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Episode 172: Instagram Growth Strategies for 2021 with Lexi Harrison

In episode 172 we talk with Lexi Harrison, half of a mom/daughter blogging duo who shares some techniques they’ve found success with on Instagram.

We cover information about how important improving your photography skills are key, how a variety of formats helps you attract people and how there’s value in growing a following on the social platform!

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Crowded Kitchen
Website | Instagram | Facebook

Bio
Lexi co- founded Crowded Kitchen in 2017 with her mom Beth. This mom and daughter duo share plant-based recipes with a focus on easy, nutritious weeknight meals. Lexi is also a full-time professional food photographer with several clients in the food and beverage industries.

Takeaways

  • Always be improving your skills for Instagram – from learning about hashtags, putting your best photography up and engaging with brands.
  • Investing in your photography skills and editing is worth it.
  • Download your favorite photographers presets so you can see how they achieve great pictures and then find your style.
  • Use a variety of styles on IG – still photos (portait, landscape, close up crops, hero shots, etc), stop motion videos, reels, longer form videos, carousels, etc.
  • Try to post 2x a day on Instagram.
  • Share 1-2x on Instastories a day; anything basic to personal touches based on your comfort level with sharing.
  • Repost popular content to garner traffic.
  • There are benefits to keeping your captions short and sweet and other times a little more detailed. Experiment with this.
  • Change up props to get people paying attention to your account and refresh your own inspiration.
  • Hashtags can be valuable. Lexi uses 10 basic that always apply to their account and 10-15 that are specific to the recipe/season/style of food.

Lexi’s Editing Recommendations in Lightroom:

Always bump up the exposure based on how the lighting was that day. Turn the highlights down, the shadows up. Whites up and blacks down, to create contrast. A really important editing tool is clarity; it’ll make your photo a lot more crisp and lifelike. Bump that up to at least 30. Then from there, play around with the colors.

The most important tool is the masking and brush tool, which allows you to focus on certain parts of the photo and really bring out different colors or to brighten specific parts of the photo, while you leave the rest of it the same. This is what helps you make a photo focus in one specific area instead of just having a flat, basic frame.

Want To Learn More About Pinterest?

Work on building up your following on Pinterest by adapting to improvements shared by Melissa Megginson in episode 152.

Transcript

Click for full text.

Intro:

Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. And we’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself, because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host, Megan Porta.

Megan:

Food bloggers. Hey, are you looking for new ways to make money as a blogger? If so, we have got your back. We have launched an ebook called Conversations On Monetization. Inside this resource, we take your favorite podcast episodes about monetization, and we put them all in one easy accessible package. We threw a few exclusive interviews in as well. Friends, there are so many ways to monetize your food blog. Inside this ebook, we have interviews with success stories like Todd Bullock, Alyssa Brantley, Kelly McNelis, Jena Carlin, and more. All of these examples have become successful through completely different monetization strategies. Whether you are a brand new blogger looking for your very first revenue stream, or you are a seasoned pro wanting to diversify, this ebook is for you. Go to eatblogtalk.com to grab your copy and we can’t wait to hear your success story with monetization.

Hey, food bloggers. Welcome to Eat Blog Talk. This podcast is for you, food bloggers wanting value and clarity to help you find greater success in your business. Today I’m so excited. I get to spend a little bit of time talking to Lexi Harrison from crowdedkitchen.com. We are going to chat about how to grow on Instagram in 2021. Also how photography plays a role. Lexi co founded Crowded Kitchen in 2017 with her mom, Beth. This mom and daughter duo share plant-based recipes with a focus on easy nutritious weeknight meals. Lexi is also a full-time professional food photographer with several clients in the food and beverage industries. Lexi, I am really excited to dive into this today with you, but first we all want to hear your fun fact.

Lexi:

Hi, thank you so much for having me. Really excited to chat about Instagram today. I know it’s a much desired topic. My fun fact, growing up my family actually hosted eight exchange students from seven different countries and they each lived with us for a year at a time. So now I have eight sisters all over the world, which is just a really cool thing. It’s been amazing.

Megan:

I think that’s such a gift for parents who have the capacity to do something like that, to give to their children. I know some families from my childhood that did the same thing. They just liked that. They enjoyed inviting people from different parts of the world in, and having them as part of their family for a period of time. They thrived. Those families rocked it. They were so awesome. Do you find that you keep in touch with all of them or are there a few that are favorites?

