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A Must-Have Gadget for your Camera Bag and Blog


During the month of March I decided that I would finally use all the gadgets that I had purchased over the years to enhance my photography. I have gadgets for geotagging, gadgets for taking pinhole shots with my DSLR and a variety of lenses. I noticed that there was good reason why I didn’t carry all that stuff in my bag every day. It was extremely heavy. I have a lot of stuff, however I noticed a gadget that I could use easily every day and it took up so little space in the camera bag.

I decided that I could easily carry around a set of close up lens filters to attach to my existing lenses. These lens filters were very inexpensive. I think they were twelve bucks or something for 4 of them. The filters can be stacked so that if one is good and gets you closer then two are better and when you get to all four stacked you are talking super macro shots. The lens filters I got came in a small package that folds up to be even smaller. Attaching the lens filters to my lenses was super quick too.

With my new lens filters a whole new world of possibilities opened up for me. Macro photography allows you to see the world in a different way. Suddenly a photo of a flower can become even more compelling when you get up close and personal with petals and leaves making them the subject instead of part of it.

What do close up lens filters have to do with blogging? Well, for photo bloggers like me they are great tools to take new and exciting photos. But if you think of what the close up lens filters do then you can see how this would help your blogging. The close up filters get close to the subject and focus on a very specific area. When you tighten up your posts to focus on a specific area of a general topic you can write a compelling post.

There are tons of posts about Facebook privacy in general but what about focusing on something very specific in that general topic. What about writing a post on how to prevent specific groups of people from seeing specific posts. For example maybe you play Farmville and as we know the social media work shuns people harvesting digital sheep. You could write a post about how to prevent all of your friends from seeing your Farmville status updates except for those friends who play the game.

That is how you use the close lens up gadget to write better blog posts.

Extra Gadgets to Create Content


Creating content is my primary focus for my blog. I take a photo every single day and post about it. I’ve done so for very close to Six Straight Years! It will be the start of year seven on April 9, 2011. With over 2150+ straight photos my relationship with this project could possibly start to get a little stale. So, like any relationship hitting a seven year itch I decided to spice things up is with some toys.

Over the past six years I’ve spent quite a bit of money on cameras, camera attachments, lenses and even a GPS photo tracking device. The thing is, I just don’t use these products that often. I buy them, use them once or twice and put them away on a shelf. For the month of March, before the start of year seven, I’m dusting off those toys and using them each day in my Photo-A-Day Project.

You can enhance your photos with some very inexpensive products. From DSLRs to Camera Phones there are after market products that you can get to do some very cool things. For instance, I picked up some cheap lens attachments for my camera phone. I picked up a fisheye lens and a combination macro/wide angle lens that mounts magnetically on my camera phone. Since I always have my camera phone on me I have many opportunities to take a variety of photos with that camera and just changing the aspect of the photo makes it more interesting. This change can give you some good content for your blog.

You can write a Comparison/Contrast post
Whenever you get a new toy for your camera doing a post where you talk about how that differs from using the standard camera can be interesting. Showing people the dramatic differences in each shot can spark your imagination to take better photos and those photos can inspire your readers to comment on them. I try to do this when I use a new lens. I take a photo with the standard lens as a control image. Then I switch lenses and take photos from that same position of the same subject.

Taken with the Motorola DROID, standard camera setting, standard lens

Taken with the Motorola DROID, standard camera setting, wide angle lens

Taken with the Motorola DROID, standard camera setting, macro lens

Taken with the Motorola DROID, standard camera setting, fisheye lens

You can write a Software Enhancement post
If that wasn’t enough you can download any number of software programs to turn your camera phone into another type of camera. I use a program called Retro Camera on my DROID and with that I can make my photos look like 5 different types of cameras. So if you take your after market lenses and software programs you can come up with an infinite number of photos of the same subject. And in essence you can come up with an infinite number of posts on those combinations.

Taken with the Motorola DROID, Retro Camera Software Program – The Barbl setting, standard lens

Taken with the Motorola DROID, Retro Camera Software Program – The Barbl setting, Fisheye

You can write a review post about your toys.
I’ve heard more than enough bloggers asking how they get compensated for doing reviews on their blogs. I say to them to take a look at the products they already own and make their own review of those products. Do a creative one where you explore every conceivable aspect of that product and then link it to amazon.com. Do a useful review and you could start earning some money from that review from the referral as an amazon associate. People are looking for answers on how things work before they buy so write up your review, answer questions, welcome comments and additional questions. When you get more questions incorporate them and the answers into your review. Continue to enhance those reviews so you become the source for people interested in those products.

So, when you are thinking about creating content the main point is to find some ways to change things up once in a while. With a $20 set of lenses I can immediately think about a yearlong project, a number of review posts and a way to add more enhancement to your blog. What other topics for content creation can you think of based on adding a little something extra to an existing project?

