One Day…At SoFabCon…I Learned I Could Take Amazing Photos Because Rachel Said So!

I’ve been playing this conference off as all fun and games, but we really did come to learn. And learn we did (said in my best Yoda voice). The first session that really struck my fancy was “Through the Lens of a Photographer: Photography for the Digital Age” taught by none other than the infamous Rachel Rockwell of Bubbly Nature Creations. I say infamous because in the blogging world, that is exactly what she is. We admire her, we adore her, we want to hate her for her enormous talent both in the kitchen and behind the lens, but in the end, admiration wins out and we all absolutely love her. And she’s just as nice as she is talented. 

I take decent photos right? Why would I want to listen to this young women? What could she possibly teach me? I know how to use my camera in auto mode just fine. Well, let me show you some of her work before we get started.
Irish Cream Ice Cream Cupcakes: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
Double Tomato Bruschetta: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
Pop Rocks Mallow Pops: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
OK, so yea, that’s why! She’s the master of photography, staging, lighting, and everything else that I aspire to be. She wanted to talk. I needed to listen. And lucky you…I’m here to share her secrets with you!

But really this lovely young woman has no secrets. She shares daily and I’m like a sponge. Let me explain in advance though, I have not been able to put her advice in to practice since I’ve been home. I had my notes on paper and all of her vast knowledge in my head, and I came home ready to put it all to use. But alas, American Airlines had other plans for me. 
My camera is literally in pieces so I’ve been unable to try out what I learned . What I’m putting forth here is just her word. I wanted to add my “ah-ha” moments to it, but at this point, that’s not possible. So in a nutshell, and in layman’s terms, here’s what I learned. 

Watch your shadows and light sources.
  • Use simple white foam board behind objects for indirect light.
  • Hold white foam board under a person’s face for soft light. 
  • Set up a tabletop in a window for natural lighting and use it for everything.
  • If you have to use a flash, use one that goes up 90% to avoid full-on flash.
Watch your angles when shooting:
  • Take straight on photos only when they make sense (cupcakes, plates of food, etc.).
  • Use slight above angles for things like soup and beverages so that you can actually see what’s in the bowl or cup.
  • Overhead angles are nice when you want to get the full picture.
  • Avoid taking photos too close or you’ll miss the big picture. 
  • Avoid taking photos too far away and not filling the frame.
  • Experiment. It’s the only way you’ll ever figure out what works for you.
The Rule of Thirds:
  • Imagine a tic tac toe board (my words, not hers). Divide your photo, your lens, into 9 parts like that. 
  • Put your focal point in the + signs of the board and the camera will do the rest! If you want to focus on someone’s eyes in a photo, make sure the + signs are on their eyes and shoot. 
  • Apparently this is a biggie! Don’t ever skip this step. You can stage all you want, your lighting can be perfect, but if you don’t follow the rule of thirds, your photo will just not be amazing.

Find your style and stick with it:
  • There are many styles of photography. You need to find yours and own it!
  • Make your style match your blog, your lifestyle, and your personality. 
  • Are you a minimalist, a light and bright, dark and subtle, dramatic, journalistic, lifestyle? The list goes on and on. 
  • I’ve decided I’m a combination of light and bright meets lifestyle. I need to keep my photos fun but include my kids as much as possible. That’s what works for me and Rachel confirmed my suspicions. 
Photo Editing Tools:
  • Photo Shop Elements is great for beginners.
  • is free and simple to use.
  • is another free and simple to use editing tool.
  • Watch your whites: When editing and adjusting color, pay close attention to your whites. They will guide you to easy and proper photo editing that doesn’t look fake. 
  • Yes, add text, but don’t let it take over your photo. Good rule of thumb: No more than 10% of your photo should have text on it. 
  • Resize photos to the correct size for your blog before saving them, and before loading them to your post to avoid slow site resolution.
  • Watermarks are fine, but do not let them take over your photo. Be discreet.
Photos and social sharing:
  • Vertical photos get more hits on Pinterest.
  • Horizontal photos do much better on Facebook and Google+. 
Technical Stuff I don’t understand:
  • Aperture: The lower the number, the bigger the diaphragm which helps with lighting. Two or lower is best. 
  • There’s a whole bunch more on settings, but basically, read your manual and get out of auto mode. You aren’t doing your camera or yourself any justice by hiding behind the easy button. 
“Don’t be afraid to be wrong!” ~ Stewart Cox

This is where Stewart Cox stepped up to the plate to add some additional words of wisdom. That statement above? That applies in photography, and in  life! You’ll never achieve greatness if you’re always focusing on what you might do wrong. Take chances! Make mistakes. How will you ever know your own potential if you fail to even try? Stewart feels that lighting is most important. Master that, and the rest will come.

General Food Photography Tips from Rachel:
  • Use white plates for food photography for contrast. It’s the easiest way to make your food stand out.
  • Use craft paper for backgrounds. It’s cheap, simple, and an easy way to highlight your food without a lot of fuss. 
  • Arrange things in odds for focus. OK, this one is hard for OCD me. Evens are good. You have one thing here…one on the other side. Evens make sense (in my head) but her point is well taken. See her photos above. If you have 3 cupcakes, there will be a peak to focus on and your photography will pop. 
And there’s that. I’ve gotten good at that!

That’s pretty much what I learned at band camp SoFabCon that day. I can’t wait to get my camera issue resolved so that I have a camera to test all of these theories out with on my own. I’ll read my manual this time. Pinky swear. Rachel seems to think that’s important and after seeing her photos and listening to her speak, I guess I better put more stock in that!

Be sure to stop back by. I have some SEO words of wisdom and potty jokes coming to you soon. Dan Morris taught me both and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

In the meantime, I’d love to see some of your photography and hear your tips and tricks. I could use all the help I can get!

About Christy

Christy Gossett, managing editor of SoFabFood and creator of the healthy living blog, Insanity Is Not An Option, is a WAHM of 6 kids ranging in age from 27 to 8. She enjoys sharing her heart-healthy, low sodium recipes to help others with dietary restrictions enjoy a flavorful life while maintaining a healthy diet.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this, Christy. I have it bookmarked so I can refer back to it. I can’t wait for the next one!

  2. Sarah Bird Bogner says:

    Great recap Christy! I missed Rachel’s session (still kicking myself for that) and have decided she needs to go a Google Hangout and go over everything again. 🙂

  3. Sarah Bird Bogner says:

    OK, I have no idea why Disqus pulled that image as my profile pic but I do still support Marshall. 😉

  4. clgossett says:

    Thanks Sarah. Rachel is amazing as you well know.

  5. clgossett says:

    She told us that this all applies to point and shoots as well. She’s so helpful.