Most of you would surely agree that a key element to a successful food blog is beautiful photography. A gorgeous photo of a mouth-watering stack of pancakes, a plate of chocolate toffee artfully arranged, or generous scoops of ice cream is a sure-fire way to grab a reader’s attention, most likely even before seeing the recipe’s title. Many times it is the photo that propels the reader to click to see the rest of the post.
When I started Daisy’s World in April 2011, I knew very little about photography. I concentrated mainly on the cooking and writing aspects of the blog, and enlisted my husband’s help in the photography. I told him how I wanted the photos to look, and he would read the camera manual, trying to figure out the settings to accomplish my vision. A few months later, I took over the photography, relying primarily on my camera’s automatic settings and the basics I learned from my husband.
Below are some of my early photographs, and as you see, they were plagued with so many issues: the composition was either too tight or just plain bad, the images were dull/unsharp, and either the lighting was too harsh or overexposed, or too low, or underexposed. (Thanks to curators at Foodgawker and Tastespotting, those critical words are burned in my head. They were right, of course. Anybody who’s submitted photos to those sites know what I’m talking about.)
I documented an early photography breakthrough after reading Taylor Mathis’ tutorial, Food Photography Lighting Tips. I started to read other bloggers’ photo tips and tricks, looked more critically at photos and took note of what was visually appealing. I learned much through trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t. Thank goodness for digital cameras, because initially, I took up to 100 photos for each recipe in order to get one or two images that I liked. At the same time, I started to understand the basic principles of food styling, and started to incorporate props in my photos. I was developing my own style, and creating my blog’s visual identity. You can definitely see a great deal of improvement as I practiced and took more photos.
However, my photos were still plagued with lighting and white balance issues. I had learned enough about photography to improve, but now I had reached a plateau. I needed to invest some time in learning more about food photography, beyond what I’ve managed to learn on my own, so I decided to look into taking some classes. It would be a fun way to learn and meet people who had my same interests.
This past December, I took a photography class geared food bloggers, Natural Light Good Photography Class for Food Bloggers and Culinary Professionals, taught by photographer Christina Peters and prop stylist Amy Paliwoda, of MDR Photography Classes. The class was structured to be informal, and questions were encouraged throughout. Christina gave a quick lecture on the basics of photography and shared her formula for the proper camera settings to use when shooting with natural light. Amy followed with her “recipe” on how to design the perfect shot and establish the “mood” through the use of props and color. The class concluded with a photo shoot where we were able to use some of the techniques we just learned. Each of us had a chance to work with Amy to come up with a concept for our photo shoot, using food and props she brought for us. Christina helped to figure out the appropriate camera settings and how to achieve the correct lighting.
The class really helped demystify how a camera works and helped me understand the fundamentals of good photography. It clearly explained the different aspects to consider in taking good photographs, from the composition to lighting and adjusting the white balance. I can take what I’ve learned and incorporate it into my food photography and beyond. It’s a gradual process and takes practice, but I can already see improvements in the recent photos I’ve taken, even if they are baby steps.
In May, I am also taking the Studio Light Food Photography class. Working full-time does not allow me to shoot in natural light during the short days of winter so I don’t post as often as I’d like. Learning how to shoot with studio lights will help me take photos at night, and, hopefully will result in my ability to share more recipes and blog posts with all of you.
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