I get asked all the time about my camera gear and so I figured it’s time to pull everything together and chat about content creation, camera gear, and Instagram reels. I have been blogging and creating content for over 10 years and during this time I have learned a lot. This guide is written for those who are blogging or plan to blog, or would like a better understanding of camera gear for the purpose of content creation, and are interested in influencer marketing or “being an influencer”.
The information in this post is based on my experiences as a content creator and what has worked for me. As you read, I encourage you to do what’s best for you based on your level of experience, budget, goals, and overall comfortability. In other words, don’t go out buying a $2600 camera just because it’s listed here, do what’s best for you!
To start off, I want to talk about one of my favorite topics, blogging & value.
Blogs are a lot different than what they used to be. Gone are the days of the lengthy “Carrie Bradshaw” diary-style posts, where we would spill our hearts all over the web. While there is still plenty of room for personality and wit, blogs are articles written for niched audiences for the purposes of education, entertainment, and inspiration. The common theme across all blogs is that they provide value.
What is value?
Simply put, value is the usefulness of something. A good way to gauge if your blog content is adding value to your audience is to ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Is my content educating my audience? If so, what did they learn?
- Have I entertained my audience?
- Are my readers inspired to take action? If so, what is the intended action?
Why is value important?
Value is where the money is. If your goal is to be a paid blogger then you need to know how to articulate the value that your content offers to your audience in order to monetize via ads or brand partnerships.
Knowing the usefulness of the information you share on your blog will help you create content (Reels, courses, Tik Toks, YouTube, etc) that connects with people.
Brands pay for value; not quality, not your social media following, not pretty logos. They want to know that you can market the use of their product to your audience by sharing the value based on your experience and influence.
blog set up
Before you start blogging you will need to select your hosting service and platform. The setup is pretty easy and there are many tutorials to assist you with the setup of both services.
Web hosting is a service that allows you to post a website onto the Internet. A web hosting service provider is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website to be viewed on the Internet.
There are several hosting providers that you can choose from. For the last 10 years, I have been a loyal customer of Siteground. I love the customer service, prices, and user-friendly management portal.
Bluehost is another great hosting provider.
The domain is the URL that people click on to visit your site. I have a habit of buying domains whenever I think of a cool business idea. This way, I own the URL until I decided I no longer want it. Your domain can be purchased through your hosting provider.
A platform is a website-building tool where you use online applications, tools, and plugins to create a beautiful website. I have used many platforms but none compare to the capabilities and freedom of WordPress. There is a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is for self-hosted websites where you pay a monthly or annual fee for hosting & domain (as discussed above) to own your website.
WordPress.com allows you to set up a website for free, but with limitations:
- You can only place your site under a subdomain (example: www.JaylynnLittle.wordpress.com)
- You get a limited disk space of 3GB (think of all of the photos and videos you won’t be able to upload)
- You can’t monetize your blog or website (which is not good if you want to be a paid blogger)
- You can’t install plugins or any themes that aren’t available on the platform by default (Your site will look nice, but generic)
Other platforms to consider:
Wix – I used Wix for a few months. It’s not ideal for me now but it was a great platform for me to learn about aesthetics, functionality, mobile capabilities, and design creativity.
Squarespace – I’ve never used Squarespace but many people love it for its easy setup, clean templates, and integrations.
You have to select your platform based on your needs, the level of effort you would like to dedicate to the site, pricing, and overall comfort. This may seem overwhelming to some, but most if not all hosting providers are integrated with web platforms which makes setup a breeze.
Depending on your niche your blogging style will be different. I’m a recipe blogger so I tend to follow the standard recipe post format. I start with an opening where I give background information, then I introduce the ingredients, followed by step-by-step instructions, notes, and then the recipe card. This format keeps my content focused and consistent, which my readers enjoy.
Whatever you’re blogging about, I strongly suggest finding a writing format that works for you. This helps reduce writer’s block and anxiety.
