Tag Archives: runway chef

Prep Series: Food Post

Earlier this month, we covered how to prep for an outfit post– check it out if you missed it– and now we’ve got Alyssa from Runway Chef giving us a lesson in how to prep for a food post. Take it away, Alyssa!

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Way back when I first started blogging, my food posts went a little something like this: open the fridge, see what I’ve got to work with, throw something together, snap a couple of photos and voilá. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with throwing together a meal from whatever is in your kitchen (I still do it all the time), but as far as food blogging is concerned, it doesn’t make the most appetizing or SEO-friendly posts. Now, my process includes a bit more planning and organization and looks like this:

Plan

I loosely plan my editorial calendar about a month out. To decide what to make, I first, always look to see if there are any holidays coming up (i.e. Cinco de Mayo in May), as certain things (like tacos) will be more popular around those times. I also make note of things that have caught my eye in magazines, on other blogs, on Pinterest, out at restaurants or on a trip to use as inspiration. Another thing that I do is keep a Google doc going at all times so that anytime an idea pops into my head, I can add it to the doc. I’m then able to easily reference my ideas when I sit down to plan my monthly calendar.  Using all of those things combined, I then write out a list of all the recipes, flavor combinations, ingredients I want to use or ideas that I have for the month, see which I think would do best and then cross the rest out/save them for a later date. When I’m planning, I also make note of recipes that need to be tested so I can schedule those into the calendar.
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Prep

I typically shoot my food on Thursdays or Fridays, but I meal plan and grocery shop on the weekends (unless there’s an emergency/I forget something/run out of something, which happens more frequently than I’d like). I try to work whatever I’m making on the blog into our meal plan so as not to be wasteful. I then make a checklist of everything I need for the week’s blog recipes. I cross of anything I already have or anything I’m getting for our other meals, and add whatever is left to the grocery list.
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Shoot Day

I like to start with a clean kitchen before pulling out all of my ingredients, the utensils I need, my notebook where I write my recipes, and the items I think I might like to use to style the recipe. I shoot my photos in another room so I also like to get that all set-up with my camera, reflector, backdrop and step stool. I usually do a few test shots with different dishes and towels to see what pairings I like, as well as to test the lighting and camera settings. Additionally, I’ll pull out a few other tools depending on what I’m shooting. For example, if I know I’m shooting produce, I like to have cooking spray on hand as a light misting of it can help make produce pop. If I’m shooting something that involves sauce, I’ll have q-tips handy to make it easier to clean up the edge of a bowl or plate.

 

After that, it’s time to cook, style, shoot and, my favorite part, eat the goods! After all, hard work needs to be rewarded, right?!

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Alyssa blogs at Runway Chef and is a member of The Blogger Collective.

Food Photography Basics

Our pal Alyssa from Runway Chef is going to give you some tips on food photography. We figured who better to give you the rundown on shooting than a blogger who takes the most beautiful pictures of her really yummy recipes?

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Food photography. Oh gosh, where do I even start? As someone who began on a simple point-and-shoot, I can tell you– there is much more to food photography than simply food and a photo. As a self-taught photographer, who has had many growing pains along the way, I am by no means an expert. Here are a few simple things I’ve learned a long the way that can help you improve your food photos.

Spoiler alert: You’ll be seeing into the deep, dark past of my own blog, Runway Chef. It’s not pretty but I’m hoping it will be helpful, or, at the very least, provide a good laugh. Let’s get snapping shall we?

Light it up.

To me, the number one most important thing (no matter what equipment you are using or the food you are shooting), is lighting. You could have the best burger in the world, but if you have bad lighting, it’s probably going to look like one of the worst burgers in the world. Alternately, you may have some pretty messy food on your plate, but with right lighting, that mess might not look so bad. For optimal results, you want indirect, natural lighting.

food photography

Typically this means you’ll want to shoot by a window (but not right up against a window) or even outside. You’ll want to play around to find the best light and time where you live. In my current apartment, that means I shoot my food in our bedroom, ideally between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m..

A quick tip: if the light is too harsh or direct, simply cover your window with a sheer white curtain to diffuse the light.

Camera time.

Next up, is your camera and lens. As I mentioned previously, I started off shooting with a point-and-shoot. I soon upgraded to a DSLR (a Canon EOS Rebel T3), making things infinitely better. But the real game changer was the lens. Using a 50mm makes a world of difference on the crispness and clarity of food pictures. Camera equipment is certainly not cheap, but it is worth the investment.

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Worthy extras.

Outside of the camera and lens, there are other items you’ll want to start accumulating such as, backgrounds, photo props, etc. I started out simply using two white boards I picked up at the craft store and just regular old silverware. I have since realized there are many ways to get cheap but fabulous looking photo props.

Thrift stores (like Goodwill) are gold mines for old silverware, plates, cups, etc. Fabric stores are great places to pick up fabric scraps that substitute as “napkins” or “tablecloths”. Ikea is another great place for cheap towels and serving ware. And of course, you can always raid the family attic for treasures. 🙂

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When you’re just starting out, I recommend sticking to all-white serving ware, as it will make your food pop the best. A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Vintage silver ware/serving ware looks the best in photos and mismatched items pair well together to make a photo really pop.
  • Layering (of napkins, silverware, etc) can add depth, while the smaller items tend to look the best (think more food, less plate, so use mini forks instead of regular forks, saucers instead of serving plates, etc.).
  • If you’re just beginning, I recommend getting a few basic white towels, a long white dish, a few white saucers, a few small white bowls, and 2 sets of vintage silver ware.

