We catch up with the winner of Best Food Blog at our inaugural Blog Awards a few weeks ago to talk food blogging. Take notes - the French Foodie is here with her top tips...
How important is imagery with food blogs? Would you suggest investing in a good camera - if so, any favourite models?
Good imagery is very important for food blogs. People pay so much attention to visual content and are more likely to come back to your blog if you post high quality pictures. In fact, my favourite food bloggers take pictures that make me want to lick the screen.
I started my blog using an iPhone and still managed to grow a readership. I don't think you need to invest in something too fancy at the start when you don't really know where you're going with your blog, especially when writing reviews (a DSLR is awkward to carry around). If you're using your phone, only photograph in daylight and close to a window, then use different apps like Instagram, Snapseed or VSCOcam to edit your pictures. At the moment I use a Sony point-and-shoot camera because it's compact and portable but I'd love to own a fancy camera someday.
If you have a recipe blog and are serious about it you should probably get yourself a DSLR from the start. Canon seems to be a favourite but really depends on your budget and how serious you are about your photography.
What happens when you hate a place - if you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say it? Or should you just write honestly?
I have a list of places that I feel would be good to try and I rarely get a bad experience these days as the food scene has considerably improved in Dublin. In the case that I don't like a place, get bad food or bad service I complain straight away rather than going online to vent my frustration. My philosophy is to write about the places I'm happy to recommend and to celebrate what I think is the best of Dublin's food scene. Blogging takes a lot of time and I don't know why I'd waste my time taking pictures and writing about a place I don't like. Sometimes if I'm not certain I like a place or not, I visit it again to make sure I didn't catch them on a bad day. Even if my reviews are positive I will always say if there was something that I enjoyed less, honesty is essential. When you have an influential blog you have to be responsible because your opinions can impact on people's jobs and livelihoods. It's easy to establish yourself as an online critic but being on the other side and having a food business is tough work.
You mostly blog about places and events but also do recipes - should one be blogging broadly, or concentrate on their niche?
I started the blog to record my food experiences, it was like an online journal and I didn't really have a plan. Obviously I love food and love cooking too but rarely post recipes because my audience wants to hear about my foodie finds more than how to cook the perfect beef bourguignon.
I think people should blog about what they're the most passionate about, to captivate an audience and then they will realize what their niche is. You need to find a subject you'll be able to talk about indefinitely without getting bored of. You don't have to stick to one subject; you just have to enjoy blogging and not overthinking it.
Who are the food bloggers out there worth looking at? Are there any old school print critics that bloggers ought fork out to read?
I follow lots of Irish and International blogs. In Ireland, Imen Mc Donnell who writes Farmette takes amazing pictures and makes me want to leave Dublin to live in an Irish farm each time I read her. I really admire Donal Skehan, I love his food photography and also the way he stays super friendly and approachable despite being very successful. Outside Ireland I'm a big fan of Manger by Mimi Thorisson, this beautiful lady depicts the perfect life in the South of France (in English) where she cooks amazing food. I also adore Rosie who writes a lifestyle blog called The Londoner, she reviews lots of delicious places in London.
I think it's important to read the old school print critics to improve your own writing style. I try to read as many reviews as I can in newspapers and food magazines. I don't have one favourite food writer in Ireland but I like comparing writing styles and reading different points of view.
Your blog is now a mini-business running amazing events. When did you realise you could do that? How should one scale their blog?
I didn't have a plan for the blog, but it started when I was really unhappy in my job. My contract ended at the time the blog was getting more popular so instead of deciding to get back to an office job that would bore me to death, I made the decision to start a business and use the blog as a platform for it. I don't know if I ever realized I could do this, the thing I was sure of was not wanting to be unhappy for 8 hours a day and believe me it's the best motivation.
I think people should start the blog as a hobby and a way to communicate their passion and not think of making money with it at first. There are so many blogs out there and you just have to create your little space in a crowded blogosphere. If you manage to get an audience then you can think about the ways your blog could work for you as a platform for something else.
Also, what other pieces of advice do you wish you had been told before you started blogging?
I would have probably liked someone to tell me to start a blog earlier. Also maybe a little warning about social media, people try to interact with you 24/7 on all the different platforms and it takes a lot of your time sometimes. Other than that I'm not sure, I think you keep learning things all the time when you have a blog and that's the beauty of it.
Keep up with Ketty on frenchfoodieindublin.blogspot.ie