For this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast, Bjork and Lindsay team up to talk with Ashley and Gabe Rodriguez from the blog Not Without Salt.
On the last episode of the FBP podcast, Bjork interviewed Hilah Johnson and Chris Sharpe from the YouTube cooking channel Hilah Cooking. We got a real-life look into what it takes to run a successful cooking channel and the work it took to get there. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that episode (or if you want to hear it again!), click here.
The Art of Photography with Ashley and Gabe from Not Without Salt
Not Without Salt was the winner of the 2013 Saveur Best Cooking Blog award. That’s a big deal. But this award wasn’t just handed over to Ashley and Gabe – no, it was won after years and years of dedication and hard work.
Photography and art are two really important things to both Ashley and Gabe – Ashley went to school to be a high school art teacher, and Gabe shoots weddings for a living. However, it’s at the intersection of photography and art where the blog Not Without Salt really shines.
In this 64-minute episode, Ashley and Gabe reveal:
- How they work together as a team to get work done and still enjoy their lives
- How Not Without Salt got started
- Where Ashley finds motivation to keep it up after all these years
- Why Gabe started taking the photos – and how Ashley took over and learned the trade
- Their individual pieces of advice for how to get better at photography
- Why experiencing The Resistance means you’re doing something right
- The tools they use during and after shooting
- The advice they would give themselves back when they got started
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below:
- Not Without Salt
- 2013 Saveur Cooking Blog of the Year
- Date Night In
- Cookie Mix – Ashley mentions this in the episode, but she’s no longer selling it
- The War of Art
- Bird By Bird by Ann LaMott
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens
- VSCO Filters
- Lens Extension tubes
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode seven of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. In this episode, we’re going to be chatting with Gabe and Ashley Rodriguez from “Not Without Salt.” It was actually SAVEUR’s 2013 cooking blog of the year. We’re going to be talking to them a little bit about that.
Last year Lindsay and I took a trip to Seattle to attend a photography workshop that Gabe and Ashley were hosting. It was actually just Lindsay that attended, I just bounced around Seattle because it’s an awesome city. If you live in Seattle, wow, so cool.
After the workshop wrapped up, we were able to grab dinner with Gabe and Ashley and some of the attendees from the workshop and we learned a few things. Some of the things we already knew, number one, that Gabe and Ashley were incredibly talented artists, we already knew that, really accomplished bloggers and business people.
They’re also incredibly kind and generous and we learned that as we sat and we talked with them that night which is why I’m so excited to have them on the podcast today to share some of their insights, but also to hear a little bit about how they do what they do. Lucky for me, I’m also going to be joined by Lindsay today on the podcast. She’s the resident photography expert here at Food Blogger Pro, so she’ll be handling a lot of the photography questions for Gabe and Ashley.
Before we jump into it, I want to say this. Gabe and Ashley have a business where they produce the world’s best cookie dough mix. We want to give that to some of you that are listening today. Here’s how we’re going to do it. If you have one thing that you learned, one takeaway from this episode, what we want you to do is go to foodbloggerpro.com/episode7 and leave a comment explaining what that was.
We’re going to go through and we’re going to pick out 10 of those and we’re going to send you some of the cookie dough mix as a way to say thank you for listening to the podcast, and as a way to say thank you to Gabe and Ashley for coming out today. Again, episode seven. Foodbloggerpro.com/episode7 with one takeaway from the podcast.
Keep that in mind as you’re listening to today’s episode. Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Gabe and Ashley and special guest Lindsay. Welcome to the podcast guys.
Ashley Rodriguez: Thanks. Good to be here.
Bjork: We’re really excited about it. Lindsay, welcome to the podcast.
Lindsay Ostrom: Oh, thanks.
Bjork: It’s good to have you back.
Ashley: It’s like a party.
Bjork: Yeah, it’s kind of weird because Lindsay’s in one spot, I’m in one spot, and then Gabe and Ashley are in another spot. Before we jumped on, Gabe and Ashley were like, “You know, there’s construction going on in the background in case you hear it.” I was like, “There’s construction going on here as well.”
Then Lindsay’s at home where Sage barks at everything that moves a little bit. If you hear rumblings in the background, that’s why.
Lindsay: It’s just a super authentic one.
Bjork: Exactly. I know that you guys are humble people and this might be a little bit uncomfortable, but I want to start out with this because it leads into a question. I’m going to read through a list here of some of the things that you guys can hold ownership to “SAVEUR 2013, Best Cooking Blog,” “Times Online, 50 World’s Best Food Blogs.”
You’ve published a cookbook called “Date Night In.” You have a cookie mix that Lindsay and I had the honor of having and it was incredible. It was so good.
Gabe, you shoot weddings. You do engagements. You do a date night in. You try and do that once a week. You have three kids. How do you guys fit all of this in? Where does it all happen? [laughs]
Gabe Rodriguez: Magic.
Bjork: That’s it.
Bjork: We can wrap-up the podcast. It’s just magic.
Ashley: Things definitely have to give and that’s usually in the form of laundry and dishes and things that pile up. Gabe, I often say for me it’s having an incredibly supportive husband and partner in all of this because when opportunities have come up or I’ve expressed crazy ideas of, “Hey, let’s start a cookie business.” He is all on board and does whatever he can to make it happen.
Many of the things that I’ve wanted to do has happened as a result of his support. In just providing the time and giving up his time and some of his business so that I can make that happen. That’s really, really huge.
Gabe: I would like to add in saying that it’s like being on the same page where…It’s the ebbs and flows of life. There are times when Ashley’s more busy and I hang back with the kids or vice versa. Right now I’ve been working a lot more hours and she’s been with the kids more. We got to try and be on the same page and be very open and honest.
Also be very transparent with our kids in talking to them. What’s going on in our lives? Currently, we’re trying to buy a house so talking with them about the transition and what we’re going through as a family, so that they have expectations, so they know what is going on. A lot of it is just is having the same priorities. Being on the same page and working together.
Bjork: One thing that I’m interested in because I feel like it’s a world, Lindsay, that you and I live in as well, where we have multiple things going on and we cross over into each of those. If Lindsay’s taking on a project that means she’s going to be doing a little bit more. Maybe she’ll be working on more which means that maybe I’m doing laundry for a couple of weeks or something like that.
How do you communicate with people in terms of your spouse or your kids? Because I know there are people listening right now and they maybe have somebody that doesn’t quite get it. If you guys ever have a project, maybe it was the cookie mix or maybe Gabe was on board with that right away.
How do you bring an idea to somebody and present that, whether it’s your spouse or your kids, in a way that can communicate to them what it’s about and your desire. Maybe sometimes to make a request to have people help out. Does that make sense or do you feel like that…?
Ashley: Yeah, the way…Life is filled with seasons, and so it can be rolling along, and everything is going great, and then something shifts like, the kids are out of school tomorrow, so that a change. Definitely a change, because we are at the point where the kids have been in school, and that gives us a good bit of time in the morning and during the day.
Understanding that everything as a season. A really, really busy season can be followed by a season where we just need to take a break. Usually I come to Gabe with, “Hey, this is what’s going on in my schedule. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. What can you give me, what do we need to do?”
If he is also really busy and overwhelmed, then that’s when we bring in extra help via child care, baby sitter, or asking our parents for help, or things like that. I don’t come at it from a point where it automatically puts him on the defensive, if that makes sense, but this is how I’m feeling. I’m really overwhelmed. I’ve got all this stuff going on. It’s no ones fault.
I don’t want to put any of that, but these are just the facts, and this is the reality of it. What can we do, not what can you do, or what can I do, but what can we do to help alleviate some of these. It’s constant communication. We try and do a weekly “This is what the schedule looks like for this week,” so that we have a general idea of where the other person is at, what they need, and that kind of stuff.
It’s a continual checking, and lots of communication.
Bjork: Yeah, I like the point that you made about the, “I’m feeling.” I feel like that’s a really important phrase to use whenever communicating with somebody, because it’s not saying, “You’re not,” or “I need from you.” Its, “Here’s where I’m at right now.” I think people respond in a different way when they hear that, which is cool.
It seems like a really soft, soft skill, and maybe it doesn’t directly apply to a blog, or a business, but it’s real life stuff. It’s communicating with the people that we are with everyday, and the most important people in our lives, and balancing these projects that we have along with family and friends, and time together. I appreciate that insight.
Let’s back up a little bit. I’m going to ask a couple of questions about, Not Without Salt. How that started, where it first started, and where it is now. Then we are going to pass it off to Lindsay. I asked her to come on and have some photography questions to both of you.
I know that you’re both very talented artists and photographers, and I think that’ll be a huge thing for the people that are listening. But let’s back up a little bit. Not Without Salt, what’s the story with that, when did you start? I’m interested to hear always the beginning story, the genesis of a blog.
Ashley: It depends on how far back you want to go. I have been blogging for…it will be nine years in August, which is crazy. Not Without Salt is about seven years old. Originally I started a blog called “Artisan Sweets.” I looked at it like a free website. I was doing wedding cake and dessert catering.
Right after Gabe and I moved back from Los Angeles, where I had been working in restaurants down there, I came at it…my career began in restaurants in that side of the food world. Then I wanted to start my own business, and we moved back, because I was pregnant with our first.
I started Artisan Sweets and it was like, “Hey look at the wedding cake I made,” and that kind of a thing. But the food blogging world was very small back then. I started to form relationships with these other people who were doing food blogs, and started to see what the food blog could be. They were sharing recipes.
Back then, the level of photography…It’s like if you could take a picture and the food looked edible, you were doing a good job. That was great.
After we had our second child, I was re-evaluating my career path, and started to be at home. I wanted to switch up the blogs so I could tell that story — the food that I was feeding our family, the food that we were really excited about. It wasn’t just wedding cakes and desserts and that sort of thing. That’s where I started to focus on the recipe, the developments so I could write a recipe that people can actually follow.
The food photography, initially Gabe was doing the photography, and then with Not Without Salt. I took it over and made it my own. That’s when I also started to really share more about our family, and open up and share. Not just the food but what was happening around the food.
Bjork: I’m interested to go back to some of that because that’s something we talk about occasionally is the idea of, is this just talking about food or is this food and my family or is this just primarily my family, and the reality for a lot of people is that over lapse. I know that’s true for you Lindsay, for you as well Gabe and Ashley for what you guys do, with your cook book as well.
It’s a very personal expression of food, and opening up into your family which I think is cool. We can get into that a little bit later. I want to back up a little bit. You started this site, and you are working away on it. How often were you posting when you first started?
Ashley: That’s a good question, I don’t really know. I think the average I would say that consistently I post once a week. When I was pregnant, not so much, because I didn’t have anything to do with food. For most of its life it has been once a week.
Bjork: The other thing that I’m interested in hearing is how have you committed to the long term, because I think that’s such a hard thing to do, especially in the beginning stages but also after you get through the beginning stages, you move into the stage of I’ve been doing this forever and it’s the same old, same old. How do you endure the marathon as opposed to just a sprint?
Ashley: That’s a really good question. I think I have always taken it one post at a time. When I started Not Without Salt even, I really had no idea what would come of it. By that point, other bloggers and stuff had gotten some book deals and I started to see the potential in it. Having a book quickly became a goal of mine.
I’m not sure. I don’t know how to answer, because I’m in another point in the career of like…I don’t know, I feel like blogs are changing so much and how people respond, react to blogs, and pay attention to blogs is changing. I’m doing my thing because the blog to me has always been a very personal space to me. I know people tell you all the time like write to your audience and…the blog is my space.
It’s the first time in my life that I have ever kept a consistent journal, and that’s really cool to me. Especially right now as the kids are getting older, I’m not sharing too much about them in their lives but there’s enough in there that it triggers memory for me, and for my family. It’s like this passive chronicle of our lives that I really like.
Because it has an audience and there are people reading it, that has given me the accountability I needed to keep up with it which is really cool. It’s really special for me because there are these little snapshots of baby pictures of what we’ve aimed over the years, which is enough to trigger your memories of other things.
That doesn’t really answer your question because I don’t have any long term goal with the blog. I definitely want to keep at it, I love it. It keeps me tied to it. Right now I’m at an interesting place where there are so much other work that I have to clear my schedule to make time for the blog and it’s date nights.
It’s one thing on the calendar that is the first thing to go. Also I don’t really need to write on the blog, I didn’t sign a contract to myself that I would work once a week or it’s like, “Oh, the blog will understand. I’m not going to quite get to it this week.” I really want to get to a place where that’s not the case.
Bjork: It’s easy to do where if you have, like you said, I’m sure when you are writing a cook book or if you have other obligations to prioritize those over the blog post. One thing I appreciate about what you said was…or at least hinted out was some type of like intrinsic value that you had from the writing process.
I think anytime that you can interject that into the work that you are doing, it helps or it’s not like, “I’ve got to do this blog post, I’ve got to do this recipe, I’ve got to feed the beast.” But like, “Hey this is creating something that is going to live forever, and 20 years from now I can look back on it.” It is a journal and there is value in it beyond just the blog itself or the content itself which I really appreciate.
Ashley: In fact, I just gave a talk to a group of undergrads who wanted to hear my story. I went back to look at the old blog just to refresh my memory, and also to be able to…I hadn’t looked at that space in a very, very long time, and I wrote about my second child’s birth. There were so many details that I totally forget.
Anyway it was just a core reminder of there is value in doing this, putting words to it, and that the kids can go back and read the story…
Bjork: Or your grandkids or your great grandkids. I’m going to nerd out here but that’s the luxury of having a podcast is you can talk about whatever you want. I love the idea that we are in a time right now where like the content we create is forever going to be accessible by our great, great grandkids. They are going to easily look back and see, “Hey, what were my great, great grandparents like.”
If for no other reason other than just to put a little breadcrumb trail to your relative years to come, there’s reason to produce content. I want to ask one question here specific to one of the first things I mentioned here, and what I want to do next, if you guys are OK with it is shift a little bit, talk about photography and art a little bit because I think that’s something that you guys are both so good at.
I want to go back and talk a little bit about one of the awards that you guys have won with Not Without Salt, and that was the 2013 SAVEUR’s best cooking blog. Is that right? Am I saying the official name?
Ashley: That is officially correct, yes.
Bjork: Can you tell us a little bit about what that was about like, and how that process happened? It’s awesome and I’m not surprised at all. I’m just curious what that was like.
Ashley: I was surprised. What was that like, it was really exciting. I have been a long time reader of SAVEUR. I really value their content and their perspective. It was really, really such an honor and really a great validation at a time where I felt like just kind of wondering, “What I’m I doing and, what is this all for?” It was a great motivator to just keep at it.
Especially at the point that I wanted. I was just getting started on the blog. It just gave me that confidence to proceed with excitement and eagerness…
Bjork: Did they notify…tears of joy.
Ashley: Tears of joy.
Bjork: Is it an email? How do they let you know about that?
Ashley: No. I think it was Sarah from “Sprouted Kitchen” that texted me. I think when they announced it — if I remember correctly — on Twitter and the winners, that is the official announcement. I was in the car driving and illegally looked at my phone.
Bjork: And texting. [laughs] We won’t report it. We’ll do a radio edit on that, too.
Ashley: It wasn’t illegal at that time though.
Bjork: Good. That’s OK then. That’s OK.
Ashley: The people next to me probably thought I was crazy because I totally like ugly-faced cried.
Bjork: Congratulations. That’s really awesome. I think one of the reasons it’s easy to say this is because you have beautiful food photography and obviously its recipe is the food itself. There’s also how that’s represented.
I actually want to pass it off because I know that photography is kind of Lindsay’s sweet spot and not so much mine. I want to talk a little bit about how you possibly work together or don’t work together specific to the photography. Linds, I’m going to pass it off to you.
Lindsay: One of the things I thought was really interesting that you said before is that Gabe actually started doing the photography for Not Without Salt and then you said you kind of took it and made it your own.
For people who don’t know, what is both of your background like training? Do you have training and knowledge about Photography coming into the start of the blog? What made you feel you wanted to take that over as your own?
Ashley: I’ll start because my training is very short. I took a couple classes as part of my undergrad because my degree is in Fine Arts and my plan I was going to be a high school art teacher. I took photography in high school which back in those days, it was filmed.
I spent a good bit of time in the dark room. Then Gabe and I took a class together in college. I think when I started Artisan Sweets, the default was that Gabe would take the pictures because at that point, he had just started his photography business. He had been shooting weddings like all through college. He’s the photographer, he should do this.
I had always had an interest but the technical side of photography really deterred me. I think there’s too far many numbers involved. I don’t like numbers at all. [laughs] I didn’t understand just how it all worked. I understand composition and color theory and all that kind of stuff, how to compose an image. Anyway, he started taking the photos but between his busy schedule and my controlling tendency, I took over because I got tired of, “No, this is what I want,” “No, do it like this.”
It probably is better for our marriage that I just took over the camera. So I have learned by doing…He would give me little snippets of information here and there because I could only ingest so much information about apertures and all that kind of stuff.
With digital photography, it’s so easy to learn by doing because you can take a picture, make an adjustment and see the difference right then and there. I just picked the camera and shot on a daily basis and that’s how I figured it out.
Lindsay: That’s really cool and so, Gabe, you have at that point…Did you go to school for photography? Or how did you come to the point of having the knowledge that you had when the blog started?
Gabe: Ashley and I met in college. I had a communication degree which is why I talk so much. She had an art degree. For me, it was probably the first time of being surrounded by people that believed in me.
That’s probably true for both Ash and I but our parents were very supportive. I had worked in the bank. I had a perfectly good job at a marketing firm. Somehow, I kind of just got enamored with photography and realized…I have been an assistant so I have been getting paid to carry bags, lights stuff, load film, all that stuff which is invaluable knowledge to be able to have people to answer questions like professionals.
At some point jumping off on my own to start photography business, and that was right about the time our first son was about to born so quitting my job was kind of a funny thing. But to have people say like, “Hey, I don’t quite understand but I’ll support you.”
I was doing anything at that time but heavily on portraits. I love the relationship aspect of photography like you need to work with people, work with other creatives. I tend to gravitated towards that. I was kind of shooting…I shot cheese. I shot dogs. I shot people. I shot anything.
There was just kind of this default. “Well, you’re the photographer” and all those stuff. But it was neat to see like, “Well, I know you have this gift, too.” Ashley just owned it. So just getting over a lot of it, I think it was just the technical aspect of it. I’m just kind of been there as like Technical Support IT guy.
To answer your question, I don’t have a degree but a lot was just both of us were young and being pushed by people to say like, “Hey! You have an interest in this. You should pursue it.”
We come home from our jobs and I would do photography. Everything with just reading articles, reading gear, going to shoot stuff. So a lot of it was just having that passion of life. At that time, we’re both working jobs and this is before that.
Working jobs and then coming home and doing that. We realized at some point that like, “Maybe I should pursue photography as a career. ” I think to a year was like, “Hey, I should be doing this.”
Lindsay: That’s really cool. It’s really neat to hear that. I don’t know why I had it in my head probably just because you’re so talented but had it in my head that you maybe had gone to school for photography or somehow had all this knowledge to the table when you started.
It’s important for people to hear that and actually lead into another question that I wanted to ask you guys which is…I think it’s easy for people to look at you both and say, “Well, they’re artists.” Like, “I’m not like that. They have this natural passion but also a natural talent and an eye for what they’re doing.”
It’s easy for people to feel that they don’t have that artistic gene or that’s not where they’re naturally drawn or talented or whatever.
I’d be curious to hear what encouragement you guys would give to someone who maybe wants to improve their photography but feels a little intimidated by identifying themselves as an artist and kind of pulling the art out of the process. Does that make sense?
Ashley: Yeah, totally. The art teacher in me would say, “Go and study the fundamentals of the art. Go and look at successful paintings and step away from the photography side of it.” Because the fundamentals of art exists in all art forms.
Understanding how color works together. How composition works together because the goal of any image and any piece of art is to create a visual journey for the viewer. There are certain things that you can learn to avoid in food photography that hinders the enjoyment of the viewer’s eye, if that makes sense.
It might be easier to study art basics by looking at paintings and things like that because then you’re not distracted by the actual food or putting yourself too much into it. You’re just wanting to focus on understanding composition and those sorts of things.
Looking at other forms of photography even fashion photography those sorts of things and understanding how those elements play together to create a successful image.
Gabe: I would add just, you have got to put on the time. My kids are getting frustrated all the time, goes playing basketball and they’re just like, “Dad, I’m not just very good.” I said, “Look, you’ve been playing this for…”
Ashley: 30 seconds
Gabe: “…you’ve been playing basketball for like a week.”
Bjork: I can’t dunk it.
Gabe: Thinking back to the whole concept of 10,000 not dollars but like, we’ve all made terrible photographs. We’ve all made terrible food, the ingredients, and the recipes but it’s not the same like, “Wow! Now, we’ve nailed it.”
No, there’s a lot of work that goes into honing your skills and mastering your craft. Whatever it is, if it’s food or photography or basketball, I don’t know whatever. Part of it is just doing it so do not get too discouraged.
I agree with Ashley like, you are what you eat. It’s one thing that we say. If you’re taking in good work, that’s what you’re going to produce or that’s what you’re going to eventually produce. Be inspired and try and introduce that to whatever it is you’re doing but it takes work. It takes getting out there and making bad photographs or making photographs, and then critiquing them and try and make the next ones better.
Lindsay: That’s awesome. It’s super inspiring. Bjork, do you want to maybe talk a little bit about like with the resistance and competence and that all ties into this?
Ashley: War of Art?
Bjork: Yeah, exactly. You know where we’re going at this. For those that are listening and are familiar, one of my favorite books is called “The War of Art” and the author is Steven Pressfield. He is a fiction and non-fiction author.
The book is essentially two people that are creating. One of the things he talks about in the book is the concept of the resistance. It’s something that when you try and create something, you’re faced with the resistance. Sometimes it can be really simple things like the laundry or it can be a fear of failure. It can be a bigger thing.
The bottom line is, it’s things that keep us from doing our work. We all have those projects where we’ve told people, “Hey, we really want to write a book.” Then three years later, you still haven’t written a book. That’s the resistance coming to play.
I’m curious how you both as individuals notice yourself facing the resistance. Then what you do to overcome that and push through, continue to create, continue to learn, and continue to publish, and ship in all the things that you do.
Ashley: That’s a big question. Do you want to take the question?
Gabe: I would say, we love that book. It’s one of our favorites. I try to read it once or twice a year just to go that and dive in. That’s said, yeah. [laughs] I’m stumbling now. Do you have anything?
Ashley: Yeah, when I’m in that season of feeling like quitting, I will pick up that book or others like it. Another one that I’d like to read regularly is “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott because it’s a good reminder of “I’m not the only one that struggles with this.”
Especially in the War of Art, I feel like he legitimizes fear and doesn’t make it the enemy which I always have and always felt like, “Oh my gosh. Why am I so afraid? Maybe this isn’t natural. I shouldn’t be doing this.” He basically turns it around and said, “If you’re not terrified of what you’re doing, you’re not doing the right thing.”
I thought that was really powerful because it just…I am at many points terrified of what I’m doing and putting myself out there and being vulnerable. Then that just goes to show me how passionate I am about the subject and about this career path. It is difficult. It’s hard especially when the critics come in and things like that.
It’s hard to overcome that but I want to have that good amount of fear, the fear that tells me that I’m doing the right thing. I really love what I’m doing but not too much fear where the voices, whether it’s my own critic internally or if it’s the actual critics who live in the Internet world. I want to make sure that I don’t have too much fear that they take away my power or take away my desire or ability to continue to put work out there.
It’s that balance. I have a good support system through Gabe and some other really close friends who continually tell me the truth and encourage me greatly about the work that I’m doing and that stuff.
When the voices, the critics speak louder in my head, the actual truth, then I have that to fall back on. That’s propelled me forward to continue to produce art.
Bjork: One of the things that you’d mentioned earlier that I think is so valuable for people to hear is that you’re in this place of…I don’t want to put words in your mouth but this place of maybe contemplation or struggle or just even analysis of like, what am I doing here with this site.
Then you win “Best Cooking Blog.” Literally, it was you as the author and photographer, and recipe developer of the best cooking blog was in that place. I think that for others to hear that, whether they’re just getting started in their creative endeavor or they’ve been doing it for years and years and years, it’s important to know.
It’s a universal thing. It’s not just you getting started. It’s not just you because there are critics. The critic internal and external is a universal thing.
Ashley: Absolutely and as validating as that award was, that quickly wears off. I’ve had many points again where I feel like, “Oh man, I’m terrible at this. What am I doing? There are so many other people who are doing it better. Why do I even try?” All of that. Everyone struggles with it.
Lindsay: It’s the resistance.
Ashley: It is the resistance, especially the artist. It’s the artist’s struggle. I think it’s part of the process. Like I said I think not vilifying that but using that to show you that you’re actually on the right path because you care so much about it. That has helped so much.
Bjork: That’s awesome.
Lindsay: That’s awesome, yeah.
Bjork: Thank you guys for talking about that. I know that it’s a really, really important concept and it’s a little bit abstract but it’s 100 percent real. I know it’s going to be valuable for people to hear that wherever they are, that the struggle is real.
That phrase that we hear so often is so true, that’s there’s always this resistance. To push through that and not only to push through that, but to embrace it. If you are in a pattern where you’re feeling like, “Hey, this is really comfortable. This is really easy.” Maybe you need to push yourself a little bit beyond that.
I know for me this podcast is an example of, I’m usually just emailing and it’s so nice because I can delete my words if I don’t want to use that one. To push through that and it’s rewarding whether it be personally or with a project you’re working on. I appreciate that.
What I’m going to do actually is, on a little bit of a lighter note, I’m going to pass it up to Lindsay. She’s going to talk a little bit about just some of the photography stuff specific to the gear things. What do you guys use? What’s your process? Things like that.
Lindsay, I’m going to pass it off to you.
Lindsay: I will just ask you guys, but then if you each want to answer, I think both from a food photography perspective it’s interesting to hear. Just with the blog but also knowing that there are likely listeners who are also interested in getting outside of food photography just to general photography. It would be great to hear your perspective too, Gabe.
First question would be what camera do you use and rolled into that what lens? What camera and what lens are you guys using?
Gabe: We started using a Canon 5D Mark II and just because I haven’t felt the need to upgrade. I’ve been trying to get less and less about the cameras and more about just…For me, it’s usually the subject or the person that I’m shooting. So Anyways, we use Canon 5D Mark IIs They’ve been great. Then I tend to use a 3514 with the 5014.
Usually if I’m at a wedding or event, I have two cameras, one on each shoulder. One’s a little bit wide, the 2435 and then one’s a 1585.
That gives me…I can shoot a whole day with just those two lenses so I would say that’s 80-90 percent of my day. From there if I want something fun, I’ll throw in a tilt shift or an 85 or 135mm telephoto lens to get closer if I need to. Again, I’ve gone back to…For the first few years of wedding photography, I would bring a ton of gear and try to do a lot of things.
I’ve simplified it in the last few years of just again wanting to be in the moment. Not changing lenses as much and being open to what’s going on. For when I’m doing shooting wedding events and portraits of families and such, if there’s stuff happening I’m capturing that.
For me, there is a certain aspect of just being intentional about what I want to capture but then also being there, available for when things do happen.
Ashley: I use the same thing because we share. I do. I generally stick to the D14 and the 3514. Gabe got me hooked on the 35. Anytime I try anything new, it just takes a while to get readjusted to it. It’s fun because I so easily get into it. Photography ruts and that’s how I get myself out of it is to try something new.
