Blog Title: Mindful Avocado
About: Recipe developer, food photographer, videographer, and content creator for Mindful Avocado blog since 2014. A vegan and vegetarian food blog focusing on simple ingredients. She also focuses on helping others improve on their food photography skills.
Notes from Episode #083: Figuring out your brand in food photography. How finding your style helps you to hyperfocus on developing a consistent look and feel.
AMANDA SAGER LISTENING NOTES –
Fun fact: As a child, Amanda always wanted to be a veterinarian but when she realized pets die, she switched and wanted to be an inventor.
In 2015 Amanda met Brit Morin of Brit and Co. Amanda had not blogged yet or started her photography career at this time. She had a camera so she began to use it and work on her photography basics and taking pictures of food. Amanda practiced relentlessly. After that opportunity, Amanda decided to begin her food blogging journey.
Amanda has a background in graphic design so she saw her photography as art and a skill she needed to develop. She wanted her photography to be part of her brand right from the beginning.
Amanda recommends that you visit websites of bloggers you like and respect, then study their photography. Look at the lighting, the style, the colors and angles used. Use those tools to help yourself create your own style and eventually form your own style as you progress in your photography skills.
Evaluating who you are as a blogger and what you like taking pictures of (mostly) is important so you really find out what type of photographer you are. If you’re a baker, you won’t be doing breakfast and dinners a lot. So then take a look at your props and backgrounds and pick your items that way. You want to be consistent so your audience will start to recognize your styles and photography online.
Shopping is fun but you don’t need a ton of props. Amanda likes basic white, neutrals for her backgrounds and little pops of color. The sooner you identify your style, the easier it will be to keep your collection small. If you notice a theme in photos you like and the styles you want to put out, that’s what you focus on for props.
Amanda has found though that the food itself is the best prop. If you top parsley on your meal, place some on the side of the food and it does a great job of helping the composition vs more plates/napkins, etc.
When you are considering props, find props that make sense for your theme. If you’re a baker, cake stands make sense. Appetizers will be great on platters. Start your collection based on that.
A human element is a good prop in pictures too.
Final shots of a complete recipe take about 30-45 minutes for Amanda so she can really hone in on her style and keep it consistent for her site. For example, the smoothies on her blog all have similar compositions.
Amanda works on the fly and doesn’t plan out the scenes too much. But she’ll write out in Trello what she wants as the “scene”. She’ll set out the items she’s selected, then she’ll bring in the food plated ready to take the shots.
Photography was the first thing that Amanda focused on perfecting when she started her food blog. This helped her on Pinterest traffic and then her own blog traffic improved.
When you are out shopping, the window displays entice you into the shops. Your photography is the same as an invite into your blog. From there, you need a solid recipe and great writing and SEO. Photography is easier to do right the first time. Writing and SEO are always something you can improve as you go along.
If you have a bank of old content you want to go back and redo, then focus on photography first to help improve your site. This also gives you encouragement to see how much you’ve grown.
When the whole blogging world flipped upside down and everyone was freaking out about SEO, Amanda took a step back. She decided she wanted to be writing for her readers, her audience and not Google. Pinterest is a great way to get traffic, because she can do recipes that not everyone’s googling but they didn’t realize they needed and you find it on Pinterest and you end up liking. She gets a more authentic viewer and is serving the people she needs to be serving.
Learn lighting. Amanda was working a full time job when she started her blog so she was stuck with weird hours and had to use artificial lighting and bounce boards in her shoots. She moves these items around and works to see how light is playing with her food as she uses natural light mixed in.
Amanda made a light box (see blog post below) and it sits on her table that is right next to a window. She uses two soft boxes on stands that she moves around to see what helps her with the pictures best. Amanda uses a hybrid of natural and artificial lights in her photography (see link below) and (use equipment recommendations in link below).
Natural lighting really limits you to the season/time of day. Artificial lighting has limitations but combining them works great.
Consistency in photography – you can break away from your style occasionally as you start out so you can see what you like and don’t. As new trends pop up, you’ll enjoy trying new styles too. But overall, you want to stick to your style most of the time (like 70-80%) and then 20% experimentation. See what your audience responds to.
First steps for a new blogger: practice, practice, practice. You’re going to suck in the beginning but don’t look at it in fear, but just jump in and enjoy it. You’re going to grow and remember that you’re at step 1 and the people you follow and respect are on step 200.
Photography across social media platforms – the shots should remain similar and not vary too much. But if you have a great shot perfect for Instagram that has better light or a good angle, and you have another you like for Facebook, that’s ok to use.
Amanda recommends creating multiple pins for a single recipe and circulate those.
Don’t get caught up in buying things. Buy a basic DSLR camera and as you grow and feel the limitations of your equipment, then look at changing what you’re using. (see link below).
Amanda recommends Canon and Nikon both for brands of cameras. Do some research online on your own to see what speaks to you but you can’t go wrong with either.
Amanda offers a Free Mini Food Photography 101 course when you sign up for an email from her.
Amanda also launched a premium course called Food Photography University that gets you taking better photos in less than 30 days. It covers lighting, equipment essentials, determining personal style and how to edit photos. You receive all the modules up front but its formulated that if you do the work, you’ll see results quickly.
Favorite quote by Robert Bringhurst: “By all means break the rules and break them beautifully, deliberately and well. That is one of the ends for which they exist.”
Helpful references from the episode: