| GENERAL | BLOGGING | PHOTOGRAPHY |
How did you learn how to cook? Are you a chef?
I wish I were a chef! Alas, I have no formal chef training of any kind and this blog has truly been a chronicle of my culinary progression. I graduated law school with a Juris Doctor degree; before that I obtained my Bachelor of Arts in biological sciences and psychology. I learned how to cook from friends, family (namely, my wonderful mother and mother-in-law), reading (cookbooks/magazines), cooking shows on TV (back when I used to watch TV – no joke, I just don’t have time anymore), and mostly trial and error.
Do you come up with your own recipes?
Yes. Unless a source is given for a recipe, I developed and tested it myself. When I’m developing a recipe, my favorite thing to do is to just go into the kitchen with a notepad and pen and jot down notes as I go along.
Where do you get inspiration for your recipes?
The short answer: Everywhere.
The long answer: Ingredients (I’ve even been known to plan an entire meal around a condiment); grocery stores; farmers’ markets; restaurant dishes; books, including cookbooks and non-cookbooks; magazines; poems; songs; movies (how could I watch The Godfather and not want to eat spaghetti?); television; foods I ate when traveling; foods I ate at someone else’s house; foods I ate as a kid; pretty plates/bowls/glasses/utensils; seasons; holidays; colors; fabrics; food blogs; food bloggers; blog readers; family; friends; and even my dreams.
What do you do with all the food you make and does it all get eaten?
First, I assure you that everything gets eaten (I hate to waste, even things that might be thought of as nothing more than compost). If it’s a savory dish, it was most likely brunch, lunch, or dinner for Mike and/or I, or occasionally it was something we served to guests (that is, if it’s a dish that can be made ahead of time, since for some reason I’m still not comfortable taking photos of my food in front of guests at my own dinner parties, even though I have no problem taking photos of my food at restaurants…I am just weird like that I guess!). I know a lot of my main course recipes make a relatively large amount of food, which works out well for us because we love leftovers (even after they’ve been frozen)…or maybe I should be more specific, and say that I love having a few nights off cooking and Mike doesn’t mind eating leftovers.
On the other hand, most of the sweets I make are immediately gifted to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I always taste what I make (quality control, of course), but then I immediately send it away because aside from a select few desserts, Mike really isn’t much of a sweet tooth, and although I have a huge sweet tooth, I really don’t indulge it very often (girlish figure and all that nonsense).
Where do you buy your plates and bowls?
Anywhere and everywhere! I like unique finds, so my favorite shopping venues are places like vintage/antique stores and flea markets. I also heart Anthropologie, Crate&Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, and Sur La Table.
When did you start blogging?
May 11, 2009.
Why did you start blogging?
I started my blog the day after Mother’s Day in 2009 to share the Mother’s Day meal that my family and I made for my mom. I wanted to show that someone like me – who is by no means a professional chef – can make a decent meal to share with loved ones. After that it was my passion for cooking along with the inspiration I got from readers and other food bloggers that kept my blog going.
How can I make my blog more popular?
This really is the $64,000 question, isn’t it? If you’re passionate about and good at what you do, over time your reader base is sure to expand. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help:
1) Submit your website for inclusion in Google’s index (it’s free!).
2) Use social networks. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are incredibly helpful, but even just commenting on other food blogs will bring more people to your site (and of course get you backlinks, which is helpful for SEO purposes).
3) Get your name out there. Offer to write guest posts for other food bloggers, invite other food bloggers to write guest posts for you, and/or approach on-line magazines to write food-related articles for them.
4) Share your pictures with the world. Submit your photos to photo-submission websites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker. (And I speak from personal experience when I say don’t be disappointed if a picture isn’t accepted! It may take time, but your pictures will be accepted eventually as your photography improves.)
Can you give me any technical blogging tips?
I have a tutorial on How to Code a Regular Button or “Grab My Button” Button in HTML. I might do more posts on basic blogging skills like this; please feel free to email me if there is a specific topic you would like to suggest I cover.
Do you take your own pictures?
