Inspiration on Saturday – Ellen from In my red Kitchen
How long have you been blogging and did you start with taking food photos right away?
Inmyredkitchen.nl exists two year in May. I started the blog for the usual reason; I always took photos of my food with my iPhone and placed those on Facebook. Friends started asking for the recipes and when my cookbook would come out. A logical step was to start my own blog.
The photos of those first few months are horrible. I had no idea what I was doing and I wouldn’t call them food photos, haha… They’re just badly lit photos of a plate of food.
In April 2013 my husband and I have moved to Los Angeles and since June I also blog in English at www.inmyredkitchen.com. This blog is different from the Dutch version and because I started this one later, the foodphotos are better from the beginning!
What kind of equipment did you use in the beginning and what do you use now?
From the beginning I have been using my Nikon D3000, that I bought four years ago for my trip to China. I didn’t get the standard kit lens but opted for a 18-105mm instead.
A few months ago I purchased a 18-55mm lens with it as my 18-105mm broke than when I dropped my camera from my hands. The lens is fixed in the meantime but it is used sporadically for landscape and restarant photos that I visit with my foodblogger group. The 18-55m is the one I now use for foodphotos.
Did you teach yourself everything or did you follow workshops and such?
I spend a year in artschool and had some photoraphy lessons there. This is where I learned all about shutterspeed and depth of field, And I even learned how to develop my own photos in the darkroom. The knowledge I got from artschool came in handy for my foodphotos, but the workshop photography and styling for foodbloggers by Alexandra and Simone (http://freshfoodphotos.com/workshops-foodfotografie-en-styling/) was my turning point, as I learned so much there! Since that time I occassionaly follow online workshops and lessons such as the Alt for Everyone (http://altitudesummit.com/) or Foodblogger Pro (www.foodbloggerpro.com) to continually learn and refresh my knowledge.
Can you describe your current setup for making photos for your blog?
My kitchen is too dark for taking photos but the dining table is next to a north east facing window. All our windows in the house are North-East. I have a few wooden plates (a cheap package of small ones from the diy store) that I put on the kitchen table and use as background and underground for my food photos. I put a diffuser in front of the window to filter the light and a white foamboard to reflect the light on the other side. I do have a reflection screen but I can’t put it up like that and the foamboard works fine.
I prefer shooting with a tripod, so that I can change little things in my styling or the shutterspeed and it is easier to focus that wasy. I also have a greycard to determine the right white balance but stupidly enough I often forgot to use that one.
I recently got myself a fabulous ‘prop table’ where I keep almost all my glasses, plates and boxes of cutlery and napkins and such. I got it from someone that I met through Instagram and that table used to be in her mums garden and than in her appartment. The top is incredibly cool; weathered and with peeled paint in two colors. I use this sometimes to take photos of the food but the table is a little further away from the window and that is noticeable in terms of light. I first decide what mood I want in my shot before choosing the spot and the backdrop.
Do you have a special process to go through when shooting or is it more spontaneous?
I work according to a blog planning. My head is filled with cooking and baking ideas and each week I plan what I will make on which day. During the cooking or baking I always take the time to prepare my setup and often I have thought about it before in terms of mood and which plates and such to use that go along with what I have in mind. Thanks to my prop table I have everything I need within reach so if something doesn’t work the way I wanted it to I can change it at the last minute.
What is your preferred light? Daylight, artificial light and if daylight what kind of daylight?
I always work with daylight because I have the luxury that I am not allowed to work in the US (visa stuff) and so I can blog fulltime. And it also gives me time to improve my photography! I always cook during the day for my blog and I prefer making photos between 1 pm and 3 pm. Definitely not after 3.30 pm because the light is too bad. By coincidence I discovered that the light at 9.30 am is also really pretty but that is a bit too early for me to cook. Because all our windows are facing northeast I do not have a lot of choice in terms of type of daylight, but the current situation works fine for me as I can adjust my schedule accordingly.
I would love to be able to work with artificial light. I even have my eye on a daylight lamp you can place on the table but there is some saving that needs to be done first. It would also be good for my day planning as I would have more time to cook and photograph. Some things (such as bakd fish) are better if you eat it straight away instead of reheating at night in the microwave. Everything on my blog I eat mysefl, so everything is real and fresh and I hate wastage.
What was your aha-moment when it comes to foodphotography? Assuming you weren’t as good when you started as you are today.
Although the photography and styling workshop of Simone and Alexandra helped me enormously my real ‘aha’ moment came from something my husband ‘P’ said. Foodphotography essentially comes down to the right way of showing reflection. Since he told me that last summer my photos look a lot tastier because I make sure the light is reflected in the food. After I have edited my photos I usually have ‘P’ look at them, as he has an eye for it and is always critical. Even though I (and he!) might find a photo really good, he still always gives something that could be improved upon. That keeps me sharp and makes sure I look at it with an independant eye..
What would you like to improve on?
The angle at which I shoot. On the screen my photos can sometimes look really weird because I take them from a weird angle. I would really like to shoot tethered; with a cable directly from my camera to the computer so you can see on a larger screen what you’re doing. But my camera body is too old for that, so I will have to save for a new body ánd a daylight lamp.
But I strive to develop my own style so others will be able to immediately tell that it is a photo of mine ‘O look, that is a real Ellen’!
Do you have any tips for beginning foodbloggers who like to improve their photos?
Follow the workshop by Simone! And look closely at foodbloggers you think are great and write down what it is that attracts you in their photos. Make a secret board on Pinterest and pin here the foodphotos that inspire you! But most importantly; make sure you have fun doing it, that you know how your camera works and take photos in the manual mode, always keep improving and take time doing that. Creativity needs to grow.
Who are your examples? (foodbloggers or foodphotographers)
I don’t follow a lot of foodbloggers really because ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ but I am always charmed by the Scandinavian style of photography, they seem to be making darker and more rustic photos. I would like to do that too but than have to remind myself that I live in California and that I should be keeping it light and summery.
I am somewhat jealous of the simplicity of the foodphotos by Spoon Fork Bacon I wish my photos would be as perfect all the time as my friends Maryanne from The Little Epicurean and the uniformity and recognizability of Naturally Ella is without a doubt something to be jealous of.
Anything else you want to share?
That I am always a little long winded… Sorry for that! I hope I didn’t lose you halfway through and I just want to point out that I am enormously honored to be able to tell about my work in this series. The best thing of foodblogging is the photography and the editing, the writing is sometimes the hard part. I am secretly proud for having made it this far in two years time, even though I can do much better. And I say this because I am quite the perfectionist and tough on myself.