Confessions of a Food Photographer

Food photography through the yearsDid 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.

Food photography from 2010Here 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.

Food photography from 2011Here 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!)

Food photography from 2012I 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. 

Food photography from 2013In 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. 

Springrolls 2014Churros 2014Quinoa falafel 2014Pineapple fried rice pizza 2014Strawberry pie 2014Quiche 2014This 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:

101 Cookbooks
A Cozy Kitchen
Annie's Eats
Cake Spy
David Lebovitz
Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Holly Neufeld
Joy the Baker
Martha Stewart
Matt Armendariz
Mimi Thorisson
Minimalist Baker
Seven Spoons
Smitten Kitchen
Sprinkle Bakes
Sprouted Kitchen
The Pioneer Woman
and many, many more!!!!

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. 

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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 🙂

    – Emi

  • 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.

  • Love photos of food 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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
    Emma, thank you for the inspiration and sharing! <3

  • Nice progress… I so want to try all those meals 🙂
    I am just concern about something, every time you said you got a new camera, your photos were looking much nicer, so it makes me wonder, what were your old cameras and the new one you use now.
    I love the lighting you conquer in the last photos. Well done!

  • Wonderful! I would love to hear your photography tips! Please do a post on them! 🙂 xo


  • Ahh, I’m so inspired to keep taking pictures. It was nice to see your journey through food photography. Hopefully, my pictures can look like yours one day! xoxo

  • Fun post! Photography is such a perfect hobby to compare your growth in. I agree that some of my own photos are a bit embarrassing from the past, but its that whole process that gets you where you are today. So I’m thankful for those night time flash in the kitchen shots, no matter how awful they are! haha!
    I’d just like to add a book and blogger/photographer to your list – Helene Dujardin from Her book Plate to Pixel ( ) has been SO helpful for things like styling and lighting. Have you seen her work before or the book?

  • I dig this post and all of the throw back photos too! Some of my earlier ones are embarrassingly bad but I believe that all it takes is some effort and you can do anything you want. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • As someone just starting out on a blogging adventure, this post is fab. It took me a long time to get over the it has to be perfect thing and just get started. But start I have and I can only hope I can look back and be as happy with what I’ve done as you so rightly are.


  • These are great photos here. I like how you used the napkins. I will pin this post as I try to style my food but am usually starving by the time it’s on the dish and the keiki and kahuna are hungered by then as well.

  • Love the list of other blogs at the end, really nice when people rep others for their work. Just a shame only a few use Bloglovin, which is my preferred reading tool.

  • I NEEDED this today, I really did! I’m still using my first “real” camera, a refurbished 2003 thingy, and for the past year I’ve been trying so hard to improve my food photography. I’m at that point where I know to use daylight (windows!) for my photos, and I’ve started experimenting with backdrops, cloths, etc. Thank you so much for being so inspirational!!

    <3 dani

  • Such an interesting post. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed the quick journey 🙂

  • I love the development of your skills! Hopefully I can be as good as you one day.

  • This post has made me feel so much better, because my photography is the one thing I’m trying to improve on my blog. I don’t have a really pretty house for photos (student housing eh) and the lighting is terrible, so this gives me hope to keep improving!

    India / Touchscreens & Beautyqueens

  • Emma, great post! I personally would love to read a post about food photography tips and tricks. I’m one of those people that’s always taking photos of my meals and own creations for Instagram, and I try hard to make the styling and composition attractive and interesting, but it’s a lot harder than it seems!

  • Thank you so much for this! I would love to hear more about camera settings, backgrounds you use, lighting, etc… I started a food blog a few months ago and I am so in LOVE! I am dying to learn as much as I can! if anyone wants to check it out! 😉

  • I always love these personal posts about your journeys as bloggers. What’s really stuck in my head is how you only spent $150 per month on groceries!? Granted, I live in NYC so everything’s more expensive, but I spend more on that on 2 weeks’ worth. I’m sure I could spend less. Could you maybe do a breakdown post on what you buy at the market and what recipes they’re used for? That would be such a big help!

