How to Start a Blog

First, Let Me Begin

My name is John, and I’m the techie nerd Husband that gets to help his beautiful wife put together the pieces that make up  The Makeshift Nest.  When we set out to start this blog, we wanted to document everything we did. Every Failure, of which there were many, and every success, which were indeed sweet. By no means do we have it all figured out when it comes to blogging, but for those struggling to get off the ground with their blogs and feeling like it’s not going to happen, we wanted to be a source of encouragement and a resource that is not light years ahead, but maybe just a little further down the road from us.

Hosting

Once you have purchased a domain the first thing you have to do is find someone to host it for you. This simply means that someone has a computer on some shelf somewhere that is yours…well virtually speaking. In larger blogs with a lot of traffic you might have your own dedicated machine running your site but it will be with a hosting company. And for a super budget host with some great tools that scales well, I recommend A Small Orange. When your trying to get off the ground $35/annual fee is fantastic. And speaking from a personal preference the backend administration for the databases and sub sites is cPanel which I am very familiar with and is very friendly for WordPress. If you haven’t purchased a domain but you want to still get off the ground you can always get a free blog site from WordPress.com or blogger.com. I am a WordPress guy all the way. Most people that start blogs eventually move to WordPress, and there is a great community of support. I will not say that it’s the only game in town, but do yourself a favor and start with WordPress so you don’t have to migrate as much later.

Design

 

So I’ve already made it clear that I’m a WordPress guy, but understand WordPress is like the frame of a house- it organizes the rooms in the house. It might even have plumbing and electrical but it doesn’t look like anything ’till you put up the walls, till you’ve painted it and added the trim and such. This has been the greatest frustration for Julie and I – coming up with the site. Now some would say that you can start blogging without any design and then start designing later, but mentally that didn’t work for Julie. She just couldn’t make The Makeshift Nest real until she liked it. It’s like when your trying to be inspired to decorate in a house that is just messy. You know what I’m talking about.

Genesis Framework for WordPressWe went through about 2 different WordPress templates that we were excited about at the start, but in the end, they just weren’t what we were looking for. We stumbled onto A Pinch of Yum who had a lot of great resources and told their story in great detail. They recommend two Design systems for WordPress that had there own subset of Themes, which were Thesis and the Genesis Framework. Both systems had their strengths, but in the end, we chose The Genesis Framework because we could get it up and running sooner and the CSS was simple to edit. Now I feel like I’m a pretty smart guy. I make a living troubleshooting and repairing computers, but I’ve always had problems when it came to code. But after picking up some basic tricks on how to edit CSS, I was able to make all the changes I wanted too. And the Studiopress site has a lot of great tools and forums on how to optimize your Genesis site.

Photography

Photography is a little tricky and always has room for improvement. It’s the easiest part of your blog to be discouraged by. But don’t fret – it’s not as bad as it seams. Now first lets talk about hardware. There is almost no end to how much money you can spend on camera equipment, and as the nest grows, I’m sure we will be getting a nice DSLR with a good lens to get those narrow depth of field shots that makes everything look better. But the makeshift nest isn’t about what you don’t have, its about doing the best with what you do have. For us that was a nice point and shoot from Panasonic, the Lumix DMC-LX5. I’m not complaining, by all accounts it is a very nice, very capable point and shoot but with lots of manual features of much nicer cameras. And to be perfectly honest if you don’t have that, most newer smartphones have terrific cameras on them if you know how to compose pictures right. Don’t get to hung up on how many megapixels your camera shoots. It’s on the web it will be downgraded most likely anyways, High resolution files are more helpful when you are thinking about printing.

Update from Julie:  I finally got my DSLR camera!  It’s a Nikon D5200.  Most of my food pictures are taken with a Nikon AF-S 50mm 1.4 lens.  It helps create beautiful bokeh (nicely blurred background).

pinch-of-yum-cover-200-wideMoving along. Let’s talk about technique. Julie found another great resource from A Pinch of Yum. They have an eBook titled, TASTY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY, which kinda says it all. It really has made a difference for the Photo novice in us to start immediately having better results with the equipment we do have. They even go into editing and color correcting your images. Now they recommend Photoshop (the Industry Standard) and Adobe Lightroom (Adobe’s Photographer Companion). Although I do like photoshop and have used it as a former Graphic Designer, I find that Apples own Aperture software is always overlooked. Aperture is great for Mac users because it operates in your existing iPhoto library and is very simple to use. I showed it to Julie after reading the PoY ebook and found that she was able to adapt everything they taught about image editing to that software.