12 Blogging Essentials to Help You Get Ahead

February 16, 2016

things bloggers need

In my past few years of blogging, I've learned so much about what it takes to make my blog run like a well-oiled machine. I'm constantly seeking out ways to improve, and will always see my online space as a work in progress. After countless experiments and quite a few flops, I've boiled it down to a list of things that have really helped me blog easier, more effectively, and achieve the goals that I've set for myself.

I've separated these tips and essentials into categories, so you can better find the help you need!

Photos + Editing:
Do you ever wonder how your favorite bloggers achieve that crisp, bright photo with the beautiful slightly blurred background? What about that clean and perfectly curated Instagram photo?

When it comes to having beautiful photos for your blog, there are two avenues you can take. Most successful bloggers use a healthy balance of both methods. It's up to you (and your bank account) which you'd like to pursue.

Kind of a shocking before and after, don't you think?!

  • Method 1: DSLR Camera - This is the "traditional" way to get beautiful photos for your blog, especially those big gorgeous ones with the bokeh background and crisp details. This undoubtedly takes more time, money, and skill than other methods of photography, but the results are definitely the most noticeable. If you're in the market for a DSLR camera, do some shopping around. Check out a few "late" models if you're looking to save money. I personally use the Canon Rebel with a 50mm lens for most of my blog photos.

  • Editing DSLR: Photoshop - Just as you predicted, programs like Photoshop and Lightroom are the final step in taking blog photos from so-so to fantastic. They are quite an investment, but well worth it when you see the difference they make. Photoshop is also extremely handy in creating graphics for the branding of your blog, another essential!

  • Method 2: Smartphone - When it comes to smartphone photos, quality is key. The cameras on phones these days often rival that of some of the best DSLR photos, but great photos don't just happen out of thin air. Even with a cell phone, one needs to understand framing, the rule of thirds, and what type of lighting they're trying to achieve.

  • Editing Smartphone: VSCO - When it comes to smartphone apps that changed the game for me, VSCO is #1. The filters are such a step up from Instagram, and it even lets you preview the post on your timeline before you save it - something Instagram doesn't let you do. It's a free app and I totally recommend you download it!


Planning, Scheduling + Inspiration:
When it comes to blogging, being organized is definitely one of the biggest tasks to tackle. It's also one of the biggest challenges for me. I've never been one to be strict with my blogging plans, but having a little structure goes a long way.


  • A Physical Planner - When it comes to planning blog posts, brand parties, and meetups with other bloggers, you've got to keep it all written down somewhere. Sure, you can keep it all in your phone, but I find that writing things down helps me immensely when it comes to accountability. I'm a big fan of the Lilly Pultizer agendas, but any planner can work for you!

  • An Editorial Calendar - This one goes hand in hand with the agenda, but it's a little bit different. The way I came up with my editorial calendar was by writing down all the topics I usually blog about, adding in my recurring features (like 7 things) and choosing days of the week to post them. That way, I have a reliable schedule to follow, and I know what's coming up on the blog for the next month or so! I always work a few "free days" in there, as well as days where I don't need to post. It's really helped me feel more on top of things when it comes to the direction my blog is taking.

  • A blog idea notebook - There's really something to be said about writing down all your ideas on paper, and if you're anything like me, you love an excuse to buy a new notebook. (I'm a moleskine gal myself) I started a blog idea notebook about a year ago, and it's the first thing I pick up when I hit a patch of writer's block. This notebook is also a great place to put to-do lists. I started mine with a list of long-term goals for my blog, so I see it every time I use my notebook.

  • A blogging friend - This may sound cheesy, but some of my biggest inspirations are the friends I've made while blogging. Not only do we totally get each other, we keep each other accountable, and there's always someone there to proof read your new post!


Aesthetics, Branding + Design:
Another important part of a blog is the design! The best part of this is that the design is completely up to you, and that it reflects your personal style. Here are the things you'll need:

  • Discover your brand identity - When it comes to branding your blog, you've gotta put the basics together yourself before hiring a designer or creating your blog design on your own. I suggest using a Pinterest board to compile color schemes, patterns, textures, and themes that you associate with yourself, your blog, and what you want your blog to be. Pick two or three colors you love, save examples of fonts you're into, and throw in a couple images that really speak to you. When you show that to your designer, they'll have a better idea of who you are, and what to make for you!

