have any questions for now one general Photography or Lightroom Organization?

Camera Upgrade Time?

How is your new year going so far? I hope it’s been fabulous!

Mine has been a little crazy….mostly on the work-front. The next couple weeks (maybe even several) are going to be pretty busy. Today was a longer than usual day. I pulled 11 hours with only a 15 minute break. Phew! I went to work till about 5:15pm, came home, and had my laptop back up and running by about 5:45pm.

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Luckily, hubby saved the day and cooked dinner!

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While I typed and calculated away, he turned some leftover spaghetti sauce into baked ziti.

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Just before 8pm, I called it quits for the day and got some cabbage steamed up to go with our pasta.

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Dinner was great – hubby is a better chef than he thinks!

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Anywho, on to the camera discussion…

I’ve been thinking for awhile that it’s time to upgrade my camera. I don’t take camera purchases lightly, though. They’re so expensive! No, no, I think long and hard when deciding on such a big purchase. The first time I considered getting a DSLR, it was 2006 and I was researching what kind of camera I needed to shoot photos for my handmade jewelry business (for the web site and promotional material). I was a member to online jewelry-makers groups, I researched web sites, and I read through indie business forums for hours and hours and hours. I studied for a long time and finally decided on the one – the Canon Rebel. But, I couldn’t afford it. :(

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Yup, I didn’t end up getting the Rebel till a couple years later when hubby organized a group gift from him and some of his family to get the Rebel for my Christmas present in 2008. I used the camera for a whole year and exactly one year after hubby purchased it, it died. :( Luckily, since it was the last day of the warranty, the camera was covered. Phew! Since the camera was trashed, I had my choice – get the same exact camera or get a credit for the same camera and use it to buy a new one. Instead of getting the exact same camera, I got the Rebel XSi (just one step up) because I found the extra auto-focus points really helpful. So, at this point, I’ve been using the same camera since 2009, and she’s been doing great work for me…But, I’m ready for an upgrade.

I actually almost got a new camera last year around this time. If money weren’t an object, I probably would have gotten the Canon Mark 2D, but do you know how much those cost?! You have to either be a professional photographer, a really-really serious hobbyist (and I consider myself pretty serious, but…), or just plain rich. Instead, I asked around to some of my favorite food photographers/bloggers and researched online at a price point I was more comfortable with and decided on the Nikon D7000. Then, I got cold feet.

What if the D7000 was the wrong camera? What if I invest all this money in a camera, and it’s the wrong one? I worried I’d be trapped with the wrong camera forever! Ok, I knew it wouldn’t really be forever, but it would be a long time before I could gather the funds for a replacement. It’s not like I’m just getting a latte. Like I said, I don’t take camera purchases lightly. Not to mention a jump from Canon to Nikon would be a big leap since I’m already comfortable with a Canon camera. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to think about it for a couple more weeks. And a couple more weeks turned into a couple more months, and now here we are, and it’s been a year.

So, in the last couple weeks, I’ve researched cameras more, still leaning towards the D7000, and I tried to really think about if I was making the right decision with the D7000. After some time, and lots of reading, I decided on the D7000 again. At least, I did until…I couldn’t really find it in stock (at the price I wanted to pay). It seems to be out almost everywhere! Some online sources say the flooding could have destroyed a lot of the stock, though I don’t know if that’s true. But you know what rumor I think is even more interesting?

Word on the street is that Nikon is having a press conference tomorrow (January 6th) in Thailand and that they may announce a replacement for the D7000….the D7100! What-what! Yea, if I’m going to spend this much money on something, I’m definitely going to wait to see if those rumors are true. No point in getting the old version if there’s a newer, better one coming out soon, right? I hope we find out some good news tomorrow from the conference!

What’s your dream camera?

Do you get nervous and second guess yourself when you make a big purchase?

Glowing Bride + Groom

Hubby and I had the pleasure of attending one of his oldest friends’ wedding in Raleigh this weekend.

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I got some really awesome photos of the couple on the dance floor thanks to some wonderful natural light.

But stepping back…

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Hubby and I headed to Durham Saturday morning with Bailey in tow.

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We stopped at Panera on the way to get get lunch. I opted for a salad entree to get 2 servings of veg, since I wasn’t sure how much there would be at the wedding, and I was trying to get my 3 for the day for Project Veg-Up.

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(me and hubby’s mom)

After a couple hours of downtime at hubby’s mom’s house, we got glammed up to head to the wedding!

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The guests were given ice cold water – one plain and one with fruit – to sip on during the wedding…

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…which was outdoors.

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The weather was hot, but so beautiful! Look at that green grass and those blue skies!

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With Project Veg-Up still on my mind, I was extra happy to see the wide assortment of fruits at the pre-party before the reception. I always love fruit platters, but I really dug into this one, filling my plate with watermelon, pineapple, melon, and strawberries – lots of my faves.

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The reception room was gorgeous. I loved the tall windows and all the natural light.

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We had table #9.

This was possibly my first wedding where I didn’t know anyone but hubby and his mom (my MIL is great friends with the parents of the groom). Luckily, we had some really cool peeps at our table. :)

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I loved the cute story behind the couple’s Scrabble-themed favors.

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And soon enough, the couple came out for their first dance.

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The lighting was awesome and made the bride and groom look like they were glowing!

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Aren’t they cute?

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For eats, we had salads…

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…and I had the prime rib with mashed potatoes and crisp tender green beans.

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Plus this times 2. ;)

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After some dancing (where I may or may not have led the wedding in Cupid Shuffle, Zumba-instructor style lol ;) ), we called it a night and gave our best to the happy couple.

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And another fun play on a wedding tradition – the couple opted for wedding “Guest Libs” (like “Mad Libs”). Neat!

Congrats Bryan and Brie!

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What’s the most unique guest book you’ve seen at a wedding?

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