I attended the IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) last fall, and sat in on a plethora of interesting and valuable sessions on how to cook for, write, photograph, and market my blog or cookbook, but I found a slight gap in the itinerary. There seems to be a lot of information out there on how to conceive of and publish your work, but very little on the process that falls in between: how to create a visually appealing product.
I love food as much as I do book design, so a good cookbook exemplifies both of these parts of me. But as much as I relish the medium, I am even more critical when a book is presented in poor design. Even if the recipes are sound, if the pages are not visually appealing—much like your finished recipes should be on the plate—then I am not hungry nor inspired.
Think about how often you notice the design of a book. Probably not very, unless something has gone awry—a typeface that is contradictory to the tone of the book; type that’s too small/large with poorly justified lines; low-quality photos and illustrations—any of these can detract from the beauty that is your prose.
So it’s been about three days since I returned from the IFBC (Interntional Food Blogger Conference) in Seattle, WA. Once again, Foodista.com and Zephyr Adventures presented a well organized, fun-packed, and super tasty conference for us crazy foodies. Immediately I felt a kinship with the other bloggers. Food truly does bring people together, so we always had something to talk about.
For me, photography, particularly of food, is where I am drawn first. It must be the visual part of me as a designer — that instant gratification of seeing something beautiful. Last year during this same presentation, the hotel was able to setup stations around the room fashioned with light boxes, directional lighting, and props, and we were free to roam around and shoot while Andrew Scrivani was available for tutoring. This year, that option wasn’t available, and because of the size of the audience, it was decided to draw five names from the attendee list, and we were lucky enough to get a hands-on experience. So when I was called first in a lottery of 5 people (out of 300) to be able to photograph dishes created by Chef John from FoodWishes, and under direction of Andrew Scrivani, photographer and food stylist for the NY Times Dining Section, and author of Making Sunday Sauce, I was both humbled and ecstatic.
Luckily, I had 3 cameras with me that day: my adjustable Olympus Pen, iPhone, and my new little baby, the Olympus Tough TG-820, which I handed off to my new friend Liz Heldmann from India Tree Spices so that she could take photos of me taking photos! Here are a few I was able to make…
And this last one I took just because I love the lengths we as foodies will take to get an shot. The plates were down on the floor, on seats of chairs, window ledges, and serving trays—whatever interesting backdrop or angle we could find. We were also blessed with a clear, sunny morning in Seattle so the natural light from the large windows at the W Hotel helped make our photos that much better.
My only disappointment was that the lottery left 295 people sitting with nothing to do but watch us take photos, and I can understand that would get pretty boring pretty quickly, so instead of being available for mentoring, Andrew continued to address the audience and show slides of his amazing and inspiring work. I have to admit, I did miss the potential for some one-on-one Q&A with Andrew, but I did learn from watching the other four bloggers as they snapped away — the angles they chose, how close or far away from the subject, how they moved the plates around until they found the right light or backdrop, even what types of cameras they used, from high end Nikon or Canon to iPhones — all of this was valuable. So in the end, this was a very positive opportunity, and I’m happy to have been able to come home with new knowledge, inspiration, and some lovely photos.