Friday, May 27, 2011

Food Blogging & Food Photography Tips

Last week, Danica from Danica's Daily was live tweeting from the BlogHerFood Convention in Atlanta Georgia. Danica tweeted loads of useful tips and tricks on food photography and food styling as well as copyright and recipe etiquette. Lindsay from Love & Olive Oil was also there and tweeted some great tips on recipe development and blog design. I enjoyed their tweets so much, I must have "favourited" at least a dozen from each lovely lady.

Here are my favourite tips from Danica (tweets condensed into paragraphs):

On Food Photography:

"A tripod is the best inexpensive tool you can get for great food photography. DSL users - If you can only buy one lens make it a zoom Tamron 28-75 mm. Shoot by a window, outside or in dark shade. Avoid direct sunlight. Use an old sheet/table cloth or parchment paper to hang over the window if it has harsh direct sunlight. In low light, use a tripod."

On Food Styling and Props:

"Keep your dishes simple. Go for smaller, white, matte dishes with no designs. Keep your props simple and use them over again... mix it up with the food, napkins etc. If you have $25 to spend on photography, buy foam core, white sheet/table cloth, plain white plate, plain white bowl and a clear drinking glass." Tip from Twitter user FrenchFoodieMom: "When adding garnishes to your food pictures, make it like it fell there."

For the live blog notes from the 'Simple, Affordable Tools, Techniques and Accessories to Improve your Food Photography' seminar, go here.

On Crediting:

"Adapting is recipe specific, meaning you saw a specific recipe in a book/online and you change some ingredients to make it yours, based on your own culinary style/tastes. Changing 2 or 3 ingredients in a recipes does not make it yours. When adapting, reference the author and site/book/link where you found the recipe. Put the intro/instructions into your own words.

'Inspired by' means there is no specific recipe. You tried a soup at a restaurant, liked it and created your OWN take on it."

On Copyright:

"Publishers can reproduce up to 3 blogger recipes to use in their book without permission because bloggers are in the media world. Once recipes are published they are considered public domain. Individual recipes cannot be copyrighted, but, groups of recipes (in books) can be copyrighted. The more individual the writing voice you use in your recipe, the intro, the ingredients and the instructions the more claim to copyright you have.

For the live blog notes from the `Copyright, Credit and Etiquette` seminar, check here.

And my favourite tweets from Lindsay (tweets condensed into paragraph):

"For recipe name, find a happy medium. Convey enough of what the dish is but don't name every single ingredient. A long ingredients list is daunting, if you can shorten and simplify, do so. At the same time, don't trick your reader into thinking a recipe is simple when it is not. Use commas carefully when writing ingredient lists in recipes - "noun, verb" - but be aware, "1 cup parsley, chopped" and "1 cup chopped parsley" are not the same. Your recipe instructions are where you can deliver a lot of voice and personality. When writing recipe instructions, give visual cues for done-ness, not just a range of time. Giving the 'why' of an action turns you into a friend in the kitchen (e.g. remove from heat to prevent scorching). When you test your recipes you know your readers will be successful and you know that they will trust you."

To read the live blog notes from the "Professional-Grade Recipe Development" seminar, check here.

I learned so much just from reading the #blogherfood tweets and from reading through the seminar live blog notes. There were a lot of things I had never considered before, like using a tripod in my photography. I already have a really great tripod but for some reason, I never bother to use it. Hopefully these tips will help improve my recipe writing and food photography so I can deliver a better blog. And... depending where BlogHerFood 2012 is held, I might have to look into attending!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mexican Fiesta

I recently returned from a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where I had the best Mexican food I've ever eaten. Chili Rellenos, Chilaquiles, Tamales, Tostadas, Carne Asada, Ceviche, shrimp tacos, as well as the most tender, flavourful skirt steak ever... not to mention fresh made tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo and refried beans. It was heaven!

This trip rekindled my interest in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking so I hope to create some of the dishes I enjoyed the most and post them here. When I was in Vegas a couple years ago I had an amazing sweet potato tamale at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. I was determined to make tamales myself. I managed to find corn husks here in Vancouver, which is amazing since it's incredibly difficult to find authentic Mexican/Spanish food items that don't come from a yellow box. Despite having a bag of corn husks buried deep in my cabinet, I still haven't tackled homemade tamales. I think while the Mexican spirit is still in my heart, I will give it a go. I'm also determined to re-create the delicious skirt steak (flank steak).

In the picture is one of the best things I tasted. I'm not sure how authentically Mexican or Spanish it is, but it was light, refreshing and oh so tasty. It was some sort of cold shirmp and crab salad, stuffed into a cucumber boat and topped with a drizzle of sour cream and a sprinkle of queso fresco. I'm definitely serving something like it at my next cocktail party!

And if any one knows where I can buy queso Mexicano (Mexican cheese) in Vancouver, specifically cotija and queso fresco, please let me know. I really wish we had a true Spanish foods aisle at our grocery stores like they do in the United States. I almost stocked up on cotija when I was visiting my cousin in Seattle last month but decided against it. Kicking myself now!

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