List Monday: how to take a saliva-inducing shot for your food blog.

February 28, 2011 · 34 comments

  1. Cook something.
  2. Or, if you don’t want to cook something, just buy something that looks sorta like what you plan to cook.*
  3. Make sure that you cook during daylight hours, under a skylight.
  4. Wait, forget the skylight. You don’t have one, but can make do with a big window.
  5. If you can’t cook during the day, but instead prepare your subject at night, putting the subject in the refrigerator in hopes that it can be styled the next day to still look freshly-made, then don’t forget to tell your husband that he is not, under any late-night-snack-needing circumstances, to eat the subject.
  6. Put your 2-year old down for afternoon rest time.
  7. Hand your 4-year old the Nintendo DS. His “twenty minutes” starts…. NOW.
  8. Dig around in your dishes for something interesting to plate your food. Go with the blue Target plates, again.
  9. Make a mental note that at some point, a trip to the thrift stores for more props could be advantageous. Realize that you’ve been making this note-to-self for about a year.
  10. Carefully carry plated food to the space in your house that has the most outdoor light.
  11. Realize, as you carry plated food to that space with fabulous light, that there is nowhere on your work desk to actually set the food.
  12. Set food on the piano. Clear off an 18″ square of clear space on your desk. Spit-shine the white laminate desk to erase coffee rings. Wipe crumbs onto the floor.
  13. Station the plate in the center of the clear area. Grab your camera to see if the pile of bills is going to show in the frame.
  14. Curse as you realize the battery is dead. Hook up the battery to the charger, and test different napkin props during the approximate 2 minutes it needs to have enough juice to take a few shots.
  15. Decide the wrinkled, stained napkin doesn’t do much for the shot anyway.
  16. Grab the re-juiced camera, frame the shot, turn off the auto-flash, and wait.
  17. Wait some more.
  18. Ok, now that the sun has gone behind a cloud and light is sufficiently diffused, snap a few. Change angles, snap again. Zoom, snap again.
  19. Move food back to the piano. Place laptop where subject once sat, and hookup camera to download shots.
  20. Notice that they all show a pile of computer-related cords making an unwelcome cameo appearance in the upper right-hand corner.
  21. After careful consideration, accept that no one will believe the cords are either edible or decorative, no matter how far they are outside the depth-of-field.
  22. Start again at #12, skipping numbers 14-16.
  23. Hope for the best. There’s not another redo.
  24. Especially since you just ate the subject. You got the kids fed, but forgot to eat lunch.

* Ok, I’ve never done this. And in fact, it feels just a touch dishonest, in some bizarre foodblog-ethics universe.

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Kalynskitchen February 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm

This made me laugh out loud, and I love the final shot you got!

Winnie February 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Love this!

Cookin' Canuck February 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

This sounds awfully familiar! Great post.

Ashley February 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm

As someone with 3 kids this sounds completely accurate. I would include swatting away little fingers trying to eat the subject.
Very funny post.

Lana February 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm

LOL! How many times have I gone through at least a half of these steps! And the hardest one is stopping the husband from eating the subject:)
I love your post!
BTW, your photos are great.

Melissa February 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Like the window. :)

Sarah Partain February 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Love it!! You take awesome pics and I love that you’ve revealed your process!

Jen February 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I want a desk in front of a window like that–beautiful!

Bethany R Robbins February 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

This was awesome Katy. Thanks for the helpful tips! It’s comforting to know that all those beautiful pics come with a little but of dysfunction. I must have been missing a step or two because my photos never look good! Maybe it’s the lack of a hand held game :)

Shirley @ gfe February 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I’m an empty nester, but otherwise I could totally relate! Great close-in, final shots! :-)


Stacy (Little Blue Hen) February 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm

So true! Substitute “cats” for “cords” and that’s how most of my photos get done. =)

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate February 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

LOVE IT! Of course, I could only WISH to get such a final shot. I’m still trying to make friends with my camera and completely forgot where the manuel (which I wouldn’t have read any way) went.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake February 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Very funny…. I miss my son having afternoon naps, it was when I took all my pictures!

