We eat with our eyes first and everyone loves to look at beautiful images of mouthwatering food. Have you ever wondered how a food blogger decides to start navigating the wild and wonderful world of blogging about what they cook, eat and in general, their lives?
Well, here's my food blogging story and I'm stickin' to it!
I have always been fascinated with food photography and all that goes into producing those beautiful images. However, it wasn’t too long ago, whenever I attempted to photograph something, the result was nothing short of awful.
As part of reaching out and getting to know people in my local food community to promote my personal chef business, I got to know one of the food columnists at our local daily newspaper, the Commercial Appeal. She asked me to help with a project, loved the recipes I submitted for it and subsequently asked me to do a biweekly food column containing a recipe and write-up for the newspaper centered around dinners for two. I had never done food writing before but thought it was pretty cool to be a personal chef AND newspaper columnist. I would get paid and the newspaper would allow me to mention my personal chef business at the end of every column so I figured… What the heck!
As part of the arrangement, the newspaper was going to send a photographer out to photograph the dish for each column. However, with my cooking schedule and where I live, scheduling cooking, styling and photographing the dish was nearly impossible. After two complicated sessions, I decided to take the photo myself. The photo was not very good, however, it passed and the newspaper was happy to let me take all photos after that.
Here's my first food photography effort! They're Quinoa-Stuffed Swiss Chard Rolls with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce. Oh well, everyone has to start somewhere.
Suddenly, I was a food photographer too, which was pretty interesting because my knowledge of photography, in general, was quite limited.
Because of my new sideline gig as a biweekly columnist for the local newspaper, I wanted to learn more about food writing. I came across Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write For Food. Her book is a great resource for anyone interested in writing a cookbook, doing freelance food writing and of course, food blogging, which is how I became intrigued with it. Food blogging intrigued me because I love to create new recipes and being able to share them with the world seemed so rewarding. However, my personal chef business kept me extremely busy so I wasn’t able to delve into the process.
Then, two years ago, I was sidelined from my personal chef business due to an injury. I tripped and fell in a client’s kitchen, fracturing my right kneecap. I couldn’t work or drive for six weeks. It was during this time I realized that someday my personal chef career could end for any number of reasons. Having already experienced severe office job burnout prior to becoming a personal chef, I knew there was no way I could ever go back to work in an office. I felt I needed to have something to fall back on that I was passionate about.
It was during this time my “real” food blog was born. I say “real,” because I had a small blog section on my business website, but it got very little traffic. I knew absolutely nothing about how to promote it; I didn’t even have a Facebook account until a few months before my accident. My food photography had progressed to a point where FoodGawker.com and Tastespotting.com were accepting some of my photographs so I received traffic there. Because their editors carefully curate those sites, having photos accepted was very encouraging to me.
So, with tons of time on my hands during my recovery period, I decided if I were ever going to delve into food blogging, it was the time to do it.
Because a food blog is nothing without great photography, I first immersed myself into learning everything I possibly could to improve my photography through reading books, watching online video workshops and by studying great food photography. Some resources to improve your food photography that I used:
- Helene du Jardin's Plate to Pixel pulled me out of the great "doing-food-photography-wrong-abyss!"
- E-Books on food photography that include Taylor Mathis' series and Tasty Food Photography from Lindsay Ostrom.
- A three-day video workshop on CreativeLive.com from the White on Rice Couple.
I then researched how to start a food blog, food blogging and looked at hundreds of food blogs.
I knew nothing about social media but knew I had to learn it in a hurry because it’s one of the main ways to promote a food blog. Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Google+ were all mysteries to me so I had to start figuring them out.
I knew nothing about WordPress, website design or SEO. For my personal chef business website, I had always let pros at APPCA do it. This, however, I was determined to learn from the ground up, and it wasn’t long before I learned what the “white screen of death” was.
I also knew nothing about how to make money with a food blog—I just knew people did it because they published their income and traffic reports.
But, as with all journeys, they begin with the first step. My original food blog concept, which was based on my love for cookbooks, seemed to confuse everyone. Most people thought all I did was rework cookbook recipes. (Branding experts advise having a clear, definable focus.) The concept worked for Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame, but it wasn’t going so well for me. Three graphic designers couldn’t come up with the right logo for me so I worked until midnight many nights trying to design one myself on professional software I knew nothing about.
After hitting numerous roadblocks, I decided to rebrand last summer and change my name to what it is now--From A Chef’s Kitchen. I knew I was doing the right thing when one of the first people I told about the change said, “Now THAT tells me who you are!” I tried a graphic designer one more time and my logo came together quickly and painlessly.
Fast forward to today and I’m having a ball. My studio and kitchen are my happy places!
I absolutely love the process of recipe development, styling the dish and nailing a mouthwatering shot. I love being able to share my recipes and passion for food with the world. It’s very gratifying receiving comments from readers who made a recipe and it’s become their new family favorite.
I don’t plan on giving up my personal chef business any time soon, but my traffic is growing nicely thanks to readers like you!
I’m still a little shy about putting myself out there with my recipes and photography but I’m growing more and more confident about it each day.
If you enjoy photography, writing and recipe development, I highly encourage you to look into food blogging. As a mentor of mine in the food blogosphere said, “Start, and then learn.” That’s what I did!
Thanks for reading, following and loving my recipes!