I also use a lot of extension tubes. In the past I’ve shot a lot with the 50-millimeter macro but I like the extension tubes because you can get the sharpness from the 35. You can get really up close and tight because I like to show a lot of texture. It gives a little bit more artistic looking image, I think.
Lindsay: This is related and already deviating from my rapid fire list of questions. I’m curious because when I went to you guys’ workshop, one of the things that was so beneficial to me was hearing you talk about how to use the different lenses and to not necessarily use them all the same way.
I had this 100-millimeter lens that I was feeling frustrated with. Some of your shots are…A lot of your shots that I love so much are those super close up ingredient shots.
My question for you, Ashley, is are you switching lenses for different shots within a post or do you typically keep the same lens on and maybe remove an extension tube or how are you doing that for photos within a post?
Ashley: It depends. I would say…Let’s see. I was shooting this morning. I am sometimes switching between the 50 and the 35 because I like what I can get with the 35 when you add the extension tube. I like the overhead of the 50 because the 35 was wide and then I need to clean off more of my table in order to use that.
Ashley: We don’t have a huge space and so it needs to be a little bit tight which is also why I shoot macro. There can be a number of different lenses that I’ve used within the same blog post.
Lindsay: OK, go ahead.
Gabe: Sorry. To your point, one thing that we found is usually you go into a set up, like in this case a plate of food with an idea. I’m thinking in my head like an overhead shot with the 35. Usually, I think what’s worked out well is…Especially with digital where you’re not paying for the film is, before you take it away or take it down or tear down, take a shot with a different lens from a different angle.
What you’ll find is that eventually, if you know what you like, if you see other people’s work and you go, “Man, I love these guys work.” It’s all backlit then start trying to incorporate some backlit things. Maybe it’s a secondary like, “I got the shot I thought I wanted,” now try this.
Does it work? Then when you go back and you look at the images in the computer, usually you’ll at least learn I like this, do I not like this. If you do, you’ll start incorporating in different ways and if you don’t, you’ll stop doing it. You’ll know, OK, well, this is how I work.
Sometimes again just taking a second to go, OK, let me try one more look from a different perspective, down low, different lens, that’s served as well. It’s an educational thing but also sometimes for clients too. It’s like, “Wow, we really like this image.” You’re like that was the one that…Sometimes they even give you art direction, we wanted this specific shot.
You send them something different and you never know they may buy it.
Lindsay: I think that’s super valuable. I remember you talking a little bit about that too at the workshop which inspired me at the time and still inspires me now. Moving to my next rapid fire question, if I can actually keep to my list, Lightroom or Photoshop, which do you either of you use or both of you use?
Lindsay: Both of you?
Lindsay: What would be your reasoning for that?
Ashley: I used to do Lightroom and Photoshop but when I started using the VSCO or visual supply company presets, I found that I didn’t have to go and do more edits in Photoshop. Lightroom to me at this point now feels pretty easy and it’s very quick because I get to do really quick batch edits and things like that.
If I get the look I want for the shoot, then I can apply all those adjustments and edits to images from the entire shoot.
Gabe: For me, it’s just the work flow. Lightroom helped me edit 500 similar images in a consistent way and getting them to where I want them. Occasionally, I open up Photoshop but for the most part Lightroom has all I need.
Lindsay: Related to that then, how much time would you say…Let’s start with this. How much time would you say that you spend, specifically for food, on an average shoot? For a blog post recipe, how much time does getting all those photos take you?
Ashley: Just the photos or the entire process?
Lindsay: I would say…Well, because I was going to ask separately taking the photos and then also how long would you say it takes to edit them?
Ashley: Taking the photos is probably maybe close to an hour. I shoot through the entire cooking process so it really depends on the recipe. Then the editing is…I do it really quickly. Probably about 30 minutes to an hour if I’m having a harder time like getting what I want on the editing.
Gabe: We actually work pretty quickly.
Lindsay: It’s like the perfect blend of…It’s artistic and I feel like it’s this deep, rich process but it’s efficient. I love the two of those coming together. It’s so great.
Gabe: And also a lot of this is stuff that we’re eating as a fam. We combine this like, “Hey, this is awesome. It’s a win-win.”
Lindsay: Okay, so, natural light or artificial? I personally already know the answer to this I think because I went to your workshop. Do you want to talk about what your personal preferences would be for that?
Ashley: Actually natural like 99.9 percent of the time and Gabe, I’ll answer for him quickly. Gabe because he’s shooting a dark wedding venue, so he brings in artificial light. Am ! Correct?
Gabe: Yeah. Again, I used to do a lot more lighting and a lot more artificial lighting. Now I’m in a point where I try and roll pretty natural and just add to that if I can. Usually I’m trying to get the ambient light and then just highlight with some highlighters and stuff like that. Just add stuff that interests me.
Lindsay: How about must-have props? This again is specific to…Let’s say this. Must-have props for styling but also I’d be curious if you have any must-have extra things like reflectors or diffusers or any other extra tools that you consider to be your go-tos.
Ashley: Man, that’s hard. My style is pretty natural and so I tend to use as props what we also use to eat on and serve on and things like that. I like to collect different dishes and things like that that I just really love and think are beautiful. I have quite the collection of round, white plates just because that’s what I love to shoot on. It’s the least distracting for the food.
It shows the food off really well. I like plates and platters, and things like that that have a little bit interest like hand thrown ceramics because the edges are a little bit off. I don’t know. Subtlety like that I feel adds so much to the image. Then other type of props, I keep white foam boards and black form boards nearby.
I have a few different surfaces and stuff that I shoot on but a lot of them are heavy. Once they’re up in our shooting area, I tend to keep to that for quite a while. Moving them or asking Gabe to move them but I shoot on a lot of different things too that I find around the house like my sheet pans are so, so… let’s just say they have a nice patina on them.
