429: Tips for Styling, Editing, and Monetizing Food Photography with Rachel Korinek

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Blue photograph of someone typing on a laptop with a food photo on the screen and the title of Rachel Korinek's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Tips for Styling, Editing, and Monetizing Food Photography.'

This episode is sponsored by Businessese and Clariti.

Welcome to episode 429 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Rachel Korinek from Two Loves Studio.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Liam Smith. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Tips for Styling, Editing, and Monetizing Food Photography

Food photography can be overwhelming, no matter if you’re a beginner or if you’ve been blogging for a decade! Luckily we have Rachel Korinek to help walk us through the tips and tricks that make food photography and editing just a little bit easier.

In this podcast episode, Bjork and Rachel chat about Rachel’s journey as an entrepreneur, and how her definition of success has changed over the years. She also shares her strategies for shooting multiple recipes in one day, and how she prepares in advance for her food photography days.

She also has lots of valuable advice about styling foods that aren’t photogenic (meatloaf, anyone?). The episode ends with a series of listener questions about phone photography, editing, and background props — it’s a good one!

A photograph of Beef Tinga and a quote from Rachel Korinek's episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast that reads "If you have great lighting, you can almost make anything look good."

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Rachel got into a career in food photography and the different stages of her business.
  • What the seasons of success and the seasons of reinvention have looked like for her business.
  • How she tackles shooting multiple recipes in one day.
  • How she sets herself up for success before big photography days.
  • Her recommendations for growing your team to help with efficiency with photography.
  • Some of the common mistakes she sees food photographers make with food styling.
  • Her tips for styling ‘hard to style’ foods.
  • Why she primarily shoots with artificial lighting these days and the tools she recommends.
  • How she approaches reaching out to brands for partnerships.
  • The three core edits she recommends for editing photographs.
  • Her recommendations for background props.
  • Tips for using your phone for food photography.

When Rachel shares her tips for styling those ‘hard to style’ foods, she mentions two photographs in particular, a beef tinga (seen above) and a meatloaf that were difficult to style. Here is the tricky meatloaf:

A photograph of meatloaf cut into squares on a cutting board with a green salad in the upper right corner.


Thank you to our sponsors!

This episode is sponsored by ​Businessese​ and ​Clariti​.

About This Week’s Sponsor

We’re excited to announce that this week’s episode is sponsored by our sister site, Clariti!

With Clariti, you can easily organize your blog content for maximum growth. Create campaigns to add alt text to your posts, fix broken images, remove any broken links, and more, all within the Clariti app.

Sign up for Clariti today to receive:

  • Access to their limited-time $45 Forever pricing
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  • Optimization ideas for your site content
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You can learn more and sign up here.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: This episode is sponsored by Businessese. That’s business, with ese at the end. We hear it time and time again, the business side of running your own food blog can be tricky. It can be difficult to navigate how to protect the content that you create, and accurately create important website policies like a privacy policy and website terms, especially when privacy laws are changing so quickly. Enter Businessese. Businessese helps small business owners handle the fine print, and translate legalese with easy to customize DIY legal templates. Businessese offers templates for bloggers and business owners through products like their website policy bundle, which includes a privacy policy, terms of use, a website disclaimer template, and access to the Businessese Privacy Law Library, to help you identify what you need to customize each template for your own blog.

Danielle, the owner of Businessese and our Food Blogger Pro legal expert is so generous with her knowledge and time with this community, and she’s given all Food Blogger Pro podcast listeners free access to a resource called Four Tools to Protect Your Food Blog. In this resource, you’ll learn all about the most essential website policies, including an overview of the current state of privacy laws, and get an exclusive discount code to use in the Businessese shop. And if you decide to purchase any templates or bundles from Businessese, you’ll get lifetime access to any of the updates they make. Head to businessese.com/foodbloggerpro, Food Blogger Pro is all one word, to download the Four Tools to Protect Your Food Blog resource for free. Again, that’s businessese.com/foodbloggerpro. Thanks again to Businessese for sponsoring this episode.

Emily Walker: Hey, there. This is Emily from the Food Blogger Pro team, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today on the podcast, we’re welcoming back Rachel Korinek from Two Loves Studio. Rachel was on the Food Blogger Pro podcast almost five years ago, and she’s back today to chat more about food photography, and being an entrepreneur as a food photographer. Rachel has a background as an educator, and you can definitely tell in this interview, and when she chats about food photography because she’s just so good at explaining all sorts of different concepts, especially food photography, which can sometimes be tricky to chat about on a podcast. She’s really thoughtful about explaining the concepts, and walking you through it step by step.

In this interview, Rachel chats more about how she got into a career in food photography, and what the different seasons have looked like in her business. She answers some listener questions that listeners to this podcast submitted, about three core edits she recommends for editing food photographs, her recommendations for background props, and tips for using your phone for food photography. She also chats more about some of the common mistakes she sees food photographers making, and her tips for styling hard-to-style foods.

One quick note here, Rachel was kind enough to send a couple photographs that she’s taken that illustrate the point she talks through in the podcast. So she has two photographs that will be in the show notes, and she mentions them specifically in the episode. So if you’d like a visual for what she’s talking about, make sure to head over to the show notes at foodbloggerpro/podcast to read more about that. It’s a really awesome interview, we always love having Rachel on the podcast, so I’m just going to let Bjork take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Rachel, welcome back to the podcast.

Rachel Korinek: Thank you. I can’t believe it’s been close to five years since I was on, that’s wild.

