Three things that you don’t need to be a food blogger

1. An internet connection.

Or at least, you don’t need an internet connection of your own. My first blog, Phnomenon, was almost entirely written without the internet at home. My workflow was to obsessively write and draft at home and when whatever I’d strung together approached a basic coherence, I’d walk to a local internet cafe with my USB drive to add the results. It didn’t seem that strange at the time because every blogger in the whole country did the exact same thing. People probably thought that I was strange because I walked rather than rode my motorbike there.

It probably gave the blog a pile of the quirks that are in it. With no easy access to a decent online dictionary or thesaurus, I’d just use whatever word I’d first think of.  I’d transcribe Khmer however I heard it, rather than refer to a reference.  I probably linked out to other people less than I do now. I’d only read about five other people’s blogs on any given day, because when you’re paying by the hour and earning a wage just shy of a pittance, every hour spent online counts.

I still tend to turn off my connection when I’ve got serious work to get done. It preserves a fundamental weirdness.

2. A camera.

It is very easy to obsess over gear. I certainly do. I love it.

As much as I hate saying it, a better camera isn’t going to make you a better photographer or food blogger; it just gives you additional layer of machinery to obsess about. The DSLR isn’t an entry requirement to this sport – having a DSLR just means that I take boring and characterless shots through a different lens. A different lens that I love like my own child. I’d recommend that you squeeze the most that you possibly can out of the camera that you already have, even if it’s the one inside your phone.

The Old Foodie does very nicely without one. Johanna Kindvall’s Kokblog, Pierre Lamielle’s Kitchen Scraps, Recipe Look, Lobster Squad, and They Draw and Cook are (mostly) illustrated rather than photographed – but they’re all real exceptions

It’s strange that food writing on the internet attracts such a narrow range of forms of illustration when compared to recipe books, probably because most food bloggers work alone.

3. Your name on the guest list

Writing about media events makes you mostly irrelevant in the long term. Around 60% of restaurants will close in the first three years, rendering 60% of the writing about restaurant openings pointless within the same period. There are endless uncovered stories about food, gaps in knowledge and narratives that are your own in their entirety that could serve as meatier content.

They shouldn’t need to be force-fed to you.

27 Comments Three things that you don’t need to be a food blogger

  1. Kat (Spatula, Spoon and Saturday)

    But I was about to run out and get a DSLR now that I found out my camera now RRPs for $99 :/

    I most agreed with is writing about events. They are not sustainable contents and they become irrelevant after about 4 days. I try not to write about them unless they become special to me personally because I feel they’re a bit of a waste of an effort.

  2. deb (bearheadsoup)

    I am not so gifted in the photography department. I don’t think I have the patience to fiddle about with perfect shots. There are plenty of great food photographers out. I enjoy the writing part more. I always thought I needed a better camera, perhaps not! Interesting post.

  3. Ed

    Nice one. A lot of people are trying to make this elitist and difficult when it is so simple. And let’s not forget the simplest and quickest entry point of all – Twitter.

  4. Phil Lees

    Ed – I did mean to make a point about cellphone blogging in Japan: that having a standalone computer isn’t really necessary either if you’re committed, but couldn’t find a food blog written entirely on a phone. Twitter works.

  5. Amanda

    I can’t argue with any of these points either.
    I find the internet enormously distracting when I’m writing, so every post takes far too long to produce. Turning off the modem only results in howls of protest from the resident teens who seem to need it like air!
    I succumbed to the temptation to buy a modestly priced DSLR, but don’t use it to it’s fullest advantage and tend to carry my small “idiot-proof” camera everywhere. I figure if my writing is good, then the standard of photo’s will pass muster.
    And, while being invited to events is nice, the content of a blog solely devoted to them would become a little thin after a while. I’d rather get at the story behind people and places any day!

  6. Essjayeats

    Nice work Phil, I was initially surprised that the list that perhaps encouraged your list didn’t mention having your own domain – for how can you “rule the world” being captive to someone else’s brand?