Lexi:

No, I definitely keep in touch with some more than others. We started when I was in second grade and the last one we had was my senior year of high school. They were all about 16 when they lived with us. So of course the ones that were older, when I was in high school, I’m a little bit closer with, because we have more in common. But I still keep in touch with four or five of them super regularly. Three of them came to my wedding a few years ago, so that was really awesome.

Megan:

Oh, that’s so cool. Do you have places to go visit right in other parts of the world?

Lexi:

We visited several of them and it’s been absolutely incredible every time.

Megan:

Oh, I love it. This is why I like doing fun facts because this is something that I probably would never know about you. It just gives me a little extra something. So thank you for sharing that with us. You have a really cool story to share about the way you and your mom started your business. I’m just going to let you talk through that. If you don’t mind just giving us the scoop on how you started and how it progressed.

Lexi:

I started an Instagram account. We used to be called Super Food Runner back when I was in college, I was on the track and cross country team, which is where the runner part came in. I started it as a passion project. I had some food allergy issues. I went to a very small college, so we didn’t have a lot of dining options. So I started it as a fun thing to do, to document how I was eating as a college athlete. Pretty soon after I started that, I decided to study abroad. My mom coached me in high school, so we’ve always had a super close relationship and we’ve both always been interested in nutrition and she decided on her own to just take some nutrition and photography classes.

She said, I’m totally happy. I’m going to be cooking a lot. I think it fits well with what you’re doing. So I’m totally happy to take over while you’re abroad and just start posting some of the stuff I’m making. So I said, sure. Why not? You know, it’s just for fun. So we started doing that together and then I graduated college that year and started working at a food video company in New York. Over the course of that first year of my career, I was able to develop the skills that I needed in this industry. I learned so much and by the end of the year, my mom and I were still working on this account together. We thought, you know what? I think that we can take this to the next level and really make this work as a full-time business.

I moved back home to Michigan in 2017. We rebranded to Crowded Kitchen that year and we’ve just been doing it ever since then together. So we work together usually about three days a week. We shoot all of our content at her house. She does all of the recipe development for us. I head up the photography, any of the creative stuff and all of the business development. Then my husband very recently joined the team as well. So it’s really a family effort. So definitely always a crowded kitchen. It’s really been just an incredible experience to be able to work with my mom. We’ve developed an even closer relationship and the business has grown tremendously in the course of the last, probably about two years. So that’s where we’re at now.

Megan:

That’s so great. Good for you guys. I love that you guys are a mom daughter team, that does not happen very often. Every once in a while I’ll see that. I’ll be like, that’s so cool. What a great way for you guys to connect. It sounds like you really compliment each other well, as far as what your strengths are. So that’s awesome. I love that. How does your husband fit into it? Did he come in without missing a beat or did it take him a little bit of time to adjust? How did that go?

Lexi:

It happened because of COVID. He started working at home. He used to work in finance and once he started working from home, one of our biggest goals, we’ve only been married for two years. We don’t have any kids or anything, but we’ve always known that we really want to be able to have a specific lifestyle where we have the ability to travel. Obviously not right now, but in the future and just have a really flexible lifestyle. As soon as he started working from home, he said, oh, this is pretty nice. We realized that we could take a little bit of a leap of faith and make it work. It’s been amazing. We’ve grown a lot in the last few months and been able to do a lot of backend stuff on the website, SEO and other stuff that we would not have been able to do. Had he not been a part of the team. So it’s been a,

Megan:

I wonder how many people have flipped over to the entrepreneurial life, just because of COVID. Because people were forced to be at home. I know like my sister, her whole life has loved working. She just loved going to an office. She loves her job. She loves being around people. She likes being downtown. Since COVID, she’s said, I want to stay home. This is amazing. She has started becoming an artist, which never came out of her before. She’s doing all this art and she’s incredible. I don’t think she ever would have learned that if it weren’t for COVID. So it’s one of those happy accidents that came out of a terrible situation. So cool how that worked out for you guys. Okay, let’s talk strategy because clearly you have put together a strategy that really works on Instagram. I love a good strategy. So tell us all of your secrets.

Lexi:

Sure. I’m just going to preface this by saying that it’s definitely not a one size fits all approach. Anybody who says that they’ve mastered the Instagram algorithm is probably lying because nobody really knows what’s going on and it changes so frequently. But I will say that there are several things that we have implemented, in maybe the last six months or so, and we’ve seen definite growth from these things. I was just talking this morning with Food by Maria. I know you had her on the show.

Megan:

Yeah! I love her. She’s awesome.

Lexi:

So we were chatting and she has actually been struggling a little bit with growth on Instagram. She’d asked for a few tips a little while ago and she just messaged me this morning saying wow, I think this is actually working, I’m finally growing.

Now we have two case studies going. So I think these steps hopefully will work for a lot of people. So a few of the things that we focus on, the most important thing to me is that we are continuously improving, pretty much everything but mostly photography. Obviously there’s so much competition on Instagram. I think it’s really important to develop your own personal photography style that helps you stand out amongst the crowd. So over the course of the last few years, I have really tried to continually invest in my photography skills, whether that means just learning about editing, taking courses. We actually went to an amazing in-person workshop about a year and a half ago that was tremendously helpful and also investing in props and backdrops and just really studying the photographers that I admire.

One of the things that helped me a lot early on was downloading presets from my favorite food photographers. When you apply a preset to your photo, you can see how the changes have been made, and just study what changes they were making in their edits to have a certain effect in the photo. That helped me learn how to edit and how to develop my own style and what things in a photo were important to me. That has been super important to us. We’ve definitely noticed that as our photography has improved, we have grown on social media. Another thing that I think has been super important for us over the last few months, is incorporating a variety of content. So instead of just posting still photos, we try to incorporate stop motion videos or longer form videos, or carousels, reels, the whole shebang.

Megan:

Can I stop you just for a second? Can you explain what a stop motion video is?

Lexi:

Yes. So basically stop motion is a bunch of photos that you stitch together into a video. So it has that choppy effect. What’s the word I’m looking for? Basically a little animation and what we use them for is often if it’s a recipe where you’re assembling something. So we recently had a video for Collard Green Wraps and the stop motion was showing each ingredient going in and then showing how to wrap it. So it was really short. I think it was only about 10 seconds, but it was such a fun, little video, such a fun little innovation that it just did insanely well for us.

Megan:

I love those. They’re so appealing and there are not very many of them out there. So when I do see them and I think actually Maria, she does those correct. Every time I see one I think, Oh my gosh, that’s so cool. How do you create those?

Lexi:

So this one that I’m talking about right now was actually an accident. I was just trying to take process photos for my blog post and I was using an overhead tripod. We were just going to take a bunch of photos because I didn’t really know what’s going to turn out well. So we were taking continuous photos while assembling the Collard Green Wrap. Since we were using a tripod, they were all in the same position. So I said, wait, this would actually be a really cool stop motion. So basically I just exported all of the individual photos and then stitched them together in Premier Pro.

Megan:

Cool. That really wouldn’t be that hard to do. It’s just different enough that people are going to stop and go, Whoa, that’s not a full on video and it’s not a single frame photo. That is gold right there. Just incorporating one of those and to see how people react to it. You mentioned carousels too, so that’s when you scroll through, maybe you see a few images of the process and a hero shot or something like that. How many do you usually include within a carousel?

Lexi:

For SEO purposes, we’ve been doing a lot more process shots and ingredient shots. So we found that if you start with the hero photo and then show maybe an ingredient shot, a process shot and another really nice image of it, it just gives people a better idea of what the recipe is and encourages them to go to the blog. That’s something I wanted to talk about as well. I know that a lot of bloggers think that there’s not much value in social media when it comes to converting to blog traffic. But since we’ve been able to grow our social media so much, we’ve actually seen a lot of traffic just from Instagram alone. I think that you shouldn’t discount that. It can be really helpful to create content that actually makes people want to go to your site.

Megan:

That is a hot topic because there people are all over the place on opinions with that. I go back and forth too. I don’t even have an opinion right now about it because there are some days when I say, I don’t even have the time for Instagram. I’m not getting quote direct clicks, but then there are other days where I see people like you and Maria who are just killing it on Instagram. You create these beautiful images and photos that you display there. Then I get inspired and know I really need to dig into this. So it’s one of those things. I feel like all of us go back and forth about, I loved hearing that from you, from someone who really has just figured it out. So is there anything else you can say to convince people? I mean, you saw blog growth because of this. What other reasons would you give us to do this?

