The Art & Business of Food Blogging

In early September Lauren Palmer was scrolling through Facebook and a familiar picture popped up on a friend’s feed. It was a picture of pastel macarons. Macarons she had purchased. They were sitting on one of her plates; on her dining room table; looking as gorgeous as they would had they come from Ladurée, Mad Macs or some other exquisite bakery–not the frozen section of Trader Joe’s where she had actually found them.

The picture-shot by her beloved friend and photographer, Patrizia Montanari, was promoting a class Patrizia would teach for Dallas Center for Photography called The Art and Business of Food Blogging. The Art and Business. Business. The title resonated with Lauren. We asked her to share her experience with us:

I’m not a food blogger per se. Well, not just a food blogger. My website, The Art of Living Beautifully, is an online lifeStyle hub where fashion, entertaining and yes food intertwine to inspire. This non-tech creative started a website in 2014 and has literally been tripping forward for 2 years, not knowing how to get there or even where she was going, but the determination to continue creating each week has outweighed the logic. The most difficult part though? Not knowing what I don’t know.

I signed up for the workshop where Patrizia would teach photography, Coryanne Ettiene owner of Ettiene Culinary Market would teach the business side of food blogging, and Rebecca White creator of A Pleasant Little Kitchen and foodie contributor for The Dallas Morning News would share her knowledge of the art of food styling.

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Photo Credit: Lauren Palmer

Five minutes till 9:00 I arrived at Ettiene Market with 10 other bloggers. I watched as they unloaded camera bags and lenses and sexy little MacBook Pros–I had shoved my tiny Olympus in my purse with a small notebook and my ancient laptop which weighs approximately 9 pounds. Class began on time in Coryanne’s market. It truly was the ideal setting to absorb foodie inspiration: French cup towels, cast iron pots with a golden hue, giant tea cups branded DARLING and SUGAR stacked in haphazard towers. It is rustic and honest and a home cook’s dreamy-est dream.

“I’m in the mood to receive a check for $6000 today” Coryanne said. I smiled. I liked her already. She began her segment by encouraging us to treat our blogs like a business, not just a hobby or creative outlet. Seek collaborators, fill in gaps, look for opportunities, reach out, do the work, diversify, be authentic, honest and open, take chances. Success doesn’t just happen for bloggers. We have to create it, look for it and be smart about it. She told me things I didn’t know, while reminding me of parts that I did, but had just forgotten.  Her knowledge was vast. Her experience, coveted. Her involvement in this workshop was priceless.

Patrizia took over after Coryanne and gave us a quick lesson on camera anatomy. Light, color, composition, story-telling–these are the components that make a great photograph, she told us in her lovely Italian accent. Also remember light is the other subject of the image. Be very aware of it and use it to your advantage. She was even able to demonstrate photo editing in Lightroom, all the while encouraging us to develop our eye and see our photographs differently.

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Photo Credit: Lauren Palmer

Market Street Supermarket graciously provided lunch for the attendees, which we could also use as subjects for practice. We spread out, ate and took a few shots before Rebecca White began her words on food styling–which for me was the most fun part of the day. I had no idea that photographs should be well thought out before hand, and that they should communicate your brand as well as show a particular food. It shouldn’t be just a picture of spaghetti. The picture of spaghetti should also tell what makes your blog unique: moody, colorful, glamorous, simple, kid-friendly etc…Rebecca had so many ideas and tips on how to create photographs that become your own personal thumbprint.

By the end of the day, I was overflowing with knowledge and fearful I would forget some of the precious wisdom I had just attained. I was also exhausted and starving. On my way to grab some Thai food take-out before heading home, I used what brain power I had left to process the day. The biggest takeaway I had was the simple reminder to seek help if you struggle somewhere. Look to places like Dallas Center for Photography for guidance. Take a class. Engage in a workshop and meet others who are in your same shoes. As bloggers and photographers our jobs can feel so lonely, so isolated. My day at Ettiene Market was a refreshing change to my typical island of one work day. Thank you DCP. Thank you to Coryanne and Rebecca. E grazie mille por la tua amicizia Patrizia.