Dad February 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Gosh, it looks cold outside! It was 81 degrees here today and the storms passed north of us. I might just plant my maters early this year! (that is southern slang for tomatos)

Liz the Chef February 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I have so been there! I think I will print this out and reread the next time I get frustrated.

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle February 28, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Loved this. I won’t deny that there are days when trying to setup a shot while still hopping around one legged with an injury makes me feel like I deserve a handicap of sorts (though I’m not quite sure what that would be..more sun perhaps?). So I’m reminded that having two little kids around and trying to have done this years ago might have been just as daunting! In some way, we can all relate and it’s good to know we’re part of a larger tribe. And want a beautiful final shot.

Victoria Allman February 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Great post! I’m glad I’m not the only one these things happen to!

Melissa (My McDonald Meal) February 28, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I think almost all of those thoughts have been in my mind a few times too! Just love when my 3 yr old feels she has to be right there with me. Ever get the random finger or hand sticking in the corner?

katy February 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

If I could’ve included sound bites, it would’ve been my voice telling my 4yo how great it is that he finally got to the castle in Mario Kart. Truly, between 2pm-4pm, when one is sleeping, one is still at school, and one is adequately distracted — that’s when my photos get shot!

Alex February 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Hilarious. This is why a built a ghetto fabulous mini-studio underneath my basement stairs… Still looking forward to natural light come spring :) Great pic!

katy March 1, 2011 at 7:24 am

Ooooh! Care to share your methodology? Tim tried to build me a lightbox a couple weeks ago, but the effort failed. I’m afraid I’d have to invest in new equipment (some lights?) even if we built our own.

Alex March 1, 2011 at 8:47 am

1 piece of white paneling from Lowes.
1 chunk of an old door
3 cheap work lights
3 outdoor floodlights
Will power to ignore the mess in the basement that you should be cleaning instead of writing food blogs (ok, not that hard)

I usually use a tripod as I am too shaky for food photography… The lighting isn’t perfect, but it’s cheaper than real studio lights!

Kristen March 1, 2011 at 12:06 am

Hehehe love love love it!

Tenina March 1, 2011 at 12:11 am

This is hysterical…and unfortunately a little close to the truth! Great shot though!

Prerna@IndianSimmer March 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

I’m still laughing :-)
Thanks to Kristen from dine and dish I got to know about your blog! Will be back again when ever I need a laugh!

Corrin March 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Love it! I used to work in food marketing (a job I would have had for the rest of my life if I hadn’t gotten the bright idea to move across the country) and this is pretty much how it goes in a professional setting, too.

katy March 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm

wow. really? that kinda makes me feel better, or maybe just feel sorry for real-life food photographers?

Home with Mandy March 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

It’s perfect! Made me laugh out loud!!

kellypea March 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

This is completely excellent — and hilarious. I’ve often thought of trying to describe the acrobatics I go through to get good shots of my food, but am lucky to have great light on most days, so am trying to learn to use night lights. Focus on that learn. Excellent shots you have there — and what an amazing set of windows to work in front. Gorgeous!

sj March 3, 2011 at 5:57 pm

damn girl. you are funny.
and I wish I could make those fries, pomme frites, but I
would kill them….

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) March 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

I laughed and laughed — and then I sent this to my friends who come to dinner to eat the food I make for the blog. Just in case they were wondering why I call it “work”.

Kath March 5, 2011 at 9:34 am

So funny! I could relate to everything except dealing with the 2 and 4-year-olds, since we’re empty nesters.

Karina March 5, 2011 at 11:23 am

I’ve been making the same mental note (about thrift store shopping for new food photo props) after squeaking by with what I’ve got (hoping readers don’t notice I use the same napkin). My problem is storage for the stuff. As in, I have zero. Funny post! And in the end, an absolutely gorgeous shot.

Kim @ Incandescent Blue Flame March 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

LOL! This *is* exactly how I shoot my food! I crop my photos very closely so as to hide all of the clutter on my dining room table/kitchen counter.

Kim @ Incandescent Blue Flame
(followed your link from Salad In a Jar)

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