Lexi:

We started in 2017 and at that point we honestly did not really know anything about how to blog. I truly did not understand that you could make money through ad revenue. So for us we wanted to know, how can we make money through this growing Instagram account that we have? I think at that time we had about 30,000 followers. We decided we’re just going to put effort into this. We had seen a couple of sponsored posts come through for not a ton of money, but enough that we were, Hmm. If we really continue to grow, we can really leverage this. As we grew, we started developing these amazing long-term partnerships with brands just through Instagram. That’s actually pretty much completely how we’ve grown our business. That has allowed us then to have my husband work with us and start the blog and really focus on doing the blog the right way and taking our time and still having this income from these sponsored partnerships that are mostly because of our Instagram account.

Another thing that has been really great for us is we’ve also, since we’ve been really focusing on our photography and videography skills over the last few years, we’ve actually been able to develop quite a few partnerships for freelance photography and recipe development for various brands. At this point, it’s probably about 40 to 50% of our revenue. Building that presence on social media and improving our skills has really allowed us to grow a sustainable business where we’re now able to add in the blog and have that grow. I hope that that eventually becomes our primary source of income, but for now it’s allowing us to do what we need to do.

Megan:

That’s so great. I love that you guys have different pieces of it that are working for you and bringing in money. I feel like so many food bloggers, myself included for many years, get so focused on the ad revenue that they lose sight of all of that other opportunity. They don’t realize that. They don’t stop to just take a step back and see that there are many other ways to make money. This is one avenue that’s obviously been lucrative for you and could definitely be lucrative for many other food bloggers. I mean, the tips you gave are very good, but very simple. Focus on your photos and use a variety of content. It’s very simple if you just take the time to do it.

Lexi:

Definitely. There’s definitely a lot of other things that potentially go into it. I know that several Instagrammers specifically have had a lot of success with sharing more about their personal lives and sharing more personal photos. I’m not super comfortable with that. I know that a lot of people have had success with doing that. So that’s one thing to consider as well. I think it’s also nice to know that if that’s not necessarily you, there are still other ways to grow your Instagram account.

Megan:

That’s good to hear that you have made it work without doing that because everybody has a different opinion on that. We do always hear, you have to get in front of the camera. You have to show everyone what you’re doing, but not necessarily. I think that’s so unique to everybody. So how do you handle stories? Do you put yourself there at all or do you keep yourself out of stories as well?

Lexi:

I definitely need to be better about filming stories altogether. That’s a low point for me. I try to do a lot of recipe tutorials. So I’ll actually show us cooking a recipe that’s on our blog and then linking to it. It’s more informal than our posts. I’m just not very good at talking in front of the camera. I won’t do a ton of that. I know that I should do a little bit more, but I’m still working on that.

Megan:

Yeah, that’s all right. We all have stuff we’re always working on. So for others, what do you recommend for stories? I know some people say you should always have a story up, going at all times. Do you believe that?

Lexi:

That it’s definitely helpful to have at least one or two stories every day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Every Sunday we have a meal plan that goes out through our email. We link to the recipes that are in our meal plan. So that’s really simple. It only takes five minutes to pull together. I think it’s more important to be consistent with your Instagram posts and that’s actually what I wanted to talk about. We have actually been experimenting a lot with posting twice a day, which I know sounds scary to some people, but we repost things all the time. I feel like there’s some negative connotation with that, but I’m just going to give a little case study from a recent post that we had.

This is a Greek chickpeas salad that has, for whatever reason, been one of our most popular posts on Instagram. I think we first posted it in March. We posted it again in August, and then I posted it on January 2nd or something. It ended up getting over 10,000 likes, 3000 saves and a reach of over 315,000. But 250,000 of that was either from the explore page or hashtags. So almost everybody that was seeing the post wasn’t even following us before. So I think it’s just important to consider the fact that, especially if you have a larger audience, Instagram is not showing your posts to very many people every time you post, unfortunately. So there’s nothing wrong with reposting content that’s already done well for you or just a slightly different shot of something. We’ve never had somebody ask, Oh, didn’t you just post that recently? People don’t notice. We’ve seen a lot more success from reposting things more often. That allows us to post twice a day, a few times a week.

