I want a do-over! One of my goals for my second year of blogging is to continue to improve my photography. I grew by leaps and bounds in my first year in terms of the quality of my photos and food styling, but I still have far to go.
I attended the Food and Light workshop in August, which helped me immensely. I got a good dose of photography and lighting basics and plenty of hands-on time with mentoring from some of the food blogosphere’s greats. Online research and tutorials have helped too. I hardly consider myself an expert in these matters, but here are some simple things I have done as a novice that have improved my photos:
- Learn to use the manual setting on your DSLR camera. I used to just hang out in aperture priority mode, because aperture and depth of field were really the only thing I could wrap my head around. Manual mode still allows me to control aperture, but also gives me the ability to adjust the exposure with the turn of a dial so I can brighten or darken my images as needed.
- That said, learn how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together. This is still taking a while to sink in for me, but now that it is finally making its way into my noggin, I find it very helpful.
- Look and look and look at what other people are doing. Want to photograph muffins? Go to Tastespotting and search for muffins. You’ll immediately see things you like and things you don’t like. You’ll get ideas. You’ll wonder how to create similar images and then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll research and practice until you do.
- Invest in some stuff: plates, bowls, napkins in lots of colors, towels in lots of textures, weathered boards, wood stained in different colors, jars, interesting utensils, etc., etc., etc. It’s a lot easier to set up a beautiful shot when you’re not scrounging for something to use, or resorting to the same plate and napkin you used last week. I’m not saying spend a million dollars; check out thrift stores, garage sales and discount stores. Last year I treated myself to one dish in the range of $4.00 each time I had to go to Target to buy the usual and mundane stuff for our home — laundry detergent and whatnot. I now have a nice collection from which to choose.
- Practice, practice and practice some more. One the best things about digital cameras is that you can take zillions of photos without wasting film. Did you take 400 pictures of macaroni salad that look like crap? Figure out what you don’t like about them, then delete them! I have taken and deleted thousands of photos, but learned from them all.
I know I still have worlds to learn, but more and more often I’m creating images that I’m really proud of and I wanted to share the things I did to make that happen.
Now let’s talk about Chile Rellenos. Last year I posted these Gluten-Free Blue Cornmeal Crepe Chile Rellenos with little fanfare. My pictures were “okay.” They’re a little dark and dingy. The color is a little off. The photos weren’t good enough for Tastespotting or foodgawker. They sat on my blog, in some dark corner of the internet, unloved and unappreciated. And I was bummed.
But I LOVE this dish. As a New Mexican I’ve had my fair share of greasy fried rellenos, and while they are delicious, they can be a bit heavy. My take on rellenos keeps the sweet and eggy flavor of the traditional battered and fried chile, but makes it much lighter by using a gluten-free blue cornmeal crepe. Roasted Anaheim chiles are generously stuffed with jack cheese and then rolled in crepes, then heated until the cheese has melted. Smothered in tangy tomatillo salsa and served with black beans, fresh tomatoes and cilantro, they are a spicy, sweet, tangy, New Mexican summer night in a single bite.
So I’m giving myself a do-over. I’m posting them again with better photos. It’s a nice way to see how far I’ve come and give these rellenos another chance at the recognition I think they deserve. You can see the recipe and original photos here.
Go forth, little stuffed chiles and crepes. Feed people and make them smile.