Why Food Photography Can Make Or Break Your Blog! (+ Leith’s Food Photography Course Review)
Don’t Underestimate The Power of Great Food Photography
Are you a food blogger? Foodie? Food enthusiast? Most importantly; do you take photos of food?
How many times have you sat at a restaurant and swooned over the gorgeous food on the plate in front of you, only to realise that the 2D version in your camera looks like a different dish at best, or a dog’s dinner at worst.
Yes, you may have the biggest, baddest lens, the most buttons or the coolest smartphone.. but do you have what it takes to transform your lunch into an enticing promise of total deliciousness? Can you make people salivate with the click of a button? If you’re a blogger; do you think that your blog could benefit from some mouth-watering, jaw-dropping, breathtaking food photography?
Great photography might actually be the one thing that’s standing between you and the blog of your dreams!
(All images in this post were taken by me at Leith’s Food Photography Course unless otherwise specified)
Great Photos Draw People Into Your Blog!
Let’s just say it as it is: people come to your food blog for the photos
Otherwise, how were they drawn to your blog in the first place? Yes, your recipes are out of this world, and your content is unreal, but what brought your readers in to check out your awesome stuff? The photography!
They see that picture of the scrumptious pecan pie you made last Tuesday, and they wanna eat it. Your picture says “get in my belly”, and they can’t control that urge to hit the “read more” button. That’s a fact.
If you’re a food blogger, you know this. You know how important it is to be able to present your readers with an amazing photo that makes them want to read on.
If you can add that magic photography touch, you will inevitably end up drawing readers in and showing them how awesome your recipes actually are! I mean, you may have a super-duper recipe to share with the world, but if the picture makes it look like a pig’s breakfast.. well, your readers might miss out!
So, get your photography right, brush up on those all-important photo skills, and give your fantastic recipes the sparkle they deserve!
Is food photography some magical ability you were born with? A super special “eye” for composition and lighting? Nope. It can be learnt! Even from bare naked scratch. That’s the great news!
Wanna see where I started?
Let’s brave the embarrassing truth, shall we!
I was crap! I was the worst photographer ever to start a blog! I fannied around with my smartphone, happy-snapping my lunches and dinners just as they appeared on my plate, in any way, shape or form. I knew nothing about lighting, even less about food styling, and I certainly didn’t have any professional equipment.
The first ever picture on my blog looked like this –>
It’s a Pavlova, in case you couldn’t tell.. I mean, I knew it wasn’t a work of photographic art, obviously, but I actually didn’t think it mattered all that much. I knew the Pavlova was delicious, and it was gorgeous in real life, so I figured people would get it.
Guess what; I was wrong. Massively wrong!
My horrid “food photography” (because it doesn’t deserve to be called food photography) made my tasty and meticulously decorated Pavlova look like something the cat dragged in.
Would you rather eat that Pavlova, or this Pavlova:
I’m pretty sure those two (vastly different) Pavlova images make it pretty clear why Annabel Langbein was getting a tad (hah) more traffic than me..
The truth is, one would most likely taste just as amazing as the other, but obviously you’d skip right past the first one and dive spoon first into the second. That’s just how it works!
I’m sure your food photography isn’t half as bad as mine was, but whether you’re a total newbie equipped with a meagre smartphone or a seasoned food blogger with a lens that makes your car look cheap, there are valuable lessons to be learnt from a quality food photography course!
The Power of a Great Food Photo
They way I see it, you can either make friends or enemies with your camera, and through your camera you can make friends or “enemies” with your readers.
A lot of people now have the means and opportunity to own really good cameras, but they don’t know how to get past auto mode. Even if they have indeed ventured beyond that little green button, and into unchartered manual mode territory, they may, in fact, be either making it worse than it was in auto (cue total frustration and unpredictable results), or simply not making the most of the camera functions and totally not getting their money’s worth for the massive purchase that is a decent camera.
If you’re gonna shoot in auto mode..
..you might as well stick with a compact or a smartphone. Those things know better than you how to get everything right. But, there’s “right”, and there’s awesome.