Megan:

That is a really great tip. And how cool to hear you talk through those numbers? That’s really astonishing. Oh my gosh. That’s so many people looking at your content.

Lexi:

That was a big one for us. That’s definitely not the average post.

Megan:

Yeah, that is massive. Just like what you said, experimenting if something does really well, try it again the next season and see if people are still liking it then, it really can’t hurt. I cycle through my content all the time. I don’t think anybody notices. If they do, I don’t think they care because I only put images that look delicious up. So I think if anything, they’re like, that’s right. She has a really good meatloaf recipe. Maybe I should go look for it. So I think it really can’t hurt and people do get hung up on, well, they know that I already have that recipe. I already posted that in November. They’re going to be offended. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to get offended if you repost your content. So do you have any other tips, just general tips aside from what you’ve already mentioned?

Lexi:

Yeah. One more thing that we have seen and is actually something I’ve been experimenting with very recently, but I’ve just noticed it as a trend over the last few months. Our posts that do best tend to be pretty close up crops. They tend to be definitely more colorful, bright, bold, natural colors. For example, actually this chick pea salad is a great example because it was just the salad in a bowl, cropped super close up. So you’re just seeing the ingredients and the freshness. I think since it’s such a close crop, it really jumps off the screen. We’ve been experimenting with a lot of different posts like this and they’ve been really improving our growth. Actually Maria said that same for her.

Megan:

I’m looking at your account right now. It’s all like a very close up and very colorful, which is my style too. I’ve always loved the really close up shots. I know that’s not a super common thing because everyone likes to do a variety, maybe an entire scene or overhead really far away. Which is great, I think for your blog, but for Instagram, I sometimes get hung up on that on my own. I look through my feed and I think, Oh, that’s so close. Is that okay? But I like hearing that now from you.

Lexi:

It’s really interesting to see and I agree. I love shooting larger scenes. It’s more fun. It’s more fun to style, but for whatever reason, these closeups are what seemed to be doing best, so I’m going to go with it.

Megan:

Yeah, absolutely. What do you think about, portrait versus landscape? I know people I’m seeing on Instagram are experimenting with that. Forever it was more portrait and now I’m seeing some bigger bloggers go more landscape or square but not as long.

Lexi:

I always go portrait. I am of the mindset that the more of somebody’s phone that the photo takes up, the better. Same goes for video content. One thing I have been doing recently is I shoot all of my video for websites in landscape, but after I export it, I crop it into the same size as this vertical dimension on Instagram, which is 1080 by 1320. So I actually crop it like that, which is a weird crop cause it’s really close in, but I’ve noticed that it has been also performing better for video instead of the standard square.

Megan:

Cool. I am lost in your account right now. I feel like I could literally look through here all day. I’m just scrolling through and I’ve completely gone off my notes, so I need to go back to my notes. Wow. You have such amazing photos and everything is really interesting. I think that’s the thing. I clicked on one and it was more of that stop motion video that you were talking about. That’s so interesting. Then you have a video and then super colorful photos. So guys, go look at Crowded Kitchen. It’s @crowded_kitchen on Instagram and you’ve got gold on here. Lexi, you guys are amazing. Oh, I love it. I’m going to come back here later today and just browse through and like every single image that you’ve posted. So what else do you have for us? Do you have any other overall strategy tips?

Lexi:

It’s really just developing your own style because as we’ve all seen on social media or on Instagram specifically the last few years, I think there tends to be this very similar aesthetic on many pages, which is totally fine. I love beautiful light and bright photos, but I think when everybody starts to do the same thing, it just makes it really hard for you to stand out. So we definitely got a little bit caught up in that for a while too. Then we said, you know what? We’re just going to stick with our own thing and see what happens. Not only do I feel more comfortable with that because I am able to experiment with different types of photography, but I also think that it’s really helped us grow. So just encouraging people to not get stuck in one type of aesthetic, to really experiment with different types of photography. Try using artificial light, try using direct light, try different styles of editing. There’s just so many things that you can do to make your photos stand out without necessarily putting in a ton more effort.

