Monday, September 28, 2009

In Case You Missed BlogHer Food 09….

Three years ago, after only 5 months of food blogging, I wrote a whole post on food bloggers. I waxed poetic on the support and rapport I felt as a blogger and writer and my amazement at how food can bring about such connections. Such was the case again at BlogHer Food 09, held Saturday just 40 minutes from my suburban front door in San Francisco.

BlogHer Food, crowded with 300 food bloggers (as well as the occasional husband or offspring), was a wonderful, enlightening, happy event. Kinda sad to think that it was only one day long. Albeit it one very long day. Starting at 8am with a Networking Breakfast in the Gallery Room of the St. Regis and ending at 8pm after a Cocktail Reception on the 4th floor terrace, the day was packed with demonstrations, educational sessions and food.

Let me just start by saying that the St. Regis Hotel is one very nice place, with a helpful staff and good food. Breakfast consisted of various fresh croissants, a berry medley, sliced melon and kiwi, yogurt, hot egg paninis, fruit smoothies, as well as coffee, tea and juices. The beginning of the conference started with a welcome from BlogHer staff members Jory Des Jardins, Elise Page and Lisa Stone, who shared some fascinating facts and figures about women bloggers. Like 78% of the attendees had never been to a BlogHer conference before, 53% of women online are actively using social media every day, and that 52% of active blog readers read about food! You go, girls…

The conference day was split between 3 educational session, two demonstration breaks, and lunch. Attendees had their choice of break-out sessions on either Visuals, Vocation or Values, with some pretty well-known bloggers and writers leading the sessions: Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes, David Lebovitz, Helene Dujardin of Tartlette (who was kind enough to test recipes for me when my book, The World Is a Kitchen, was in production), Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim, and so many more wonderful, inspiring and successful bloggers.

I spent the day on the Visuals Track (although you were allowed to jump around to different sessions, or even attend multiple sessions within one time frame.) The majority of the Visuals conference room was set up with tables, so those of us that wanted to take notes on laptops or tweet the sessions could do so. The session information ranged from the very basic for the beginner to the more advanced for those who were contemplating food photography as a living. My interest was purely personal, trying to make my blog look more visually appealing. I mean, Photoshop can only get you so far. Kinda like needing good ingredients to make a good dish, you need to start with a good photo to get an appealing end product.

Session 1, Developing Your Visual Voice, was led by Matt Armendariz of and Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. The focus was on 7 Things to Think About Before You Pick Up the Camera. I thought I would share their wisdom:

1. Be inspired by others: keep a scrapbook of photos/shots you love, to use as a reference. Shots with different angles, textures. Things to replicate. Digital or hard copy. Once you have a body of clips, then you can start deconstructing those images to get a sense of where you might want to head with your own photography. Notice:
  • Time of day – early in am or late in date – due to quality of light
  • Indoor vs. outdoor
  • Minimalist vs. dense composition – proportion, positive/negative space
  • B/W vs. color
  • Dark vs. light
  • People – to include or not to include
  • Flash or no flash

2. Think about your photos in context – will you be adding text to the image or will it stand alone? Will the photo always be the same size?

3. Understand where you are shooting – inside, outside, restaurant, farmers markets. Lighting can be nonexistent in a dark restaurant, wonky at a farmers market.

4. Think about the type of shots you are after, what you want to achieve, how best to tell your story.
  • Ingredient shots: single subject or multiple ingredients.
  • In process shots: breaking down of ingredients or preparation. Educational, can communicate textures, how something is cut. Evolution of the recipe.
  • Ready to eat shots
  • The aftermath shot
  • People shots
  • In motion/action shots: dripping sauce onto something, beater missing
  • Eye level: some things should be shot at eye level, rather than top down.
  • Incorporating text into shot

5. Plan your workflow. Think about what you need to do before starting. What kind of food you are shooting, staging. Prep things in advance for food that is sensitive (ice cream, steamy dishes). Be organized. Have ingredients on hand, camera batteries charged, decide where you area going to shoot, set aside plating equipment, prep ingredients. Do in-process shots, cook, plate, shoot.

6. Look thru the viewfinder. Really look and take time to compose the image. Try to look at it as a complete photo. Look at your shadows. Move around to eliminate them unless you want them purposely in the shot. Look for blowouts, background, edges,

7. Read your camera manual cover to cover (this was a recurrent theme at all 3 sessions). Get to know your camera and what it is capable of. Don’t be afraid of the technical aspects of your camera

Other good info coming out of this session:
  • Point and Shoot camera recommendation: Canon G9 (you can shoot raw files)
  • Try to shoot on a tripod and tethered to your computer so you have a bigger visual to work with. You will have an easier time composing a shot.

Next Up: Part 2 of the BlogHerFood 09 Recap


ElisaC said...

Wow, what a great recap of what you learned. I'm a hopeless photographer myself, so I wish I could have sat in on those sessions instead of running around.

Thanks for being a part of the inaugural BlogHer Food Conference. And keep your eyes open for our post-conference survey in your Inbox later this week. We can't wait to hear everyone's suggestions, so we can make BlogHer Food '10 even better!

Thanks again.
Elisa, for the BlogHer Team

Michele said...


I wanted to introduce myself as I'm a Bay Area food blogger as well. I just stumbled upon your blog today and I really enjoy it!


Mrs. B said...

Nice to meet you Michele. I took a peek at your blog. Good work. I see you are a better photographer than I am - everything looks pretty yummy.

Michele said...

Thank you. I love the re-cap of BlogHer.