Bjork Ostrom: Five years, probably nothing has changed in either of our lives, very similar to what it was in 2018.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, time goes so quickly.

Bjork Ostrom: The funny thing is, so much has changed, and yet here we are still doing very similar things. We’re in this world of talking to people who are really good in these specific areas. For you, that’s food photography, sharing that with people who are creating things online in the area of food or recipe content. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on today, is talking about all things food photography, and it’s a really important part of what we do, and it’s a world that you’re in. So for those who didn’t get to listen to that episode five years ago, can you talk about how you got into food photography?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I sort of fell into food photography, like a lot of us, we don’t realize that food photography is a thing. If you talk to people who don’t know, they’re sort of really astounded that this is something that you can get paid to do, but when you look around everywhere, there’s photos of food. So I was still one of those people that just sort of stumbled across a magazine, and realized that this was something that really interested me. ’Cause I had started to, like everybody does, create a million blogs about stuff that nobody cares about, and I was cooking, and taking photos of that, and really seeing that that was something that interested me. And at the time, I was working as an accountant for a retail company, and they wanted to promote me, and I just remember being like, “This is not what I want to do. I really want to give this food photography thing a go.”

Bjork Ostrom: You know it’s bad when they’re like, “We want to promote you.” And you’re like-

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I know.

Bjork Ostrom: “I don’t want to be promoted.”

Rachel Korinek: I know. And if I’m honest, I probably cried, ’cause I was like, “I really don’t want this, but this seems crazy, because this is what people want. They want a career, and a promotion, and here I go throw it all in to try this food photography thing that people thought I was a bit crazy.”

Bjork Ostrom: And You could see this path of success, “Okay, if I do this 10 years, 20 years, this is where I’ll be. I don’t want to be there.” And so that was the moment where you looked, and you’re like, “What if I went down this other path?”

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I really felt like I just had to give it a go. If I looked back on my life and it didn’t work out, I really was like, “I just have to give it a go.” And that was 12 years ago.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And when you say you cried, was it like, “Shoot, I have to make this decision”? What was that moment? It was a long time ago, if you remember it.

Rachel Korinek: It was probably a bit of relief of, I really wanted to give this thing a go, and there was this defining line of, “Are you going to take this promotion? ’Cause You can’t really work on them part-time each.” So it was really this relief of this sign of, “You really have to give this a go.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And having that clear picture then, and saying, “Okay, there’s some relief here.” You’ve maybe been kind of wrestling with the decision, now you know. What did that look like to branch out on that new path, and take a step into being an entrepreneur?

Rachel Korinek: It was very hard.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: And I think it’s easy to look on social media, because people… It seems from the outside that things are really easy. And it was probably about five years of stop-start because life happened. There was various things that happened. My now husband lost a visa, we had some death in the family and illness, and so there was lots of stopping and starting. And that can be disheartening because you’d really try to get this thing going. But I think it’s, when I look back, life does happen, you have to work things sometimes slowly. So getting over that hump essentially, then things just started to sort of come my way.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I was just watching a video yesterday, he’s a expert on search engine optimization, but he kind of creates general business content now, his name is Brian Dean, he had a site called Backlinko. But he was talking about this company that he launched, and he was like, “What I realized is that I really needed to enjoy or find passion in the thing I was doing, because it takes a long time for it to catch on.”

Rachel Korinek: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: And that’s not always true, sometimes you catch something, and it happens right away. And a lot of times, from the outside, you hear about those stories, and it can seem like that’s the norm. But I think it’s the exception-

Rachel Korinek: I think it’s the except.

Bjork Ostrom: One in 1,000, one in 10,000. What you don’t hear about a lot is people who just continue to show up, they grind, they make a little progress, they go to sleep, they get up, they have a setback.

Rachel Korinek: Exactly. And for years too.

Bjork Ostrom: And he talked about five years.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And he talked about five years, and for you, you said at five years, it’s kind of interesting. Another quick anecdote, a story that I heard somebody say is… He’s an entrepreneur, and he said, “In a five-day week, I feel like I’m taking one step back every day, and on the fifth day, I take five steps forward.”

Rachel Korinek: Forward.

Bjork Ostrom: And he used that as an analogy for business, essentially. And I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves of other people who are in it that that’s the norm. Because sometimes-

Rachel Korinek: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Like you said on social, you can look at it and people are like, “[beepbabeepbadoo, I’m just being super successful, not about trying to work-”

Rachel Korinek: I’m sort of facing that right now, I’ve had success, and sort of plateauing now, and it’s like, “What is the next thing that’s coming?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: I don’t necessarily always know what that answer is too, but I guess I’ve just looked back, and I’m like, “The one thing that I can rely on is getting up, and trying again, and keep moving forward, and trying things.” Is really the only thing that we can control. And so even people who look super successful will still have some setbacks or plateaus that aren’t always visible either.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: What I’ve seen is, there’s personal seasons of reinvention, and then there’s also industry seasons of reinvention.

Rachel Korinek: Exactly, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re in this world where it changes relatively quickly. In the building that we’re in, there’s a frame shop, and so that business looks relatively similar today compared to what it did 10 years ago, maybe you’re marketing a little bit different, or tools are a little bit different, but for us, doing media and content online, 10 years ago looks very different than what it does today.

Rachel Korinek: I feel like even two years ago is… It could just…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. You have this industry reinvention, where suddenly, you’re playing a different game, and you need to decide, “Do I want to show up and play this game, because it’s a different game than I was playing 10 years ago?” And for some people it’s a great fit-

Rachel Korinek: So true.

Bjork Ostrom: For others it’s not. And then there’s also personal seasons of reinvention, where things change, you have a baby. In your life, you have a young one, we have two girls. So you have that personal season of reinvention. So for you, what do you feel like are some reflections, I’d be interested to hear you talk about those seasons of success. Like you said, “I’ve had some stretches where I felt really successful.” What did that look like?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And then would be interested in the seasons of reinvention, and it sounds like maybe that’s a season now, so it’d be interesting-

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I mean, I think the success that I had was ’cause I followed what I wanted to do, and it came out of that five-year grind of just feeling like it was setbacks, and not getting where I wanted to, and not making a lot of money, which is really hard when you work super hard. And so I just really wanted to follow exactly what I wanted to do, and that was types of clients that I wanted, or teaching… I did my editing courses, so I was really focused on the things I wanted to do. And I think it showed, because like you said, you show up time and time again, ’cause you really love to do those things. So that’s sort of going well.

And then you get to a point where you’ve created all these ideas that you had, and what’s next? Waiting for that next idea, or the next level, potentially, instead of just shooting by myself, it might look like shooting with teams, or for larger clients, and things like that. So I’m just in a space where I feel like I know the answers will come, and I find, even though this is super frustrating, the more I try to find that answer, the harder it is to find.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: You just have to keep your hands in the pie, and trying different things, and then eventually, that answer, if you trust, will come. So I have a few ideas of things I still want to achieve in my career, so I guess I’m just sort of being like, “I know those are things I want to do.” So focusing on getting those done, but like you said, I had a baby this year, so now I am having to work slower. So those things are probably going to take a little bit longer. Which is not what I’m used to, I’m used to being able to just focus on myself, and put a lot of work into it.

So I think there’s a little bit of reinventing myself, but also the industry, even just in six months with AI and all this stuff coming out, it’s hard to know exactly how those things are going to play out into what I essentially would like to do. I’m really enjoying creating YouTube videos, and I’m working with my husband, and we create those together, and that’s really fun. I’m having a lot of fun doing that, I know in the past, the things that I’ve been passionate about have always helped me be successful. So I think that’s really lucky if you have those things, so that’s kind of just what I’m focusing on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So you had talked about your courses, that was one of the things that you’d done, teaching people about all the different ins and outs of food photography, have also done client work a little bit. Can you talk about maybe the different stages of your business, and what those look like in terms of working with clients, working with brands, doing course content? How did things evolve for you as a photography professional?

Rachel Korinek: A lot of people, well, maybe not a lot of people, but people see teaching as potentially something they can do, or maybe they enjoy it. For me, I guess ’cause I had a background in teaching, I went to university to do a teaching degree, it was always something that I was really passionate in, and I think it just evolved naturally. ’Cause I really started my food photography blog because I wasn’t finding the things that I needed to learn online, so I was learning those things myself, and then writing, and putting it out there for others to learn. So I think it was-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which, I think, it’s a great way to do it.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: For people who are learning a thing, to learn and document is awesome.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. So I think it was really natural.

Bjork Ostrom: Whatever it is.

Rachel Korinek: The two things are really natural. So because I have these two elements of my business, I can pick and choose the types of clients I wanted, or the types of brands that I wanted to work with, or even the speaking gigs that I do or don’t take. So I think it just, again, was a really natural progression how that happened.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, that makes sense. This is why it’s great to interview people like this, because you have the heart of a teacher, ’cause that’s kind of what you did.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: But you also have this deep knowledge in photography, due to not only thinking about how you can teach it to people, but also going through the process of working with clients, and doing shoots. And so let’s talk about some of the things that you’ve learned. I think there’s going to be a lot of things that we can pass along to people, specific to best practices, even for Pinch of Yum, we’re continuing to, and this is really Lindsay, continuing to think about evolving the process, making it more efficient, but still prioritizing pictures because they’re so important. But how do we also get process shots in? So we’re always evolving and tweaking our systems.

Rachel Korinek: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: So let’s talk through some of those questions that maybe people can take some takeaways from, starting with that efficiency category. Thinking about doing multiple shoots in a day, I just did a live Q&A with Lindsay in Food Blogger Pro, and one of the questions that somebody asked was, “What’s your advice for getting more done?” Or something like that. And Lindsay was, “Batching.” So when you think of doing multiple shoots in a day, how do you go about doing that? What does it look like to do that well, knowing that there’s a lot of variables involved?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. And I think a lot of people listening will be running a food blog, so there’s probably a couple of different types. But there’ll be larger food blogs that have teams, but then there’ll also be a lot of us who just work on our own. So I tend to do both, depending on who the client is, the budget, things like that. I think it’s always more challenging when you have multiple shoots in a day, and you work by yourself. I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that you have to be super organized if you’re doing multiple shoots in a day. If I’m working on my own, I can probably shoot four to six recipes in a day on my own. If a client needs more, so eight to 10, I would need an assistant, someone to help me with food prep, cleanup, and it probably would depend on the complexity of the recipes as well.