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Lauren Palmer

www.theartoflivingbeautifully.net

Instagram: @theartoflivingbeautifully

 

 

 

How to shoot the full moon

There is a full moon tonight and I encourage you to go out and shoot at sunset and beyond. It’s going to be a beautiful, rain free evening! At full moon the moonrise and sunset happen together so you’ll get the huge glowing orb of the moon just above the horizon while the foreground will still be lit by the dusk of the fading sun.

Use a tripod and a remote release if you have one. If you don’t have a remote, use the self timer to help the camera settle down before the exposure. Experiment with different White Balance settings on your cameras. If you’re shooting raw you can play with white balance later in software. On some cameras there will be a dedicated WB button. On many Nikons you get to the WB setting by pressing the “i” button twice on the back. That gets you into the “Info” display which lets you set a lot of the most important functions on your camera without having to dive into the menus, where you could be lost for hours. On many Canons the equivalent button is “Q” which stands for “Quickset”.

Look on the left side of your lens. Most of you will have a button that either says VR (Vibration Reduction on Nikon) or IS (Image Stabilization on Canon). Turn that to the OFF position when you’re on a tripod. It sounds weird, but leaving it on will actually cause your images to be blurred. The VR/IS system is trying to neutralize vibration in the camera and when it’s on a tripod and nice and stable, the vibration of the shutter itself will “wake up” the VR/IS system and cause image blur. **Remember to turn it back ON when you’re through shooting tonight.

For exposure mode, if you’re still new to DSLR cameras I would try the P or Program mode. It will work well when the moon is low on the horizon and there is still color in the sky. Don’t use the full Auto mode or the flash will keep popping up. When the moon gets a little higher and the foreground is darker then the auto modes won’t work very well any more. The metering system will be confused by all of the dark sky and you’ll get a blank white circle for the moon with no features. If you’re a little more advanced then try the M (Manual) exposure mode, adjusting aperture and shutter speed until the metering marker is in the middle. Try a shot, then adjust to get the look you want. This would be a good time to play with Spot Metering as well. Put the metering spot right on the moon and use that exposure.

Here’s a good discussion on the topic from one of my favorite photo websites: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/forums/thread24905.htm

Have fun. If you get something good we’d love to see it.

Here is a nice shot from Michelle Thoma who tried this out during another full moon.

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Preview of the DMA’s Concentrations 60: Lucie Stahl

 

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This morning I had the pleasure of attending Dallas Museum of Art’s Press Preview for Concentrations 60: Lucie Stahl. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a scanner artist but it was close enough to photography that I wanted to know more.

Stahl uses a flatbed scanner to create large format images of items such as food, magazine clippings and trash. The results are fascinating and have a very tactile quality. I really enjoyed her image titled Identity which consisted of a Coca-Cola can, flowers, Lucie’s hands and some unknown liquid. Her method of coating the print in resin made it seem as though the strange red liquid was going to drip right off the wall onto the gallery floor. According to the DMA, “Stahl’s work plays with the notion of liquidity in its many forms – from finance to bodily fluids to the malleability of gender, identity, and images.”

Lucie Stahl Identity, 2015 Inkjet print, aluminum, epoxy resin

Lucie Stahl
Identity, 2015
Inkjet print, aluminum, epoxy resin

Creating art using scanners is actually a really fun and easy thing to do. The images you create can be blown up to huge proportions and are still very sharp. You can use flowers, household objects or even faces. Here’s a helpful how-to on scannography.

Even if you’re not ready to start scanning I certainly recommend checking out Concentrations 60: Lucie Stahl. The exhibit opens Friday, September 16, 2016 and runs until March 12, 2017. Admission is free. Visit the DMA website for complete details.

