Last month marked one year since I started this little creative corner. My Vintage Cooking blog turns one! The thought of starting a food blog simmered in my mind for quite some time before I jumped on it.
And a year later, here we are. 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 is the wheel of passion that is built on different strings of interests & I’ve enjoyed this journey immensely.
I know there are a many creative minds thinking about having a food or recipe blog every year. To help you reflect, I want to share how my journey started and what I’ve learned so far.
Why food specifically as a photography genre and why now? This is something you must ask yourself because you absolutely have to love the medium, the process and love your subject. And a simple truth, photographing food can be very expensive. So why waste your time and money on a thing you’re not sure about in the long haul?
To me photographing food is a natural progression with a fruitful ground but choosing to become a food blogger took a more thought and mistakes.
Looking back my own background, 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 of the essential ways of connecting and rooting myself with past generations. Food brings me sense of belonging. I’m not only a photographer who turns the lens towards food but also a person who enjoys food in a very deep way.
The presentation of food has always intrigued me. My mother has always had a very strong personal sense of aesthetics in everything she does. And I suppose I inherited that, too. I’ve grown in a household where presentation of food was valued in addition to flavours. My approach here on My Vintage Cooking is elegantly casual, I by no means can achieve the master creations professional bakers and chefs make nor do I want to include professional trends here purposefully.
The question of why food also comes down to my lifelong fascination with classic stillleben. The meanings behind those chosen symbols and compositions is interesting to me. And on a domestic level the household artifacts with their patina and marks of life are another yet more concrete arena of stillleben for me. The stories one can feel from historical objects and places always hits me.
I mostly shoot at our country home but this kitchen is not a dusty museum. While I do scout interesting food-related cultural things, I do want to keep in mind that I can still use those objects in our daily life. If they come handy also as props, it’s a bonus. As a food photographer, you can not only spent a fortune on food but also the props.
So my streams of curiosity and connection to food have been close and active throughout my life. Ever since a kid, I’ve had this deepening interest to play with and observe all things food. So when photography entered my world, it was clear in my heart that at some point I would direct the camera to study still life and everything food, too. Slowly things started to happen.
How it all started | Spring 2018
The idea of food blog had to wait since I was focused on other things for quite many years. The idea of a blog re-entered to me somewhere around NY’s time 2017. The first photography ideas started to evolve during the spring of 2018 and slowly I started to weave a concept which would both fuel my interests as a creative and connect me with likeminded people. Having a blog would be a great nest where to track your own progress and be connected to others.
I took my first food photos in April 2018 during a cinnamon bun baking session. I also photographed preparing sima (photo below). You can check the delicious recipe here. Back in April, 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 photo reels from that time, I see now that I’ve been more interested in capturing motion and the act of doing rather than making still life 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 somehow.
After the first photoshoots, life got on the way yet again. 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 serious work I do. So I decided to start photographing food again & promised to act on this mission every week.
What I learned
Sometimes a creative side project takes you on a powerful flow and you create like a crazy for days and weeks giving every free moment to the new thing. Other times you test the waters and proceed more mindfully. With this food blog I took baby steps.
While I kept the promise of practicing and feeling my way every week, I didn’t want to seriously plan a day or set a window of time when I would create. This was possible for me because I’m an entrepreneur and can play with this kind of flexibility but that was not the reason why I chose to create slowly.
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, I felt free to grab my camera to study different light, forms and textures. I explored different focal lengths and tested all my lenses. I mainly took photos in our country home but also at my Mom’s place, in the city as well as on the go. I played with my articifical lights and gear but soon chose to focus on natural light only.
I made choices as I created and so can you. Feel free to create for a few months and share you journey. Or work without publicly sharing your progress, whatever feels good to you. There is no one way to become a a food photographer. Don’t stress – a food blog is not your portfolio and there is so much more freedom to create.