Megan:

How do you recommend we go about that? Because we are so easily influenced by what we see. We scroll on Instagram all the time and we look at all of these other delicious food photos. So we want to emulate those other photographers’ styles. How do we develop our own?

Lexi:

My personal inspiration is to focus on the colors of the food itself and the ingredients. If I’m styling a scene, I first think about the colors and the textures of the dish. Then I try to really pick out interesting props, but things that won’t make the scene too complicated. I think that it’s important to invest in new props and backgrounds from time to time. I know that everybody is different and if you’re just photographing for your blog, that’s fine. Maybe you can stick with the same style. But in order to really stand out on Instagram, you really have to try a few different things to find your style and find what’s going to work best for you. Every few months I invest in some new props and some new, different backdrops. That has been actually a key thing in improving my photography over the years, because if you get stuck and you feel like you’re always using the same backdrops, the same orientations, as soon as you get something new, you’re like, Oh wow. I never thought that I could put this together. These colors look amazing together. I recently got this really bright, bold green backdrop and it just really made a salad pop that I was photographing the other day. So it’s just trying new things all the time.

Megan:

I am stuck on this one. It’s your Spiced Citrus Mulled Wine. The photo for this is so gorgeous. I’ve scrolled past it 20 times now. I did notice that your descriptions are very short. Do you recommend just keeping it super short and sweet or does that just depend on what your style is too?

Lexi:

Definitely. Some people do really well with very long captions. I think that goes hand in hand with how in-depth and personal you want to get on your account. Since I am not super comfortable with that, I tend to focus completely on the recipe. So I typically try to keep the captions pretty short, maybe two to three sentences. Sometimes if it’s a brand new recipe, I will go into it a little bit more, but especially if it’s something I’m reposting, sometimes I’ll just literally say what it is and then say recipe link in bio. Which I find has always been working totally fine for us. Again, totally up to you. Another thing that I’ve actually recently become convinced of, is that hashtags actually do matter. I really didn’t think they did, but they do.

Megan:

Talk us through your hashtag strategy.

Lexi:

Yeah. So I have a set amount. It’s about 15 to 20 that I use on every single post. Those are just the standard. It’s a vegan recipe or hashtag food photography. Really basic ones like that. But then I actually add probably about 10 unique hashtags to every single post that go a little bit more depth into the recipe or the season or if there’s any event surrounding the recipe. I found that doing that has definitely improved our reach on certain posts. It doesn’t work every time, but especially in early January, once healthy recipes were really popular, that we had a couple of posts go insanely viral just from using the hashtags. You can tell that by the insights.

Megan:

How do you choose those?

Lexi:

Honestly, mostly random, but usually I’ll just type them in as I’m typing the caption. It shows you once you type a hashtag how many views it has. So I try to do hashtags that aren’t insanely huge, but usually have a couple hundred thousand. So then you’re more likely to show up towards the top and not get lost.

Megan:

Yeah. That makes sense. Then do you use a schedule or do you do everything manually?

Lexi:

I do everything manually. Sometimes I will type them out and save them within the app. I have my posts for later already ready to go. I know that some people do love planners. I’m just not the most organized person.

Megan:

Which has actually worked well for you. I think because there are certain things that you can not do in schedulers. I’m learning in Tailwind, I use it for scheduling and you can’t do carousels and maybe that has changed. But a couple months ago I thought, this has to work. It just wasn’t working, which is super frustrating because if you’re scheduling, you want to schedule. You don’t want to dabble in both. At least that’s my preference. So that was really frustrating for me. I’ve considered actually just manually posting to Instagram for a time for maybe a month just to see if my followers go up because why not? It’s all about experimenting and like you said, and just seeing what works for you. These are all such great tips. I have one more question and then I will ask if we’ve missed anything, but I’m curious about editing. You put a heavy focus on photography and just making sure everything looks delicious. You’re adhering to your personal style and colorful. Do you have any editing tips? I’m assuming you use Lightroom because you were using some Lightroom terms. What are some just quick, easy Lightroom tips that you have for us?

Lexi:

I think my biggest tip would be that you can always do more than you think. Even if you’re just using the super basic editing tools like brightness and white and black levels, I think that a lot of people are always a bit hesitant to really change those numbers. But I literally will just sit there with the dial and just move it up and down really drastically. Sometimes you find that you need to make a huge change and that’s totally fine. So I think just not being afraid to really experiment with the different editing tools on Lightroom. Really not being afraid to really increase the saturation of a certain color. I mean, obviously I try never to make anything look unnatural, but sometimes it just does, especially on a raw image. It doesn’t really necessarily bring across the colors that you actually see in real life.

