Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More Things I Learned at Blogpodium

I posted some of my thoughts on the inspiring, stylish, motivating, thought-provoking day that was Blogpodium in my last post.  But now for the nitty-gritty of what I actually learned from each of the presentations.  I took notes because lets face it I can't remember my own kid's names so I certainly can't be expected to remember the material from five different presentations and I have a responsibility to all of you to report back.  So here are some of the points that caught my attention at Blogpodium.

Sarah Richardson gave the keynote presentation and it was fabulous.
She encouraged all of us to persevere with decorating and experiment with new ideas because that is what is needed to develop your skills and grow a business. She talked about how she got started and her big break when she had her home featured on the cover of Canadian House and Home in 1998 (I remember that issue and wrote about it here).  Her apartment was decorated with cast-offs and thrift store finds including a lamp that cost $2.50.  

Sarah also talked about upcoming projects she is working on such as a new TV series called Real Potential, a book she is writing, and a collection of fabrics through Kravet that is about to be launched (you can see some of the fabrics in my photo below). She told a funny story about a recent trip to New York City to photograph the new fabric line. Sarah had sent five boxes full of props to be used to style the displays and just as they were leaving to go to the airport they get a call that the boxes had been held up at customs.  So Sarah and her colleagues all quickly gathered props from their own homes. They traveled with treasured bowls and favourite candlesticks in their carry-on luggage so that they wouldn't get broken.  The customs officers must have really wondered about that.

And a few more of Sarah's tidbits: 
  • Decorate so that it lasts.  Sarah said that she likes to be able to look back at a room years from now and still be happy to have her name on it. 
  • Be practical in your decorating.  Sarah likes to balance the practical with some of the finer things.  She described her rooms as casually elegant or classically simple.  
  • Make the main investment pieces neutral and then make a statement by adding colour in items you can change easily. 
  • Be sure to include character and history and fun and whimsy in every room.  One of the best ways to add personality is through seeking out handmade artful objects.
  • Don't over-think the process. Make a decision and then move on because there are a million right answers. If you over-think the decorating you will second guess yourself and end up going over budget.

Waving to Sarah's mother

Samples of Sarah Richardson's new fabric collection through Kravet

During the rest of the day I went to four hour-long sessions. Here's what I learned:

1. Power Tools - How to Clinic (Home Depot)
I learned that we need to buy a mitre saw and a lightweight nail gun.  I got to use both and they were amazing.

You can see the project we were making in the photo above. It was shelf rack with a cover that folds down to form a workspace. Wouldn't it be cute as a craft centre with the shelves lined with little pots of paints or a spice rack to be used in the kitchen.

Avery Swarz

2. Creating a Style Guide for your Blog (Avery Swartz from Avery Swartz Makes Websites)
Avery believes that all bloggers should create a style guide.  It can be anything from a formally written folder, or a pinterest file, or post-it notes stuck to the computer. The style guide should include things like guidelines about your blog's content, logo, colour palette, fonts, how to navigate through the blog, how the links will be indicated, and how the images will be presented. Make your decision on what your blog style will be and then be consistent in using it.

And a few more of Avery's tidbits:
  • 90% of the first impressions about a blog are based on colour 
  • since images take centre-stage on blogs you may want to keep the other colours more neutral
  • have high contrast between the colours of the fonts and the background
  • do not centre align your text or Avery will hunt you down
  • did you know that serif fonts (ones with the little lines at the ends of the letters) are used most often in books because the little hooks help the eye read the words more efficiently, while online it is the opposite and sans-serif fonts (without the little lines) are easier to read.
  • Helvetica is a font that became popular in the 1950s and has been used in the NYC subway. Some typefaces, including Helvetica are really families of fonts. Helvetica has around 50 different fonts within the typeface family, everything from heavy to condensed to italicized. I changed the font of this post to Helvetica from my usual Verdana. What do you think? 
  • You should pick no more than two typefaces - one for the body and one for the decorative contrast. However, you can pick different fonts within the typeface family as they will all look good together. 
Jennifer Ballard
3. Get the Shot!  Photography + Instagram Workshop (Jennifer Ballard from Jennifer Ballard Photography)
Jennifer led us through the intricacies of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO by comparing them to the human eye.  She had great slides to demonstrate how one scene can look different by varying these three settings.  I knew that I needed to get my camera off the auto setting, but until Blogpodium had never figured out how to use the manual settings.  Jennifer had us all give it a try and helped us play around with the different settings.  It was great to begin to get an understanding of what I need to do.