Shoot Your Food


Shooting your food can be a great way to draw people into your blog. The experience of eating is universal and so it is almost universally appealing. You can easily create content every day just by documenting your food. I wouldn’t completely recommend that, but it’s possible. Some blogs focus on the importance of beautifully shot dishes, or disastrous results with cake decorating.

When you’re shooting your food think of what would appeal to your audience. Do they want to know how the food was prepared? Do you want to instruct them on how to create the same meal? Or do you just want to show how the delicious your meal was? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you shoot your food.

Kickin' Shrimp... PAD #1056

Some of my favorite food blogs give me instruction and recipes. They are very detailed and provide photos, or videos to supplement the written instructions. I think this is a great enhancement to a blog especially if you’re teaching someone how to use a recipe or to prepare a meal. So it is important that your content is accessible and appealing to your readers.

My favorite food blog is the Average Betty blog. I really love the way that Sarah (AKA Average Betty) not only shows me how to create something through video but also includes photos of the finished dish. The videos are entertaining informative clear and concise. With the written recipe there are photos of the different steps to take to create a dish as well as photos of how the dish should look in the end.

I made one of Average Betty’s Recipes the Hoffapenos.

When you are deciding what type of photo to take of your food you need to consider lighting, composition, and and how it will make your reader’s mouths water. I traveled for almost 7 years straight all across the country and into Canada and across the pond to London. In that time I took photographs of many of my meals. I got a lot of ribbing from many of my friends. Photographing your food is often the punch line to people joking about how bloggers just talk about what they ate that day. But the joke’s on them because many blogs have popped up around food. I see many photography projects based on what people ate that day. And whenever I attend a blogging convention half of the people at the table whip out their cameras to take a photo of their meal before they eat.

Havana on my Mind

Eating food, talking about food, seeing videos of food it is something that I can definitely get behind. If you are thinking of a way to create some content on your blog go to a food site look at the recipe and then try to prepare that meal yourself. Photograph the steps you make to prepare the meal, video portions of the preparation, photograph the finished product, and then interview the people eating the food. I did this with one of Average Betty’s recipes, the Hoffapenos and we be came friends when I linked to her and chatted with her. One of the highlights of Blog World Expo was actually getting to meet my friend Sarah.

BenSpark and Average Betty at BlogWorld 2010

One of the highest search terms for my blog is for that of Fry Sauce. Fry Sauce is basically a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise with additional spices or other ingredients. One day I was looking for something to photograph for my Photo-A-Day project. I was at a restaurant and took a photograph of a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. I posted that to my site and asked my readers what they put on their burgers, hot dogs, french fries and so on. One reader was incredulous that I did not include Fry Sauce. I had never heard of what it was and so I did some research.

Steak Sauce, Hot Sauce, What Sauce...
The photo that started it all.

I began to experiment on my own to discover what the appeal was for Fry Sauce. Not only to discover the true deliciousness of Fry Sauce but I turned it into content for my blog. I held a contest for the Ultimate Fry Sauce. I asked for 10 people to submit recipes. I then prepared all 10 recipes. That was a lot of ketchup and mayonnaise. I do not want to see or smell fry sauce for a month. However, through this contest I generated blog posts, videos, photos and attracted a number of new readers. Resulting about from a simple day where I shot a photo of a couple bottles of sauce.

Lazy Susan was Busy Tonight...

And here is the video I made about the contest.

Can you see how food blogging can get you some great content?

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 2000+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at BenSpark.com. You can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Digital Broadcasting – Creating Dynamic Content


At BlogWorld Expo I gave a session titled Content You Care About. This session was all about the many ways that you can create digital content, host it and post it to your blog. I also gave out some of my tips for driving traffic to your blog. I’m writing a few posts over the next couple of weeks on different topics but how those topics relate to creating digital content.

Today I’m talking about Digital Broadcasting. There are many ways that this can be interpreted but for me there are two pretty big ways to broadcast yourself online. Video and Audio. I’m going to focus today on video. I personally have just about finished one entire month of shooting videos every single day just to post them up to YouTube and Vimeo for a contest that I held on my blog. My equipment was pretty simple. I had a Kodak PlayTouch and a Sony condenser mic. With that I was able to create crisp and clear HD content.

Each video was a simple one where I recorded between a minute and three minutes of video. Because the videos were so short they were easy to watch for busy people. You don’t have to create an opus to digitally broadcast yourself. Something really short is usually the most effective. Not only that shorter videos are smaller in size and can be uploaded more places. More places means more eyeballs watching your content.