“Right” is when your auto mode camera decides to perfectly leave the whole frame in focus, adjusts the lighting by adding an obnoxious flash, and makes sure that the photo isn’t blurry even though your hand wobbled. And that’s fantastic if you’re taking pictures of your family holiday or selling your sofa on Gumtree.
Awesome, however, is when the food on your plate is bathed in natural light and shadow, your gorgeous dish is front and center amidst beautiful depth of field, and the colours in the image pop as though the dish was right in front of you ready to be eaten. That’s awesome, and “right” just doesn’t cut it once you’ve seen the alternative.
It’s like the difference between documenting an event and capturing it!
Create awesome, and you’ll stun your readers. Awesome food photography doesn’t just drag people into your blog, but it keeps them clicking away once they’re in there and heading right back to your site, time after time. More importantly, however; awesome food photography generates shares!
Great Food Photography Creates Sharable Content!
This might surprise you, but Pinterest draws in almost as many views for me as Google does! That’s pretty significant! In fact, Pinterest alone, tops both Facebook, Foodgawker and Instagram put together for engagement and clicks into my sites!
Pinterest is such a brilliantly powerful tool. It is presently one of the fastest growing social media platforms among millennials, and thus essentially “the place to be”. Especially for food bloggers, who can count Pinterest as their perhaps most effective social media platform for conversions to their website.
Both Pinterest’s most pinned and most browsed categories are food and drink, and that applies to both women and men!
Did you know that a whopping 64% of Pinterest users actually TRY the recipe or activity they pinned? Or that Pinterest has a monthly page view stat of 2,5 BILLION?
If you haven’t already, you gotta get your butt onto that site! And how do you successfully achieve engagement on Pinterest? You guessed it; with great food photography!
(Photo credit: Leith’s School of Food and Wine)
My Experience at Leith’s School of Food and Wine’s Food Photography Course
I was lucky enough to be invited to Leith’s School of Food and Wine’s Food Photography Class in June.
In the lead up to this, I had long dreamt of taking part in a great food photography course. I had searched high and low to find just the right thing, and I eventually found Leith’s. I am so happy I did!
The first thing I was looking for in my search, was that the course came from a reputable provider. Leith’s School of Food and Wine has an international reputation as a first class culinary institute for chefs. The school has close links with some of the UK’s top restaurants, and has been voted one of the top 10 cookery schools in the UK. Needless to say, a course at Leith’s is synonymous with quality.
Secondly, and quite importantly, I look at which photographer is running the course. This is not of little importance to me, because photography is so much more than simply a technical trade; it is art. To learn art you need to like the work of the artist who will be teaching you!
My course was run by William Reavell, and I diligently googled his work, looked at his website and read up on his experience before considering the course.
William Reavell has been photographing food for over 18 years, and his photographs have been used in cookbooks by Mary Berry, Rick Stein and Gizzi Erskine, as well as by leading supermarkets and food companies. Most importantly however, I love his style and his work! His skills are versatile and consistent, and he knows how to produce excellent food photography which is totally in line with what’s on-trend for bloggers right now.
To me, the importance of finding a teacher who not only has an excellent track-record, but whose work I love, is paramount. I need to know that my teacher has the skills that can help lift my level of performance within the style that I aspire to master. William Reavell has just that, and I love his work!
Leith’s certainly go that extra mile at their courses
Boy did I feel taken care of!
Having coeliac disease can make a lot of things slightly more challenging than you wish them to be. I am well and truly used to bringing a pack of rice cakes, and accepting the fact that I’ll have to settle for just that, as others dig in from gorgeous trays of gluten’ed food. My first morning, as I rocked up for the food photography course at Leith’s, my backpack was stocked with the usual gluten-free snack options to keep me going through the day.
But I was in for a surprise..
As soon as I turned up I was treated to a plate of fresh-from-the-oven gluten-free pain au chocolates, to go with my cup of hot tea. What an awesome first impression!
And it didn’t stop there. The fantastic kitchen team lead by the wonderful Max, did more than assist with props and styling. They dished up the most amazing lunches you’ll ever see! A long table full of gorgeous treats, wines, delicious cheeses and of course, for me, gluten-free breads. Leith’s don’t call themselves a school of food and wine for no reason 🙂
Most importantly for me, I was able to enjoy delicious meals every day that were totally safe for a coeliac. They took excellent care, down to the last crumb, and I felt like I was in the best ever hands!
