Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Add Unexpected Elegance With A Flower Garnish

Add elegance to your food photos with flowers

A Twist On A Traditional Garnish

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to garnishes is a sure fire way to add unexpected elegance to your food photos. Most of us think about edible food when we reach for a garnish, but there is a whole other non-edible garnish world out there!

Flowers Make Perfect Garnishes

Flowers make perfect garnishes because they are unexpected and because they add a splash of much needed color. There are multiple ways you can use a flower as a garnish.

The two methods that I use most often are using a single flower with a stem, or scattering small flowers and pedals across the entire plate. Each method will give you a different result but both will add elegance.

Don't Stop With Just Flowers!

Why not use leaves, stems, or whole bunches of herbs? Using herbs as a whole stem (as opposed to chopped and scattered which is the usual way they are used) can also be an unexpected garnish.

Whatever you do, don't skip the garnish! Garnishes add visual interest and can make an otherwise boring photograph spectacular! Do you use unexpected garnishes? Leave a comment and let us all in on your secret!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Your Comments and Suggestions Are Needed!

Hi everyone. I'm in the very beginning stages of research for a major site re-design and I was hoping I could get some comments and suggestions from all of you. I'm specifically looking for comments on these topics:

-Site navigation---Do you like the current layout of the site navigation? (ie., the horizontal nav bar)

-Post organization---Do you like the way the posts are currently being labeled? When searching for specific information, are these labels enough?

Suggestions---Anything you wish the site would include? What would make navigation easier?

Lastly and most importantly, what are your thoughts on adding a forum to this site. The forum would be a place for anyone to post a topic or question and have members of the community interact. Yay or nay?

Thanks everyone! I hope that with this re-design the blog will be even more beneficial to you!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Food Blogger's Guide To Camera Lenses

 Food Photographer's Guide To Camera Lenses Part 1

Understanding the in's and out's of a camera lens can be a daunting task.  There are so many technical terms, numbers, and specifications that it makes the job down right intimidating!  But understanding your camera's lens will really help elevate your photographs from amateur to professional, which is why I've created this series of posts specifically on lenses.

Choosing the right lens for the job can make or break a photograph and I've found that this subject can be one of the most intimidating subjects for new food photographers. Now, for all you camera geeks out there, this isn't going to be a highly detailed explanation of the physics and mechanics of lenses.  If you're looking for that type of information, this post is not for you.  If you're looking for technical mumbo-jumbo, this post isn't for you either.  This post is a highly simplified version of JUST the essential information needed to understand lenses.  No more, no less.

Types of Lenses

In this first part I'm going to concentrate on explaining the different types of lenses. Gaining an understanding on the TYPE of lens is one of the most important aspects of mastering lenses. Each type of lens has advantages and drawbacks, so I will also try to explain those.

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses, also known as "varying focal length", are lenses in which the amount of "magnification" can be changed. Most camera's come with a zoom lens, which is sometime referred to as the "kit lens" confusing, right?!

Ok, so the main thing to understand about a zoom lens is that you can get a variety of shots because the amount of magnification can be changed. So you can get a wide shot of your food that includes the table and setting...or you can "zoom-in" and just get the plate.

The advantage of this lens is it's variety. Zoom lenses also tend to be less expensive, although this is not an absolute.

Drawbacks for this type of lens is that the aperture sizes are on the smaller side, which means less light enters the lens. This usually isn't a big deal but for food photography this can have a major drawback....more on that in the second part though!

Prime Lenses - Fixed Focal Lens

A prime lens is the opposite of a zoom lens, in that it's magnification is "fixed"...meaning it can't be changed. For instance, if you are shooting with a prime lens and your shot only includes the plate of food but you decide that you also want to include the table around it, you would have to physically walk away from the table in order to include it. If you had a zoom all you would need to do is zoom out on the lens. Capish?

The drawback is obvious, less variety in magnification right? But the benefits are huge! The benefits of a prime lens is that they tend to have larger aperture openings which let more light in than a zoom lens. Also, prime lenses tend to be of better quality which also makes them generally more expensive.

Macro Lens

Lastly we have the macro lens. Both prime and zoom lenses limit how close you can get to your subject before you are unable to focus. Usually the distance is anywhere between 2 to 4 feet! What if you want to get into the gooey drippy details of that lasagna?! That's when a macro lens comes into place.

A macro lens allows you to focus right up to your subject, without any distance in-between. Macro lenses are specialty lenses that can cost a pretty penny, but they are well worth the money.

So there you have it. These three types of lenses are the most common lenses you are likely to encounter. In the second part of this guide I'll delve into more details regarding lenses so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How To Soften Light With A Paper Towel

Softened Light with Paper Towel

Diffused lighting is a food blogger's best friend. You see, diffusing the light from a lamp is the key to shooting at night. Since night time shooting requires the use of a lamp, the light usually needs to be softened in order to create a natural looking atmosphere.  Harsh shadows and over-blown highlights are all problems that are prevented by diffusing light.  I've posted many techniques on how to do this, but I truly think this technique is the cheapest and easiest.

