How I Blog: My Process and Tools

IMG_1999800

I know many of my readers are fellow bloggers so I thought it would be fun to do a different kind of post today and share with you a bit more about my blogging process and answer some of the questions you have been asking. I started INTO MIND in December 2011 as a wordpress.com blog and since then, things have changed quite a bit, from my theme to the way I write.

I would love to know about your own blogging process as well. How do you develop post ideas, which tools do you use, etc. Tell me in the comments!

Photography

Camera: When I first started blogging I used a Sony Nex-3 with a 18-55mm lens but recently I have upgraded to a Canon 600d for a better overall image quality and more options to play around with. I use it either with the 18-55mm kit lens or with a 50mm f/1.8 lens for portraits and close-ups. I am basically a self-taught and learned about photography through trial and error. At the beginning, I didn’t really know anything about cameras, I would just point and shoot with the standard settings. Gradually, I started to experiment with lighting, settings and composition and whenever something didn’t look right, I tweaked the set-up until I was satisfied. Nowadays, I try to get my images as close to what I had in mind through composition alone, and then I do some final touch-ups with photoshop.

Image style: I recently started to add a specific style to most of my images using a fixed set of editing steps: I usually desaturate yellow tones, increase definition, selectively saturate red and green tones and then decrease the contrast. This gives all of my pics a certain, uniform ‘feel’. Quite a few bloggers style their photos in a consistent way, for example the pictures by A Beautiful Mess are always very saturated and rich in contrast, and Love Aesthetics‘ images are generally filled with light, very clear and  desaturated. If you are interested in creating a consistent for your blog images, check out The Color Shop and Totally Rad! for their range of ready-made photoshop actions.

Editing: Although I definitely use photoshop the most, there is another photo-editing app that I love and want to mention: Sketch, a design app with a beautiful interface that is especially great for creating collages or custom graphics. I find it much quicker and easier to use than photoshop. Once my images are done, I store them all on iPhoto, but as my collection is growing I will definitely need a better filing system and will probably upgrade to Aperture.

Process

Finding inspiration: I use Evernote to collect spontaneous post ideas and every two weeks or so I pick the best from that list to plan my post schedule. Only about 20% of the ideas get implemented and sometimes I will start writing with a specific structure in mind and then the post develops into something completely different. I used to just write about any topic I liked but in December of last year I decided to ‘tighten’ my concept and focus on personal style and wardrobe building, with the odd random post about other things.

Staying inspired: I find the best technique to stay inspired and come up with enough ideas is to not restrict myself during the creative part, i.e. don’t think about whether I have time to do this post, or the tools, equipment, etc. When I need new ideas I ask myself “What posts would you ideally be writing in the next month?”, and then only later I decide whether I will actually do them.

Staying organised: I prefer to plan things way ahead of time and schedule posts if I can. To keep track of everything I use Things, a GTD-based task management system that I have on my macbook and iPhone. Things is by far the best organization system I have ever used, I just dump my entire brain in there and it will make sure I get every little thing done in time.

Writing process: For longer text-based posts I like to allow my mind some incubation time to refine my thoughts, which means that I almost never write a post all in one go. My writing happens in three stages: First, I create a general bullet-point structure. Then, I freewrite: I write as fast as I can and get all of my thoughts on paper without worrying about sentence structure or punctuation. In a third stage, I do all of the editing and make sure my text is coherent. For smaller texts accompanying photo-based posts I usually skip the freewriting stage, but for longer, thought-heavy posts this technique is the best for preventing writer’s block.

Theme

After changing my theme several times during the last year, I eventually settled on ‘Gridspace’ by Graph Paper Press, which comes pretty close to my ideal blog theme. I edited my theme using CSS, which allows you to adjust the way all of the elements are displayed on your website, i.e. the fonts, colours, shapes, etc. Editing a theme using CSS requires you to learn a bit of coding which seemed a bit scary at first. The way I started getting into it was to just type whatever I wanted to do (‘Add border around widget’) into google and see what came up. Nowadays, when I want to quickly adjust something like a margin on my blog, I use the Developer’s tool on Safari or Chrome to inspect the element I want to change, which shows me the current CSS for the element that I can then alter. My goal for the summer is to get really good at CSS and HTML, or at least so good that I can tweak my theme enough to match my ideal layout dreams. I am currently devouring Pugly Pixel‘s resources and I also like the W3Schools website and the 1stWebDesigner blog.

Do you know any good websites with tutorials for beginner’s – intermediate CSS/HTML?

5 thoughts on “How I Blog: My Process and Tools

  1. I really like that you mention signature image style. Incidentally, I’ve been getting into it recently. There are many cool photo filter and edit tricks online. You can learn them for free. If you apply effects under Layer => Adjustment layer, you can just copy the process for different images fast and efficiently. Some good sites for tutorials are http://hongkiat.com http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/enhance-retouch-image-with-photoshop/ AND http://psd.tutsplus.com http://psd.tutsplus.com/category/tutorials/photo-effects-tutorials/

  2. For image adjustments and library control, I use Adobe Lightroom. It can also make those same saturation adjustments that you mentioned, and you can record them as a preset so that you can run them on all of the images that you are processing. I do most of my basic work in Lightroom and only go to Photoshop when I need to. Lightroom also has some great tools to manage the library of images. I use the collection capability a lot, My workflow is: pull the image into Lightroom, collect the images into a Collection, sort through the images and rate them (1, 2, or 3 stars). Next, make any tweaks to exposure, contrast, saturation, clarity, etc). Sharpen for output and tag with a red color. Once they are output to the hard drive or published to the blog, I tag them with green (it’s a visible way to make sure that I’m done.)

    I tried Aperture and didn’t really like it, but that was when I first started working on a Mac and I had already been using Lightroom for many years on my Windows PC.

    Let me know if you have any questions.
    Mike

  3. Love this post, it’s so interesting to read about other blogger’s ways of writing. I will definitely try your free writing technique.

Leave a Reply