Learning, doing and having fun!
One of my favourite elements at the course was the awesome mix of people. All girls on this occasion, and we got along like a house on fire! There were lots of laughs between us, but most importantly, as a blogger, it was a fantastic opportunity to interact with others who share my passion!
Blogging is fun, but it can be a bit lonely not to have anyone to bounce ideas off of, and meeting up with this super bunch of girls each Saturday for the duration of the course really added to the experience!
The course is laid out so that there’s ample room to get to know each other, work together in teams, and learn from each other’s ideas and experience.
Great fun, but also very useful and clever from a learning perspective!
What I learnt at Leith’s Food Photography Course
The course at Leith’s is divided into 3 Saturdays, and each session runs from 10.00 till 16.00. The sessions are built up with a theory part in the morning, where the teacher runs through the elements we’ll be working with on the day, followed by a practical part where we test the principles we’ve learnt that morning. Midday it’s time for (a gorgeous) lunch, which at the same time is an excellent opportunity to pick the teacher’s brain, discuss what we’ve learnt between us, and come up with ideas for the afternoon session, which consists of hands-on work with individual guidance and feedback from the teacher.
I feel that William did an excellent job of explaining the theories behind the work we were going to do, and he structured the theory part in a way that included the newbies without excluding the more seasoned players.
The class consisted of everything from people who had never before held a DSLR camera, to experienced portrait photographers moving into food. Somehow William managed to cater to all of us on an individual level, and we all came away feeling like we’d taken our photography to the next level.
My Food Photography Epiphany
Having been in the food blogging game for a while, I knew distinctly that I needed to up my photo game, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what I needed to learn. I think that it takes a better teacher to help with an unspecific query than a straight-up question, and clearly William nailed it, because I came away from the course having lifted my photography that last bit which I was after!
William was very hands-on, rather than making the course a classroom experience. We were constantly playing around with our props, lighting, and angles, and the class was just small enough for us all to feel well taken care of.
My biggest takeaway from Leith’s Food Photography Course was the fact that these three Saturdays enabled me to pinpoint exactly what my photos were missing. That black hole I had been so frustrated about, I was suddenly able to fill!
It takes an experienced and professional eye to see the things that aren’t so obvious, and William was able to guide me in the direction of a total epiphany!
My two biggest problem areas pre-course, were “flat” lighting, and angles that had that sense of “something’s not quite right”. I would always look at my pictures and think “what IS it that I’m not getting here?!“.
During the food photography course, I learnt two valuable lessons that have absolutely changed my photography! After such a long time of making the same mistakes, I am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have found my own way there. I needed this course, and I am SO happy that I was able to take part!
Ever since the course I have been absolutely itching to take more photos, knowing that I can now actually nail it! My confidence in handling my camera and propping food has totally changed, and I have a whole new over-all understanding of what I’m doing.
The Best Parts of the Photography Course
Did you know that the food you use needs to look “happy”, or that you should always style your props and foods in odd numbers? What about your lighting? Did you know that your food will look best at a 45 degree angle from the light?
The food styling and lighting aspects of the course brought some super useful tricks and insights!
William delivered a whole list of awesome tools and tricks that can take your food styling from drab to awesome with only very small tweaks.
We also learnt the importance of good props. Apparently you can get away with almost anything, bad food and equipment, but if your props are wrong, you can never make that picture work.
Since learning that I have not left ebay alone 😀
It has been so wonderful to get some much-needed professional guidance, and also an outsider’s opinion on my photography. I wanted it, I needed it, and my photos are so much better for it!
I Wish I Was Going Back!
As we left Leith’s on the last day, we all agreed that the only bad thing about this course was that it didn’t go on for longer. We all wanted to keep meeting up on Saturdays, indulging in photography, community, and long, delicious lunches!
Thanks Leith’s, thanks William, and thanks girls for an amazing three weeks! 🙂
If you are itching to give your food photography a kick up the backside and your food blog a boost, you can get stuck into the next available food photography course at Leith’s School of Food and Wine by visiting their website on Leiths.com!