SEO & Keywords
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of web traffic to a website from search engines so that your blog or web page ranks high in Google search results. This is achieved through writing compelling content, keywords, user experience such as a fast-loading site, and share-worthy links.
Keywords are important to every blogger because we need to incorporate popular words that people are searching for into our blog posts. I use a keyword search tool called Semrush to research words that people are searching for on the internet. For example, it’s January and many people are participating in Dry January. Once I plug those words into Semrush it will tell me how many people are searching for Dry January content nationally and locally. Knowing this information prompts me to update my keywords in every post relating to Dry January.
You will want to install an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO to help set up and consistently implement SEO on your site and blog posts. There is a free version with limited features.
Please notice that I did not mention anything about web design. This is because so many people get caught up in the design and look of the site to the point where they never launch their site. I understand the importance of having a website that you feel good about but hear me when I say this, done beats perfection. Set up your site, learn how to write for your readers using SEO & keywords, publish your blog post, then share it on social media. You need to publish your posts so that Google knows that you exist. The design and aesthetics will come and will continue to evolve over time.
Now that you have a good understanding of the value your blog content should provide as well as what to include in your blog posts so that they’re SEO friendly, you can now focus on creating engaging content to amplify your blog posts.
Content is the information and experiences directed at an end-user or audience. Content is delivered via different media including, the Internet… Content leads to influencing other people in creating their content.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_(media)
Your creative content follows the same rules as your blog posts. It should provide value in the form of education, entertainment, or inspiration. I’m a cocktail (sometimes food) blogger so most of my content is educational because I’m teaching my audience how to make drinks. If you’re an interior designer you might fall under educational as well. If you’re a therapist your content might be educational and/or inspirational. If you’re a fashion & lifestyle blogger you might dabble in all three categories. You don’t have to box yourself into one category, it’s just important to understand what your content is seeking to achieve so that you can effectively influence people to create and respond to your content.
Types of content to create
Graphic post with text. These are easy to create and work well across social media because it’s shareable. These types of posts are perfect for highlighting strong messages or quotes in a blog post. Tip: be sure to put your social media handle on the graphic so that you are tagged when the post is reshared. Also, make sure you have a Call to Action (CTA) in your caption directing people to the blog post because you need that web traffic.
Graphic post with text audio. This is the perfect content for a podcast snippet or interview that you want people to hear and subscribe to.
Photographs. Even though Instagram doesn’t really prioritize photos, they still connect with people.
Video. Video content is king on social media right now. These are the most common and effective ways to communicate your message using video content:
- Instagram Reels
- Youtube videos
- Tik Tok videos
Instagram Stories. A lot of influencers create branded story graphics to share quotes, blog excerpts, announcements, behind the scene content, and Q&As.
No matter what type of content you create for social media, the goal is to always drive traffic back to your blog. The blog is home. Remember, you don’t own anything on social media but you do own your blog.
My Creator tools
Canva is a good tool to use for quick graphics that require little to no graphic design experience. I suggest using Canva for graphic posts with text and audio. I use Canva for graphics and I love it.
Adobe Premiere Rush is an app that I have used for IG Reels. It’s a mobile-friendly app that provides powerful video editing tools. There are a few different pricing models but I paid $9.99/ month.
Adobe Premiere Pro is my go-to editing tool for all of my videos. It’s a more robust version of Premiere Rush with a lot more features and capabilities to edit my videos.
Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop are the two photo editing apps I use.
My Instagram reels formula
Every good story needs a beginning, middle, and end. Instagram Reels is one of Instagram’s newest video creator products. Reels are prioritized more than any other content type which makes it easier for your content to be discovered. Much like Tik Tok, Reels are engaging, to the point, and it gives us another way to share our message using graphics, music, and audio.
Everyone has their own style and purpose for Reels so there is a lot of room for creativity here. My Reels are mainly for my cocktail recipes and they are very soothing, informative, and film inspired.