    Bah – live it, love it, share it somehow.

  7. reemski

    I started my blog with my nokia phone, all my pics were taken with it.

    Agree with all points. Blogging about anything should reflect passion and interest, and if that’s not there, what’s the point? It’s pretty easy to tell when a blog starts becoming about something else

  8. Nola


    I don’t have an internet connection at home (well, one that i can use anyway grrrrr) and I only have a point and shoot camera. But I still manage to post every week. Of course, I can’t talk of the quality of those posts but I do my best.

    Wise words Phil. Nice one.

  9. Gem

    I still take cheap and nasty photos on my Nokia for my food blog. I think of the food blog partner’s fancy photos as a bit of a luxury :)

  10. Emma @CakeMistress

    Thanks for an excellent, down-to-earth list for food bloggers.

    A DSLR is definitely not essential either. My little point-and-shoot works very hard and has forced me to learn more and improve my photography skills. It’s also smeared in butter and chocolate, which is probably why recipe bloggers, at least messy ones, can’t have nice things :)

  11. Jess


    I used to blog at uni (while pretending to study), use no photos or draw pictures and had the diet of a student, punctuated with boozy nights.

    Great post.

  12. Karen | C&C

    Just flying off a tangent here…

    Emma@CakeMistress – couldn’t agree with you more! I’m still trying to clean out the chocolate and flour that’s embedded around my ‘menu’ button.

  13. Gummi Baby

    People! People! This is not a competition! Most of us started blogging because we wanted to share our thoughts with other people and in doing so found a community of like mindedness. Personally, I am more likely to read a blog if the images in it attract me to it – a picture says a thousand words as the saying goes. My internet connection and camera aren’t essential but I do love the convenience and resolution respectively. (I don’t own a DSLR and don’t intend to buy one but I bought a versatile camera which I can use on more occasions than just blogging.) As for those invitations, it’s nice to be included but it doesn’t stop me going to review the local cafe that will never see the back of an A-list. I will continue to read those blogs that I find interesting because that is all that matters. Respectfully ….

  14. Billy

    I pretty much only use my iPhone to take photos for my blog. There is the odd exception where I’ll use a camera, but that’s usually just because I’m on holiday and have it handy. Even then, it’s a point and shoot. I wouldn’t know the first thing about a DSLR. I really like the idea of drawing the food, though! Might have to get the textas out. But I bet I’d be lazy and just take a photo of what I’ve drawn anyway…

    I’m not so sure about not needing an internet connection. While it’s not *essential*, I really would hate to contemplate typing out my blog posts on my phone. But then that might just be because I haven’t mastered being succinct yet, or that I should just have a phone with a real keypad on it.

    Anyway, thought-provoking and inspiring as always, Mr Lees.

  15. betty

    i love it! you’ve just simplified blogging, there are alot of foodblogs all over the world and most that i go to today are full of good looking photo’s but only a few of them have the content to match.

  16. GirlonRaw

    Great post! I recently spent 10 days in Thailand without my laptop nor internet connection, and I will still able to blog with my iphone for camera and internet connection through phone line (albeit not regular posting as per usual). But very true what you have pointed out. Thanks :)

  17. foodie cravings

    You are so right about not needing the Internet. I think not having the Internet to blog directly helps with the creative juices. I find that my best food blogs are straight after I eat (or as I eat) typing into the notes section of my iPhone or on the bus on the way to work ;)

  18. Kev D

    Well that’s blown it. I’m just starting a food blog to justify buying a DSLR. Now my wife has read this I don’t stand a chance. Guess it’s back to the drawing board – literally. Still a great post though.

  19. ionlyeatdesserts

    I started with photography first before I started my food blog. It took me so long to learn how to use my DSLR and I’ve still got such a long way to go. I see a lot of people setting the DSLR to just auto-program mode which is just a waste of something so awesome. One of the things I love is being able to have control of the photo so I guess if you don’t really plan to do things manually then there is no point in getting one.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *