Any photography blogger will have a set of tools, apps, software, and browser extensions they use every day.
These might be to help produce content, or they might be to help keep things organised and moving in the background.
If you’re starting out and want to know what’s out there that can help you, there’s nothing like a personal recommendation from someone already doing it.
With that in mind, here is a rundown of tools I regularly use as a blogger.
Before we begin, there’s a couple of things to remember.
- there will be alternatives to everything listed here. The alternatives might be better in some way. I’m just telling you what I use and how I use it.
- this post contains some referral and affiliate links. If you sign up to anything through my links I may get a small financial commission at no cost to you or some other bonus from the software such as a limited time upgrade. In some cases, you will too.
Want to beef up your blogger toolbox?
Photoshop and Lightroom
For: laptop photo editing
I’ve tried a few different photo editing products and websites in my time but I’m now settled firmly in the Photoshop and Lightroom camp.
For simplicity here, I use Lightroom for general processing and Photoshop for adding the text boxes to featured images, making logos, etc.
There was a time when I used Photoshop for everything and wondered what the value of Lightroom really was. Having tried it, I know now it’s well worth having alongside Photoshop.
While still (always) learning, the simplicity and easier workflow make it so. I love the way you can always go back and pick up where you left off without having to save and then reopen PSD files as I used to all the time in Photoshop.
I can understand why people would prefer to use something else. Many alternatives are free and simpler. Photoshop and Lightroom are paid for, and supposedly hard to learn.
The latter is a fallacy to me. Of course, it’s not easy to learn everything you could possibly do with the software. But it’s not difficult to learn the few things you’ll do over and over.
Things you can then automate with processes and presets.
I also believe learning how to use Photoshop and Lightroom could be the most efficient use of your time in the long run. As industry leaders, they’re not going to go away. Learning an alternative only to find it gets discontinued will mean learning another one afterwards.
Photoshop is also a skill often asked for in freelance jobs. If you ever want to make money doing editing or design work for someone else, Adobe software (Photoshop, Illustrator etc) is the best thing to have on your CV.
At the time of writing, the Adobe Photography Pack, which includes both Photoshop and Lightroom, is available at under 10 dollars per month. With all the long-term upsides, I believe it’s well worth the money.
For: mobile photo editing
If you ever take photographs on your phone and post them on Instagram, which you should be doing as a photography blogger, you probably already use a better photo editor than the native Android, iOS, or Instagram ones.
I know VSCO has a big following, and I did try it out when I was deciding which one to go with, but found it a little bit complex. Not that it was necessarily hard to make the adjustments you want to make, but that there were so many options.
Hypocritical when compared to my views on Photoshop and Lightroom, but maybe I’m after something simpler on my phone.
Which, by the way, is why I don’t use the Lightroom app. I tried it, but it was just a lot more than I needed.
Other apps like Aviary were too simple and didn’t offer enough control. Perhaps that’s changed, but at the time it was very filter-heavy, with not enough finer adjustments.
Snapseed gets it right.
It’s the best of both worlds and the one that I’ve been happily using since… I can’t remember exactly when. But I have no thoughts of trying anything else.
Easy to make fine adjustments by sliding up and across the photo, and with a decent choice of adjustable filters, I found it to give the best balance between user experience and results.
For: finding errors in my writing
Taking and editing photographs is just a small part of being a photography blogger.
If you want your audience to enjoy what you create and keep coming back for more, it’s a good idea to have your writing up to scratch too.
And no matter how many times you double-check before hitting publish, some errors are going to slip through. You might not have noticed them, but your readers certainly will.
My safety net is Grammarly – an app that will check your work for spelling and grammar errors, and suggest how to fix the ones it finds.
You can add it as a browser extension and let it check your work as you write, but I prefer not to. This is because I like to write without editing. Going back to fix mistakes as they happen slows me down and stops my flow.
My amateur writing tip is to pour everything out onto your page, then copy and paste it into Grammarly once you’re done. It then takes no time at all to go back and fix what it tells you to fix.
Grammarly is free to use, but you can get both of us a week of Premium by registering through my link.
Evernote and Trello
For: keeping everything organised behind the scenes
Two apps that I band together even though I use them for very different tasks.
I generally use Evernote for things that need doing instantly and Trello for future planning and to-do lists.
Evernote is an app that can be installed on your phone, tablet, or computer as a kind of virtual notepad. If you have an idea, make a note in Evernote and leave it there until you’re ready to act on it.
Notes made on any device are synced and can be accessed on any of your others, meaning it’s a great app for saving ideas you have whilst out and about before sitting down to them once you get to your laptop.
The best thing is, you don’t need an internet connection to make a note. Evernote will save it until you get one and it can sync it to your account.
Three of my most common uses for Evernote are:
- taking notes when out walking and listening to podcasts of things I want to read up on later
- having a ready list of hashtags I can paste onto Instagram posts
- transferring photographs from my laptop to my phone to post on Instagram
Trello allows you to make visual to-do lists and future plans, and drag items from one list to another. That could be from ‘to-do’ to ‘doing’, or from ‘do this month’ to ‘do this week’.
It all depends on how you set it up, and there are plenty of ideas for Trello workflows online.
I like this one based on the Eisenhower Matrix (they aren’t my cards on the screenshot – I don’t organise my closet by colour).
