Around this time last year, I felt the need to push myself and learn something new. I had fallen into a fairly comfortable routine with my job, social life, etc. and wanted to mix it up with a creative interest. So, exactly one year ago today I bought my first DSLR camera and decided to learn photography, an art I had always found too intimidating to try and written it off as “not my thing”. The truth is that I’ve always been interested in photography, but simply got in my own way through these excuses. Thankfully, I decided to ignore those voices and take the plunge.
Why Food Photography?
My desire to learn food photography was inspired by my return to food blogging. As some of you may know, I used to have a cooking blog back in the day (’08!) called The Midnight Cook. All of my photos were taken with a Konica Minolta point and shoot, which at the time seemed perfectly fine. Fast forward 6 years, and so much has changed with amateur food photography, thanks to the popularity of DSLR cameras. It became obvious that having legit, good pictures of my cooking was a must-have for the blog. So, I’d need to invest some serious time learning how to use my camera before even thinking of writing my first post. After all, people eat with their eyes first.
Rather than let another year pass of wishing (I had more time) and wondering (where to begin), I dove right in. I promised myself I would make time to learn and wouldn’t over think where to start. I also had to get comfortable with the reality that my photos would probably be terrible. In fact, letting go of my fear of imperfection was a big hurdle for me to overcome, but I eventually did it.
How I Started
On January 20, 2014, I purchased a Canon 6D camera with a few key lenses. It was quite the splurge, but I knew that it was actually an investment in the blog and my own happiness (assuming I actually had fun with photography!) I decided on the camera model and lenses by researching recommendations from other food bloggers – there are plenty of resources out there. Ultimately, the 6D was the perfect camera for my budget and needs.
Once I got my camera, I spent 3 months completely focused on learning how to use it and taking practice shots. I didn’t post a single blog entry or even launch the blog. (I’m pretty sure most of my friends were questioning if this “blog” would ever go live.) I had no idea what aperture, shutter speed, or ISO even meant. I didn’t understand how to use light, and certainly didn’t get why food photographers would freak out over natural light.
Right off the bat, I forced myself to live in manual mode so I could understand every little detail about how my camera worked. It’s painful at first, but I highly recommend it. I then spent hours googling “DSLR photography” and “food photography”, and eventually discovered these great resources for learning:
CreativeLive Fundamentals of Digital Photography: This series was hands down the best resource for learning how to use my DSLR. It included in-depth videos on everything from shutter speeds to composition. You’ll definitely need a long weekend to go through all the videos, but it was well worth the time and $149 investment. On CreativeLive, you can also find shorter how-to videos specifically for your camera model.
CreativeLive Food Photography: Once I learned how to use my camera, I spent a lot of time on the specifics of food styling and photography. This video course is taught by Andrew Scrivani, a well-respected food photographer for the New York Times and other publications. This was a super helpful course because he walked through the set up for food shoots and demo’d taking photos, while explaining his take on props, styling, composition, etc.
Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin: This is perhaps the best book out there on food styling and photography. It came highly recommended from practically every food blogger I referenced, so I just had to buy a copy for myself. It’s a handy printed resource that you can easily refer to while practicing.
So here I am, 365 days later. While it’s sometimes painful to look at my first photos (trust me, they’re pretty bad…), they’re an awesome reminder of how far I’ve come. I’m proud of my photos on The Simple Fare, despite them being far from perfect. And even more, I’m proud of myself for seeking the uncomfortable yet fulfilling experience of putting my work out there. Learning a new skill over the last year has given me the confidence to conquer even more in the future.
What’s next? I’ll continue with food photography, striving to take it to the next level. Also, I have some big ideas for The Simple Fare which I expect to challenge me more than ever. And lastly, I’m learning to surf! The board is on its way as I type this post :) So here’s a challenge for all of us: pursue those uncomfortable interests, whether it’s sharing your amateur food photos with the world or paddling out into the cold waters to catch your first wave.