What I Learned at #IFBC
It’s been a couple of weeks now, since Mr. Allie and I returned from Seattle and the food blogger’s paradise that was the Independent Food Bloggers Conference. The whole thing was such an overwhelmingly positive experience, that I really needed to take a little time to gather my thoughts on what all I’ve taken away from it, and how to sum the whole business up into a cohesive post.
I had been wanting to go to a blogging conference for a while, my main motivation being to LEARN. The business of blogging is big, and it involves so many different aspects. It’s really not enough to just be a creative person with good ideas (although that is definitely a prerequisite!). You also need to be social media savvy, and tech savvy, and a great photographer, you need to understand SEO (search engine optimization), web design, be a compelling writer, and a marketing whiz. When I started blogging, most of these things were completely foreign to me, and even now, I often feel lost in a big, scary place I know very little about.
I knew that a blogging conference could be really instrumental in helping me to learn the blogging ropes, and IFBC definitely filled that need.
I’ve seen from your comments that many of you wish that you could also attend a conference, and, I know that I was very lucky (thanks to my father-in-law for gifting us the airfare, to my mom for looking after my kiddos, and to all the sponsors of IFBC for keeping the cost so low) to have been able to attend. Travel can be expensive, and a big time investment, and, for many of us, it’s just not feasible. So, I’d like to share a little of what I learned with you, so that hopefully you all can benefit a bit from my time in Seattle.
What I Learned at my First Blogger Conference
1) Be social! I arrived late on the scene. I missed the wine tasting at Chateau St. Michelle Winery on Thursday, and the Welcome luncheon provided by Chipotle on Friday. I tiptoed into a packed conference room mere moments before the legendary Dorie Greenspan took the stage for the keynote speech. Needless to say, my feathers were seriously ruffled, and I was completely overwhelmed (did I mention that I didn’t know a single soul?). My shyness totally got the better of me and I hid myself in a corner. But by the next morning, I realized that I was missing a big opportunity, and one of the main reasons I had wanted to go in the first place! To meet other bloggers, network, and make friends. The first face I saw that morning was Alice Choi’s (of Hip Foodie Mom), someone I had admired from afar for a long time. My knees were knocking, but I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. Best. Decision. Ever. She couldn’t have been sweeter. She totally took me under her wing, and introduced me to her whole crew. They were all so smart and fun and I had a great time talking shop and getting advice from them. And they made sure to save a seat for me at every session and event for the rest of the weekend. Even though we’re spread out all across the continent, we’ve promised to keep in touch, and blogging makes that easy. Going to IFBC taught me that we are in it together, we can and should help each other out, for the greater good of blogging as an industry, because we all have so much in common, and because it’s fun!
Don’t be intimidated or afraid to reach out to any of these rockstar bloggers. They may be crazy talented, but they’re also totally down to earth and super helpful, and I’m so happy to have connected with them:
- Hip Foodie Mom
- Gotta Get Baked
- The Urban Mrs.
- Sweet Lab
- Food Wanderings
- Camera in Tow
- That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Chow Studios
- Damn Delicious
Bottom line: the blogging community is awesome. Engage yourself. Comment on other blogs (the above list is a great starting point!). Ask questions. And answer your own comments, every one! Build relationships. I use a plugin called “Comment Reply Notification,” to ensure that those who comment on my blog see my reply in their email inbox. It’s a great way to connect, and get a dialog going. I’m so happy to have made so many great friends through blogging. 🙂
2) Step up your photography game. I knew ZERO about photography when I started blogging. I was an art and architecture major in college. I can draw! I’m actually pretty decent at it. I always relied heavily on that, in my professional and creative life. I never thought I needed to mess around with techy stuff like cameras and lenses. Well, guess what? When you can take a pretty picture, people want to click on your blog and read what you have to say. It’s an incredible tool, and I wised up to that pretty quickly.
Andrew Scrivani gave a couple of really informative talks about food photography. Some of it was over my head, or maybe I should say “out of my realm,” (He’s a professional photographer, and while he does have a blog, it’s not his main focus. His main focus is photographing food for the New York Times [maybe you’ve heard of it???]), but I did still take a lot away from it. Here are some of my favorite photography tips from Scrivani:
- Creating Desire: Capture a mood, connect to a memory, appreciate the beauty of the subject, and build anticipation. You want your reader to want that food, so badly they can almost taste it, and have a sense of anticipation for that first bite. Grab them with your first image, and they’ll be yours for the rest of the post (and hopefully every one thereafter!).