Ashley: I shot a lot on my kids’ chalkboard and things like that so whatever I find around the house. I used up my prop closet. It used to be really small up until I had the shoot for the book that the publishers wanted, up to the plates and platters for each image. At this point it is quite large.
Although now that we’re moving and packing things into boxes, I’ve given a lot away. I try and keep it pretty simple.
Lindsay: Gabe, do you have any, I don’t know, little gadgety type things that you recommend or always use or anything like that?
Gabe: No, I love bounce cards or…I have a reflector that can bounce light or be translucent for shooting. It’s my favorite. And with just the shoulder bag or just the cameras and palette. Certainly I can geek out about a lot of lights as well. [laughs]
For the most part, I love just being able to…For food stuff, I like the bounce cards. For people, it’s usually like a scrim of some sort either shoot through or a bounce. With something like that, it’s nice and fun.
Lindsay: Can you explain bounce card? What do you mean when you say that?
Gabe: Sure, just like the foam core boards is…On the table top stuff, it’s just giving the presentation boards from Fred Meyer or your local crafts store. There’s white or black and so you’re either bouncing light in or shaping the light by getting the lay of the light between your subject and, here what we have is windows. So it’s something so it’s bouncing that or shaping that. That’s the modified light.
For portraits I like…There’s a thing called a scrim jim, whatever. It’s rather large. It’s four by eight feet or something like that or four by six feet. I don’t know but it does a great job of either you can have translucent or white or gold. If I’m doing more professional portraits, headshots, that type of stuff, again I like to have one of my cards, I would say.
Again, if I can roll up and just use my shoulder bag and use it taking portraits then that’s great. I love to have it if the place is super sunny or I need more light or that kind of stuff. It’s a lifesaver in a pinch where you have a light. Again in a natural way, the shaping of light you already have without adding to it.
Lindsay: This will be my last one. What would you say are your, I don’t know, maybe your most important or biggest sources of inspiration? If you hit the time where you’re just saying, “Ah, it’s not fresh. I need something to get me excited again and get me back to this fresh inspiration,” are you looking at other blogs? Do you have books you recommend? Where do you go for inspiration?
Ashley: I go many different places. It depends on how much inspiration I need. Sometimes I need to step away from the food side of it all together. Then I go to a museum or I go and look at old art history books or things like that just to get back to the very foundation of it.
Just step away completely while I’m still working on art in general and creating something completely different. I still feel like it really adds to my photography and to my work all the same. I love looking through cookbooks obviously. I have quite a number of them.
I love Nigel Slater’s books. His approach to food and the photography that accompanies the recipe is…I really love it because I know it’s just hand cooking and then he puts it on the plate and then has someone just take a picture of that. There’s nothing to distract from the food itself. I really love that.
I’ll tend to step back from blogs and the computer in general because that usually has tired me out anyways. I’ll step away from the computer and spend some time looking at books and looking at paintings and things like that.
Gabe: There’s a couple of photographers that I like that I…I’m inspired by the personal look, photos of the family, photos of adventures. I think that’s one source that…I like to go back to film, to shoot film just to change things up. It’s more expensive but the idea that you’re not just snapping photos, you are being very intentional, it is kind of fun too.
I like generic design. Wall design up things. Coming in and just looking at design sites. In general, and again more you try to get out to the sands and art museum and other stuff. All in all just see what other people are creating. Usually its outside of weddings, its outside of portraits, it is generally outside of food blogs. It’s finding other sources.
For me too, a lot of times it is just been in my head and getting out into nature, which I do not do enough of, but I enjoy it. We are lucky to be an hour’s drive and you are in woods. I find that that is pretty inspirational as well, in a weird way.
Ashley: What Gabe does really well too, he’ll just take pictures just for the sake of taking pictures. Not even a full on formal, personal project. He’ll just take the camera with no expectation. Not for a client, not for a job, not for blog post or anything but just getting back to why you started photography in the first place.
Just getting back to falling in love with it again. For me, that often I’ll cook just for the sake of cooking and have not even an Instagram. I won’t even take any form of photo of it just to connect me back to, “Yes, this is why I started.” It’s very grounding. No one is ever going to know about this except the ones eating.
Gabe: It doesn’t exist.
Lindsay: I know. Not even an Instagram.
Bjork: One of the things I remember…so you guys have referenced this a couple of times, but we went out to take a class. Or Lindsay did, and I just geeked out around town. But one of the things I remember is after the class there was a session, not a session but it was everyone going together and grabbing a bite to eat…
Lindsay: A social session.
Bjork: I call everything sessions. It’s a social session, a family session but there was a social session, which is hard to say 10 times fast, but you had a Polaroid camera, I think. Is that right, Gabe?
Bjork: It wasn’t a Polaroid camera that you’d buy now, it was a Polaroid camera that would have been old 10 or 20 years ago. It was an old school Polaroid camera. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool to watch your artistic process.” The photo comes out and you look at it and your like, “Oh that didn’t turn out,” or “That did turn out,” and its like, “And that’s that.” That’s it. It’s so awesome.
Gabe: Totally, and that’s where, again, going back to film is…It’s equal parts frustrating and inspiring. It’s easy to make a terrible photo, it’s easy to make a great, I don’t know, whatever. That’s all I can say. I enjoy that. Something about that just changes it up, I love that. That’s a great example of just being able to hang out and take some pictures.
Like my buddy was the bartender there at that place and a few months ago he left to take a different job and so I just brought a more modern Polaroid with a flash. We just took about 40 Polaroids of his last night of work and it was cool to then just like…I’ve just been loving doing that and handing it to people. I don’t know like, “Here you go and…”
Bjork: It’s like writing a letter, where it’s just so rare to get that.