Here is my formula:
- Establish the scene with an eye-catching clip that makes people literally stop scrolling. For me, this would be a dramatic pour shot or even me giving off a flirty smirk directly into the camera. The first 2 seconds of the video need to pull people in.
- Tell the story. This is where you share your content using video clips, audio, graphics, and/or music. What makes Reels so engaging and successful is the quality, storyline, and simplicity. People want to follow along but if your story is confusing or not well thought out, it will miss the opportunity to connect with people. I recommend creating a storyboard that outlines every clip so that there is a flow and connection.
- Bring it home. There needs to be an ending. For me, my story ending is showing the final drink. This is how you influence people to create your content. They need to see the final product in order to feel as though they can do the same thing.
So remember, Establish the scene, tell the story, and bring it home.
My Camera gear
Canon 5D Mark IV is a full-frame DSLR camera that I shoot my photos and videos with. It’s a great camera if you’re looking for a full-frame camera for portraits, food and product photography, weddings, and even outdoors scenes.
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera is a compact and powerful camera that I mainly use for vlogging and capturing behind-the-scenes content.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens is one of my favorite lenses because it was my first splurge. This lens is perfect for the close-up macro shots where you want to show detail and texture.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is the perfect lens for those who are starting out in photography and videography. It’s very affordable and the zoom is pretty nice. I film most of my Reels with this lens.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced Tripod is the tripod I use almost daily. It’s very sturdy and easy to maneuver around my apartment.
TYCKA Rangers 56” Compact Travel Tripod is the backup tripod and because it’s very light and compact, it’s great for travel.
Manfrotto MTPIXIMII-B, PIXI Mini Tripod is small and compact which is perfect for tight spaces and vlogging.
Arm Phone Mount Stand Clip is used when I’m recording on my iPhone. It’s pretty neat and easily clamps onto most tables.
Lighting for video
Godox SL-60 LED Video Light is what I use for continuous light in my videos. You will need a stand and softbox as well.
Neewer Dodecagon Softbox 35 inches is a softbox and diffuser that I use with the Godox SL video light to soften the light and reduce shadows. The larger the softbox, the fewer shadows.
I also use natural light as my main light source when I’m able to.
Lighting for photography
My recommended course for learning artificial flash photography is Artificial Academy by Joanie Simon. I signed up for this course in 2020 and it was the best investment to help me become a better photographer. Joanie is a master food photographer and teacher whose depth of knowledge is thorough and resourceful. You can also check out her Youtube where she teaches food photography, video editing, and everything you need to know to become a confident food and product photographer.
If you are going to be working with softboxes and umbrellas, you will need some stands. I’m currently using the Neewer 75″/6 Feet/190CM Photography Light Stand with a bracket for my artificial flash. I use the same stand (without a bracket) for continuous light.
Neewer 5 in 1 Portable Multi 40″x 60″/100 x 150CM Camera Lighting Reflector is what I use to defuse hard light or to add a little color and reflection into my scene. They come in different sizes so you can choose which size works for you.
Feelword Camera 4K HDMI Monitor with Swivel Arm is what I use as an external monitor so that I can see myself when recording.
If you want to partner with brands I suggest creating an account on every Influencer Marketing website that connects with your values and desires. Creating an account puts you, your work, and even analytics in front of people who are looking for creators to collaborate with brands.
These are just a few Influencer Marketing companies to browse and possibly create an account with. Do your research and do what’s best for you.
I also suggest using Canva to create a rate card and media kit so that you’re prepared for when brands contact you for collaboration opportunities.
I hope you enjoyed my content creation, camera gear, and Instagram reels guide. By now you should understand just how valuable your message is whether it’s educational, entertaining, or inspiring. I hope you understand that everything you create should begin and end at your blog. You post to your blog, share it with your email subscribers, share it on social media via creative content with a CTA to visit your blog. If you purchase any of the camera gear listed, I wish you the best in learning your new gear and incorporating it into your creative process. As always, you can find me on Instagram & Pinterest. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.