I thought Trello sounded too simple to be useful at first, but now it’s where I do all my idea dumping, planning, and organising.
There is a Trello phone app but the fact you needed an internet connection to save edits meant it was no use to me – especially when I have Evernote for offline note-taking.
Anything I do on Trello can wait until I’m at my laptop, but it is still invaluable.
I wished it got you one too, but you can always recommend a friend after you sign up and see how useful it is. 🙂
IFTTT and Buffer
For: automating social sharing
IFTTT (If This Then That) is an absolute powerhouse in the realm of process automation, and can go way beyond blogging and social media functions.
I keep it simple and use IFTTT for the following recipes:
- automatically posting Instagram pictures to Pinterest
- being able to post tweets to Facebook when I use the hashtag #fb
- sharing Instagram posts as native Twitter images when I use the hashtag #twitter
The first one is a set ‘n’ forget thing that gives my Pinterest account (which I spend less time on than any other social media) a steady stream of regular new content. Admittedly not great Pinterest content, but content nonetheless.
The second and third are things I may not want to do all the time but want the option of doing occasionally. I used to use the Instagram to Twitter recipe for every post, as it posts the actual picture rather than a link to your Instagram profile.
As engagement on photography on Twitter seems kind of low though, for me at least, I thought it might be better to tempt people over to my Instagram by using the native share to Twitter option that just leaves a link.
You can connect any of your social media channels to IFTTT and the possibilities to what you can automate are almost endless.
Buffer is a platform that lets you fill up a list of scheduled posts for your social media accounts. If I’m looking at photography blogs and want to share some, it’s good to be able to add them to a schedule and let them go out over the next few days.
There’s a browser extension you can use to easily add any website you’re currently looking at.
Buffer saves me flooding my feed with numerous posts all at once, while also letting me not have to worry about saving the articles for posting later.
I don’t use it for my own Twitter as much as I did when I was trying to build an eCommerce store but it does still get used, and is always good to have should you need it.
IFTTT is completely free to use. Buffer has a free plan that limits your schedule to 10 posts (although using my link will give me one extra slot in my free plan schedule) and only one account per channel (Twitter, Facebook etc), with an upgraded plan offering more.
For: simplifying affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to monetise your blog, but it isn’t without its complications.
Chief among them is the hassle of signing up to various affiliate programs. This means having more passwords to remember, more dashboards to check, and more time to wait before being paid.
Allow me to explain that last one.
Most affiliate programs have a threshold you must reach before you receive your first payment. This may be $50, $75, or whatever they decide to go with.
It makes sense for them to not want to be paying out minuscule amounts to new bloggers, but means you’ll have to wait until each of your programs reaches their threshold. You can have earned a lot of money in total but if that’s just halfway to the threshold on every program you’re still not getting paid.
Consolidating some of them under one program means all their income being added together, which in turn means you can get paid quicker.
This is where Skimlinks comes in.
Of course, the platform takes a cut for the convenience, but it’s a price I consider worth paying.
Another good feature of Skimlinks is automatically turning normal shopping links you add to affiliate links for you.
However, one feature I don’t like is and automatically adding links to mentions of products in your posts.
I have this turned off and recommend you do too. Too many links begin to look spammy. They are spammy, and I think they begin to devalue your site. If an affiliate link can’t be placed deliberately and usefully in your text, preferably with a justified recommendation, it probably shouldn’t be there.
Skimlinks also has eBay and Amazon search boxes that I like. The best thing about these is they’re geo-targeted. They’ll take your reader to their local eBay or Amazon, which is harder to set up with a standard link.
Seriously. Try them out:
Skimlinks doesn’t have any upfront costs, but they do take a small slice of any earnings you make. Signing up through my link will also allow me to receive a commission at no cost to you.
Momentum and Facebook News Feed Eradicator
For: getting shit done
I don’t use many Chrome browser extensions but these are two that I do.
Momentum is something that might not sound very useful until you start using it, but is a great way to keep reminding yourself of what you’re supposed to be working on.
Every time you open a new tab it’ll show you your page for the day. This includes a beautiful full-screen photo meant to get you inspired and a daily quote meant for the same reason.
However, the beauty lies in how you personalise it each day with what you need to get done. Type in your main goal for the day and you’ll be reminded of it every time you open a tab. You can also create a smaller to-do list and check things off once you get through it.
Describing it here doesn’t do it justice. It’s not an instant game-changer, but it does creep into your daily routine if you give it time.
The Facebook News Feed Eradicator extension is less about giving motivation and more about taking away distraction. Turn it on and your Facebook feed will be replaced with nothing but an inspirational quote.
You can still get notifications and messages and see posts in the useful groups you’re in, but going on Facebook and getting lost in your friends’ endless memes and banality can’t happen, which means you can get more done.
Once you’ve finished your work, you can turn it off and go see what you’ve missed (which won’t be much, let’s be honest).
Tools you use and recommend, as a blogger or otherwise
That’s my list.
I said at the top there are alternatives for all of them and I’d be interested to know if you use any of those – and if so, why?
Also, what am I missing?
What tools, apps, software or otherwise should I add to my arsenal to make life easier and / or better?
It’s all about learning and improvement here, and your recommendations can help me do both.
Tell me below! 🙂
p.s. found this list of blogging tools useful? Pin or share it!