With more than five years of blogging behind me, I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error in trying to find tools to make my blog better. Some things have worked out great, and others were a waste of time and money. I’m hoping that this resource page will help you find tools that work for your blog, without some of the hassle that I went through!
Some of these links are affiliate links, which will give me a tiny commission if you make a purchase through them. I am only recommending the tools that I use myself and enjoy, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Just drop me a line here.
Cameras & Lenses:
My favourite camera body is my old Nikon D60, but it’s on its last legs (which breaks my heart).
Fun Fact: Did you know that DSLR cameras eventually get shutter death? Basically, the shutter can go off so many times before it stops working. This doesn’t really matter when you’re buying a new camera, but you’ll want to know the shutter count on a used camera before buying it!
As far as lenses go, honestly, for the first 4 years I shot with whatever stock lens came on my camera. I know a lot of people are going to find the horrifying, but that’s the truth. Now I have a nice 40mm lens, which is my baby.
While nothing beats real sunlight, that can be hard to come by in the dark days of our Canadian winters. I have Lowel Ego Digital Imaging Fluorescent Lightsthat I use in a pinch, but I’m considering buying a soft box kit instead because it would diffuse the light more evenly.
Social Media Scheduling Tools
CoSchedule is a social media editorial calendar for WordPress. You can use this tool to schedule content for Twitter, Facebook (profiles, pages or groups) etc.
Signing up for CoSchedule will get access to their web application, as well as a WordPress plugin. Installing the plugin will create a new section in your WordPress blog post editor. This is handy because you can schedule all of your social media messages as soon as you’ve finished writing your post.
If you’re not interested in adding yet another plugin to your website, you can just use the web application. It looks exactly the same:
You can sign up for a free trial here. After that, if you choose to keep the service it will cost $9.00 per blog, per month.
I’ve used ViralTag, Board Booster and Ahalogy, but Tailwind is my favourite pin scheduler.
Tailwind syncs with your Pinterest account to allow you to schedule pins and keep track of how well they’re performing. I love that Tailwind shows me a visual calendar of my scheduled pins, so I can make sure that I’m not pinning too much of the same content at the same time.
You can use the Tailwind browser extension, for Chrome and Safari, to schedule multiple pins from any blog post or website, and schedule them to multiple boards. You can schedule repins from Pinterest too!
Tailwind is an official Pinterest Marketing Developer Partner for Content Publishing, so I feel confident that using it isn’t going to get my banned from Pinterest, or anything like that.
Special Offer: Get a $30 Tailwind credit when you use my referral link to sign up for the service. (ends on March 31st)
Pretty WordPress Themes
I’m partial to themes that use the Genesis Framework, because they are easy for me to customize. This website is currently running on the Divine Themefrom Restored 316 Designs. I have also purchased a theme from Pretty Darn Cute Design, which I used on another site that I have. Both companies make pretty, feminine WordPress themes, and they both have their pros and cons.
Keep in mind that you will have to purchase the Genesis Framework before you can use a theme from one of these companies. I know that sounds like a waste of money, but it’s actually smart. The ladies who run these companies can help you if you have any questions about how their themes work with the framework.
Fun Fact: These two companies have accused each other of stealing each others content. I have no idea who’s right or wrong, but it’s something you might want to keep in mind before purchasing.
Alternatively, I know many people use the Foodie Pro theme from Shay Bocks and love it. I haven’t used it myself, but you might want to check that out.
Must Have WordPress Plugins
You need to back up your site. Trust me, one day you’re going to click the wrong thing and you’ll be sad that you’ve lost hours of work because your web host doesn’t have a current backup. I’ve been there – it sucks!
There are many free plugins and services available to help you back up your site, but I don’t recommend any of them. When it comes to WordPress backups, you really do get what you pay for.
I went with BackupBuddy at first, because it was less expensive than VaultPress, which (personally) was a huge mistake. First of all, I ended up paying $80 USD for the BackupBuddy service, PLUS an extra $35 USD for BackupBuddy Stash, so I’d have somewhere to save those backups. Then when I crashed my site and needed to restore a backup, I discovered that the process wasn’t as “quick and simple” as I had expected it to be.
If you are not comfortable uploading files to your FTP directory, or you are looking for a simple one-click restore solution, then BackupBuddy is not for you! I wish someone had told me that…
Now I use VaultPress, and I cannot recommend it enough! I only wish that I had bought it sooner, because it would have saved me hours of frustration.
The version I use does cost $165 USD a year, but it is worth every penny. VaultPress integrates with WordPress seamlessly, because it’s made by the same company (Automattic). Unlike BackupBuddy, my website backs up on a regular basis, without any work from me/ Then when it’s time to restore my site, I click a button. That’s it.
I never thought that anyone would bother hacking my little website. Ha! Talk about being naive… Sucuri is one of those services that I wish I didn’t have to use, but sadly hackers (and their crafty progams) exist, and being hacked is no fun.
Sucuri prevents hacks, detects malware and the Sucuri team will clean up your site if you have had a security breach. I’m sorry to tell you that Sucuri costs $200 a year… yeah, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.
No one wants to deal with spam comments! Akismet does a pretty decent job of catching most spam comments, so you don’t have to moderate each one. This is another Automattic product, and it’s free for non-commercial use.
These services are all essential to any blogger. If you’re just starting out, you need to remember that you need to register a domain, get a web host, and find an affordable internet service provider who won’t charge you a fortune!
I have always purchased domain names from GoDaddy.com. They are usually pretty cheap, and their customer service hasn’t let me down yet (*knock on wood*)
I have used BlueHost in the past, because of their one-click WordPress installation. They are very popular (and have a robust affiliate program), but I can’t recommend them. I did not have a good experience with BlueHost (my site was always down!). I just moved from my old web host to EZP.net and I could not be happier! They have great customer support, and my bill is in Canadian dollars (they are located in Vancouver).
Internet Service Provider:
I know that Rogers and Bell are the most popular options here, but I prefer to use Teksavvy. I can get more bandwidth from Teksavvy than with those other companies, at a lower price.
I’ve used MailPoet and Mad Mimi in the past, but I like MailChimp the best. It’s easy to use, has lots of great features, and it’s free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers.
I am currently running Google Adsense, Riot Ads, and Gourmet Ads on this website.
These books have helped me improve the quality of my work over the years. I recommend buying the physical editions of these books, as the ebooks are never as easy to flip through. I’ve heard of issues with the digital versions of Plate to Pixel and the Food Lover’s Companion too, so I don’t want you to waste money on those.
Plate to Pixel is a great introductory guide to food photography. It’s very easy to follow, making it perfect for anyone who is new to food photography. The book is also full of photos, which I love! If you can only buy one book on photography, this is the one to get. This book is available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.
Focus On: Food Photography for Bloggers is a neat little book written by professional food photographer Matt Armendariz. The book is very visual (as you might expect) and includes a chapter on how to photograph difficult foods (reflective foods like soup, brown foods like stew etc.). This book is available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.
Will Write for Food is considered to be one of the most essential books on food writing. The author, Dianne Jacob, teaches you about food blogging, reviewing restaurants, how to get published and more. I have a the second edition, but I wish I had waited for this new version. This book is available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.
I have the fourth edition of the Food Lover’s Companion (from 2007!), and I use it so often that it never leaves my desk! Think of it as a dictionary of food words, that is essential to food writing. I haven’t seen the new version myself, but based on the ratings it’s probably just as good. This book is available at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.
My Favourite iPhone Photo Editing Apps
This is not a sponsored post.
This post contains affiliate links.