Here We Go: Blogging on a Budget Pt. 1

I often get emails from beginner bloggers and their desire to have an awesome blog always seems to be hindered by the upfront cost. I wanted to dedicate a post (and hopefully more in the future) to free or cheaper blogging resources because they ARE out there! Whether you’re looking for themes, software, fonts, or tutorials…I’ve hopefully compiled a pretty great collection of resources. Below you’ll find them broken down by category and I’m hoping that the comments section can become another great place for suggestions or tips!

Free, Beautiful WordPress Themes:

  • Pure II: Navigation on left, categories displayed on top, single post layout
  • Bueno: Very feminine, top navigation, right sidebar
  • Dessign Free Themes: Very modern & focused on clean portfolios
  • Melville: No widgets, no sidebars, focused on writing
  • BonPress: Left sidebar with dropdown menus, great footer
  • Big Square (pictured above): Very clean, photo focused, no sidebar
  • Minimal Xpert: Small slider, previews blog posts, right sidebar
  • Expositio: An awesome theme to display work, horizontal scrolling
Please note: I personally (as a designer) haven’t worked with any of these themes. I was so glad that Angie pointed out this article about why you should never search for free WordPress themes in Google or anywhere else. Malicious code or malware can be hidden in code and footers. If you see any of that in the themes mentioned above…let me know! I often use Theme Forest and can get themes for as cheap as $17! Sometimes paying for better quality is worth it.

Editing Software:

1. Gimp is a free and open source software raster graphics editor. I was glad that I was able to connect with Fiona because she uses Gimps. Here she shares the pros and cons:

What I love most about Gimp is that it’s free and desktop based – I’m a complete amateur, but I don’t want that to be fully reflected in my blog, so having access to free software is essential. Technically, I like that I can manipulate/enhance images without losing quality and I’ve got access to my entire font library. I can optimise the image size for use on my blog and create diptychs nice and simply. Finally, it’s similar enough to Photoshop that you can read tips from a designer and adapt them yourself.

On the downside, the combination of being a rookie and the relative lack of blog posts on using the software can mean you feel like you’re on your own! I’m still not the biggest fan of most of the brushes it contains, and, I’ve not yet managed to bring in shapes effectively (I move to my tablet software for that). -Fiona of The Corner of the Internet I Call Home

2. Pixlr is a free online photo editor. Edit, adjust and filter your images. My husband, Adam, uses Pixlr even though I use Photoshop exclusively. Here’s what he has to say about it:

Pixlr makes simple photo-editing a breeze. I really enjoy how easy it is to do some basic cropping, retouching or “photoshop-esque” actions. Also, the more savvy user will be able to utilize layers and brushes to pull off some more sophisticated work. My #1 favorite feature of Pixlr is the price tag … $0.00. Free. A more seasoned designer is going to get frustrated as Pixlr lacks the customization and depth of functionality that one would find in Photoshop. – Adam Lehman

3. Pixelmator is the next step up. For a small price, this software can be downloaded to your Mac (sorry PC folks) from the app store or their website. It’s beautifully designed and easy-to-use. My friend Jess uses Pixlemator. Read her thoughts:

I use Pixelmator personally and Adobe Photoshop professionally, and I have to say that by far Pixelmator is a better option.

I love that Pixelmator is lighter and faster than Photoshop. It has all the same basic functions as Photoshop, it works seamlessly with Mac OS, it’s simple to use, and its magic wand recognition is superior. With such a huge price differential ($29.99 versus $699!), the casual blogger has an incredibly powerful yet less bloated editing program.

I do think that Pixelmator has some limitations. There’s the obvious limitation of requiring Mac OS to use this program. Anyone who is a designer by trade will find it not as versatile, and things like brushes, filters, and tutorials can’t be as easily applied or replicated in Pixelmator. My biggest complaint is line spacing for text isn’t a built-in feature, so I have to manually tinker with the text. – Jess of Curating Style

We’ll cover Photoshop and Photoshop Elements next time. If you use software to create graphics for your blog that isn’t listed here, let me know! I’d love to feature more next time.