Each video had a written description with links back to my blog so that people could find out more about me and the contest that I was having. Those posts often had links to products I was reviewing or some other way to earn a little extra money. My main intent behind the videos was to get more people entering my contest and I encouraged my readers to post my content to their Facebook pages and beyond. Getting the word out there beyond my own sphere of influence.

When making the video make sure that you are in the picture. Speak clearly and smile often. If you are doing a product review hold the product up long enough so that it has a better chance of appearing in the thumbnail in Youtube. You get more thumbnail choices with Vimeo and can even add your own custom thumbnail to that site.

You can edit the videos and put your branding at the beginning and at the end but for me the videos that I’ve been making lately have been more about who I am rather than having a fancy intro and outro for the video. This also cuts down on editing time as well. Stating my name at the beginning and end of the video is enough to get the point across as to who I am. Knowing what I want to say or even writing out a little script helps keep the video short too. Don’t amble, ramble or mumble. Get to the point and look like you are having fun.

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 2000+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at BenSpark.comYou can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Do your Readers Care about Your Content?


Photo-A-Day #1000!BlogWorld 2010 Speaker: Andrew Bennett
Content You Care About
Room: Islander G
Friday October 15, 2010

Time: 2:45PM to 3:45PM

When I visit a blog I am almost always immediately drawn to any multimedia content that is on the blog. I’m a fan of bloggers who create not only photo content, video content but also audio content. There are a ton of tools online that you can use to to put your content online. There are also a ton of tools that you can use offline to create this sort of content.

The main thing for me is that your content be your own. Sure you can pull photos and videos from Flickr or Youtube that are legitimate to use through creative commons. I even put creative commons on my photos so that other people can use them if they wanted to. I make my Photo-A-Day available on my blog so that anyone can grab the code and post it on their blog and the new photo gets automatically served each day. The content is mine and I’m free to distribute as I wish.

Creating my own multimedia content is very important to me. I have been taking and posting photos on my blog every single day for 5 straight years. People sort of marvel at that commitment and I wonder why. To me, taking photos is a natural extension of who I am as a person. This endeavor started as a challenge to myself to take photos and document a year in my life. I turned 31 and started my journey. When I turned 32 I was completely hooked on taking a daily photo so one year turned into five. Just the other day I passed 2000 straight days of posting photos and blogging about them.

Content that you create is also a powerful way to let your readers get to know who you are and what you stand for. When I do video reviews I often do them in one take where I do not write anything ahead of time because I want the reader to see my authentic reactions to what I am reviewing. Being unpolished, especially when talking authentically is a powerful thing and people can spot a liar.

The latest thing that I have gotten into is creating audio content in the form of a podcast. I am a co-host of Geek Dads Weekly and through that I can pop on a pair of headphones, fire up Skype and audacity and record to my heart’s content. There isn’t anything tremendously fancy needed to get started making your own multimedia content. My session will help you get started in the world of Audio, Video and Photo content creation.

If you are interested in learning what sort of tools are available to you to create your own podcast, videos series and photos then you should attend my session: Content You Care About on Friday at 2:45pm. Not only will I talk about websites for hosting photos, audio and video but I’ll also have some prizes to give away to people who attend. BlogWorld sponsor Kodak has graciously given me a camera and an all new PlayTouch video camera to give away. I’ll also have other prizes from my personal stash of great gadgets.

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 1800+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at http://www.benspark.com or http://imnotafamousblogger.com. You can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Talk with Everyone


So, you’re deciding whether or not to attend BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2010. If you do any sort of blogging, media creation or podcasting this should be a no-brainer, you’ve got to be here. I’ve been to each of the BlogWorld conferences. My first was in 2007 when I went as part of the FuelMyBlog team. I was pretty overwhelmed by how many people were there and excited, energized and enthused by the bubbling creativity that was all around me. At that first conference, I have to admit, I didn’t take nearly enough risks. I didn’t put myself out there as much as I should and I missed major opportunities to make great friends.


What have I learned, by attending BlogWorld year after year, is that you have to make a point to talk with everyone. Each person attending this conference can learn something from you or teach you something. So it stands to reason that each person that you come in contact with can be part of a fantastic exchange of knowledge. If you go in with an open mind, ears and heart you are going to make some truly epic connections.

For instance you are waiting in line for some wake up fuel (The Starbucks at the convention center was great for this) you are there with other conference goers. Rather than standing around quietly waiting for you Double Soy Vente Caramel Machiato you take a moment to say hello to someone from the conference. Maybe ask them, what did you think of the opening keynote? Something to get the conversation started. And then here is the trick. Truly listen. Don’t whip out your phone and tweet while they give their response. You have this moment to make a great connection. Take that moment and make the most out of every second. Who knows, you might just be meeting you future business partner, podcasting co-host or good friend.

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