So when you’re shooting for a client, they’re going to pay you for a certain number of days, or hours, or whatever, recipes. I can take an example of, I had a client, and I would do monthly recipes for them, so they can put it in an ebook, and they could share it on their social, and they had an app, and things like that. So she would send me the recipes for a specific month, and I would go ahead, and… Basically, when I got the recipes, I would go through them, I try to categorize them into, like if you had a four-day shoot, and I’m shooting multiple recipes, I would try to break it up into a mix of easy and complex together. ’Cause you don’t want to have a day where you have six really tough recipes to get through, you kind of want to have a mix, it’s going to help you fill the time-

Bjork Ostrom: Cereal-

Rachel Korinek: In that day.

Bjork Ostrom: You have a bowl of cereal that you’re shooting on the easy end.

Rachel Korinek: Sometimes it’ll be-

Bjork Ostrom: Barbecue on the other.

Rachel Korinek: A vinaigrette or a dip, really easy, a smoothie, super easy, ’cause it doesn’t take as much prep time as well. So a lot of people, like food bloggers, will know which are their easier recipes, so I try to have a combination of both of those to help me get to the time constraints of the day. I always think, for doing this 10 plus years, at least this is true for me, the day of the shoots starts out quite slow, and then you kind of get into some momentum, and it ends, you can shoot things quicker, essentially.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Rachel Korinek: ’Cause you’ll set up, maybe you’ll tweak the lighting at the beginning, and all those things will help you with the shoot as the day goes on. So I try to pick a couple of easy recipes that I can start off with, to just get those shots, and-

Bjork Ostrom: Almost like warming up a little bit.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, exactly. Under undo your belt, and then finish off with an easy one at the end of the day as well. Because usually, you’re tired, and it’s good to be like, “Okay, it’s the last one, and it is not going to be super challenging.”

Bjork Ostrom: And your brain is at that point where you’ve made so many decisions, and you feel fatigued, it’s like, “Let’s just do something easy.”

Rachel Korinek: Exactly. Yeah, so I think those things always help in terms of the day, and then it comes down to, is there things that you can do to prep for recipes? Which, a lot of food blogs probably are really good at. Can you do something the night before? Soups I find I can always cook the night before, just to help me out on the day, ’cause they’re usually pretty easy to reheat. Are there little things like, “Okay, we have three recipes today, and they all require us to use diced onion.” For example. So it’s just quicker to cut that onion once, and then save for different recipes, than having to do it three separate times. So little things like that. I’ll scan the recipes to see where things are going, and sort of create some kind of list in my head, or add those together one after the other, so I can sort of use them and help speed up things, especially if you’re working on your own, I find that that really helps.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. How about if you are at the point, let’s say you’re working on your own, one of the things that I hear my friend who’s in video production talk a lot about is pre-production.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: How much of the shoot day, so let’s say you do an eight-hour day, and you’re doing four to six recipes on your own, how much of that is pre-production? Like you thinking about what’s going to happen, getting groceries ahead of time, versus what actually happens the day of?

Rachel Korinek: I think it depends on number of recipes too, but obviously, if you’re doing six recipes, you’ve got quite a big grocery shop to do. I know other photographers who will hire someone to help them with those pre-production days, or if you’ve got a food stylist, if you’re shooting for a cookbook or something, stylists will usually do those things. But if you are working on your own, and you’re the core person in your business, you’ll be grocery shopping.

So there’s that element of it. There is also, it depends on the client too, but I usually will go through and save a whole bunch of images to a mood board for each recipe to give me some ideas. I will pick backgrounds and props that I want to use, if not all of the recipes, like a good chunk of them. And sometimes I’ll end up changing it on the day, but those first three recipes, I’ll have backgrounds and props selected the day before, so I can really just jump straight into it. Sometimes there’s a fridge clean out that’s got to happen to get all the recipes in, and then I will look at certain recipes like, again, soups were a great one. I would definitely cook them the night before, or sometimes ground beef can be cooked the night before, and just kind of helping prep myself for the day when there’s going to be a lot of things going on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: You had mentioned this, but somebody to go out, and if there’s a lot of grocery shopping that has to happen, a lot of times that being hired out, what would be the first hires that you would make if you wanted to be efficient with your food photography? Your shoot days? My guess is one of the early ones would be somebody to help… The go for this, go for that, but also probably somebody who could understand maybe some of the recipe prep type stuff.

Rachel Korinek: Exactly, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So what general advice would you have for somebody who’s maybe at the point where they’ve kind of done it on their own, and now they have a little bit of disposable income within their business, or personally that they want to spend on their business, and they say, “Hey, I can justify hiring somebody.” It’s not like they’re going to hire the photographer, ’cause that’d be more expensive, but they’re going to hire somebody who’s going to come and support. What would those support elements look like?

Rachel Korinek: There’s two things, I think there’s something that you really dislike doing, that is always a good thing to hire out. I really like marketing, and I love my email list, but I don’t love going in and putting those things in the backend, I can get somebody else to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Rachel Korinek: I think, for me, sometimes I like the shopping, but if you have a lot of recipes all the time, it’s actually better… My time is worth being used to edit photos, rather than go shopping. So definitely you could outsource the groceries. Having someone help you with food prep I think as well is a skill that most people can do. You might need to give them some direction, or… Usually if I’m styling I’ll want to do the final style, but I’ll get someone to dice things up, or do the cleanup, and the washing up prep.

And usually, I’d like to try and hire someone who might be starting out in food photography for myself, so that they can see the process, and learn a little bit on the job as well. So I found those things to be great. In terms of a photo assistant, they might be probably a bit more expensive than someone who’s just doing groceries and food prep, but they can help you… They should have some sort of understanding of photography, they can help you tether, or check are the photos in focus? They should really be someone who can say to you, “Oh, the lighting is maybe too bright.” Or, “Things are getting too hot.” And they can help you change some of those things. So they should be contributing to the shoot, rather than you just pointing around telling them what to do.

Bjork Ostrom: Telling them what to do, yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like another brain, versus just another body.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: This friend, so he’s done a couple documentaries, some of them are on Netflix, I’ve referenced him a few times, but to give him a little shout-out, one of them is coming out in a little bit, I think it’ll be called Bitcon on Netflix, the other one is Pez Outlaw, and then the last one is Legend of Cocaine Island. So people can check those out to see these documentaries. But one of the things he always talks about is, when he goes on these shoots, it’s amazing how many people are there.

Rachel Korinek: Oh my gosh, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: There’s somebody to do makeup, there’s somebody to do… Doesn’t touch the cameras, but just tells the cameras what to do, and how to focus, and then there’s-

Rachel Korinek: It’s super niched, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: One person to just focus the camera, and then one person to hold the light. So I think, if nothing else, I just want to give some affirmation to anybody who’s out there shooting on their own, video or photography, because you’re doing a lot of jobs. You’re doing food styling-

Rachel Korinek: You’re doing a lot of jobs, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Photography, editing, recipe, you have to understand the recipe itself. You’re having to create great recipe content. So it’s a lot that people are doing.

Rachel Korinek: It’s a lot. Exactly, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And that people are having to learn.

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How about on the food styling side of things? Knowing that that’s something that you do as well, talking about multiple jobs. What are some common mistakes that you see people make? Because that, obviously, is such a huge part of it. You can take a great picture, but if it’s not styled well, it’s not going to look great.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. Sometimes people are like, “What do I do with this food that’s really ugly?” There’s one food recipe that stands out in my mind, and it was chicken and cheese wrapped in a rice paper, and then air fried. And honestly, there’s not much you can do with that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: It’s a clear tube that has nothing redeeming about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rachel Korinek: And so what I always, always fall back on is, if you have great lighting, you can almost make anything look good. So anytime I have really, really tricky food, it’s not that you want to distract the viewer from the food with props and backgrounds, but they can really be a nice support to help soften the blow, essentially, that that’s not the prettiest food in the world. So I think there are little tricks like that you can do, but always, if you can get your lighting done really nicely, you can really make ugly food shine.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Rachel Korinek: But there’s a lot of things I like to think about with food, you’ve got your composition of the whole scene, but then you have, are you thinking about any composition theories or techniques that you can bring to actually styling the food? So anytime I have a client, I’ll go through all the recipes, and I’ll be thinking about, “Okay, we’ve got a lot of brown in this dish.” There is a pho to that’s in the show notes, it was a beef tinga, and it’s really just beef, onions and tomatoes that you can see in the actual shot. It’s a lot of heavy… A lot of brown, depending on how you cut the onions, you’ve got a similar shape to all of those three ingredients.

So for me, looking at that, it was like, “Okay, what can I do to make this look pretty?” And if I need to go back to the client… If you’re running a food blog, you probably have a little bit more autonomy over that, but I would ask the client, “Is it okay if I actually change the cut of the onion?” You don’t want to make it so different that it’s going to cause a problem to actually cook the recipe, but if they’ve asked you to finally dice it, you might see if you can do thin slices that are roughly around the same size, just to break up some of those different shapes that are showing in there. I’ll ask, “Are there garnishes, any herbs or stuff that I can add at the end, or sprinkling of Parmesan cheese or something like that?”

And if all those things are a no, then I try to lean on, “Can we add side dishes to this to make it look more interesting?” Or more of a scene, or how can we not just focus on that? There’s another photo in the show notes where I made, and these are both client shots, but I did meatloaf. So meatloaf is another tough one. Again, just brown-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Rachel Korinek: Just a shape, everything’s kind of mushed in there. This one, we didn’t make so much in a loaf shape, we actually made it in a cake or a brownie pan, an eight by eight. So I was thinking, “I’m going to cut it into interesting…” I mean it’s just a square, but cut it, and move them around on a board, make sure that I have some of the sauce on top, that picks up a little bit of shine, and so it’s not looking dry. Suddenly you’ve cut it in a way that might be different to what you would see other recipes. So just thinking about a few little things like that can really take a dish from maybe a one to a seven.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. And it’s interesting, my dad was an art teacher, but a lot of it is almost the different elements of art. It’s contrast, it’s focal points, it’s complementary colors, all of those things you’re thinking about putting those things together, and it’s just that food is your canvas for what you’re using.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, yep.

Bjork Ostrom: So even for people to review some of those standards of art, it feels like it would be a helpful thing to look at.

Rachel Korinek: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, so you can apply that to the whole composition that you’re putting, you’ll have the hero dish, and a side dish, and maybe a glass of water, or a napkin. So you can think about it that way. But I also encourage you to think about… Take those elements, and apply it to just the food. If you were just shooting a bowl of ground beef, how can you just apply those to that specifically, is really how I try to think about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. You talked about lighting, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on artificial lighting. Is that primarily what you’re shooting with? Do you use natural light? And if artificial light, what would your advice be for people who want to create a consistent look in everything in terms of where you’re positioning the lights, what type of lights, things like that?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. Like A lot of us, I started off doing natural light, and I always recommend mastering natural light before you move on to artificial. Artificial can be a jump, because again, you have to create it from scratch. And artificial light is one of those things where if you don’t have great tools, you won’t have a great quality of light. So sometimes people have a small budget, they start out with artificial light, and it is quite challenging. I sort of shoot artificial light nine and a half times out of 10 these days, because I love the challenge of being able to create the exact light that I want. I can shoot any time of the day, and it can be very consistent. So again, that’s another key to shooting multiple recipes in a day, I can have a set-up, it’s not quite set and forget, but you can really motor through, and know that it’s going to be consistent.