Free Fonts:

Using a variety of fonts in my blog posts really creates visual variety. There is a world outside of Curlz (ugh) or Times New Roman! I do feel that the general public needs more exposure to fonts other than the ones that come pre-loaded on their PC. I’ve created a list of some of my favorite resources for free fonts. I’m not saying that they’re all amazing but that’s why experimenting is fun! Here are some tutorials on loading new fonts to your Mac or PC. I try to buy a few fonts per month and donate when I am able.

  1. The League of Moveable Type
  2. My Fonts
  3. Font Fabric
  4. Lost Type Co-Op
  5. Web Design Ledger
  6. Miss Design
  7. Free* Typography
  8. Behance Network

For now, this concludes this Blogging on a Budget post. Sometime mid-April I’ll be continuing this specific topic by sharing some blog graphics that you might find helpful, .PSD files for those that use Photoshop, why you might want to just buy Photoshop Elements (vs Photoshop) and some tutorials. If there are any other topics or resources that you’d like to see covered in this series, please let me know!

Now Accepting April Sponsors

April starts this weekend! How did that happen so fast? If you’re interested in sponsoring Show + Tell in April, please let me know and we can talk details. I’m now offering a larger spot (200px by 110px) for $25 and includes a feature and/or giveaway. I’m also offering the smaller spot for swap. You are eligible for a sponsor swap if you currently have a blog and love interacting with your readers! If I feel like it’s a good fit, we can swap sponsor badges. If you don’t have your own badge, I can design you one for a small flat fee. If any of this interests you, please contact me!

Film Portrait: Matt Martindale

Last weekend I was able to get over to German Village and shoot a film portrait session with Matt Martindale. I used my Minolta SRT-201 again (and Kodak Ektar 100). I did some slight color correction in Photoshop but other than that…no actions, filters, or blurring. Cloudy, overcast days treat me well. After doing a few shoots with the Minolta, I’m looking to use my Canon A-1/Pentax K1000 again with the same film and see the differences. I’m still learning and I love all of these portrait sessions as I’m figuring out exactly where I want this to go. See the rest of the photos here. If you’re interested in booking a shoot, feel free to send me a message!

Sponsor Spotlight: I Just Might Explode

I’ve been reading Kara’s blog for awhile now and she’s one of my favorite people on the Internet! While she blogs over at I Just Might Explode, she’s also going to school, hosting my photo challenge next month AND teaching a photography e-course (sign up here). When I asked her what her favorite part of March is she responded, “The small glimpses of a new season and Spring Break!” Check out some of her favorite things below:

  1. Andrew Bird
  2. Crappy Starbucks Iced Coffee
  3. Her Art Theory Class
  4. Homemade Falafel (recipe here)
  5. Daffodils

You can connect with Kara by reading her blog (leave her a comment!) and by following her on Twitter! If you’re interested in sponsoring Show + Tell next month, send me a message! I’m accepting new sponsors or sponsor ad swaps until this weekend.

April Photo Challenge Announcement

I can’t believe it’s time for another photo challenge already! Can you see a common theme? April’s challenge is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE. It was inspired by this quote:

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. -C.S. Lewis

Lately I’ve been so tired of shooting things. One can only take so many Instagram photos of their food until they realize it’s…well…sort of lame. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photos of my brunch and my ice cream but I also like to be intentional. I’ve been shooting a lot of film portraits lately and I love it. My heart is so happy when I capture souls. (Okay that sounded creepy.) I just feel like the photographs that capture peoples’ personalities, smiles, quirks and insecurities really shine through. Now I’m challenging you to do the same.

