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A Year with a Food Blog Reflection

by Saara

Last month marked one year since I started this little creative corner. My Vintage Cooking blog turns one! It’s time to look back on writing a food blog and reflect whilst baking Grandma’s oatmeal cookies. 

During the past year, I’ve shared over 30 posts and taken thousands of photos. I’ve dived into cookbook archives and studied food history. Food photography here is like a wheel of passion that is built on different strings of interests & I’ve enjoyed this journey immensely. I want to share how it all started because I know there are a lot of creative minds thinking about having a blog in 2020.

Why Food?

Why food specifically as a photography genre and why now? This love for and connection with food has been within me since a child. The joy of baking and learning how to cook food is one essential way of connecting but also the presentation of food has also intrigued me. If you are a visual person like me, we eat with our eyes all the time.

I also have a strong lifelong fascination with classic stillleben. And household artifacts with their patina and marks of life. The stories one can feel from historical objects and places. My country home is not a dusty museum but I do scout interesting food-related cultural things which I can still use in daily life. If they come handy also as props, it’s a bonus.

It has occurred to me that the common things, everyday life, and home are the areas where I continue to find questions. The word is domestic if you will, has been my touch-point around many things in this world and I come back to it in so many ways.

So ever since a kid, I’ve had this deepening interest to play with and observe all things food. When photography entered my world, it was clear in my mind’s eye and heart that at some point I would start to study still life and everything related with my camera. 

Spring 2018 | How it all started

Food had to wait since I was focused on other things for quite many years. The idea of a blog came to be somewhere around NY’s time. The first photography ideas started to evolve during the spring of 2018. I thought about starting a food blog so that I could see my progression and connect with likeminded people.

I took my first food photos in April during a cinnamon bun baking session. I also photographed preparing sima. You can see those photos here. I was utterly clueless about how to approach the whole thing. I only shot with a kit lens 28-70mm because I thought a zoom might be handy.

Looking back at those photos, I see now that I’ve been more interested in capturing motion and the act of doing rather than making still compositions. I tried to find interesting cups and kettles in my late mother-in-law’s kitchen while going on a memory lane on shared dinners before we lost her. I think that sadness shows in those photos.

After the first photoshoots, life got on the way. The photos were forgotten on the memory card for weeks. I didn’t have time to give them a spare thought until at the end of May when I was standing in Pompiduo, Paris. 

I had a 101 gazing moment watching ‘Nature Morete au buffet vert’ by Henri Matisse. And I thought to myself I need to make room in my life for things that make me happy. I need to have extra time for other creative things that bring counterbalance to the work I do. So I decided to start photographing food again & promised to act on this mission every week.

Summer 2018 | Finding the Food community

I took baby steps. Food is not my first touch-point to the medium and I wanted to feel pressure-free. I played with ingredients, meals and bread making. Just ordinary everyday things, whatever I was doing with food and grabbed my camera to study different light, forms and textures. I explored different focal lengths. I mainly took photos in our country home but also at my Mom’s place, in the city as well as on the go.

After ‘the Matisse moment’, I started to share photos on Instagram. Never had I understood how huge the foodie community is on IG and I was happy to find other food photographers. I never knew food challenges existed until I participated in one. So. Much. Recipes. Even more hashtags. So much everything. 

Being a Millennial and quite heavy social media user, I was surprised how setting up a new IG account from scratch felt in 2018. I had my first ever I’m getting old moments.

Now looking back at this period, it seems that I intuitively spend more time behind the camera studying and creating in comparison to sitting in front of the computer editing. I kept things casual & edited IG photos with my phone app.

What I regret about this time was that I did not organize the photos in any specific way as I do with other work. And a confession, while I do keep food shots in nice order these days, I still have that huge image dump to go through someday if I have time. Let’s see the status on that in three years.

Cookie dough

Autumn/Winter | 2018

Since IG felt a hectic place, I set up this blog so that I could create & communicate in a more focused way. It also felt reasonable to have everything in one place. 

I’m a minimalist and with still life and food photography I wanted to explore more is more. I also wanted to get full-on art director mode on themed vintage photoshoots. I wanted to post every week. AS A HOBBY!

Anyone who has a blog or who has done content creation is smiling on what I’m about to say next. What I did not realize was how much work a whole food blog post is. 

And I should have known this too. It’s one thing to share photos on the go on Instagram in comparison to sharing a blog post around a recipe. I do research and I plan. I cook, bake, style, re-plan, re-style, edit and choose photos. I write, re-write, code, organize and optimize, publish and share and then get social. 