  • Such a fun post! I love seeing bloggers progression, it’s so inspiring to me!! So, thank you! And three cheers for not giving up, because seriously I drool over all your foods posts 🙂

  • Hey Emma, thanks so much for this post – I’m doing lots of practice food photography right now as I get ready to start a blog later this year, and your “just do it” advice is super encouraging! I’ve been using my sister’s DSLR camera but I recently moved interstate so now I only have my iPhone. It’s time I invested in my own camera – I’d love to know what camera you’re using now? And what photography gear do you regularly use for food photography?

  • This is an amazing post, I like to think in a few years my recipes will have improved equally as much as my photo taking.

    I have a request too, I am a savory breakfast lover and would like some quick recipes for a rushed morning. I have a recipe for a breakfast salad on my blog, and pretty much just eat that, your southwest eggs, or hommus on toast.

    If you have any other quick savory breakfast ideas I would love to know 🙂



    (also you are a massive inspiration for me Emma, thanks for being so awesome)

  • I really loved this post, mostly because I work for a Food Photographer and so we are CONSTANTLY looking at food photography for inspiration and ideas. There are a few really amazing magazines that always have really great food styling:
    Sweet Paul Magazine (which is run by a stylist)
    Donna Hay Magazine
    Delicious Magazine

    and there’s a really beautiful cookbook called “Manresa” that I would suggest for for inspiration. 🙂

    This was a really great post, I really love your styling progression, Congrats on 5 years!

    – Pamela

  • Yes! Please post more DSLR camera tips! What type of camera do you use? I’m the same as you, just purchased a Lumix GF6- my first “real” camera besides a point-and-shoot, and started a blog to share photos and experiences in my life. I am always looking for tips and ways to improve my photography since I am just a beginner! Finding and capturing good light is definitely my biggest struggle right now. Thanks and love your blog!

  • @Melinda — this is an old post from a blog I used to run that you might find useful! It’s not super technical, but you might find it useful.

  • Thanks for sharing! Yes, would love to hear some tips about amateur food photography (both iphone and dslr). Specifically:

    – Using natural light to your best advantage
    – Using props/styling backgrounds and food (how to, good sources of pretty props, basic rules of thumb)
    – Which angles to use to get different looks
    – Perhaps some good online references that you might have used to develop your skills that we can look at as well?
    – Also, just the process of how you develop recipes (when did you go from adapting established recipes to coming up with your own; what is the process of testing recipes before they make it onto the blog)

    Thank you so much!! You guys make such an amazing contribution to the internet/our lives!

  • What a journey! I look back at my old food photos and have a little bit of a cringe-moment too! You’ve come so deliciously far!
    Bec x

  • I love this!! I am a huge fan of ABM and of your food photography. I would love to know how to get the wonderful blur around the outside of the image you are focusing on with my iPhone 5 camera. I have used blur apps before but they don’t seem as precise and perfect as your photos. Thank you so much!!

  • Your journey is amazing, congrats on developing your photography skills! Your color and white balance is so sharp and crisp – I love it!

  • I loved this article SO much. I’ve started a food/style blog and being a perfectionist is something that I struggle with. If I could’ve read this article 3 years ago, I’d probably be where I want to be already! I would love to get some tips and tricks from you. The food is one of my favorite things about this blog. Love you guys!

  • I’d love to see a post on how you get such bright and colorful food photos! Maybe some ideas too on how you change up the styling for each recipe and what your thought process is behind that.

  • What a fun post and as a foodblogger I can really relate. Great idea to put it all side by side and see how far you’ve come.

  • I loved what you said about not waiting for perfection to start. I battle this all the time and I can see where it would be easy to not begin as the internet is full of beautiful ‘professional’ content. But like the old saying practice makes perfect. I’m learning as I go but at least I am going. I hope to one day look back and see as much change in my photography. Now, I’m hungry after looking at all those photos. 🙂

  • fantastic! it’s fun seeing how things change over the years.

    xo, rn

  • Great post. Always encouraging seeing others improve and knowing that you too can improve. What camera do you have now and what did you have before?

  • It is amazing to see one’s transformations over there years! Bravo on blogging for 5 years!