- Lighting: Natural light is best, preferably from a Southwestern facing window. Try to capture the gradation, from bright highlights to deep shadows. The trend in food photography is transitioning away from bright, blown-out imagery, to a moodier, more masculine vibe. Use a sheet of white cardboard as a reflector/fill card, if your setup looks too shadowy, and a thin sheet or scrim to diffuse sunlight if it’s too harsh.
- Propping: Smaller props allow the food to take the spotlight. Duller finishes photograph better than shiny or reflective ones. Look for tarnished silver, salt-glazed pottery, textural backgrounds, and neutral colors, so that the food becomes the main focus.
- Capturing Detail: A macro lens will allow you to catch more detail on close-up shots. <–I gotta get me one of these. Right now I only shoot with a nifty-fifty, but I’m anxious to start experimenting with different lenses.
- Post-Processing, aka Editing: Scrivani recommends shooting in RAW format, something I am slightly familiar with, but have not yet gotten into. It allows more creative freedom for the artist, but it takes up more space on your memory card and requires specialized software to be able to view and edit the files. I’m hoping to start learning the RAW ropes, and I’d love to get on the Adobe Lightroom bandwagon. I think it will open up a lot of new possibilities for me (I currently use PicMonkey, which is easy for beginners, and free, but I think I’ve outgrown it), and help me to better tag and organize my photos. Speaking of which- delete outtakes! This is something I have not been doing, even though it’s perfectly logical. Why hang on to old pics? If they weren’t good enough for your blog, they’re really of no use to you. Duh.
3) Take a Taste! I missed out on a lot of the food and drink at this conference, because it was a priority for me to spend time with Mr. Allie exploring Seattle. But next time, we are totally paying for him to be an attendee. IFBC provides every single meal to the conference-goers, the food is amazing, and there’s tons of it. The cost of admission pays for itself by day one. IFBC hooks you up, with the best restaurants and food Seattle has to offer. Plus, tons of snacks and swag to bring home with you. Plan on checking your bag on the way home, so you can enjoy all the wine, juices, smoothies, and sodas you can jam in there.
As a food blogger, you want to be up on the current trends. The focus at IFBC was definitely on high quality, organic, vegan, nutritionally-dense, and non-GMO products. I got to try some amazing foods while I was there, and I’m listing my favorites below. If you see any of these products at your local market, do not hesitate to pick them up. They are Allie tested and approved 😉
- Annie’s Homegrown Berry Patch Fruit Snacks
- Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Acai and Blueberries
- Manuka Doctor Bio Active 10+ Manuka Honey
- Fever-Tree Mixers
- Happy Squeeze Twist Smoothies with Supergrain Salba
- Chateau Ste. Michelle Wines
- Shanley Farms Finger Limes
- Lagrima Vanilla Extract
- Dry Soda Co. Soft Drinks
- Scharffen Berger Chocolate
- Natures Path Organic Love Crunch Granola
- Cosmos Creations Baked Corn Snacks
All in all, I’d say IFBC was a pretty great experience. There was even so much more than what I’ve shared here; these were really just the highlights for me. You can read more about this year’s conference here.
And if you’re thinking about maybe attending a blogger conference, and you’re looking to make some great friends, learn a lot, and experience some amazing foods, IFBC 2014 is your jam. They’re holding it in Seattle again next year, at the Westin Hotel (I believe they give a reduced rate for conference attendees- ask.), and they’re expecting to sell out of all 500 available spots. The cost is $95 if you agree to write three blog posts about it. Not too bad, considering everything they’re offering.
Hope to see you there!
I’ve heard a lot about independent food blogger conference and glad to learn brilliant details of the arrangement that conference manged. You’ve done enormous job with the writing and by explaining everything so cleanly. Such type of conference is very educative and thanks for sharing about it.
Thank you, Nancy! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. The conference was so educational and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to attend a food bloggers conference.
What a marvelous write up, Allie!!! I need to remember to do # 3 :/ And thanks for the kind mention. I still want you back in the Sunday Supper group so make sure to contact me when you’re ready to rejoin!!! It was so fun to meet you!
It was so fun meeting you too! I’ve admired you from afar for a long time, so I was a little intimidated, but you were so warm and kind, and you put me instantly at ease 🙂 Thank you so much, I do want to rejoin the group, I’m thinking maybe after the holidays, if that works for you. I’ll send you a tweet or an email or something. Thanks for reading, Liz, and for the sweet comment!
Fantastic post! Hope your in-laws will spring for air fare again next year:-) and we get to chat!
Ha ha, me too, Vicki! I’ll definitely be there if he does, lol! Would love to chat with you too. I remember your face but I don’t think we had the opportunity to meet…
Beautiful post Allie! You did a great job at documenting and capturing IFBC 2013! It was such a memorable time that I will forever cherish. Hope to see you and the other blogger chicks soon! <3
Thanks, Vane! You too. It certainly was memorable and I’m so happy to have met you guys. All so talented! See you around the bloggy world!