Make sure paper towel doesn't touch bulb!
All I did to diffuse the light from this $9 clamp-lamp is wrap some kitchen paper towels around the front of the lamp, holding the paper towels in place with a rubber band.  Because I am using daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs, I don't have to worry about the paper burning...fluorescent bulbs get warm, but rarely do they get HOT.   None the less, I made sure that the paper towel was far away from the bulb, just to be on the safe side.

The more layers of paper I add, the more the light will be softened.  This will make the light a bit darker, but if you're shooting with a tripod--which you should be doing anyway--this wont be a huge problem because you will be able to shoot with slower shutter speeds therefore increasing the exposure without blurring the image.
Now while this technique is not particularly green, it will save you in a pinch.  The more environmentally friendly thing to do is get an old white t-shirt that can be re-used.

Do you use something similar to soften light?  Let us all know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

5 Important Goals Every Blogger Should Consider

Today we have a guest post by Patti of Worth The Whisk. Patti is creator of Camp Blog Away Boot Camp for Food Bloggers which I'm excited to say I'll be a guest speaker at this coming May! Come to the mountains to meet Patti and me!

As a founding member of the Food Bloggers LA community, I’ve come to learn that growing a circle of peer bloggers is a first step to unearthing the true benefits of blogging. The mere definition of “success” in blogging is subject to debate, but most of us are “serious” bloggers who agree with the following five goals. Consider them for your own blog:

1. To grow traffic

Aside from validation for delivering valuable and worthy content, blog traffic can produce real payoffs: money, visibility, deals. Building a loyal following will grow readership, which in turn helps generate revenue via advertising exposure. Many blog platforms provide insightful statistical information, although some of us admit to often obsessing about traffic to the point that stats drive us crazy. Growing traffic is a complicated challenge; a strong focus on marketing helps. Tweet your posts, add SHARE buttons, publish photos on “shared content” (aka food porn) sites, use Facebook and other social media along with face-time with real people. Your first step: create a business card for your blog. Then, step away from your computer and use it.

2. To be treated as bona fide media

Bloggers influence consumers just like magazines, TV, newspapers, radio. And many feel strongly that our influence ranks up there for such considerations as trade show press badges, junkets, swag, backstage passes and more. Opportunity knocks for members of the media. Over the course of my career, I’ve known quite a few editors of national publications and regional newspapers, and their “power” often parallels celebrity status. Getting to that level of respect is often predicated on a blog’s traffic, but not always. Working hard on your visibility, reputation and personal contacts often can override the roadblock of lackluster stats.

3. To make decent money

Not every blog has ads, but lots of bloggers earn income via subsequent cookbook deals, speaking engagements, spokesperson work, freelance copywriting, teaching assignments and other prized gigs. Dovetailing efforts to build income from a variety of sources is a lucrative approach. To use your blog as a personal portfolio, make sure it has a businesslike biography and that you’re easy to contact. You don’t have to publish your home address, but give your market (I’m Los Angeles), email address (not just a contact form), and solid credentials. A respectable photo doesn’t hurt, either.

4. To be recognized as a brand

Serious bloggers really want to establish themselves as unique for their content, talent, style, outlook. Standing apart matters. How to do that is a constant struggle in this highly competitive field, yet making a name for yourself is the most effective method to step away from the herd. If your blog title is your brand, create a logo. Register for a trademark. Use your blog name as your Twitter name, your comment name (I publish comments as Patti at Worth The Whisk), on your business card, stationery, luggage tags and more. Go so far as to identify with a color (mine is pink) and an icon (mine is an oven mitt). To be recognized as a brand, act like one.

5. To be wooed by money gatekeepers

Joining the elite circle of marketing insiders is a major springboard to the big leagues. PR agencies, advertising agencies, research firms, publishing houses, corporate marketing departments are the People With Money to Spend. For bloggers, making their acquaintance can be the Holy Grail. These important contacts are sponsors at conferences, exhibitors at trade shows, speakers at conventions, fellow members of industry trade associations. So, step away from your desk and start making the rounds. Growing your network of influential contacts doesn’t happen overnight, it takes ongoing dedication. If you stand out, they take notice (see numbers 1-4, above).

Do you have goals for your blog? Share them here, and tell other readers the steps you are taking to reach them.

Patti Londre is president of The Londre Company PR, blogger at Worth The Whisk and creator of Camp Blogaway Bootcamp for Food & Recipe Bloggers. The Food Bloggers LA group meets on a regular basis to network and share information about blogging, marketing, community relations and more. Contact if interested in their next meetup.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How To Light Food With One Inexpensive Lamp

Bouncing Light For A Professional Look

Shooting for food blogs doesn't require expensive equipment.  I've posted about using inexpensive clamp lights before and today's post is about utilizing one of these clamp lights to maximize the light in your next shoot.  If available, shooting under natural light is always the best.  But sometimes the natural light isn't enough....or in this case is too much.  You see, when I was shooting this picture of lemons, the light from the window was very strong so it created harsh shadows.  I could have used a bounce card to bounce the light back onto the shadows, but even that wasn't enough.  The solution?  My trusty clamp light.  This super easy tutorial is all about where to place the lamp to achieve maximum results.

