...because home doesn't happen overnight.

food photo tips 1

So something funny happened. I used to strongly dislike cooking, but now I don’t. I still wouldn’t call it my passion (there are no plans for Food*Tweaking, ha!) but sometimes I actually find myself enjoying it.

What happened? I’m not exactly sure, but it didn’t happen overnight. I think a few things came in to play. I have more time to cook now that I stay at / work from home. My kids have become little foodies, critiquing my skills and offering to help out with meal prep. When I went dairy free, out of desperation I tried new recipes and ingredients and it exposed me to a whole new world of cooking. FYI – We aren’t completely dairy free anymore, but I haven’t bought cow’s milk in years. Now, Steve eats a mostly paleo diet and I try to accommodate him when I can.

I’ve also been using Blue Apron regularly for almost a year after our friends recommended the service. It’s helped me get out of the dinner rut of spaghetti and tacos – both of which I love but they aren’t very adventurous. I’m giddy every time the refrigerated box of fresh ingredients shows up at my doorstep. Especially when it’s the FIFTH snow day in a row and we’re low on food and I have no desire to brave the cold for groceries. I really like the new family plan which feeds our family of two adults + three children and then some. The new family meals are meant to be served family-style and are more affordable.

I’m so grateful for recipes shared online that I started sprinkling my favorite quick & easy go-tos in with other home-related content on the blog. Obviously, that forced me to take photos of food. All of a sudden cooking became yet another fun, creative outlet when viewed through my camera lens. *BONUS* – I get to eat the subject matter!

I’m definitely not a food styling expert by any means but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my food photography secrets. Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at recipe posts.

*I always photograph food in natural light. (But not always in black socks. No judgments! It was, like, -20°F!!) After some trial and error, I discovered that the best spot to shoot food in my house is on the floor just inside the french doors in our mudroom / dining room. The doors are north-facing and the bright, indirect light is perfect. Placing the food on some sort of backdrop on the floor makes it easy for me to get overhead shots. I’m not naming names because it isn’t my secret to tell but I know one highly regarded food blogger who styles and shoots food in her garage with the door partially raised because that’s where the best light is in her house. Whatever works! I also consider the mood of the dish when contemplating lighting. In general, for brighter, lighter foods I’ll shoot in the late morning on sunny days. For richer, more comforting foods, I’ll shoot on cloudy days or in the early evening.

*I always consider composition. It’s almost like decorating a room but on a much smaller scale. Sorta like creating a mood board but with food. A food board? Instead of lining up all the ingredients, I’ll arrange them organically. I try to balance colors and textures within the frame. My goal is for it to look pretty but imperfect and real. I’ll cut lemon slices, peel garlic, “spill” a little salt or crumble cheese. A little mess is okay! I add practical props. Measuring spoons and small bowls work well. I’m itching to add more props to my bag o’ tricks because my current inventory is lacking.

*I leave out raw meat and raw fish if possible. The same with labels unless they’re particularly helpful. They just don’t look all that appealing to me.

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*I include one or two significant, in-progress shots. Again, I’m no chef and the recipes I share aren’t crazy complex so images of every step usually aren’t necessary. My kids really enjoy prepping so I’ll usually snap a few shots of them. (When we prepare a Blue Apron meal, Everett’s job is to read the instructions to me step-by-step. It knocks out his reading homework for the day. Win-win.) Needless to say, it’s difficult to supervise the kids, photograph and cook at the same time!

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*I shoot several different angles of the finished product. That’s mostly for fun. I never know which angles are going to make the cut until I edit the photos. If the kids are cooperating, I’ll set the table quickly. If not, it might be just a few close-ups. If the dish is especially decadent, I like to include a half-eaten or empty plate, too. It’s a good “the end” image.

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The recipe shown here is one of the new family meals offered by Blue Apron. It’s the chicken scallopini with roasted broccoli & whole wheat farfelle. Paleo Steve ate only the chicken (I left one breast free of flour) and broccoli. The kids and I loved it all! The roasted poblano chilaquiles with sunny side-up eggs and avocado sound pretty amazing, and the filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice is a family favorite that I keep on standby.

If you have been wanting to try Blue Apron, now’s your chance. The first 100 readers will get two meals free-of-charge when they place their first order! Just click here. And, as always, shipping is free.

Do you have any tips for food styling or photography? Any great food stylists I should check out for inspiration? Were you surprised by the food on the floor in the mudroom? My black socks? Ha!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

P.S. – The evolution of my photography.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

02.22.15 / Made Me Smile

snow day

Yesterday it snowed, snowed, snowed. For 12 hours straight! The fridge was full and we had no place to be so it was kinda nice. The boys played outside with the neighbor kids for a while then came inside to thaw by the fire. We read, watched movies, listened to music, worked puzzles and got caught up on laundry. It was a cozy, lazy Saturday but I’m really looking forward to warmer weather.

A few more things to pass the time on these cozy, lazy days…

*Homemade play-doh that makes your house smell like a spa.

*Basement dreams.

*So what if your current home isn’t your dream home?

*A <$300 bathroom refresher.

*Today’s weather.

*For fun, in the dead of winter the kids and I browse realistic real estate finds in an area of New Zealand where Steve sometimes travels for work. The kids’ choice (hello pool). My choice (minus the carpet, plus paint on the brown cabinets and new light fixtures).

emilyseeks

*Emily’s instagram feed chock full of old, local houses. Many of them are abandoned. Save all the houses!

*We binge-watched Cosmos and got completely sucked in. The kids loved it. So, so awesome.

I hope you’re having a warm weekend whether it’s spent indoors or out!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Emily Griswold Whitmore

02.16.15 / Made Me Smile

layne birthdoy 10

We celebrated Layne’s birthday last week. He turned 10 and he’s the most intelligent, witty, handsome and sweet young foodie I know. If you ask him what his favorite thing to do is he always answers “read or eat.” In fact, he’s mastered doing both simultaneously. He doesn’t like being in the spotlight so pictures of him are few and far between, but I was able to snap one of him just before he blew out the candle on his cake tiramisu. (Like I said, foodie.) He has the dreamiest blue eyes and wears an entire shoe size larger than me. Hug your babies, folks.

Back when we adopted Cheetah, the vet guessed she had been born in January or February of last year. As soon as Layne heard, he offered to share his birthday with her. So we celebrated Cheetah’s first birthday last week, too. I need to write an update on life with Cheetah but she’s pretty much the best fluffy thing ever.

Some links I came across whilst pretending my ten-year-old is still a baby…

*I love a good renovation. Even more so when it involves a metal roof, unique interior finishes and right-sized living in weird Austin.

*A happy lil’ hallway.

*A cheeky midcentury house tour featuring real life kids…and a lizard! (Read the full story here.)

building walnut farm

*I just discovered Building Walnut Farm’s instagram feed and I’m hooked. It’s raw and natural and beautiful.

*Interior design cliff notes.

*And since it was Valentine’s Day on Saturday and we’re celebrating all things love…

On the first day of third grade, I had a cast on my arm. The girl assigned to sit next to me asked to sign it. Best friends forever, Sara she wrote. And when you’re eight years old, that’s enough to seal the deal. We were best friends and inseparable for several years right up until our early high school years. Life happened and we grew apart but we always remained friends. This weekend Sara gave birth. As a surrogate. For the second time. I’m so proud of her.

I hope you felt the love this weekend!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2) Building Walnut Farm