Did you know that in a few short weeks I'll be celebrating five years of food blogging? Sometimes when you hit milestones it's fun to take a look back and remember how far you've traveled. So, in honor of five years of cooking, eating, learning, and photographing my food like a weirdo, I thought I'd put together a little mini tour of how my food photography has grown and evolved over the years.
As you can see in the above collage, it has been quite the journey. I've learned tons along the way! As I look through these photos, two things stick out in my mind. Do you remember my article about 5 secrets to success? Well, one of my tips was "don't wait for perfection." As you can see, when it comes to food blogging, I did not. Ha! I was passionate about it, and I just went for it. And although many of these photos sort of embarrass me now, I'm so glad I didn't wait on perfection, and I just took the leap! I would not be where I am today if I hadn't.
Another tip I shared was to "start now." When I started food blogging I had a very old hand-me-down DSLR camera, I had a TINY kitchen I shared with two roommates, I didn't have any fancy dishes or food styling props, I was not by any stretch of the imagination a pro chef, and my grocery budget was somewhere around $150 a month. I had a million reasons not to start food blogging right then. But again, I did anyway, and I am SO glad I did.
Okay, so without further ado, let's look at some dingy food photos. Ha! Note: I did not edit any of these, other than cropping to fit into collages, from their original, published state.
Here we are in 2009. I was living in the heart of Hollywood, CA. I actually remember eating all of these dishes. That cauliflower curry number in the bottom right side, although not a great photo, was super delicious. I've also always loved no-bake cookies (top right) and still use the exact same recipe from this post to this day.
I also remember I was checking out every single cookbook my local library had. I was obsessed!
Honestly, these photos aren't that bad. I knew to always find the best light. I can tell I took all these photos near a window during the day. So, no crazy dark night photography here. I didn't really use Photoshop very much except to re-size images to fit on my blog. I didn't have a lot of ideas for food styling yet. But, you can tell I was trying, because I know I propped up that stuffed pepper to look just so. I can see the effort; just all the pieces weren't quite there yet.
Here we are in 2010. I guess you can't really tell from these photos, but I had already improved my cooking skills about 100%. I was beginning to develop my own style and taste too.
I can tell I was still finding the best light I could, and I was trying different angles, tilting things in the photos to try and give them an interesting perspective. I still wasn't using Photoshop very much. During this year I also moved back to Missouri and was living at my parents' house. I can always tell in the photos, because I can see my mom's cloth napkins and dishes that I was using. (Thank you for your support and taste testing over the years, Mom and Dad!)
I liked 2011. It was a good year. I got a new camera! About half way through the year I bought my house and had a whole new setup in my very own kitchen to work out of. I had gotten to a place where I felt really comfortable in the kitchen and began experimenting with more baking (lots of bread that year!) and using all sorts of different flours. I should go back to that; it was a good time.
My food styling looks to be improving. I can tell I was working hard to add color, patterns, and just more dimension to my food styling. I had also made some improvements in my Photoshop skills and was practicing using my new camera lots. This was also the year I started doing more content on ABM, as opposed to just my own food blogs.
In 2012 and 2013 I was doing more and more here on ABM and had really gotten a better feel for recipe development, styling, and photography. I think this is when it ALL finally clicked. I still was working on making the whole process consistent every time, but I guess in some ways I still am today.
This past year a big change was I upgraded my camera. Also I started using the A Beautiful Mess actions in every photo, and they are SO good! I feel like I should be allowed to brag about them since it was really Elsie and Sarah who developed them.
Any time you get a new device it takes a while to get used to the settings, so it was a good time to refresh and learn more in those areas. I'm also trying out different backgrounds and looking to give my photos different composition. I've been playing around with negative space and how it can add weight to an image.
Blah, blah, blah, art and stuff. 🙂
This article has been more about my journey rather than photography tips and tricks, I realize. Do you all want to hear about more specific photography tips/tricks (for Smartphone + DSLR cameras)? Let me know if you have something you'd like to learn.
Nothing would please me more than to point out a few cooking, baking, food photography heroes in my life. I've been devouring cookbooks and food blogs for many years now, and I've learned so much from this community. Here are a few of my favorites:
A Cozy Kitchen
Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Joy the Baker
The Pioneer Woman
and many, many more!!!!