  • This post is amazing! I’m a 14-year old foodblogger with no skills at all, so mine look like 2009… Very recently, I started using a real camera instead of my iPhone and that luckily that has made a difference. As for the post, I would love to see overall food photography tips (I know you already have one)! 😉

    Also, what is the link to Emma’s foodblog? I can’t seem to find it… Thanks!

  • This made me go back and look at my old recipes… and they are WAY more “embarrassing” than yours!! We all have to start somewhere though! I used and still use my iPhone to photograph all my food, and use Pic Tap Go for filters which is a gem. Most times I just use the “lights on” filter and it does the trick!!

  • Wow, pretty incredible to see how much you’ve progressed! Good for you, you’re doing great work!

  • this is so fun to read! i’m always pretty insecure about the photos i post of my baked goods, but you totally inspired me to just practice more and more 🙂
    xo, cheyenne

  • Wow! It’s so fantastic to see how far you’ve come in five years. A real inspiration and I’m already getting some ideas!

  • This is so inspiring, Emma.. I have passion for cooking which is quite recent, and getting into food photography, this came in the right time to motivate me.. just learn as you go is the best advice ever..!


  • This is amazing! I don’t think your photos in the beginning were even that bad – sure, they’re improved, but they’ve always been good! I love the varieties of napkins you have used. I need to find some new and funky patterns! I would love to see you shoot some photos outside and play around with the natural elements 🙂

  • Wow, you have really come a long way. Congrats on five years! May the next five be even better than the first.

  • I think you are TOTALLY right when you said that your old photos weren’t even that bad! You already had a great eye, you just needed the right resources.

  • Which ABM photoshop actions are your favorite to use on food photos?

  • I love seeing the growth in your work through photos! My mom was a chef and food stylist. It’s such a fun and interesting field! Although, her food styling was purely for photographing so much of it was completely inedible (paint, needles holding things together etc…)

  • Thank you so much for sharing, Emma! This really gives me hope that I will improve as a new photographer and blogger. I just have to keep at it and not give up :). Your photos are gorgeous!


  • This was a nice post, thank you for sharing. Its a friendly reminder that we all need to start somewhere. I don’t even own a DSLR camera yet and my kitchen is in the basement (say buh bye to lighting), but it didnt stop my friend and I from starting our blog anyway. We find ways to be creative (take iPhone snapshot classes, bring the food to the living room next to the window with natural light, etc…) and its working for us until we keep developing and improving ourselves and our style 🙂

  • I take most of my food photographs outside because my flat is quite dark at the moment. This is probably my top tip to be honest. In the summer, outdoor food photographs look great!

    Owl Girl | A London lifestyle blog

  • This is such an awesome post Emma! You have always been an inspiration to me with your food photography and of course lovely recipes! You are actually one of the reasons why I started my food blog with my friend. How are you getting so much light in all your photos? Is that purely editing software, or do you have specific lighting techniques? I love how light and airy all your photos are and was hoping to achieve that (and help my blog partner achieve that in her photos.) What camera do you currently have?

    I will have to check out A Beautiful Mess Actions!

  • Thanks so much for this post! I’ve just started blogging this year and have already learned so much already, it’s so nice to know that all food bloggers go through the same thing, a
    Though I think I’ve a long way to go yet! Thanks!

  • Love to see this progress you made through the year. Amazing photos! Very inspiring! xx

  • It’s fun to look at the progression! I know I wouldn’t dare look back at some of my posts from 2009…yikes!

  • Thanks for sharing! I will share this my cousin who is in culinary school. He wants to start a food blog in the near future.

  • My how you’ve progressed! Your photos keep getting more and more beautiful and well composed. Thanks for including me! I’m honored to be on that impressive list!

  • Your photography is an inspiration, thanks for sharing!! Now, Where can I find the recipe for that delicious looking onion bloom?

  • Great post!! I am new to food blogging this year and am still using a point and shoot camera (albeit a good one)! I am saving up for a DSLR and am using every other trick out there right now to maximize what I have to work with (natural light, cropping, ABM photo actions, etc). I am looking forward to what I really can do once I get better equipment!!

