Simply striking and strikingly simple. Recipes, crafts, home decor and general life hacks that are easy yet impressive.

Style AND Substance: Is There Room for Non “Professional” Bloggers to Break Out?

This idea of writing about the dichotomy of both style and substance around the interwebs has been bouncing around my brain for quite some time. In an increasingly visually driven culture spurred on with sites that provide more visual content than the written word, is the margin of tolerance shrinking for new or non-professional bloggers? The internet is increasingly relying on consumers to make split second decisions on whether they like or dislike an object or post based on 1 snapshot. This idea is evident with the popularity of sites such as Pinterest, Yummly, Houzz, Food Gawker (and it’s similar boards Craft Gawker, Wedding Gawker, and Dwelling Gawker), Polyvore, Indulgy, and to some extent Etsy. Is the pressure to present ‘pretty’ outpacing the need for good content? Is this the new ‘house staging’ trend where a good coat of paint hopes to detract buyers from the fact that the paint is covering MFD cabinets?

Before I delve into the subject further I want to clarify 2 issues. Firstly my definition of non-professional bloggers refer to those working on blogs part-time, those that do not gain income from blogging, and/or those just launching blogs regardless of what their master plan is down the road. To me, professional blogs or bloggers are those that are backed by a large sponsor/company or for whom this is a full-time income generating business. Even when reading stories of how a small blog became the next big thing I realized many of the blogger bios mentioned previous professional experience in visual design. Secondly, it is sort of stabbing me in the heart that I am writing an article that can be somewhat critical of the sites I’ve listed above because I am still huge fan of these sites and understandably they have a specific business model with criteria that makes them successful. My critic is not directed at these sites, but at the bigger culture of internet consumerism at large.

It first stirred a reaction in me when one day I logged onto Etsy after a short break only to realize they had gotten rid of the ‘recent purchases’ option and replaced it with the “Treasury” section. If you do not peruse Etsy often, the recent purchases section is relatively self explanatory and I used it often to gauge trends and what’s popular. Instead, the new Treasury section asks users to curate a ‘board’ of a dozen or so items found around Etsy as a recommendation board. The Etsy overlords then pick a handful of these to feature on the front page. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the drive to make a pretty curated board and land a feature on the home page curators quickly latched on to items that either fit a specific color palette or were visually stunning images. Therefore, these weren’t items that they thought others would like to purchase, or trending items but a collection of really pretty pictures. I always felt a tinge of sadness for hard working crafters and sellers that may not have the best photographs to show off their talent.

Now I am going to admit that the impetus for me to put my thoughts in writing was my experience of being turned down 3 times by Craft Gawker because my photos were not up to snuff. I edited and re-edited my photo and still it was not good enough. Here I am thinking that my craft idea was unique and something I want to share with the world. It’s easy, fun, and I thought many may be inspired by it. Alas, it never did make it to the site because I am not a great photographer…or not yet anyways 😉

That experience summed up my feelings o the topic of style vs. substance where my 1 chance to hook a supporter was lacking but if you had just clicked on that image to link to my instructional perhaps you may have realized the step by step directions and accompanying photographs would have resulted in a great craft project. The same would go for recipes or anything else we non-professional bloggers post about. I must admit that I spend far more time setting up a shot, taking multiple shots at many different angles, and fixing up in Photoshop to get that perfect background blur than everything else my blog requires combined.

As a newbie part-time blogger I am the editor, content writer, researcher, photographer, stylist, test cook/baker, shopper, graphic designer, and programmer. All ingredients, tools, and supplies are paid out of pocket, my camera and editing software are items I purchased. I totally accept that since I blog because I love sharing my ideas. However as a part-time blogger with a full time job I work on my blog on nights and weekends. Which means I am often shooting in dark conditions and trying to fidget with my clumsy light box. As we speak I am cutting into my blogging time to write this. But I am debating whether to even proceed with making anything worth shooting because it’s dark and overcast which will result in not so wonderful photos. Perhaps I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

There are many reasons why some bloggers or Etsy sellers do not have professional looking photographs. Perhaps they cannot afford the equipment necessary to do so, perhaps they are not inclined to, perhaps they don’t have the skills, or perhaps they don’t feel the need to. Regardless of why, I suppose the main message of this article is, I hope that for whatever reason they are not overlooked simply for that. Bloggers represent a wide range of people, interests, and styles. But the one thing I know for sure in what we have in common is that we blog because we like to share. And it is such a shame that our ability to share is limited by photographs that do not resemble an Ansel Adams piece.

I don’t intend on this to be a whine fest. Far from it. This is the new reality and I plan to move with the tide. I’ll continue to try and improve all aspects of my blog including photography because it’s what I want to do. I am going to continue plugging away on my blog because I have great fun with it. I’ll continue to pin, post, curate, and read all the sites I listed. One thing I do know, I will continue to read and click on all types of posts regardless of a pretty picture because I will never know what great craft or recipe I may be missing out on.

2 comments on “Style AND Substance: Is There Room for Non “Professional” Bloggers to Break Out?

  1. The Creative Physician
    October 6, 2013

    As a novice blogger, I feel like this article really hit home with me. While I’m lucky to have photography skills from past employment, I still feel like I chose my blog layout to be more form than function. The limitations posed by free hosting blogging prevent me from tweaking the theme to be both beautiful and fully functional and I worry this will limit my success. Thank you for sharing and letting me know I’m not alone in thinking this.

    • simplystrikingblog
      October 6, 2013

      Thank you so much for replying and relaying your thoughts. I am so glad that I too am not alone in thinking this 🙂

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