Sometimes Photoshop is just too complicated for a simple job

Have you ever wanted to make a nice graphic for a presentation or social media but using Photoshop seemed like too much work? I’ve found an easier option. Canva is a free graphic design platform that allows anyone to create beautiful and engaging designs.

I appreciate that they offer dozens of pre-sized templates for social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. I’ve used it to make party invitations, flyers, and even Christmas cards. When I’m struggling to come up with a design idea I like to browse their sample layouts for inspiration. Canva also offers free tutorials to help spark your creativity.

At DCP I’ve been using Canva to create easily sharable graphics to announce upcoming events and classes. Here’s an example of one I created for the Photo Swap Meet. I used one of our photos for the background image and then added text on top. Resizing text is simple- you just click the text you want and make your change. To ensure the text was readable, I layered a transparent square between the text and the background. It would have taken me half a day to find that object in Photoshop. In Canva you just click the icon for shapes and then you have a huge selection to drag and drop into your design.

Click here to check out Canva for yourself. And definitely take advantage of the Design School, it really helps break down the basics of good graphic design.

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Sam Abell Image Critique

This past October National Geographic photographer Sam Abell returned to DCP for an afternoon of image critiques. Sam started his presentation by sharing some of his life’s work and explaining why these specific images meant the most to him. His biggest message was to take the photos that are most important to you. As he flipped through the slideshow he shared stories of his artistic search and intimately described some of the most difficult times in his photographic life.

After his presentation, Sam turned his insight towards the work of the students. Over the next hour and a half Sam critiqued two to three images of each of the 24 participants. Photos ranged from travel photography to geometric landscapes to intimate portraits. Sam’s comments included what he liked about each image and gave suggestions on how he may have photographed the situation differently to make the image stronger. He encouraged students to slow down and compose the image and then wait for the action to happen. He shared that the photos that work well are the ones where the subject’s head is above the horizon line and they have their own space and room to tell the story.

Whenever Sam is working with images he always wants the projector to be placed so his shadow can enter into the frame. There is something magical about watching him step into an image and use his hands to call out details, crop out something he finds distracting or point out some small change that would make the image more powerful. By entering into the photograph he can clearly communicate the concept he is wanting to illustrate.

Here are a few images of Sam critiquing photographs along with the students’ comments about the experience:

Sam Abell critiques Frank Richards’ Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Frank Richards' photo

“Sam has an uncanny ability to hone in on the essence of an image – commenting both on what makes an image work and how it might be improved. I do not normally shoot photojournalistic type images like Sam’s but have been able to easily apply the principles he teaches to my work. I like that he focuses on a few powerful concepts that can be easily grasped and when successfully applied have really improved my work.” – Frank Richards

 

Sam Abell critiques Tracy Allard’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Tracy Allard's photo

“I like that Sam sees value in many types of images; not just landscape, or portrait etc. I learn from every image that he critiques. He’s really made me think about what makes an image “mine”. I am still trying to find my voice and style but I think I’m getting closer the more that I’m exposed to.” – Tracy Allard

 

Sam Abell critiques Neil Resnik’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Neil Resnik's photo

“I was fascinated by his ability to look at a picture and point out things about the composition that I would never notice. For example he would point out the little spaces between subjects or the space at the top of a photo and how it made a difference in the photo. Sam’s critique of my work was very affirming. It was helpful to see my photos through the eyes of another with his skill.” – Neil Resnik

 

Sam Abell critiques Robert Moore’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Robert Moore's photo

“I enjoyed Sam talking about his own story, his own struggle trying to be “commercial” and yet be true to himself. Connecting his work images with his personal outlook on life was very touching.” – Robert Moore

Ed Kashi Near and Far Workshop

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Photojournalist Ed Kashi spent four days at DCP teaching his Near and Far Workshop where participants exercised their story telling muscles by photographing topics close to home. Ed is president of the VII Photo Agency and is best known for his long form photo essays which bring awareness and explore a situation or a problem. Some of his current work includes an in depth look at Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America in sugar cane workers. His work has been published in publications such as National Geographic, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine.

