Today I’m making fun of myself and those moments when I take this blogging thing way too seriously. For those times when I look around the house and see the amount of space and the massive amounts of stuff dedicated to creating twee food scenes that no one in their right mind believes are real. (For instance, in “real life” I would never sift cocoa powder all over the counter or leave drippy spoons on pretty wood surfaces or place 10 cookies one on top of the other in a slightly precarious yet charming stack.)
But…this list is also kinda true. Especially Number 9.
White Dishes*. Lots of White Dishes.
Early on in the blogging game, I assumed that my own small stock of dishes, bowls, cups, mugs, and flatware was more than enough to carry me through countless food posts.
Now I have shelves and cupboards filled to capacity with “props,” a.k.a. items that I’m loathe to use for “everyday” meals. They are reserved solely for photographs. By nature, I am neither hoarder nor pack rat. Outside of the blogging world, I am a purger, routinely going through my belongings and culling out the neglected, the unworn and the unused. So, having stacks and stacks of fabrics, pretty bowls, platters, wooden cutting boards, and tarnished silverware makes me very, very jittery; a supremely uncomfortable position for someone like me who is afraid of one day being interred under the weight of her own belongings.
The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either (a) not at home, (b) home but don’t want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it’s either (a) or (c), please call me back. – Harry to Sally
But for now, I don’t see a way around it. Someday, perhaps a year from now, five years from now, or shortly before breathing my last, look for a massive garage sale.
If you are bound and determined to amass your own pile of clutter, TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Target, and Walmart are all great places for finding a variety of white and/or colorful dishes – and of course, garage sales, flea markets, and antique stores can’t be beat.
*Colored stuff is good, too. I tend towards orange and green, which is odd because I despise cooked peas and carrots.
Old (or made-to-look old) Bottles & Glassware.
This past winter as I was walking down our driveway, I noticed something sticking out of the pasture, something bright and glittering in the weak afternoon sunshine. I squeezed myself between the barbed wire of the fence and went to get a closer look. The shiny object appeared to be part of a drinking glass. As I dug around it, I realized it was complete – not a chip or crack on it – though it had some wonderful, soft scratches. My happiness at this find was completely unwarranted – who gets excited about an old glass that had been buried in the dirt for who knows how long?! (And why, exactly, had it been buried?) A blogger, that’s who. Old, faded, beat up – it just photographs better. Even when it’s glass.
Of course antique stores have the real old stuff – but you can find knock-offs at Crate and Barrel, Target, and TJ Maxx/Marshall’s.
If old things photograph beautifully, textured things – fabrics, wood, rocks – are like Super Models. The camera just eats them up. Textured surfaces can really make a photo stand out, especially when paired with smooth, plain objects. Look for placemats and table runners.
But you don’t have to have things that actually have texture to get texture. Huh?? Take a look at the scrapbooking aisle in your local craft or big box store. You’ll find reams of paper printed to look like feathers, pebbles, flowers – you name it. They make wonderful backdrops. (For examples, see this post and this post.)
Small, Interesting Shit.
That pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I’m not a tchotchke kind of person and I’m not a collector (except for the inordinate number of metal Japanese tea pots I own…), but the blogger requires wee things here and there to add interest to shots. Chances are, you already have lots of interesting little shit that make great props. If not, borrow from your favorite old auntie, grandmother, or geriatric neighbor down the street.
Fabric in Every Color & Pattern Imaginable.
Long ago my mom sewed. And she had a cupboard filled with thick bolts and pieces and scraps of fabric. I had absolutely zero interest in either sewing or this cupboard and when my parents moved out of their home of over 30 years, the yards and yards of fabric were sold in a garage sale. More fool me, as my dear husband would say.
Now, ironically, I have my own piles of fabrics, painstakingly collected over the past several years. Some from antique shops, some from big box stores. The right fabric can bring an otherwise plain photograph to life. Patterns help tell a story about a certain dish. Worn and faded cloth makes us feel as if we are snug in a cozy kitchen as we pull muffins or biscuits or cookies from the oven. Starched white linen adds sophistication to a table setting. Raid your mom’s sewing cupboard or scour flea markets, garage sales, and the kitchen section at Target.
Tarnished Flatware. The More Beat Up the Better.
Whenever I purchase a particularly dented, scratched or stained piece of flatware at an antique store, I imagine that the clerk wonders why on earth I’m shelling out my hard-earned dollars for an item that is one step away from the scrap heap. (Then again, they make their living out of selling old crap, so who are they to judge?)
But just like old glass and textured surfaces, forks, spoons, knives, and serving pieces rich with the marks of a life well-lived just work in photographs. They don’t shine too much. They don’t whine for attention. They just blend in to their surroundings while adding a bit of dignity that only age and experience can bring.
Etsy offers a treasure trove of flatware and silverware from really-really vintage, to recent vintage – and you can buy in bulk which means you can get many different kinds of patterns.
R.I.B. (Rustic is Best) Backdrops.
Rustic backdrops and surfaces are the faded, worn-out, favorite-pair-of-jeans of the food blogging world. They’re comfy, make us look and feel good, and with the right accessories, complement just about anything. The camera picks up the fault lines, the scratches, the poor paint job, the chips, and turns them into something beautiful. I once dragged a 10 foot long sheet of rusted roofing metal across the pasture through snow (hosed it down and then snipped it into 3 pieces) because it had the most beautiful patina (see photo at bottom left of collage). Old tin ceiling tiles are wonderful (I got mine via Etsy), cork is cool, check Lowe’s or Home Depot for large marble and ceramic tiles, or pry off pieces of your neighbor’s old fence (did I say that out loud?!). You just never know where an interesting backdrop may turn up.