Ashley: That’s right.
Gabe: Yeah, and it’s not for me. I’m kind of creating to…It’s inspiring me in some degree, but it’s also for someone else, and I don’t know. It’s been fun. That’s kind of my go-to when I get in a rut.
Bjork: We are over time here, so I want to be respectful of your guy’s time. Knowing that there are all those things that you guys are doing, all those projects that you have, one last thing. If you could just give a little piece of advice to yourselves, let’s say back seven, eight, nine years ago when you were getting started with this whole adventure with building things online and getting into the artistic world and producing content, things like that. What would you tell yourself?
If it could be like a short message, let’s say you have 30 seconds to give a quick message to yourself seven, eight, nine years ago, what would you say?
Ashley: Not to run the risk of getting sued by Nike, but I would say just do it.
Ashley: We talked a lot about resistance. I think that’s the biggest thing. If you have something that you want to do and something that you’re inspired and excited about, just putting it out there and doing it and being OK with the fact that it’s not going to be your best work.
Because you’re going to look back on it a year, 5 years, 10 years from now and be embarrassed by it, but that’s the beauty of it and that’s really actually what you want. You want to always be growing and developing. Don’t wait for you to perfect your craft and hone your skills to the point where, “OK, now I’m ready.”
That’s like waiting until everything is all settled in your life to have children. At some point, you just have to… [laughs]
Bjork: It never happens, yeah.
Ashley: It never happens. It’s never the right time. You’re never like OK, now I’m a perfect photographer and it’s like no. That’s not life. It’s constantly a journey and you have to start somewhere. It’s definitely not always easy because people will judge your work and look at it. Never letting that fear keep you from putting yourself out there and doing the work that you want to do.
Gabe: One thing I’m still learning it time and it kind of piggybacks on what Ashley’s saying. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. I just want to say that, because it’s something I’m still learning to do, but it’s easy to just hide behind an image or other things. Just put yourself out there and if there’s something you want to do then go for it and don’t be afraid to be open with people.
That’s kind of my advice, and I’m still learning it.
Bjork: Yeah, that’s awesome. We really appreciate you guys as individuals and also what you’re doing as a business and as artists and we really appreciate you coming on and sharing on the podcast. Linds, thanks for jumping on as well. I really appreciate that. It’s nice to have a co-host.
Lindsay: Thanks for letting me. I get extra time with some of my favorite food bloggers so I love it.
Bjork: There’s so much stuff that we could have talked to you guys about so sometime down the line we’d love to have you on again. A few thing I want to say before we wrap up, first, we referenced this a couple times, Date Night In. It looks like that was basically sold out everywhere. Is that right, Ashley? It’s hard to get a copy of that.
Ashley: Yeah, we have had some issues with them keeping it in stock which is great and frustrating at the same time. I looked on Amazon yesterday and it looks like it’s back in stock so we’re very excited about that.
Bjork: Congratulations on that. That’s an awesome problem to have. The other thing we mentioned a couple of times is that you have a cookie mix business that you guys do. Can you talk about that real quick?
Ashley: Yeah, no problem. One of my all time favorite recipes that’s on the blog and that I make on a regular basis are my salted chocolate chip cookies. Last year I got bored as I sometimes do, and wanted to push myself and try something new. I dabble in all things food so I decided to start a product line.
This is the first of the Not Without Salt products. It’s a salted chocolate chip cookie mix. It has three different types of sugar in it. It has wonderful ground whole vanilla bean in it, and really good chocolate and a little packet of flake salt that you put on top right before baking. It is my favorite recipe and available now to people that they can make quite easily with an egg and a stick of butter in their own home.
Bjork: They’re so good. We’ve had the privilege of having some and they’re incredible.
Lindsay: Many times we’ve had them. I always buy them as gifts and then…
Bjork: They never make them out of the house, no. I will say this, these will be gifts so what we want to do is those of you who are listening to the podcasts. If you have something that you got out of this podcast, something that inspired you or something that you took out, what we want you to do is go to the blog, foodblogpro.com/blog find this episode and leave a comment with what it was that you got out of it.
We will pick five out of those comments and we will send them a batch of the cookie dough. Not dough but the cookie mix.
We’ll make the dough, I’ll eat some and then we’ll send it. No, we’ll send you the cookie mix because it’s so good. If nothing else I’d encourage everybody to jump on and check that out, also Date Night In, the book that you guys just recently published, if it’s not sold out. Really incredible stuff, Gabe and Ashley, thank you so much for coming on. Really appreciate it.
Gabe: Thank you so much.
Ashley: This was great.
Bjork: All right guys, hopefully talk again soon.
Ashley: Sounds good.
Lindsay: See you.
Bjork: Bye. One more big thank you to Gabe and Ashley for coming onto the podcast today, really appreciate that. A few things to wrap up. Number one, thanks to our show sponsor Food Blogger Pro. If you want to check out Food Blogger Pro, you can just go to foodbloggerpro.com. We would actually encourage you to use the affiliate link we set up for Gabe and Ashley and Not Without Salt, and that is foodbloggerpro.com/notwithoutsalt.
Second, if you have a minute we’d appreciate it if you’d hop into iTunes and leave a rating for the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, that really helps us to build this podcast and we’d super appreciate it.
Lastly, we just want to say thanks. We really appreciate your time in checking in on this podcast and helping us be able to do what we do which is stuff like this podcast and building and growing a membership site like Food Blogger Pro where we have this incredible opportunity to be part of an incredible community.
If you’re part of Food Blogger Pro, thank you. If you’re listening to this podcast, thank you. If you plan on tuning in next week, thank you as well. I’m excited to check back in soon, until then, peace.