The main tidbits I gained to help with low-lighting conditions (namely all winter long here in Toronto) are:

  • use a reflector to help light objects from the back - even a piece of white britol board will work
  • use an external flash to help avoid red eye and ghost face
  • point the external flash up and backward at the ceiling or wall behind to get diffuse light
  • attach a white card with an elastic band to the top of the flash pointed at the ceiling and a little bit of light will bounce back from the card 
  • use an f-stop of around 2.8
  • use the delay timer to avoid the jiggle that your finger makes depressing the shutter button
Karen Bertelsen
4.  The Art of Monetization (Karen Bertelsen from The Art of Doing Stuff)
I signed up for this presentation because Karen's blog is hilarious and I was hoping for more of the same in her presentation. Fortunately, Karen didn't disappoint - she is a great presenter and I learned lots.  

Not only is Karen funny, but she is the most honest and up-front person I know. She told us how much she earns from blogging and what she charges for different writing and photography projects. It was so refreshing and so helpful because frankly I had no idea what the going rates for some of these things are. She feels that if we talk about the pricing then the power will be in the hands of the blogger rather than in the hands of the companies. Good point.

I really have had limited interest in monetizing my blog as I want to keep it as a hobby, but according to Karen we should all have Google adsense on our blogs because ... well ... why not.  It brings in money without any effort on our part and in fact Karen revealed that it is her top money maker every month. You just sign up and wait for the cheques to come. The cheques will likely be small at first, but as your readership grows and Google figures out your blog then it grows. I thought that was an interesting idea and you just might see some ads on here soon.

So there you have it, one day's contents of my brain unloaded for you. I hope you found a few take-away points too.


  1. Thanks for sharing your information so clearly. Lots to think about. I recently added google adsense back and I'm kicking myself that I couldn't figure out how to put it back on for close to a year. That's a bit of lost money, oh well. I need to look into fonts because I kind of guessed with mine. Great photo tips too. My eyes and glasses prescription haven't been cooperating with my camera for some time and I sure need to learn more about manual. Sarah's new fabrics are lovely and those colours, oh my! Thanks again for sharing. I know I will be back to read this post again.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to put together this post for us. It's loaded with lots of practical information! Now I'm worried about the font on my blog....hmmmm......

    I don't think that my blog is focused enough to make any money, but my blog reflects my life right now.

    I need to take a photography class because I do everything wrong, and the photos ruin my blog, I think.

    I would love to hear Sarah Richardson speak in person. She's so talented, and I love her designs!


  3. Thank you for sharing so many great ideas! My head is spinning!

  4. Wow! There is so much information here that I need several readings to digest it all. Google AdSense was something I did early on and, unfortunately, my goddaughter, who was staying with me, clicked and clicked on the ads, which apparently is against the rules, so they disallowed my account and I can't find out how to reinstate it. Oh well, maybe it was for the best. You have no control over the ads they run.

    I just love Sarah Richardson. Her style sense and the fabrics she chooses are all incredible!! Whenever she's on TV here I make sure to watch her.

    Avery Swartz's website prices were quite steep. I hope she's worth it.

    The Art of Doing Stuff is a real hoot. Her Blog is definitely monetized to the max (almost distracting).

    Thank you for putting all this together in such an interesting and coherent way. Great Post, Gracie. Major kudos!!!

    xoxo, M-T