So I do have a YouTube video, it’s a 30-minute free tutorial on my go-to light setup. And I wanted to show people, one, what you can do in a small space, but how you can replicate gorgeous, beautiful, big window light with just one light. So I’m sure we can link to that if people are interested in checking that out.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Rachel Korinek: I would say, use the light that you have. So both lighting types can be really beautiful. As an Australian being in Australia when I first started out, lighting is very different down there to how it is in North America, especially in winter. And when I moved here, I was like, “Oh, I can see why people complain about certain times of the year.” So it can really help you get out of a tricky spot, and especially if you have a food blog, and you want a very similar aesthetic that you can shoot all year round for your blog as well, that’s where artificial light can really help you.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, especially if you’re working a normal job, and then you get home at five, and you have 15 minutes to do a shoot when it’s in the middle of the winter-

Rachel Korinek: And a lot of us-

Bjork Ostrom: The light disappears so quick.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, it’s great if you have a space, or maybe that’s a room in your house or whatever, you can literally just leave the setup there, and you get home, turn it on, you know it’s going to be reliable, then you can focus on things like composition, or for food blog, you can focus on really making sure that the viewer is going to see how they can cook, or process shots, things like that, to help the end user. ’Cause a little bit different to a food blog than to a client, so you want to make sure that people landing on your blog understand how to cook. And there’s some really great blogs out there who do fabulous portrait shots, and I’m a good cook, but I still appreciate seeing those.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah.

Rachel Korinek: It really helps me understand, “Oh, this is what it should look like, and that’s working.” And whatnot.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. So one of the things that I think is great about this world is, and this world meaning people who get into creating content online, social media, or perhaps it’s on a blog, is, a lot of times, it can be an avenue into another profession. Is that a little bit of what it was for you? You had a site, you experimented with publishing content online, and then realized photography was really what you loved about it, and then built a business around that? Is that true somewhat, or not at all?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, no, I think so. And it’s interesting when people… You’re putting it out there, and then you get your first client, and you’re like, “Oh, I can really do this.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: And maybe you’ll add new skills. Like, “Currently, I’m doing video, and where does that lead?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, you sort of have a base, and then you just start adding your skills, and you see what you like doing, and then you follow those passions. A lot of us wear so many different hats, that sometimes I think, “Oh, could I get a job in marketing or consulting?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: So there’s many ways, especially if you’re interested in those things, that you… I guess your business evolves, and might take paths that you never even imagined it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep. There’s a conversation we’re having, we’re talking with this… It’s probably a Fortune 50 company, they’re kind of beta testing one of these things, we’re kind of helping out with Pinch of Yum, and Lindsay was giving some product feedback, and he responded back, and he’s like, “If you ever needed a job in product development, let us know.” But it’s part of built into what we do-

Rachel Korinek: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: And you need it to be successful, these different elements. So what I was getting at with that is, one of the things I’m constantly trying to bring up on the podcast is, that what we’re after, it might… What we think we’re after might not always be the end result of where we get. And some of us get in, we start a blog, and then we’re like, “Actually, we really love developing the website.” And that becomes a thing that we do. Or we create content online, and we’re like, “Actually, we love to do photography or video.” For people who are on that path, “I love photography, I love video, that’s actually something I really want to do. I want to do more of that. Maybe I don’t even need to have my own thing, I could just do it for other people.” How would you recommend those people find their first clients, or the first brand to work with if they want to secure those deals? And what did you learn about sales, really, marketing and sales as it relates to working with a brand or a company?

Rachel Korinek: It has changed since when I first started, and in some ways, potentially it’s harder, because there’s a lot more people doing it, but in a lot of ways there’s more avenues for you to share what you’re doing. There’s one brand specifically that I really want to work with, and it’s a matter of just being like, “I am going to create the content to show them that I can do the job that I ultimately want to get.” And so sometimes there’s two thoughts on that, that people are like, “You don’t want to be creating content for them that’s free.” I’m not really creating it for them, I’m creating it for me.

And that could be like, “Am I teaching something?” Or, “Am I learning a new recipe?” Or, “Am I learning how to use a new piece of equipment?” And you can target brands within those things. So maybe it’s lighting that I want to work out for myself, and my portfolio, and my clients, but I could also work with a brand of lighting. So I could be not only shooting with that, and showing the company what I can do, but I could also be teaching other people, so showing them the range of skills that I have.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: And sometimes when we start out, and you look at the people that inspire you, sometimes you feel like you should work with the brands that they’re working with, because maybe they’re cool brands, or they’re large brands, but when you get down the rabbit hole, you might think, “Actually, they’re not the brands that I want to work with.” So it’s always, I think, like we’ve said before, is coming back to do you enjoy doing that specific thing? Because sometimes, I’ve spoken to a brand, and actually working with them took three years-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah.

