Behind the Scenes – How I Monetize This Blog

Hello, hello my web friends! I’m back with another behind the scenes post and this time it’s a behind the scenes of food blogging rather than food photography.

I’ve gotten several questions recently about whether I get anything out of this blog other than the fun of creating it and the fun of connecting with other food and photography lovers and the answer is yes, this blog does produce money and I thought I’d write a post for you that explains how.

So if you want to learn about blog monetization because you’re thinking about starting a blog yourself or if you maybe just find it interesting to look behind the curtain of an online business this post is for you. For all of you who come here strictly for the recipes and photography, I’ll be back with more of that next week! :)

So, let’s get to it. I make money with this blog in four different ways:

Blog Monetization


1) Photo Licensing Sales. I sell licenses to all of my photos to photo buyers (magazine editors mostly) who want to use them in their publications. Buyers can either use the buy button that I have underneath each photo or they contact me and I e-mail them the photo along with an invoice. 

Selling photo licenses


2) Affiliate Sales. I am an Amazon affiliate (also sometimes called associate). What that means is this: when you click on a link on this blog that directs to an Amazon product page (like the equipment links on my FAQ page) and if you then buy something (anything) on Amazon during the next 24 hours I get a commission of a few percent. The cost to you is the same and, of course, this is anonymous, I can see what was bought but not who bought it.

I also have an Amazon link in my sidebar and that link works in the same way. If you click on that sidebar link you’ll be taken to the Amazon homepage and when you buy something there within 24 hours of clicking on the link, I’ll get the commission.

Thank you all so much for using that link, I really appreciate your support!! <3

Amazon Affiliate Link


3) Product Sales. By product I mean the eBook and the two Photoshop video courses that I’ve created and that I am currently selling. You can find them in my sidebar or on my store page. I am planning on producing more of my own products in the future but for now I have those three. 

The Spice Train Products


4) Business Advertisement. My blog is an advertisement for my food photography business (granted that’s an indirect way of monetization). The blog is basically a living portfolio where I showcase my photos and that can lead to food photography assignment work. I have a static portfolio website as well but because the blog constantly gets “refreshed” I find it to be very useful as a tool that attracts the attention of potential clients.


Now, what I currently don’t do is run network ads. Network ads are advertisements that are served by a network and they appear in the sidebar of a blog, in the header or footer or sometimes in the middle of a blog post or on top of a photo. A blogger who runs network ads gets paid to do so by the ad network.

The reason why I don’t run network ads is two-fold: 1) they slow down the load time of a blog tremendously. And, more importantly 2) the blog owner (me) has almost no control over what ad is being shown. I don’t want to advertise for companies and products (or even persons, such as political candidates) that I don’t like and that’s the main reason why I removed all network ads from The Spice Train about a year or so ago. I haven’t missed them and I’m sure you haven’t either. ;)

And that is it! I hope some of you find this information useful or at least interesting. :) I’ll see you back here with another recipe next week!

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  1. Angela - Patisserie Makes Perfect says:

    This is really interesting Nicole – thanks so much for letting me know what goes on behind the scenes.

    I totally agree about ads and I don’t run them on my site either. I’m not sure I get enough pageviews for it to be of benefit either. :-)

    • Nicole B. says:

      So glad you found it interesting, Angela! And yes, you’re absolutely right, that’s another strike against ads, they really pay super little per page view or per click.

  2. Debbi says:

    What if i visit more than one blog that has affiliate links? Would each blog owner get something or the first blog or the last? I would want to support you and i shop often on amazon. Thx

    • Nicole B. says:

      Hi Debbi! First of all, thank you so much for your support, I really appreciate it! :) And to answer your question: it’s the last click you made before the purchase that gets the full commission. (At least that’s how it is currently. Companies are definitely working on making affiliate link tracking more sophisticated so that the commissions can eventually be divided between different bloggers whose links have been clicked. But Amazon has not (yet) implemented that).

  3. Siim | HappyFoods Tube says:

    Thanks for sharing, this is so helpful to understand everything behind food blogs. Your success is inspiring! There are so many ways to earn money with blog, most bloggers using Ad Networks. Are there many photo licensing sales? Stock photography agencies sell images so cheap.

    • Nicole B. says:

      So glad you found it helpful! I definitely still make many more sales through stock agencies than direct sales, that’s for sure…but of course direct sales bring in more money because I don’t have to give a commission to an agency. Yeah, some agencies definitely sell images extremely cheap, but not all actually., for example, sells at good prices.

  4. Pang says:

    Thank you so much for such a useful information, Nicole. So nice of you to share all these. It will help me tremendously. Thank you..Thank you..Thank you..

  5. Lori says:

    Hi Nicole! Thanks for this post. So when I click the Buy link on one of your photos it takes me to Photo Shelter. Can you explain a bit how that works?

    Do you pay a fee to use that site? Then do they take care of the financial transaction, or do you have to deal with that? It also sounds like you deliver the photo via email, correct? They don’t download it from the site?

    I’m looking for tools to facilitate image sales like this so I greatly appreciate any insight!

    Thank you!

    • Nicole B. says:

      Hi Lori, yes, I pay to use Photoshelter, it’s a subscription site. In return they take care of the financial transaction and delivery of the photo. I only e-mail a photo to a buyer when the buyer contacted me directly to buy the photo (instead of buying through Photoshelter).

  6. ana @muy delish says:

    Thanks so much Nicole for being so kind to share so much information! I also don’t like ads on my blog and removed them last year and don’t miss them at all! I think they’re so annoying and find it refreshing to find blogs without them.

    Your photos are amazing and I wish you much success!

    • Nicole B. says:

      That is so nice of you to say, Ana, thank you! I love your work too and I’m in awe of your painting skills, I just saw your beautiful watercolor flowers with the cinnamon porridge, what a wonderful work of art!

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