What a lovely, well written recap of your first IFBC! I remember being in that very same place last year in Portland. Bravo on reaching out your hand and diving in, because you are so right… we are all in this together!
Thanks so much Robin! It was a little scary at first, but once I reminded myself about how much I had in common with all the other attendees, it made it easier. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post, and thanks so much for the encouraging comment!
It was so nice meeting you, Allie! I’m so glad I went there and got lots of connections, especially you. It was indeed a fun experience and hope we bump into each other again next year!
Me too Linda! Thanks so much for reading, and for the sweet comment!
Whoa Allie!!!! This is suchhhh an enriching experience!!!! Loved every bit of information that you provided! 🙂 I actually felt as though I was there at that conference! Soooo good to know that you had an amazing time! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Thanks, Samina! I had a hard time writing that post. Just so much info! I was afraid it was getting too long-winded. I’m glad you enjoyed! Thanks for the awesome feedback! <3
What a wonderful experience! One day I hope to attend a food blogging conference, maybe they’ll move it to the east coast! I use adobe photoshop elements, which is a less expensive option than photoshop, but it has all of the basic functions I need. My 9 year old daughter is interested in photography and she learned more about photoshop in one day than I knew in all the years I’ve been using it. I don’t think it will take too long before she is editing my pics 🙂
I looked at Photoshop Elements too! It was slightly more expensive than Lightroom. I wasn’t really sure what the differences were…? That’s awesome that your daughter can help you! I wish I had a little helper 😉
Great post! It sounds like IFBC is a great conference to attend and I’m so glad you had a wonderful experience 🙂 Thanks for sharing and hope you have a great weekend Allie 🙂
It was my first one, and I really enjoyed it and learned a ton! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post, and I hope you’re having a great weekend too, Kelly! <3
Loved this post! I loved the way you captured IFBC here . . and you are too sweet! it was so great meeting you and I’m so glad we got to spend some time together. . I love your blog and your recipes and photographs are amazing! I hope IFBC brings us all together again next year. . !! 🙂 in the meantime, will definitely be keeping in touch!
Definitely! You are such an inspiration to me Alice! And your blog is amazing! I can’t believe your gorgeous photos, and I do not know how you find the time to post so frequently… You’re a rockstar. Thanks so much for making me feel welcome in your amazing city!
Allie, thank you so much for this!! It looks like IFBC is really a great conference and I’m looking forward attend next year if I can! I’ll email you soon 🙂
Yay! So happy you liked the post. I have to admit, I labored over it. I just did not know how to condense everything down… there was so much going on there, and I didn’t want to just regurgitate my notes, I wanted it to be interesting, y’know? I’ll look out for your email, sweetie 😉
I’d love to attend to the 2014 conference, but airfare from Spain can get so so expensive :((
This post was super helpful though, I’m glad you decided to share all those tips here!
Happy weekend, Allie 🙂
Thanks Consuelo! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Hope you’re enjoying your weekend! <3
I love how many notes you took during Andrew’s presentation. I wish I took more but I was really just in the moment, enjoying listening to him and gawking at his gorgeous photos. It was such a pleasure meeting you and spending time with you. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again soon but until then, at least we have our blogs and social media to keep in touch!
I did take a lot of notes, lol! As much as I probably should have been paying more attention to learning the techy stuff, I couldn’t help it! I’m so much more interested in the artistic side of blogging. It was a pleasure meeting you too! I really like you <--tee hee! Let's keep in touch fo sho. I'm following you on Bloglovin'! Hope you're having a great weekend over there on the other side of the continent! 😀
I love this post! I had heard a bit about the conference from our mutual friend, but your perspective is, of course, totally different and you did such a great job of summarizing your experience that I feel like I got to attend vicariously!
FYI, Lightroom is WONDERFUL and makes editing Raw files so easy. Email me if you want some tutorials, and I can send you some links I’ve found helpful 🙂
Thank you so much, Nora! I’m thinking about getting started with RAW & Lightroom after the holidays, so I will definitely keep you in mind. I’m so happy you enjoyed the post! I had a wonderful time in Seattle and it was hard to distill it all down into a post that wasn’t a mile long, lol! Enjoy your weekend, dear!
What great information! I went to BlogHer Food and loved it! I am going to BYB14 in February. I love conferences!!!
I’d love to go to more! BlogHer Food sounds amazing too… I’ve not heard of BYB, I’ll have to look that one up. Thanks for the tip, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great weekend, k? 😉