Finding the Food community | Summer 2018
After ‘the Matisse moment’, I started to share my food photos on Instagram. Never had I understood how huge the foodie community is on Instagram! I was so happy to find other food photographers around the world. I never knew food challenges existed until I participated in one. So. Much. Recipes. Even more hashtags. So much everything! And so much fun. By the way, if you want to be friends on Instagram, find me here.
Being a Millennial and a heavy social media user, plus a marketing professional, I was surprised how setting up a new Instagram account from scratch felt in 2018. I had my first ever “I’m getting old” moments because the algorithm didn’t work as it does on older profiles. It can feel a little bit lonely at first but with hashtags and challenges you’ll find the right people.
What I learned
Now looking back this summer period, it seems that I intuitively spent more time behind the camera studying and creating in comparison to sitting in front of the computer editing. I kept things casual & edited Instagram photos with my Lightroom phone app. I was still pondering about whether I had enough time for a blog or should I just keep creating and sharing on Instagram.
What I regret about this time was that I did not organise photos in any specific way as I do with other work. And a confession: while I do also keep food shots in nice order these days, I still have that huge image dump from the beginning to go through someday. If I have extra time. Okay let’s see the status on that in three years shall we!
Personally I can say that connecting with photographers and foodies bring so much inspiration. I felt insecure to create and share publicly at first but I’m so happy I did so because all the connections and friends I’ve made this year.
Launching a food blog | Autumn/Winter 2018
Since Instagram started to feel 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.
When I finally set up the blog, I had so many good ideas about what and how I would do things. For example, I’m a minimalist and with still life and food photography I wanted to explore more is more styling. I also wanted to get full-on art director mode with carefully themed vintage photoshoots which require weeks of prop hunting. I wanted to post every week. AS A HOBBY!
If you’re a content creator, what I’m about to say next will give you a big smile: What I did not realize was how much work a whole food blog post is. One food blog post.
And I should have known this too. Don’t get me wrong, the beginning was easy for me. Buying and setting up the technical stuff and designs, no problem. But the recipe posts, oh my gosh, I was too ambitious.
What I learned
It’s one thing to share photos on the go on Instagram in comparison to producing a blog post around a chosen 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.
And oh, let’s not forget about the the work after all this creative party. I clean the dishes and hide the camera gear so that we can have normal home life again. Then there’s the digital cleaning: checking my own 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 during the first moths.
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 was more was my new mantra & my main focus was to keep the learning ongoing in a more relaxed way.
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 goes 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. I absolutely learned my lesson that I now have a content plan and some pre-planning to keep the blog active during slow months.
To sum up, the first months of blogging gave me harsh lessons on how to be more effective with my food photography as a blogger and how to pace different tasks related to blogging. Your pain points may be different or change over time. But as a blogger, you’re responsible for it all if you don’t buy expert work to support you. You either want to go the steep learning curve route or buy helping hands.
Re-adjusting my approach | Spring / Summer 2019
The past summer, I felt that I found a way to manage my creative process with food blogging midst everyday life and a new puppy. I decided to create dogmas. With everything I wanted to bring in front of my camera, I kept “the studio” on spot.
To ease the work load, I just mainly chose to point and shoot during the first year. I focused on sharing vintage recipes, food memories and food traditions which are very present in our everyday life. I though this kind integration would help me get started and ensure I had enough content to post.
Nowadays I mainly take blog photos in our country home where I work with the green moody drawer you’ve seen in many of my photos. 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.
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.
What I learned
When some things are kept constant, e.g. the scene, it’s easier to start exploring more with whatever you have on the table. A focused mindset brought me routines and repetition. By focusing on a handful of scenes, I gained an in-depth understanding of how the light works in these spaces throughout the year.
Next steps in Food Blogging
Sourdough, sugar, and soups. If I had to describe this blog in three words & I think that sums the recipe contents of 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 in 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 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 tethered 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 about producing a food blog
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 creative work, too.
I hope these honest reflections will give you an idea what kind jungle of choices and common mistakes can come to your way during first year of blogging. There’s no one way of becoming a food blogger or developing yourself as a food photographer.
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.