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman.
For still life photography, food makes an excellent subject. Artistic results can be achieved incredibly by it. It is just like any other photography genre. To make the most of the stunning textures, colors and shapes, certain rules need to be followed. To create beautiful still life photos, good light is the key. In natural day light shooting your food is always a better option rather than under artificial light.https://www.halfcircles.in/Food-Photography.html
I love this post! Especially for how vulnerable you were, showing photos you took in the beginning. We all have to start somewhere and it’s nice to see how much you’ve progressed, providing hope to those just starting out. This was a great read. Thanks for sharing!
Just checked out a bunch of your blog posts and absolutely love how much you’ve progressed with photography! I’d love to see an updated food photography blog post and take a look at your whole setup. I am trying to become a better food photgrapher myself so it would help me a lot!
Amazed by your photography skills. Loved the use of lighting and focus. Hoping more posts. 🙂
I am really glad to see the skills of food photographers. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.
Wow! amazing to see the transformation! You give me so much hope and inspiration and I cannot wait to start my own! 🙂
Great tips Candy! What do you do in the winter??
It’s so cool and encouraging to see how much you’ve grown over the past several years and to see, if I keep doing what I’m passionate about, too, (and learning) I could get there too!
Hmm I couldn’t figure out how to do a separate comment because the “Post” and “Preview” buttons were missing below the normal comment box, but I wanted to say this! (sorry natalia h for intruding on your comment!!)
This was so inspiring! Thank you so much for writing about this. I feel really encouraged to just put myself out there more and stop over-thinking everything. It’s so cool to watch how you progressed!! I love that it tells a whole story 🙂
Hey Emma! This is awesome to see how far you’ve come. I have a question…when do you do all your cooking? I feel like if I miss out of the morning light nothing really looks good (picture wise), but I do all my baking/cooking in the afternoons and evenings.
It is fun to see how your photo skills improved – you should be very proud. Your photos are stunning – the colors are clear and vivid and the white balance – perfect! I have a high end camera and my photos have improved since I started blogging, too, but I never seem to be able to get the overall clarity and color pop your photos always have. I would love to know more about your editing process straight out of the camera to the photos that end up on your blog. I have taken all your courses and downloaded your actions to PSE – love them all. You two are the best!!!
This is such great advice! I feel like waiting for “perfection”, holds a lot of bloggers back from moving forward. Thank you for sharing. It’s very inspirational. 🙂
I enjoy your “journey posts”. I appreciate the honesty but most of all I feel I can relate to a lot of what you write and it helps me to look differently at my own (very different) journey.
I have a question, though: you have written in the past about you “previous live” and how things changed for the better for you, and now you wrote this post about your photography journey during the past 5 years. Five years is a lot of time, and even though the overall trend was “up” and “improvement”,I’m sure there were times when you were less motivated by what you do. I’m sure it’s true for both of you.
So my question is how you deal with these harder times? when you’re less motivated?
I’m asking because I’m going through something like this in my own day-job, which I LOVE but I find difficult and frustrating sometimes (I’m a PHD student in neurobiology)
I second that no bake hope! I can’t wait to see them on the site;) My pregnant mouthed just watered looking at them! Congrats on your food-blogging-photography-anniversary, and the list of cookbooks is awesome.
I’d love to hear more about how you set up the lighting — do you only shoot at certain times of day? Is it possible to ‘fake’ the lighting so you can work at night? Food styling is a big one too — tips and tricks, favourite props, how you keep everything organized, etc.
Happy to help with ideas! That post would help so much for a photographer-wannabe people like me, haha.
I loved this post! x
I really, really like this post. I’ve been trying to blog more of my recipes and take appropriate pics. It’s really hard! I definitely need to buy some props (just moved overseas so I sold everything before I left) as the counter tops in the kitchen here are dark grey and all the plates are white.
Love photos of food 🙂
Very interesting article! Your blog has become an inspiration to me! Now I, too, cooking and writing recipes for the blog. One of my successful recipes, who won in the competition http://www.stacyco.blogspot.ru/2014/08/fruit-crumble.html
Emma, thank you for the inspiration and sharing! <3