Oh and the work after all this creative party, I clean the dishes and hide the camera gear so that we can normal home life again. Then there’s the other cleaning: checking posts when necessary to correct typos, grammar and managing the site. All this extra work behind the scenes was something that ate all my energy and time.

After the first month, I realized that my great creative hopes and the actual time I had to give for this hobby were at odds. I was too enthusiastic and full of ideas. My expectations were too high considering the time I had for the blog. So less is more was my new mantra & my main focus was to keep the learning ongoing.

Does this sound like I did not have a content plan? Well I didn’t have one and so I learned what happens to a blog when the editor fells ill. The blog is silent. I had almost a month’s pause because of falling ill. After the recovery work comes first of course and hobbies wait. In wintertime, our family also grew with a furry friend which brought some delays to my plans. 

To sum up, the first months of blogging gave me great lessons on how to be more effective with my food photography and how to pace different tasks related to blogging. 

Baking Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Spring / Summer | 2019

During spring I had another blogging pause but many good things happened. And the past summer, I felt that I found a way to manage my creative process with food photography midst everyday life and a puppy. 

I decided to create dogmas. With everything I wanted to bring in front of my camera, I kept “the studio” on spot. Nowadays I mainly take blog photos in our country home where I work with the green moody drawer. Occasionally I set the scene on our light grey kitchen table which gives more graphic possibilities. Sometimes I also play in our city apartment which you can recognize from the brown antique table. 

When some things are kept constant, it’s easier to start exploring more. Focused settings brought me routines and repetition & an in-depth understanding of how the light works in these spaces throughout the year. 

During our trip to France, the blog was active with pre-written posts. And after the pause, I was also able to jump back to food photography and plan ahead. I pondered how I want to continue with this blog. I weighted how much time I have on a weekly and daily basis for creating with all this. I questioned if I would decrease the number of our everyday food/vintage intertwinings or would it be possible to work on themes. I had a good talk with myself & I’ve decided on some steps I’m taking towards 2020 and onwards here.

Next steps in food blogging

Sourdough, sugar, and soups. If I had to describe this blog in three words & I think that sums the first year quite accurately. Despite I have a sweet tooth, I do love savory dishes as much and I want to photograph them more. This is an area which I will focus on more next year. In addition to adding more salt, I will build cultural and/or visual themes in more depth.

Old recipes and vintage cookbooks are sometimes really challenging and I love it! I don’t always succeed with the recipes on a first try & I’ve shared the process-like learning on the recipes also before. And by no means is this blog giving any diet advice. I share here what I found interesting or delicious in the hopes someone else might also find these adventures useful, beautiful or enjoyable. I always think that a recipe is a starting point & I trust you to adjust ingredients according to your needs, preferences, and sensibilities.

I’m Finnish so naturally, there’s been quite a few posts about Finnish food and Nordic traditions. However, despite the strong Nordic cultural emphasis continues, this blog travels the world kitchens. Is there some specific theme, dish, interesting ingredient or a cultural tradition you would want to see here? Please do share your thoughts.

Personally, I find newsletters the best way to tune in for fresh content shared by the people I choose to follow. I will update My Vintage Cooking blog every Sunday with a new post and occasionally I’m here on a bi-weekly basis with an extra surprise mid-week post. I think it’s important to be connected the way everyone feels best and social media is not for everyone at all times. So another next step for 2020 is setting up a monthly newsletter.

Photography is my main language. I study, express and communicate things through photos in this blog. Photography is also an expensive medium and food photography can be very physical when sets are on standard height tables and cabinets. I don’t have a commercial studio and I’m living between two places.

For the longest, my policy has been that I keep things easy for me. Here in the blog I only work with natural light. I only carry my camera bag with an extra lens when coordinating between different home locations. Having vintage Velbon (old horse with loose legs) in our country home has been a bliss while keeping all the heavy stuff in the city. 

However, I switched things up early fall. I was able to explore proper flat lays in the countryside sets among other things. Now that my calendar is looking ahead, I’ve had more creative freedom at this present moment. A lot of new freedom time and tech-wise for which I’m relieved and happy.

I think the first year has served a strong learning curve. Not only have I had my stomach full, but I’ve also found new creativity with my camera & developed new ways of seeing in my other work too. I want to thank you for all the support, kindness and inspiration that I have been given in this global community of food lovers, foodies & photographers.

So food blogging continues on this site for sure. But how about you, are YOU starting a food blog of your own? Of course and absolutely you should! I hope my mistakes, lessons and reflections can give you a headstart so that your first year can be less of a hassle. :)



P.S. The recipe for Grandma’s oatmeal cookies with cinnamon, cardamom and ground cloves is found here.

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