Do you enjoy taking photographs of your recipes? Do you feel inspired to capture the essence of the dish or do you find the entire process overwhelming?
This article comes to you from Jenny at www.jennyisbaking.com. Jenny and I had a chat when she agreed to write this guest post and thought that her perspective as a relative newbie in the food-blogging world would speak to you guys, my readers, as you know where she’s coming from! In the early days, food photography can be a huge challenge for bloggers and Jenny has come up with a great way to get stuck in right away and improve her food photography – by setting realistic targets to develop and practise her skills.
I have been blogging now for roughly one and a half years and when I first started, taking pictures manually with my mirrorless camera was a pain; I was so slow and barely understood aperture, ISO and shutter speed. I still don’t consider myself a pro, but I decided to share with you how my food photography has improved over time and how you can set goals yourself to get better, faster. Below are pictures from 2018 compared to 2017.
Same recipe of my favourite chocolate chip cookies, above from 2018, below from 2017:
Studies show that setting realistic goals and small challenges for yourself can improve productivity. If you take the time to think about where you want to go with your food photography, you will be more likely to follow through on your promises as you will feel more accountable to improving. Here are five great ways you can start working on your food photography right now.
#1 Block time in your calendar regularly on a weekly basis to actually take pictures
First, you need to regularly take pictures in order to improve. This may sound obvious, but when I sat down and thought about good times for picture taking, I realised I could actually use these time slots to work on a specific aspect I wanted to improve.
It may be completely different for you, but I blocked out one hour every Saturday which I solely devote to picture taking. As I work full time, and I wanted to shoot in daylight, I only had the weekends left. So I went for Saturday at 10am as usually by that time I have already had breakfast, but started no commitments yet. I live in the north of Germany and often have issues with bad lighting, but at 10 am the light is bright enough. Also, usually my baked goods are ready or close to ready from making them on Friday so I can start taking pictures right away.
By establishing this routine, I got used to taking pictures regularly and was able to actually do more than only shooting pictures at random and hope for a good outcome. Setting aside time is essential in order to get better.
Picture of my blueberry cheesecake taken during one of my scheduled sessions on a Saturday morning with natural daylight
#2 Think about what you are most scared of when taking pictures
Once you start taking pictures regularly, you will notice that there are certain things you like to avoid. For me, this was using the tripod. I just hate that it takes forever to set it up. On top of that, once you are done shooting that one particular angle, you have to redo everything again, it just feels clumsy to me and time-consuming. I would rather just take pictures with the camera in my hand, moving freely and figuring out the best angles as I go.
However, when I thought about it, I realized that not using the tripod restricted me in many ways.
A tripod is essential if you shoot pictures in bad lighting, which is often the case where I live. Especially in winter, 10am still feels dark, and I had to reduce the shutter speed if I wanted to still take bright pictures.
A tripod also helps me to really look for the perfect angle first, before randomly taking pictures. It makes me focus more and have everything ready before I finally point the camera towards what I want to shoot.
However, the biggest issue for me was that that I could not take “action pictures” easily. Action pictures are defined as pictures that either show some movement, like when you pour milk into a glass of water or show the hands of a person doing something with the food. Action pictures are usually perfect if you want to tell a story. They are also helpful if you want to explain visually what you have described with words in your recipe – so for any tutorial they come in handy.
If you shoot alone, like I do, using a tripod combined with a remote control solves the problem. Now I can be the hand model myself, and shoot the picture while pressing the remote control at the same time. Below are action pictures of my strawberry pancakes.
Pictures taken with a tripod and remote control. You can see a bit of my hands in the right picture.
#3 Break down what scares you the most into measurable and attainable goals
All those points made me realize that I should probably work with my tripod more often. Now, I could have simply told myself that I wanted to use it during my one-hour timeslot on Saturdays. However, I probably would have thrown it away five minutes into my next session had I not been more specific. It is important to break down what scares us into measurable and attainable goals.
For example, what I could state is:
“I hate to use my tripod, for that reason I will use it at least long enough during every session in order to get one action photo I can actually use on my blog. As soon as I am done with that, I can shoot with my hands again.”
This is easy to measure and attainable, one picture with the tripod, that doesn’t sound too scary like trying a full tutorial with loads of pictures at the first try. Once that doesn’t scare you anymore and you have regularly taken one action photo, you can increase the number and go for two, three or four action pictures.
So as stated, be specific and make it easy to measure and attainable. This will keep you motivated and helps you to stick with it.
One of my first pictures using a tripod and remote control to take an action picture for the super moist chocolate bundt cake
#4 Set specific goals for every session
Whereas the above goal can be applied for as long as I wanted to, I also started thinking about each individual session. These session goals can either depend on the environment – such as bad lighting – or on the food you wish to take pictures of.
For example, one Saturday I knew I would take pictures of chocolate lava cakes as pictured below. It was during winter and I actually took the picture on our balcony, as I often do. I knew that I had to be fast if I wanted to show the chocolate lava flowing outside the cake. For that reason the goal for that individual session was as follows:
“I am still a slow photographer when I shoot in manual mode so therefore I will first practice the same setup with a chocolate cupcake and figure out all the details in manual mode. Once I feel comfortable with the cupcake, I will shoot the lava cake fresh out of the oven for ten minutes.”
And that is what I actually did. I am still proud of these pictures as I have never taken such beautiful pictures that quickly, I actually timed it and only used the ten minutes I was allowed.
To the present day, these chocolate lava cakes are one of my most popular blog posts.
#5 Set three goals for the remainder of 2018 and make a comparison of your pictures at the end of 2018
Now you are ready to set your own three goals for the remainder of 2018. Keep in mind, be as specific as you can and make it easy to measure. Below are my three goals for 2018. I am currently working a lot on the first goal.
And by the way, do compare your pictures after a few months or even after a year (see my chocolate chip cookies from the top). I find it so encouraging to see how much I have improved over time.
My three food photography goals for 2018
#1 I want to use my tripod with a remote control regularly to produce 1-2 action pictures for each recipe I post
#2 I want to nail artificial lighting and use my set of day lights at least for five recipes (all five pictures) on my blog
#3 I want to take drool-worthy cookie pictures.
So now it is your turn, what are you working on in your food photography? What are your goals for the rest of 2018? Why not improve your photography with this great FREE course?