Yes. Unless a source is given for a photo, I took the photo myself. (Please note that I only use other peoples’ photos with permission, and you should too, out of respect for the time and effort that the photographer put into his or her work.)
Can I use one of your pictures?
Please contact me if you are interested in using any of my photos.
What kind of camera do you use?
For about the first two years of blogging I used a very basic camera that served me well: a Canon point and shoot (Power Shot A2000 IS). Since then, I’ve been using a Nikon D7000 with a 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ultrahigh-ratio lens, a 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ultra wide-angle lens, and most recently a 40mm f/2.8G close-up lens. (Because I have been getting a lot of questions on it, my two most commonly used accessories are my tripod and my sling camera bag.) Learning my way around my camera has been an exciting process, and hopefully I’ve conveyed this through my pictures.
Can you give me any photography tips?
I am a beginner myself, but I’d be happy to share with you what I’ve learned so far! Here are a few tips that I have discovered mostly through trial and error:
1) Shoot with natural light whenever possible. Or learn how to shoot with artifical light; Yummy Pics by Nancy Lopez-McHugh and Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin both have great sections on this topic (you can read my review of Yummy Pics here). Even so, as a matter of personal preference, I prefer how food looks in natural lighting.
2) Experiment with natural light. Practice shooting at different times of day to see what time you like best, and notice that this will change along with the seasons as the angle of the sun changes. If you’re shooting indoors, adjust the curtains/blinds so that the light you’re shooting with best flatters your subject (this is the idea of a light diffuser in it’s most basic form). Also, play with light source orientation. I think even though using backlighting in photography can be difficult to master, it yields the most effective pictures. (Backlighting is when you place your subject between your camera and your light source; in other words, your subject is illuminated from behind. It creates strong shadows in the foreground of the image, so I use a reflector – just a white foam board – to reflect light back onto the subject.) I prefer backlighting because it creates a strong, dramatic photo, full of light, shadows, and lovely nuances, as opposed to a more flat picture that was taken with the light source behind the camera (which is called front-lighting). Depending on the season and time of day, side-lighting can also create very dramatic photos that work well for setting a mood. For example, think about a steaming cup of espresso and a plate of pastries photographed in the early morning; the long shadows cast because of the sun’s lower angle in the sky paint the picture of early morning, which echos and reinforces the subject matter.
3) Take multiple pictures of the same dish so you can choose the shot you want to use.
4) Play with the angle that you’re shooting at; for example, try shooting with the camera titled to the side, straight on, or from a bird’s eye view.
5) A little color goes a long way in a picture. If the food itself doesn’t have much color, try adding a little garnish to brighten it up. If there’s no way to add garnish, try adding a vase of flowers, using a pretty tablecloth, or plating the food on a colorful dish. But of course there is a time and a place for monochromatic photos as well; think of a cup of white hot chocolate…maybe you want to display it on a white wooden table to mimic a snowy winter day when hot chocolate would be the perfect beverage.
6) Think about what props you want to use in a picture. Your very basic prop is what you put the food on, whether it’s a dish, tabletop, piece of fabric, etc.; think about how the color and texture of your basic prop plays off the look of the food. After that, props can range from something as simple as a small dish of salt next to a bowl of stew (maybe with a sprinkling of salt next to the bowl), or they can be as complex as a full Sunday brunch table setting. I like to look for unique fabrics, plates, bowls, utensils, etc. to use in different pictures to help set the mood I’m trying to portray.
7) If you’re not sure how to style a picture, think about what would naturally go with the food you’re displaying. For example, if you’re photographing chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk would be a natural addition.
8) Last but not least, invest in a tripod. You can get a great one for about $300 to $400, or a really decent one for about $200 and it really is money well spent. Unless you have the steady hands of a surgeon, this will make all the difference in the world in your pictures.
Disclosure: This page contains Amazon affiliate links to products I believe in, which means that even though it doesn’t cost you anything extra, I will receive a small amount of money from the sale of these items, which helps me keep this site alive – thank you for helping to support An Edible Mosaic!
Feel free to contact me if you have a question that was not addressed here.