The challenge starts Sunday, April 1st but you won’t be sending me your first photo until Sunday, April 8th! Here is the schedule and the themes:

Like my last challenges, you are able to shoot for Week 1 starting April 1st until April 8th. You cannot shoot for Week 2 until April 8th and so on. I plan on shooting film for this challenge so I will probably try to shoot throughout the week and then develop my roll over the weekend. We’ll see how that goes but as of now…that’s my plan. This challenge is open to ALL AND ANY CAMERAS. I obviously would love to see all you talented people using a DSLR or SLR but I really do love seeing how creative people get with point & shoots/iPhones. As usual, I’ll post my submission button on my sidebar next Sunday. It will take you to a page with all of the challenge details and a submission form. Below are the guidelines:

  • Make sure your photos are at least 700 px wide and be a .JPG
  • Please save the photos under the following format: FIRSTNAME_WEEK#.jpg
  • In the comment section of the submission form include (if applicable) your website, the type of camera/lens/film, & your city.
  • No nudity or weird crap. Sorry, my mom reads my blog…I think.
  • All camera types are accepted.
  • You must shoot within the week prior to the due date. That means starting Sunday, April 1 you can start shooting for Week #1.
  • The photo must be submitted Sunday by 8pm EST.
  • Feel free to use the hashtag #snapaphoto for this and all future photo challenges!
  • You MUST submit all 4 weeks in order to win the prize.

Last but not least, here is the prize and your beloved judge:

The lovely Kara Haupt (check out her blog I Just Might Explode) will be your judge this challenge! I adore Kara’s photography/portraits and was excited to see that she’s hosting an e-course about photography in April. (Psst, spots for the class go on sale today!) Your prize is a gorgeous postcard set by Debbie Carlos (another one of my favorite photographers).

If you have any questions or need any explanation, please comment below! I’ll respond and clarify in a comment and then probably add any needed information to the post.

Sponsor Spotlight: Upside Down & Inside Out

Veronica from Upside Down & Inside Out is one of my lovely sponsors this month! I met Veronica through her sister-in-law Jess and I was able to help her get her blog up and going! I love Veronica’s blog. She shares from her heart and I love reading her posts! When asked what her favorite part of March is, she responded, “Birthdays! All my close friends (including my hubsters) have March birthdays- so it feels like one funfetti-filled day after the next. I also LOVE the fact that it’s been 75 degrees and sunny everyday this March :) I feel like I am finally able to emerge from my winter cave.” Below are a few of her favorite things:

  1. Downton Abbey. I want to be Maggie Smith.
  2. Pinterest. It’s actually a problem. I have pinned 10 bathtubs in the last hour.
  3. Oribe Apres Beach Hairspray. It doesn’t leave your hair crunchy! wohoo!
  4. Estate Sales! $5 ornate gold mirrors & garden gnomes, ‘nuf said.
  5. TurboFire Workout Videos. Time to get back into shape for summer!

Connect with Veronica through her blog, Facebook, Pinterest and Etsy! If you’re interested in sponsoring Show + Tell in April, feel free to contact me this week!

 

Gluten Free, Week 6

This weekend marks the 6th week of my gluten free diet. (For those of you who might not know, gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species.) I mentioned it flippantly in a post about a month ago but didn’t really elaborate much. I suppose I felt like if I was going to go into all the details, I might as well see if it was something worth mentioning. At the beginning of February, I was feeling absolutely awful. I was tired all the time, I kept getting the horrible headaches (I’m not sure if I can technically call them migraines but they made me nauseous until I fell asleep). I often would feel sick if we ate out resulting in bloating, stomachaches, and headaches.

Around mid-February, we spent a weekend in Illinois with my 14 year old sister. She has celiac disease and has been gluten free for three years (my mom also has a gluten sensitivity). I explained exactly how I had been feeling and without hesitation she said, “You should go gluten free. Seriously.” It was like a light flipped on and I immediately felt this twinge of hope. The next day I eliminated gluten from my diet and I haven’t gone back.*

*Okay I had to put that asterisk there because I did cheat one day. About 3 weeks in, I started mentally freaking out. “I want a hamburger. I need REAL pizza.”  These were the thoughts going through my head. Deep, huh? I caved and ended up eating a burger and fries. I felt sick for the next 24 hours. Not dangerously ill…but not exactly how I’d like to live my life. That’s when it hit me. I need to live my life so that I feel best. I don’t need a blood test proving that I have any type of disease, I don’t need to prove to anyone that it’s for the best, and I certainly don’t need  to eat hamburgers. And to be honest, it hasn’t been difficult since that hamburger-nomming day.

So what do I eat? Well I eat a lot of things. Really delicious things. Below is just a sampling of my favorite gluten free brands:

  1. Udi’s granola paired with yogurt
  2. Gluten Free Pantry’s sandwich bread! I make a loaf and freeze half. Lasts me 2 weeks!
  3. Bob’s Red Mill pizza crust. Delicious and we can choose our own toppings.
  4. Udi’s Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. So so good. Better than regular bagels in my opinion.
  5. Tito’s vodka. Made in a gluten free facility and pretty darn good.
  6. Orange San Pellegrino. My guilty pleasure. Who needs candy or pop?
  7. Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Rolled Oats.
  8. Annie’s Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese. So easy. Comfort food.

And really, these are the only brands I really go out of my way to buy. Besides these, we pretty much eat meat, produce, and eggs. It’s so easy to pick up corn chips (instead of flour) or take an extra minute to make sure the cheese you’re about to buy is all-natural and gluten free. Plus, we’re saving money because we don’t go out to eat as much (I’m thankful that if I’m not up for cooking we have Chipotle, Noodles and Co, and Zpizza are minutes away).

So there’s my story. I feel awesome and I’m being intentional with my diet. I truly hope that when people read this or find out, they don’t feel like I’m trying to convince them to do something. If anything, I’d rather encourage people to really look at what they’re eating. It’s so important. I read a lot of what Dr. Mercola writes and his thoughts on gluten are really interesting.

Feel free to recommend any brands or products! I’m always up for finding and trying new things. I’m hoping that every weekend I can take some photos and share some of my favorite GF recipes here on the blog. I’m weird about getting really good lighting when photographing food so that usually doesn’t happen while I’m cooking dinner during the week. I have a GF coffee cake recipe that is 10x better than ANY other coffee cake in existence. I’ll share it next week.

Sponsor Spotlight: Aveda Columbus

I’m a huge fan of Aveda and their brand! I was so, so excited when Aveda Columbus offered to sponsor my blog! I have worked with and have supported Aveda for years now and always jump at the chance to promote them! Those at Aveda love March because it is one of the months that the institute raises money for the Central Ohio Sierra Club to help keep our water clean.

  1. Light the Way candle
  2. Nourish-Mint Soothing Lip Color
  3. new Full Spectrum Hair Colors
  4. Color Conserve Daily Color Protect
  5. Aveda Comforting Tea

Connect with Aveda Columbus on Twitter and Facebook! If sponsoring Show + Tell sounds like something you’d like to do, contact me!

Film Portrait: Janine

This week I took film portraits of Janine. How gorgeous is she? And how amazing is her dog, Jax? We had so much fun walking around the Arena District here in Columbus. The weather was perfect–80 degrees and slightly overcast. I shot a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 on my Minolta and a roll of black and white film on my Canon A-1. I still need to finish off the roll later today and I should be able to share those next week. I truly love capturing natural beauty on film. They seem to go together so well. When the roll comes back, I don’t even want to alter it. There were a few inconsistencies on a few shots but I touched them up in Photoshop. Other than that, I didn’t alter these at all. Click here to see more.

If you’re local and would like a film portrait shoot – contact me! The weather is phenomenal and I’m inspired.

Sponsor Spotlight: Zomgimbored

I was so excited when Jim (the brains behind Zomgimbored) offered to sponsor my blog for the month of March! Zomgimbored is a blog for aspiring graphic designers as well as working professionals. I love his tutorials and the intentionality behind each post. When I asked Jim what he loves about March he responded, “The change in weather!” He’s shared a few things he recently can’t get enough of:

  1. Good Clients
  2. Lean Protein
  3. Naked Fruit Juices
  4. The Daily Show
  5. Fun Projects

You can visit Jim’s portfolio site here and follow him on Twitter! Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring Show + Tell in April…message me!