What is Bounced Light?

Bounced light is an easy technique to understand.  Pointing light from a lamp directly onto the subject creates harsh, blown-out highlights and extremely dark shadows....not good for food photography.  The goal of lighting with lamps is to diffuse the light from the lamp so that it still hits the subject, but in a softer more subdued way.  There are many expensive gadgets and do-dads you can buy to attach to your lamp to achieve this, but why bother when you can simply bounce the light?!

Bouncing the light literally means that the light is pointed at angle and it "bounces" onto the subject.  By bouncing the light, the intensity of the light softens, therefore creating more even, softer light.

The Technique

Putting this technique into practice is really simple.  In the shot of the lemons above, I simple attached my clamp light to the back of a chair that was nearby my table.  I pointed the light up at the ceiling so that the light would hit the ceiling and bounce down onto the shadow side of the lemons.  That's it!  The important thing to remember is that this light will only fill in the shadows...I'm not relying on it as my main light source...that's what the window is for!  See the images below for more details:

Without Bounced Light

With Bounced Light

Have you used a similar technique?  If so, please add your photo to the link list below and share!

If you're adding a link, please make sure to add your blog's name and the title of the post in the first dialogue box.  I can't wait to see what you all come up with!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Significantly Expand Your Audience in 2 Quick Hours

Significantly expanding your audience is one of the most important goals for food bloggers today. I mean, who doesn't want more readers, right? Often times finding new readers however can be a daunting and illusive experience.

It's important to distinguish the difference between expanding an audience and increasing traffic though. Increasing traffic might have an immediate pay off (higher page loads might mean more advertising money or clicks on ads for instance) but expanding an audience has more potential to create long term loyal readers. Quick high traffic producing schemes tend to bring you a flash of traffic and then nothing. Expanding an audience on the other hand, is more concerned with long-term engaged readers and in this post I will show you how I regularly expand my audience in two quick hours.

They Key Is Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is one of the best blogging-moves I ever did because it exposed my blog to readers who were interested in my niche, therefore creating engaged, loyal readers. It's important to note that my traffic doesn't necessarily increase a whole lot when I guest blog. That's OK though, because that's not necessarily my main objective.

What does increase is levels of engagement with my blog (ie. emails, comments, etc.) and RSS feed subscriptions also significantly increase. More RSS feed readers usually mean more engaged, loyal readers which ultimately produce a long term traffic bonanza.

When I first thought about guest blogging I was really skeptical and nervous...why would anyone publish my guest post? So I'm sure many of you are feeling the same way right now. I learned a few things along the way and I can show you how I did it. Plan on dedicating 2 hours to this process and I guarantee you'll get your guest post published!

First 45 Minutes - Relevant Research

The first 45 minutes of this process are the most crucial. I want you to spend 45 minutes researching which blogs you will submit a guest post to. There are a few specific things that I want you to focus on here, the main thing being RELEVANCY!

The goal of the 45 minutes is to find blogs that feature similar content as that of your potential guest post.

This point is so fundamental and important that I am shocked that people underestimate it. If you blog about quick semi-homemade dinners made from canned food, then that awesome blog about fresh seasonal local food is probably not the best fit for your post about 10 canned cream of mushroom soup dinners. Find blogs that feature similar content and your post is most likely to get published.

Also, notice whether they have a guest blogging submission guideline. Many blogs have these in their "about" pages. Have they published guest blogs in the past? If so, they are more likely to publish yours.

The whole point of this process is to find blogs that are likely to publish a guest post so that your chances of getting published increase substantially. Relevant content is key!

1 Hour - Writing

Ok, so some of you might need more time to write a post...take more time if you need to. This hour is dedicated to writing the post. Again, make sure you stay relevant to the target blog's content. Be as specific as possible. I have received countless of guest posts that have nothing to do with my blogs....the only "relevant" content is that the posts were somehow related to food. That's not enough! Would your post seamlessly fit into their blog? Does your post expand on a topic present in the blog? Does it fill a void?

Along with writing the post make sure to have all pictures and formatting ready to go. You want to make the process as easy as possible for the blog owner.

15 Minutes - Email Blog

The last 15 minutes are dedicated to crafting an email to send to the blog owner. The email should be short, but courteous and should contain these key bits of information:
-A brief introduction of you and your blog
-A brief explanation about how your post is relevant to their blog
-Your contact information
-The actual post with attached images

Again, keep it short. I would write something like this:

My name is ________ and I am the author of ____________. I am writing you to submit a guest post for your consideration. I've been a fan of your blog and think that my post about __________ would really appeal to your readers because you tend to post about_______________. Attached you will find the post with pictures. I am very open to suggestions and am open to editing if need be. Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you for considering my post.

Feel free to use this as a template and edit or expand it.

So that's it! Have any of you had experience with guest posts? I would love readers to share their experiences in the comments.