  • A great design - Whether you're hiring a designer or creating your blog from scratch, you've got to have a design that catches your reader's eye, but also doesn't distract from your content. Think simple, but still keep your brand identity intact.

  • An awesome layout - If you're having your blog put together by a designer, this should be taken care of already, but if you're doing it yourself you may have to shop around for a layout that really fits your blog. I purchased my layout on Etsy, and created the design elements like my logo and social media buttons myself. Once again, think simple. Layouts shouldn't distract from your content. That giant slider may seem tempting, but always keep your readers in mind!

But your most important blogging essential:
Content you love and a blog you're proud of!


What are your blogging essentials?

25 comments

  1. Great list of essentials - you really hit the nail on the head with everything here! Really great, thanks! :) That Before & After photo was really net too!

    www.theflamedameblog.com

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  2. I think I'm the only person on this planet who doesn't love the VSCO app but I am obsessed with A Color Story! Their app finally figured out how to get really bright colors without making the photo look grainy and weird.

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  3. This is fantastic! While I'm still working on my photography [slash making my husband work on his photography...:P], just taking the plunge on a great camera with a 55mm lens moved mountains for me! Such a difference. And double yes to having blog friends to bounce things off of :)

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  4. I like VSCO for general instagram editing, but I've still been trying to find an app I heard about (I can't remember the name of it) that allows you to use aperture and ISO while you're taking photos, especially since a DSLR definitely isn't in my budget right now. Great post, thank you for the guide!

    - Alexa
    http://misfitalexa.com

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  5. I love this! I have joined a few blogging groups and it's helped me a lot in terms of inspiration. It's also nice to see that even when we're all writing blogs were all so different and so is our content. I also love the idea of an idea notebook right now I use notes on my phone and it's getting full. Thanks for the great advice!

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  6. I use a DSLR as well and am just learning how to blur backgrounds but it is very difficult. What lens would you say is good for blurring backgrounds?

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  7. All essentials! I definitely have to agree with the camera and photo editing - great and enticing images are key!

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  8. Great tips! Blogging groups have been so great for me in building a little tribe!

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  9. I'm a newbie and this post is very helpful. I am trying to make the most of my smart phone camera at this time but I'm learning all sorts of tips and tricks to do that.

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  10. Love everything about this. I take most of my pictures with my smart phone (lack of other option) but edit them with Photoshop afterwards. The smartphone cameras really came a long way and as long as there is natural light do surprisingly good.

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  11. Honestly, thank you for this post! I am such a newb in the blogging world and I know that there is still plenty of room for improvement. I've been considering upgrading my camera, but had no idea which brand or type to choose. After reading this I am definitely considering the Canon Rebel!

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  12. This is such a great list! I really need to work on my visuals!

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  13. These are such great tips! I take most of my pics with my DSLR camera and some with my phone. It's crazy how some of my photos from my phone end up better...Yes and organization is a must to stay on top of everything and keeping a schedule. Thanks so much for sharing!!

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  14. What a fantastic post - thanks for sharing some great tips! I fell away from my blogging journal for a minute, and it was disastrous!

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  15. Great tips, I especially agree with the last one about creating content you love and a blog you can be proud of.

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  16. I think I should do more on the photography and branding front! Thanks for the tips! :)

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  17. These are such great tips, especially for a beginning blogger. I've been at this for awhile now and use pretty much all of these tools in an assortment of ways. - Katy

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  18. These truly are the essentials; I've picked on the same things over the years!


    xoxo, Sam | thehauntedhousewife.com

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  19. OMG VSCO is being downloaded RIGHT NOW!! hahahaha!

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  20. AnonymousJuly 01, 2016

    You have some great tips! I have been looking into getting a camera to improve my picture game!

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  21. Too true! Photography is such an important aspect - lighting and editing are huge components of a great photo!
    xx, The Southwestern Prepster

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  22. Great blogging essentials. I live in Photoshop all day so it's definitely my go to for creating good photos.

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  23. I finally got a DSLR a few months ago and my blog has grown since then. I'm hoping as my skills improve, do will my blog following. Beautiful pictures really make a difference!

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  24. These are such great tips! I agree that photography is really important for blogs! I use quite a few iphone apps but don't love VSCO! I love PicFx and A Color Story!

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