  • Love seeing the journey! I’m only 3 months into food blogging (just did a post about reaching that milestone, actually), so I’m still at those early stages of the process. Some DSLR tips and tricks would be much appreciated!

  • I am pretty bad at food photography! Somehow I make the most delicious things look like crap. Please help me out! I’d love a tips post on angles to use and how to make it look appetizing.

  • I love this post so much! my photography is the major thing i’m trying to improve right now so it’s always heartening to see how others have improved over the years 🙂

  • great post. as someone who is just beginning to experiment with both cooking and blogging (though no food blogging yet), it is nice to see how much progress you have made and to read about your journey a long the way. thanks for the food blog suggestions, i’m a huge fan of Annie’s Eats but I’m going to give a few others a look-see too!

    xo, toolie.

  • do you mind me asking what camera you have? i am actually in the market for a dslr and would love suggestions! thank you!

  • What are those impressive looking twisty things from 2010!? They are awesome!

  • Regardless of the photo quality…I am hungry. Thank you for sharing your journey! I think so many people in the blog-world get caught up in perfection, creating the perfect image, hiding the less-than-flattering portions of their blogging experience, etc. Thank you for sharing all of your moments! It’s a great reminder that one should always follow their passions, even if they don’t have the time/money/equipment to do it exactly how they want right then and there!

    The What’s In Between

  • Hi Emma,

    I’ve loved watching your journey on ABM the past few years and love that you mentioned A Cozy Kitchen (food + good senses of humor = best food blogs!) I was wondering what camera you’d recommend for an inexperienced photographer wanting to do lifestyle shots? I’m sure you guys have talked about this on ABM before but I couldn’t find it in my searches.

  • Your photography improved so much! I have always found your photos beautiful.

    Beauty and Lifestyle Blog


  • I would love to learn tips and tricks to styling and lighting 🙂

  • ABM actions really are incredible! I use them to edit almost every photo on my blog and often mix and match them, using more than one on a photo to get the effect I’m looking for. Thanks for sharing this post, Emma! It’s so cool to see how far you’ve come, and it gives me hope for my own food photography skills, haha.


  • Thanks for sharing your art this 5 years!

  • it was really nice to see the transition…your pictures are so gorgeous!!!

  • Re. the point and shoot question, it would be quite interesting to figure out how to ‘trick’ your point and shoot or phone camera to give you shallow DOF. It can be done if the subject is really close to the camera and the background is really far away. Now there’s a challenge for you…

    If you’re not bothered about shallow depth of field (e.g. you take most of your photos from above), then a point and shoot is more than enough. It’s the styling that matters.

  • The journey has been a very good one indeed! We all have to start somewhere and you’ve come a really long way Emma! I particularly enjoy “Bakerella” from your list. 🙂 The no bake cookies in the 2009 collage looks so yummy!

  • Very inspiring post! Ive been struggling with photography for years and so I leave it behind come back it leave it again… Its inspiring ti see that sticking to it can have results. I would love to see posts on the different aspects of the photo: styling, lighting, composition, editing, etc. I think a post comparing two shots would be useful (a good shot and a bad one for instance) to illustrate a point. Thanks so much for your help! Ps. What is your new camera?

  • So inspiring Emma! I would really really really enjoy reading a post on the more technical ways of doing food photography, how to use props and place the food, etc..
    THANKS Kelyna xx

  • I love the historical perspective too. I really appreciate that the tips for success you share on here are ones you’ve followed yourself – like not waiting for perfection. It’s really inspiring to see your development and to be reminded you didn’t start out perfect. I’d love to see you try some of the Sprinkle Bakes type recipes – I think it’d be awesome to see some of the artistic things you share here combined with your cooking. And I’m not sure of anything specific, but I always love seeing photography tips.

  • I love this post. Your food photos always inspire me so much so it gives me so much motivation to keep learning and growing my own skills seeing how far you’ve come in just a few years 🙂

  • Hi Emma, I really enjoyed your post and I’d love to read more tips!
    I’m going to take some photos of a dish I’ll cook for a special day, but unfortunately I only own an iPhone, so I’d really appreciate some suggestion about food photography, I really start from scratch!