During the four days, students had the opportunity to develop an idea for a photo essay, shoot, edit and present a complete story. Projects ranged from an afternoon at a gun range, to preparation for a ballet performance to the life inside an apartment complex of Burmese immigrants. Ed provided guidance on how to approach each situation and taught how to develop a body of work that clearly communicates the story. During a group editing session led by Ed, each participant’s story was pieced together to form a cohesive, engaging photo essay.

Here’s what some of our students had to say about the workshop:

“I find myself falling to the rut of only taking meaningful pictures while on vacation. The concept that you don’t have to go far from home to capture great images was speaking directly to me.” – Tracy Allard

“I was forced to do a lot of fast work in order to get the pictures I needed. This experience game me the confidence to do future project down the road.” – Cristian Heredia

“Ed was very easy to talk to and relate with which made asking questions and seeking guidance easier. His critiques were direct which I like and made sense to me and made it easier for me to dissect my own work.” – Robert Moore

Here’s Tracy Allard’s finished photo essay “Home on the Range”:

Ciao from Italia!

Our Natural Light Portrait teacher, Patrizia Montanari, has been spending her summer in her home country of Italy. She sent us this note along with some of the photos she’s taken:

Dear Peter,

It’s been two months since I left Texas to visit Italy after four years of absence. It has been amazing and I found myself rediscovering this colorful and folkloristic country with new eyes. My journey so far has been interesting, challenging (as I am traveling with two small children), emotional and regenerating. I have a love-hate relationship with my home land, I appreciate the way it is and the way it will never be. Mostly I enjoy all it is giving me, the smell, the taste, the history, the family and the multitude of dialects, I am absorbing it all, and save it for my return to Texas.

As you know, before my departure I spoiled my self with a new camera, a Fujifilm X100T, which it has been my best friend since I landed in Milan. It’s a fantastic tool, it’s with me all the time and the quality of the images is sublime and never disappoints me.

I have been traveling all over Italy quite a lot and got so much inspiration from places and people. I have been taking trips to the Alps, the Riviera Ligure, the hills of Tuscany, the country side of Umbria and the gorgeous Island of Sicily. I have been bouncing from loving to photograph landscape to finding gorgeous light to photograph people. Location scouting requires no effort here and most of the time I am actually crying for a model.

I am grateful for the art of photography and what I am doing to preserve these memories, I am also grateful for hashtags, #lamiaitaly will always remind me of this wonderful trip.

I hope you are loving your Texas summer,
A presto, ciao
Patrizia

You can following Patrizia’s adventure on Instagram by following @patriziamontanari.

 

Patrizia Montanari, new teacher at DCP

Dallas Center for Photography, Patrizia Montanari

The big news for DCP is that Patrizia Montanari will be teaching our very popular Natural Light Portraits workshop starting in May. We first met Patrizia two years ago when she came in for a few one-on-one tutoring sessions with Peter to work on Lightroom and workflow issues. Originally born in Italy, Patrizia left at 24 and since then has lived in a variety of places including NYC, Amsterdam, Florence, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. She has called McKinney her home for the past three years and has started a blog called [On The Square] where she combines her passion for photography with her love for Historic Downtown McKinney.

A few months ago Money Magazine named McKinney, Texas as the number one best place to live in America. Patrizia and her husband were interviewed for the article:

The historic downtown houses a mix of art galleries, boutiques, and farm-to-table restaurants, as well as basics like a butcher, shoe repair, and farm-supplies stores. Mark Strange says that living downtown was a no-brainer for him, his wife, Patrizia Montanari, and their two young children. “It’s a mix of European, East Coast, and West Coast here,” adds Montanari, 36, a photographer. “You get culture and more country charm for less money than what you’d find in Dallas.”