Just not being afraid to really bump up the intensity of your editing. That’s always been how I do things. I can walk you through my general edits if you want to do that. I’m just looking at a photo that I was working on earlier. I almost always bump up my exposure a little bit based on how the lighting was that day. I usually have my highlights go down, my shadows up a little bit, whites up and blacks down, which is what creates contrast. Then a really important editing tool is clarity, which is just going to make your photo a lot more crisp and lifelike. So I always bump that up to at least 30. Then from there, I pretty much just play around with the colors.

I’m not going to go through my exact technique on that because it takes a while. But the last, most important tool that I use is the masking and brush tool, which allows you to focus on certain parts of the photo and really bring out different colors or to brighten specific parts of the photo, while you leave the rest of it the same. This is what helps you make a photo focus in one specific area instead of just having a flat, basic frame. A lot of it also depends on the lighting that you’re shooting with. So it’s totally dependent on that, but that’s how I approach my editing.

Megan:

Again, it doesn’t hurt to just go in and experiment. You can always revert, you can do a million tweaks and go back to the original at any given time. So just play around. I like what you do, what you were talking through., Or you said you bumped it up really high just to see. You don’t want it to look unnatural so you back off from there a little bit and just play with it. I always bump up my color. That’s one of my things too. I love food photos that pop and I think color is such a good way to just captivate people’s attention. If you see a flat photo, I typically scroll right by those. But the ones that I really stop at, are the ones like your mulled wine. Wow, there’s so much vibrance here and so much color. Lightroom is amazing. You can do so much inside of that little application. There’s so much power in there. So use it and just play around and experiment, see how your Instagram peeps are loving it.

Lexi:

Like I said earlier, I would definitely stress, if you have a favorite food photographer or something, if they have presets available, just download them just so you can see, even if you don’t actually use them on your photos. I don’t really ever use presets, but at least you can see what they do to their photos to make them pop. Then you can try to replicate that in your own way.

Megan:

Oh, this has been so amazing. Lexi. What would you say would be your number one takeaway for food bloggers listening today on Instagram or photography or anything that we’ve covered?

Lexi:

I think just continual improvement and continuing to work on your skills all the time and try different things and not give up. Because, believe me, I know firsthand how incredibly frustrating the Instagram algorithm can be and we definitely have our ups and downs. But if you just keep at it and continue to try different things, eventually it will work.

Megan:

That is great advice. Thank you for all of this. It was such a pleasure to chat with you today, Lexi. Just thanks for taking the time for it. So before you go, we would love to hear either a favorite quote or words of inspiration that you have to share with food bloggers.

Lexi:

Yeah, absolutely. So this is actually my husband’s favorite quote and I have stolen it from him because it’s become one of my favorites over the years too. It’s by Jacob Reese, from the late 19th century. So it’s a little old timey, but I think it’s still relevant. The quote is, “when nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter, hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times, without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow it will split in two. And I know it was not the blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” So I think it really just speaks to perseverance.

Megan:

And that supports exactly what you just said for your takeaway. Just keep at it, keep trying and don’t give up. That’s great. Well, we are going to put together a show notes page for you, Lexi, and I think we’ll put in there your recommendations even, for Lightroom. I tried writing as you were talking and I wasn’t able to keep up, but that’s okay. Cause we can go back and that’s, what’s great about podcasts. You can relisten and we’ll just write all that down. Increase exposure, decrease highlights, et cetera. So that can give other people at baseline to maybe start with as far as tweaking their own photos. And we’ll have everything else that we’ve talked about today on that page. If you want to go see those, go to eatblogtalk.com/crowdedkitchen. I told everyone where to find you on Instagram, but why don’t you just reiterate where everyone can find you all across the board?

Lexi:

Yeah. So our website is just crowdedkitchen.com. Instagram we are @crowded_kitchen and other social media we’re all Crowded Kitchen. That’s where you can find us.

Megan:

Great. Well, it was a pleasure to chat with you and thank you so much for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro:

We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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