Rachel Korinek: For whatever it is, and it’s like, “Can you consistently stay in front of those people for three years?” And the answer is yes, if you’re interested, and passionate about that, and you’re sort of going to do it anyway-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: But if you are not, that’s very hard to sustain.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, if it feels like a total energy suck every time you’re doing it, then it’s going to feel like a long three years, but if it’s a brand you love, that you’re going to be talking about, thinking about anyways, it’s very different.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I had an interesting conversation with a connection who’s in a different industry, completely different than the food world, and we were talking about their… But essentially online media, and he was talking about his process for sales, and it’s a really big company, sponsored content type stuff, working with brands. And I was like, “How much of it is inbound versus outbound?” He’s like, “Oh, 95% is outbound. It’s us pursuing brands, pursuing companies. It’s having a database of all of our contacts, following up with them occasionally.” And I thought it was interesting, because a lot of us, I think, myself included, assume you get really good at something, and then just inbound stuff comes in. But so often, it’s reaching out, it’s hustling, it’s reminding people that you’re there, top of mind, doing all of those things.

And I think back to, we did some type of webinar thing a while back, and one of the things I said, kind of similar to what you’re saying, is, don’t be afraid to do things for free. And not that you’re just giving it away, but saying… Maybe you do a blog post, and you use a brand in that blog post, and say… Reach out to the brand, and say, “Hey, really love your product. I used it here. Here’s what it looks like. If you’d ever be interested in working together, or having photos done for you, would love to connect.” I think it’s a lot easier than coming to them and saying, “Hey, can we work together?” And they’re like, “Who are you? What are you about? Prove to us.”

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I mean, if you think about it in our personal lives, maybe you want photos for your wedding, or of your family, you wouldn’t hire a photographer who didn’t have wedding or family photos in their portfolio, most likely.

Bjork Ostrom: Right, right.

Rachel Korinek: So if you are trying to go after a brand, maybe it’s flour, and you are trying to pitch pancakes, and you have no pancakes in your portfolio, no pancakes on your blog, it just doesn’t make sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: So maybe you want to be the pancake person, you would go and do all that work first so that clients can see that… Or brands can see that you can really execute that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: One thing that came to mind is, especially for creatives, I think when we don’t hear back, or we get nos, we take it personally ’cause we think there’s something about our work that’s not good enough, but honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I might’ve followed up with a magazine, a client, a brand, and they’re like, “Oh, we actually need something.” Or, “We needed a photographer.” It doesn’t happen all the time, but I’m surprised how often it happened when a client says, “Actually, the photographer we had didn’t work out. We were actually looking for somebody, you landed in our inbox.” So sometimes you’re also doing them a favor too by just popping up, reminding them that you’re there. Timing is everything.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and it’s work. It takes effort, it takes repeated… And a lot of times, it’s work that doesn’t immediately pay off, but six months down the line, a year down the line, once you have those connections, people know that you’re quick to respond.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, and I mean, I was devastated when people tell me that at the beginning, I was like, “I need work now. I need these things now.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: But the thing is, like you said, the work you do now will help you in six months, and then the next day. So it all works itself out if you continually just keep on that treadmill, things just kind of consistently come your way, if that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yep. So one of the things that we do is, we occasionally ask our listeners what questions they have for an upcoming interview, and we’ll pick three of these questions that people ask. There’s a few more than that, but we’ll pick three here. Starting with this, do you use Lightroom for editing photos? And then any general recommendations for the editing process?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, so I use Capture One these days, but editing theory is editing theory. So when you understand how to edit, you can edit the same sort of way in many programs. So in terms of editing, when I started teaching editing a few years ago, I just really found that people weren’t… Like you’ve got all these tools, which ones do you use? Or we would rely on presets. And I think if you rely on presets and you don’t understand how to edit, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

So I came down to, what are the three core edits that you need to do. And so I always tell people to think about your exposure adjustments, your contrast adjustments, and your color adjustments. So if you ask yourself those three questions, “How is the exposure for the mood or the story I’m trying to tell? Is there enough contrast?” That’s where a photo really pops out and has that wow feeling. And food is so important when it comes to colors, so, “Are my colors feeling really rich? Or are the colors…” I always use this example of a strawberry, a gorgeous red strawberry looks really delicious, but if it’s slightly orange, that looks weird to us.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: So some of those presets sometimes will change those colors. So always come down to, if I can just put it in a nutshell, is exposure, color, contrast, are the three things you want to look at when you’re editing.

Bjork Ostrom: And that being important regardless of the program that you’re using?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. How about any background props that you use or recommend? If you were on an island, and you could only take five background props with you, what would they be?

Rachel Korinek: Oh, that’s a hard one. I’d say pinch bowls are just great, because you can put lots of different things in them, salt, pepper, herbs, they really can be very adaptable to add to the scene. They’re small, so they can fit in all kinds of… If you want to add a little bit of negative space here, or cut it off, or it’s very complementary, so that’s something I would take. I’ve been collecting vintage flatware, knives, forks, spoons. So a nice vintage spoon is something that I would take. I probably would take a linen, ’cause again, it’s just something really easy to add to a frame. And then when you think about plates, bowls, things like that, something that has some really nice handmade texture is just… It picks up the light really nicely, it’s very complementary to food. If you could spend a little bit more money and just get a couple of handmade pieces like that, that’s probably neutral color palette, would be really awesome.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. All right. And then you’d have your island shoot, you’d be ready to go.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Was that five? I wasn’t keeping track.

Rachel Korinek: I feel like that’s four.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. Oh, okay. Yeah, so you have one more.

Rachel Korinek: One more. I feel a cutting board.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. Something that feels like it’s been loved a little.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, not brand new, out-of-the-box?

