Entering the world of blogging can be tricky, and I know that when I first started I felt as though I had jumped in at the deep end with no idea how to keep afloat. Since then, I've learned a few tips and tricks so I thought I'd share them with you. If you've been blogging for a while don't expect to see anything new here, I'll just be going over the very basics - this post is more for those who are toying with the idea of starting a blog. Also please don't take my word as gospel, as everyone has their own way of doing thing and I'd hate for anyone to think that they have to stick to a specific formula.
Look into whether you want your blog to be purely one subject, or cover a range of things - for instance I focus mainly on beauty, but I also upload the occasional lifestyle or baking post. I've even done a few outfit posts. An obvious way to do this is to read blogs. Lots of them. It's the best way to find out what you like and what attracts you to blogs you like to read.
The design of your blog is an important factor in keeping potential readers on your page, as first impressions really do mean a lot. Choose a colour scheme and a main font or two, then go about creating a header. You can pull inspiration from other blogs, and see where you want to have something really detailed or just a simple slogan. Having a photo as a header can look amazing, but it runs the risk of getting outdated. If you've made a header with a white background, but when you upload it there's still a grey-ish background you need to make the background transparent. A free way to do this is to go to LunaPic, upload your header and go to the transparent option on the edit menu. Once you're done, save it as a PNG and that's it!
Unless you're using your blog as just another platform of social media, I'd recommend using proper spelling, punctuation (please please please don't overuse exclamation marks) and grammar. Blogger has a built-in spellchecker (that doesn't seem to recognise the word "blog"), as does Google Chrome so it's difficult to get caught out, although sadly they don't pick up on things like mixing up "you're" with "your". Also please disable word verification on comments (I did a tutorial here) and try to have photographs on the largest possible size, or even go one step further and go into the HTML of your post and adjust the sizes from there.
Don't focus too much on statistics. Although it's nice to know how many people read your blog and it gives you a little confidence boost, when your pageviews for one week are less than the week before it'll get to you more than you might think. I know statistics is something that most bloggers like to keep private, which can be daunting if you're just starting out and think that the "bigger bloggers" are getting thousands upon thousands of hits per day. If it helps, I average 150 pageviews per day (according to Google Analytics, Blogger's statistics estimate around 200 a day. Neither are very accurate - one of the main reasons being that they don't track people who have disabled cookies) on days when I haven't uploaded a new post.
As for photography, you don't need a fancy camera, you don't need a light box and you certainly don't need Photoshop. Just find a good light source (this may be difficult now that it's winter, try taking a week's worth of photos all in one day at the weekend instead of resorting to flash) such as a windowsill, put your product facing the light and your camera on its macro setting if it has one and get snapping. If you can't find a good background, then tape up an unbent A3 sheet of paper for a clean plain white background (what I did in this post).
Editing is brilliant, and can turn a "meh" photograph into something Pinterest-worthy. I use both Picasa 3 and PicMonkey for my editing, and although I do own Photoshop Elements 6 I don't use it for blog photos. Picasa is free to download and automatically retrieves all your photographs from your computer (it doesn't support PNG format though) and I primarily use it to go through all the photos I've taken on a single "shoot", which can be anywhere from 30 to 200. I love Picasa for this as you can delete a photo instantly at the touch of a button without need for confirmation. I then export the photos I've chosen to PicMonkey to crop them and play around with the exposure, saturation, sharpness and size (I make sure that all photos are under 1MB, it helps them load faster on the page). If I'm adding text to a photo, I go back to Picasa as it has access to all of the fonts you have installed, whereas there are only a select few on PicMonkey.
To make editing faster, I'd suggest mastering a few keyboard shortcuts if you haven't already - Ctrl and Z to undo your last action, Ctrl and + to zoom in etc.
But if you're thinking of starting a blog, do it. Just don't expect for brilliant content to appear out of nowhere as everybody's got to start somewhere. It's a learning process, and it's almost impossible to make great content if you've never made good content, and make good content if you've never made average content, and make average content if you've never made anything that was slightly iffy. I know I'm not proud of my first post, but I keep it up for a reason.
Thanks to the lovely people on Twitter for giving me the confirmation that this post would be something you'd like to see!