    Thank you 🙂

  • I love seeing this journey! It encourages me to continue striving to make improvements in my photography. Currently, I’m just using my iPhone with Photojojo lense attachments. (The whole angle of my blog is that everyone can do “adulty” things without spending tons of moolah, so I haven’t invested in a new camera as of yet.)

    I know Elsie has posted some great iPhone photo tips/tricks, but I’d love to hear your perspective since you focus a lot on food blogging.

    Also, I would love reading a post on how you approach food styling for photos with high impact, like the churros or spring rolls pictured above.

    Thanks, as always I love reading your stuff!

    Emma P.

  • I care less about the photography (no offense!) and more about the food! What are those asparagus wrapped things? &what’s in the bottem right corner of the 2012/2013 collage? Must know! They looks so yummy and interesting!!

    Thanks for sharing, Emma!! 🙂

  • Can you recommend any vegetarian blogs? I know you do a lot of vegetarian recipes but I find myself repeating a lot!

  • I love the journey in photos! It’s comforting to see that for everyone it’s a journey and to not knock yourself when you are beginning, because you are at least beginning and trying. I would love any tips, I especially love the tips/tricks for phone photography since that’s what I use mostly now. I have a DSLR also but I just don’t travel with it that often. Elsie’s recent quick tips for improving photos boosting the brightness/contract (I also boost tinker with shadows/highlights too) have instantly transported my photos since then up at least 2 levels. I would love more tips! Teach us your ways! 🙂

  • I appreciate you having this post. In my mind, I just assume successful blogs have always had perfect photos. It’s really interesting to see the progress that happens through perseverance. Definitely a helpful post!

  • I love this, Emma! I remember when you posted about your food photography progress back in the day on your Food Coma blog. I thought it was really encouraging. It’s always fun to look back and feel good about where you are now— even when, as you said, your earlier stuff really wasn’t that bad. 🙂

  • Hi Emma,

    I’d love to learn more about food styling. Yours is one of my all-time favorites. Lately I’ve been struggling with making the background of my images look good. I can’t spend a huge amount of time staging food photos on top of all the time spent actually cooking and cleaning, but maybe you have some easy tips. When I try to take a shot facing the food, with the camera lens perpendicular to the ground, I end up with a lot of my kitchen cluttering up the background of the shot. Is there a fix? I tried placing a board behind the dish, but it makes weird shadows.

    I also try taking shots from overhead, but sometimes the dish looks wonky and the composition just isn’t so great. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them! Maybe I just need cuter dishes . . .

    Thanks so much!

  • Thank you so much for showing your journey. It can be frustrating as a new-ish blogger to see all of these beautiful images. It is nice to be reminded that everyone had to start somewhere! The important part is how hard we work to get where we want to be!

    Keep up the amazing work!

    Rebecca | The Peach Bellini

  • I remember reading your cooking blog sooooo long ago! I had a ton of the recipes bookmarked and everything! It’s crazy to go back in my own journey and see how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go. What kind of camera are you using now? Right now I use a Canon 60D and I love it, but I want to get even more serious and am considering a second camera body.


  • Wow, you have a lot of favourite cookbooks! That means you cooked a lot, of course 😉 Thanks for sharing these photos, it was so fun to see them!

  • This was a great post! I love how open and honest you are. I’m learning how to cook vegan recipes and do food photography. Not for my blog though. I want to make a family cookbook. Do you think you’d ever consider creating a cookbook, Emma? I’d buy it! You’d be great at it 🙂


    Laurali Star

  • This is so inspiring! You’ve come such a long way. I love that you mentioned not waiting to be perfect. If you wait for that, you’ll never begin 🙂

    xo, erica

  • You have come a long way! I always love your food pics! I hope I can say the same for myself in five years!

  • 5 years? Congratulations! What a milestone!

    Love from Germany,


  • Emma you are great!
    Learning by Doing.
    I love it.
    And i love your pictures, so much.

    Greetings & Food Love

  • I love seeing the transformation! It’s very encouraging and just awesome. I struggle with light in my house/kitchen when I photograph anything (real wood paneled walls.. beautiful but dark). If you have any tips for that, I’m all ears 🙂

  • I just upgrade recently to a Canon 5D Mark III. It’s easily the nicest camera I’ve ever owned. Before this I had a Canon 60D and I loved it too, I still use that one when I go on trips and weekend adventures.