Rachel Korinek: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Rachel Korinek: Not that fake bamboo kind of stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And then last question, how about any tips or tricks for taking good pictures with your iPhone, or camera phone? Knowing that we have these really capable phones, we don’t need to buy $1,000 camera if we’re just getting started, but what would be your advice for people who want to use their-

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, I get this email all the time, people are like, “I want to start right away, but I only have a phone.” Sometimes they want to ask my permission, that that’s okay.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. “It’s okay.”

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. What I say is that photography happens… Part of it is the camera that you have, but there’s also the part that happens outside the camera. So that’s always composition, it’s always lighting. So regardless of the camera, if you can get really nice lighting and composition, I think those things are really important when you have a phone, because you’re a little bit more limited to some of the settings that you would have. The other thing about a phone is, we have the ability to just press buttons, and we have a super-wide angle, or an in-close. So a lot of times, I would recommend using some of the narrower settings that you have, because if you shoot something wide, and you get close to your subject, you get perspective distortion, and you might see glasses or whatever kind of feel like they’re falling out of the frame. So if you can use those settings to help you get a shot that is not going to have any of that distortion is a good tip.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Point being, if you take a wide angle picture, you never want to be the person right on the side, ’cause you end up looking really weird.

Rachel Korinek: Weird, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: So same with food, you don’t want to be taking these wide angle ones, because it could potentially be distorted, or look a little different?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, and I think a lot of the times with composition we cut things off at the side of the frame with still life photography, so those start to look a little weird.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. So much that we could talk about, so much that we could continue to talk about, but the great thing is that you have a YouTube channel where you cover a lot of this stuff. I know that you said you’ve kind of been working on building that out. You obviously have your courses, and the content that you’ve built there as well, and occasionally working with brands as well to do food photo shoots. Can you tell us all the different places you live, Rachel, and where people can follow along with you?

Rachel Korinek: Yeah. Come and say hi on YouTube, check out the videos that we’re sharing, a lot of teaching stuff on there, so you can find Two Loves Studio on YouTube. And my blog is twolovesstudio.com, so I’m always sharing the things that I learned in food photography, all the little aspects, and then on Instagram too is the other place. So Two Loves Studio for all of those. If you want to check out courses too, if you head to twolovesstudio.com, I have a courses section on there. I tend to teach very specific, I like to dive deep into certain concepts, so you can really understand all the ins and outs.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. Two Loves, what does the name come from?

Rachel Korinek: It’s so weird, when I was coming up with a name, all I was saying to myself is, “What is a word that encapsulates my two loves?” And then it just kind of stuck.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s two loves-

Rachel Korinek: But it didn’t feel like-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s what it is.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, it didn’t feel-

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like name inception.

Rachel Korinek: It didn’t feel quite finished. And I think six months later we added the studio on.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, so that’s where that came from.

Bjork Ostrom: And your two loves being?

Rachel Korinek: Food and photography.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Oh, that’s awesome.

Rachel Korinek: Yeah, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Love that. Two Loves Studio everywhere online. Rachel, thanks so much for coming on.

Rachel Korinek: Thank you for having me. Maybe we won’t leave it five years next time.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, five years, every three years, two years, we’ll have to shorten it a little bit. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Rachel Korinek: Thanks for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, everyone. Alexa here, and thanks for tuning into this episode of the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. And I wanted to give you a little sneak peek into what we have going on on the Food Blogger Pro membership side of things in October. First of all, I can’t believe it’s October, but that is what we are talking about. So if you’re unaware, the Food Blogger Pro podcast is just one part of what we do here at Food Blogger Pro, the other half is a membership, so it’s a paid subscription community, where you get access to different courses, and trainings, and events, and more. It’s a fantastic place to spend your time if you want to start and grow and monetize a food blog. So I would definitely suggest checking it out at foodbloggerpro.com/join. But we do something new every week for our members, what I like to say is that our membership will look different at the end of each week, because we’re always adding new value to your membership. So this is what we have going on in October.

So actually this Thursday, we have a Q&A with Danielle Liss, she’s our legal expert, and Sam Adler, the fabulous blogger behind Frosting and Fettuccine, and they will be talking about pricing your work, and working with sponsors and clients. This is going to be such a good Q&A, so we actually wanted to offer it available to everybody, so members already get access to it, included in their membership price, but if you’re not a member, and you still want access to this conversation, and you want to attend live, and ask some questions for Danielle and Sam, you can actually go to foodbloggerpro.com/price, and go ahead and sign up. It’s just $25, so that would be a really great thing to do if you’re looking to maximize your earnings in Q4, and get ready for all that your business has to offer in 2024.

Next up, on the 12th, we will be publishing our next coaching call, and that is going to be with Megan from Cake ’n Knife. And in this coaching call, Bjork answers some of her questions about doing a few things really well, deleting old content, and finding the connection between authenticity and engagement. It’s an awesome conversation, and we can’t wait to share it with our members. And finally, we have a quick win video happening on the 19th. So a quick win is like a course, but it’s only one lesson long. And in this lesson, you’ll be learning about setting up an Amazon shop. So we figured this was kind of great timing, considering a lot of people try to maximize their affiliate earnings through Amazon in Q4. So we’re really excited to give you some tips and tricks on how to successfully run an Amazon shop page. And that will be our October. So again, if you’re interested in getting access to any of these, you can join the membership at foodbloggerpro.com/join. But otherwise, we’ll see you right here next time, next Tuesday. And until then, make it a great week.

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