Full on sunshine, rainy-day murk, high wattage florescent or halogen bulbs, fancy-schmancy photographer’s high beams – you can’t take a photo, good or bad – without a source of light. 98% of my photos are shot using beautiful, south-facing Oklahoma daylight that pours into a pair of sliding glass doors. Worth its weight (so to speak) in gold. But, for those times when I absolutely positively need to take a photo and that daylight thing just isn’t cooperating, I put protective eye gear on the dog, fire up my flotilla of photography lights and turn nighttime or an overcast day into brilliant fake sunshine.
If you’re ready to invest in photography lights, check out these or bump up the quality a little (or a lot…) at this site.
Yep. Blogging is the hugest time-suck on the planet. And if you’re a blogger, you never, ever have enough time and I have no suggestions on how you can get your hands on more of it.
I love this post – I have so many random things lying around but it’s never enough! My SIL even brought over a piece of cloth the other day for me to take photos on because I’ve been moaning about how everything looks the same :p You always have such fresh photos and backdrops and I can see why – there’s a lot of thought (and hoarding) that goes into blogging that a lot of people don’t really think about. It’s always interesting to point out people’s pictures to Man-thing or someone else and they see the food when I’m eyeing the textiles and cutlery – blogger goggles!
“…it’s never enough” – so true! Argh!! Part of me wants to get rid of EVERYthing and the other part loves poking around shops finding “treasures” :-). PS great phrase: blogger goggles!
😀 yes definitely more of everything 🙂 i need some good lights. that is a lot of fabric!
i also have dark plates for winter because white does not photograph well when cloudy which is 6 months here 🙂
so as well stop the headache of trying to get the right color balance and use non white stuff.
Haha – yes MORE STUFF! Richa, your photos always look spectacular! You obviously are doing something right despite the lack of reliable sunshine!
Yes to all of this!! I’m always going to TJ Maxx to look for stuff that I’d never use in my real life but absolutely must having for my blogging life.
Isn’t TJ Maxx the best?!
Wow! What a great list and a great collection of stuff! I certainly know TIME is a problem for blogging (which is why I haven’t posted something in ages since I went back to work.) I have a small collection of small plates that are pretty for photos, but I hadn’t thought of gathering all of the other items. If I ever get to blog more often, I shall have to amass more of these items. I love the idea of scrapbook paper! Great post, overall. 😀
I’m kinda addicted to scrapbook paper now 🙂 – so many possibilities!
Hahaha! Love this post. I feel like I’m always in search of something – a square plate, a long plate, a white bowl that is the exact size I imagine it to be, etc. I still need to jump on the fabric train though! Such a fun way to spice up photos
You are SO right! I never seem to have the exact thing I’m imagining so it’s an endless search. Much like my endless search for the “perfect” pair of shoes…
I feel like a fake blogger!!! That explain why I use the same dish set in nearly all my photos. 😉
Nothing fake about you! In fact, you may be the smartest blogger in the room! Keep it simple!
Ah, thanks. Oddly enough, I am the complete opposite of you.. a hoarder by nature and trying to keep my blogging as simple and relaxing as possible. It would be hard for me to photograph a cookbook because then it would be obvious that I use the same table and dishes over and over… although that’s what I eat from on a daily basis. 🙂
This was so funny to read because I was just at TJMaxx buying more white dishes this weekend! I need to step up my game so I’ll have to check out more textures and props. 🙂
I love that! I hope you found some treasures. Hmmm…now I feel the need to get to TJ’s! 🙂
Light, informative, and funny! Thank you!
Great list. I could use more time, definitely. How many meals have gone cold while I attempt to rearrange the once hot-and-crispy components in a somewhat presentable formation?
Also…when you decide to have that garage sale, dibs on the green pyrex bowl, please.
Haha! Yes – I can totally relate! Fussing w/ the food to get it just right for photography but not so great for eating :-). The blogger’s woe!
Isn’t that bowl the cutest?!
Omg I died laughing at number 9 because I must say every Damn day of my life, I just don’t have enough time!! UGH! Great post Annie! I am constantly buying props at TJ Max and Homegoods!
Homegoods is the best! There isn’t one anywhere near me, unfortunately. Well, that’s probably best for my bank account, but still… 🙂
I LOVE your prints and rustic silverware. Great post!
Fantastic post, Annie, thank you for all the top tips. I sympathise with your need to declutter while collecting things at the same time, I have a similar problem and have quite often wished I’d kept something down the line after getting rid of it. I’m particularly interested in the lighting question as this is something I struggle with. Where I live there often isn’t enough bright daylight to make for good indoor photography but when I’ve tried using artificial lighting I’ve encountered the problem of shadows. Are you blasting your subject in light from all sides to avoid this? I haven’t tried that but perhaps I should. I’ve also wondered about a light box, although I can’t really justify buying one for the little indoor photography I do. Great to see the little sheep again, by the way. 🙂
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Yes! I found myself so close to buying more pretty fabric napkins yesterday but managed to restrain myself for a change 😉 Like you, so many of these things I reserve for photos which does seem kind of silly when they’re perfectly (more than in fact!) good for regular use.
Posts like this from food bloggers make me glad I’m a book blogger…the only pictures I ever need are images of the book cover!
Awesome! Thank you for sharing! ♡
I was just at Target the other day and there was a whole section of white dishes in different textures and sizes and I was thinking about the foods I’d photograph in each one. Love this post!!
That is all great to hear but not so many of us have the money to do it this way. I think that every one must see for themselves what they need. I am not a professional blogger at all. I just do it for the fun! 😉
This is by far my most favourite piece of yours I’ve ever read! Both hilariously funny and incredibly informative. I laughed and learned, what more can a girl ask for?
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