We recently put Patrizia on the spot and asked her a few questions about her work and life.

Q: What is your favorite part about photography?
A: To be able to preserve memories and in some way stop time. Life is just too fast and it’s not always so simple to slow down and enjoy moments. The art of photography allows us to save memories, and to look back at the past and see things from different perspectives, I love that.

Q: What makes McKinney such an interesting subject for you?
A: McKinney screams Texas to me. It is a city with the feeling of a small town and it has a wonderful Historic Neighborhood. Finding inspiration in McKinney was effortless. I can see beauty even in the oldest and most forgotten building and I meet fascinating people every day.

Through my photography and my blog I am able to share their stories and it just makes me feel complete. I love to talk about anything interesting that I discover about the Historic Downtown and its amazing community and I love to showcase local businesses, artists or just cool people. I’ve created a McKinney greeting card collection that sells in selected retailers in the McKinney Downtown Square, and I also have an incredible amount of followers on my blog called “On The Square” Blog.

Q: How does your background in art influence your photography?
A: I consider myself an artist and a story teller and photography is one of my favorite mediums. My love for painting and drawing at one point of my life developed into photography. It’s an immediate and convenient way to communicate what I would have in the past with my paintings and drawings.

I really love to photograph people – they are my favorite subject. I am passionate about body details and I love to sketch those details, stare at them, and talk about them too. I look at people’s eyes and hands. I remember those details sometimes more than I remember what people say (it’s quite easy to get distracted since English is not my first language). When I paint or draw everything else switches off – it’s just me, my subject and my canvas. When I photograph, I feel the same. Nothing else exists and I am completely into the subject.

Q: What is your goal in photography?
A: My goal is to always improve myself as a photographer. I love to photograph people. I especially love to see their reactions when they are admiring a photo of themselves. They are exposed to a different perspective and they can see beauty in the photo.

Meeting with Peter at DCP a few months ago made me realize how connected my art is to my photography so I worked on merging these two passions and I now offer a unique product to my clients. I host monthly events in collaboration with Pavitra Organic Day Spa in Downtown McKinney called Pampering & Portraits. We promote them as relaxing and glamorous sessions born from the idea of combining a wellness experience with the art of photography, all in a unique, creative and sophisticated session for women of all ages. The portrait package includes a photography session with the option of commissioning a portrait painting.

Q: Why did you leave Italy?
A: Italy is a beautiful country. The history and the art are just amazing and the food is probably what I miss the most. But it wasn’t enough anymore, I needed to discover and travel and the United States gave me great opportunity to express myself and value myself more. Now my home is where my family is and my husband and children are here in McKinney. This is where my children will probably grow up and where we are going to create new memories.

Find out more about Patrizia’s work at www.patriziamontanari.com
The full article in Money Magazine

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere”

A client of ours is with her husband in Longyearbyen, Norway. She’s there to shoot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We asked her to send back a photo of their trip so far and this is what we got yesterday. The “rig” mentioned at the end is the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice that has been converted to lodging.

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere and stopped at a frozen water fall and there was a man there taking video. Turns out he’s a German photographer making some movie/book. Anyway we pulled in and he had also just gotten there to shoot the frozen fall, but he left his battery back in the town. He had a brand new D 4 S, but he borrowed my body to get the shots as I had battery. Then he rode off in his snow mobile and told me that I’d get a free copy of his book! It was pretty cool, so that’s what the one photo is. The other is of our “rig”, the ship frozen in the ice”.

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A Nikon Royal Flush

Over the years, we have had almost every kind of DSLR walk through the DCP doors. We’ve seen combinations of Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony and Olympus during our classes and workshops. However, in our DSLR-1 class this past week, something happened that has never happened before. Out of 20 people we had 19 different models represented, including this almost perfect royal flush of Nikons.

D40, D60, D80, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5200, D5300, D7000 & D7100

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