  • Great post!! I love seeing you evolution. I would really like for you to do a more photography and styling intensive post. I struggle with my pics.

  • I would love a post about photography tips and tricks! Although it was awesome to see how you started off before and compare to where you are now. It definitely gives me hope for the future!

  • I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂


  • Ha! Really I’m just trying to get you all to give me your good ideas. You guys have so many awesome ideas and questions and we LOVE hearing them in case it’s something we feel we could blog about. Plus I can only think and ask question from my own perspective, so really that’s pretty limited. You all are likely to have about a million different perspectives so hearing how you approach photography and what you are curious about is always super fun to see.


  • Can you link to the no-bake cookies?!?!?! I feel like they used to serve those in the caf in college and I would grab like 100 of them.

  • I like that idea too. The only point and shoot I own is my iPhone. If you don’t mind my asking, what point and shoot do you use and love?


  • You know, actually I don’t think it’s on ABM. I should re-make that post so we’ll have that recipe in our archives. It’s really my mother’s recipe with one minor tweak.

    I’ll take any excuse to make cookies so you’ll likely see those on the blog soon. 🙂


  • Love that post idea. I’ll have to think on it, but very fun concept.

    Thank you!

  • Oh my gosh! This is a real feast for the eyes! Amazing photos!

  • Wow, what a difference. Some of those recipe sites are my favourites too.

  • Such a difference yet even the first set don’t look bad at all! Congratulations your 5 year anniversary and I hope there is much more to come! 🙂

  • Such an amazing journey, thanks for sharing! I also love your list of food blogs that inspire you – I see a few I don’t recognize, so I’ll be busy today! I also recently discovered a newish food blog which is really cool – the Brooklyn Homemaker. Really beautiful and a cool history of each recipe. I’m a sucker for a little historical perspective!

  • This was a great post, Emma! While I don’t fit food photography as much as I would like into my life schedule (think: job, kid, husband…late dinners), when I do, I reference your posts & photography for inspiration (and of course recipes)!


  • Wow! The difference is stunning! I liked seeing the journey.

    Emma, do you really have to ask? (Yes, I do want tricks and tips and more)

  • Thanks for all the great new blog reads I’ve just found, and for sharing all these pictures; it has been amazing to see your journey!

    And I really feel that having your own kitchen helps you get more into the feel of it all and into the swing of all you baking. While I know my photography have been getting better and better since I moved back in with my parents a few months ago, I don’t feel nearly as much creative urge to experiment and bake aside from the things I eat day to day than when I was in my Westwood CA kitchen, which was the last proper kitchen I really had to myself.

  • I wish there were some how to make the most of your point and shoot blogs or at least entries around, because it’s always very disheartening when I open a photography blog and it starts with setting the shutter speed and the aperture, which I can’t, since I only have a point and shoot. But it’s a good one, so it’s a shame no one teaches how to make the most of them.

  • congrats on your food blogging anniversary! that’s a great list of inspiring blogs.

  • Wow, amazing improvements! Beautiful pictures, I believe there will be more artistic findings throughout the next few years 🙂
    Also, I think it’d be really interesting if you could share what things you wish you’d learned sooner about photography? Thanks in advance!

  • I love this! I love how honest you are and this post is also a great teaching tool! I can see in your early days there was not much use of different plates or backgrounds and you are so great at that now. Thanks so much for sharing this!!

  • Love this post so much! It’s incredible how your photography has improved Emma. I think that’s one of my favorite things about having a blog, you get to go back (sort of like traveling back in time:) ) and look at how much progress you have made and how much you have learned over the years. It’s so, so cool. Reading your post about “5 secrets to success” I couldn’t agree more about “starting now”. That very much applies to life overall, not just blogging. If you wait for a “perfect moment” you may end up waiting forever ;). I don’t think you should be embarrassed about those old photos one bit! You should be proud and show them off. Your photography now is incredible, every single recipe you post always looks so appetizing and beautiful. I don’t think it can get much better than it is now!


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