Other equipment- white boards (to use as reflectors), a tripod (for shooting on manual), and photo backgrounds (I love these because you can easily wipe them clean and they roll up for easy storage, even in a small space).

Make it manual.

Once you’ve gotten a grasp on the basics of shooting with a DSLR, you’ll want to advance your skills and start shooting on manual. I know, it sounds scary, but I promise, it’s not as overwhelming as you may think. There are really only 3-4 settings you need to be concerned with: the aperture, the F stop, and the ISO (and there’s a handy cheat sheet to help you out here).

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The aperture has to do with shutter speed. A lower speed (1/60) is good for quick snaps when lots of light is available. A speed (such as 1”) is good when less light is available, but the exposure is longer, meaning the chances of a blurry picture are high.

With the F stop, the lower the number, the blurrier the background. I.e., if you want to see just one cupcake with all the other cupcakes blurred behind it, you will want to shoot on a low F stop such as a 2.0, but if you’re trying to get all the cupcakes you’ll want to bump it up to a 4.0 or 5.0.

For ISO, I rarely shoot on anything other than 100. The darker it is or the less light you have to work with, the higher you’ll want the ISO to be. Just keep in mind, the higher the ISO, the grainier the picture can turn out.

One other thing you can play around with is the white balance. Typically I shoot on auto or shade. Usually, though, the only things I adjust are the F stop and the aperture to achieve the look I’m going for.

Be an editor.

Last but not least, a few simple edits to make your pictures the best they can be. I use a few tools in Photoshop Elements but you can also just use the ones that pop up with the photo preview tool.

When editing a photo, the first thing I do is check the white balance, either using the automatic tool in Photoshop or adding a little blue into the picture. I also up the contrast just a touch, brighten the picture (if need be), and I always sharpen the image (in Photoshop I use the Unsharp Mask tool with amount 170%, radius 2.0 and threshold 5).

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I know this is a lot to take in, so ultimately, my number one tip is to just dive right in and start playing around with your camera. There is no better way to learn then to just go for it!

P.S. If you’re looking for more tips, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to photography. Check it out here!

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Thank you so much for putting this amazing tutorial together, Alyssa! Go follow that Pinterest board, y’all, and keep up with her over at Runway Chef!

Featured Post: Triple Truffle Mac and Cheese

tbc feature headerThe yummiest of features is coming at ya: Alyssa from Runway Chef is sharing her killer recipe for Triple Truffle Mac and Cheese.

triple truffle mac and cheese from runway chefPlease don’t hate me for what I am about to do. I couldn’t resist sharing this recipe for triple truffle mac and cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. Triple truffle. As in three types of truffle seasonings. As in three times the deliciousness. As in the best darn truffle mac and cheese to ever grace the face of the earth.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces mushrooms, sliced (should equal about 1 1/2 cups; I used baby bella mushrooms)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
    3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (see notes)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup mushroom brie, cut into small pieces (found at Trader Joe’s; can also use regular brie)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated truffle cheese (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used a sharp white cheddar)
  • 4-5 tablespoons of truffle oil (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon of truffle salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 3/4 cups of Italian or regular breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Bring a large oven-safe pot of water to boil. Toss in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain, rinse under colder water, and set aside.
  2. Back in the pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and set them aside.
  3. In the same pan, melt the remaining butter (should be 3 tablespoons) at medium heat, then toss in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Use a whisk to stir in the flour, then slowly start adding the cream and water, a little at a time. Make sure to whisk after each addition to avoid any lumps. Continue mixing until all of the liquid has been added. Allow the sauce to cook for about 5-7 more minutes, or until it has thickened slightly, making sure to continue the stirring.
  4. Once the sauce has thickened and it begins to bubble, add in the cheeses. Stir until they are melted, then add in the mushrooms, as well as 2-3 tablespoons of the truffle oil (more or less depending on your tastes) and the truffle salt (again, you can adjust the amount based on your tastes preferences). Mix until everything is well combined then fold in the pasta. Season to taste with fresh ground pepper as well as any additional salt or oil.
  5. In a small bowl combine the breadcrumbs and the remaining truffle oil (about 2 tablespoons). Sprinkle this mixture on top of the pasta, then bake the mac n’ cheese for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown, at 375 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

triple truffle mac and cheese from runway chef

Notes

To balance out this heavy dish, I like to pair it with a light and fresh salad.

For the pasta, I like to use a fun shape like campanelle, but you can use any type of pasta that you want.

I prefer to make this in an oven-safe pan like my Le Creuset as it make this a one-dish meal with easy cleanup. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, feel free to use a pot or skillet for the stovetop steps then transfer the pasta to a baking dish before sprinkling it with the breadcrumb mixture. If you do use a baking dish, just be sure to bake the pasta for only about 15 minutes.

For the heavy cream and water, you can also just use 2 1/4 cups of milk (I’d use 2%), or less cream and more water (i.e. 1 1/2 cups of water and 3/4 cups cream), or even half-and-half in place of the heavy cream. Whatever combination you settle on, just make sure to use 2 1/4 cups of total liquid.

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Hello, food coma! But what a way to go… Thanks so much, Alyssa! Guys, go check out Runway Chef; so many amazing recipes for you to pin/bookmark!