Browned Butter Pecan Shortbead: Before & After

I love makeovers don't you? I bet you never thought a photograph could get a makeover, but that's exactly what I'm going to show you today.  Back when I first started this blog, it was purely as a way to chronicle recipes that I wanted to try, and to have something that showed my progress along the way.

I never imagined it would re-spark a love for photography that I'd always had but never did anything about. As I look back on my first few recipes, I cringe at those photos but I know that every journey had to start somewhere. 

I just wish at the beginning of that journey I knew what the heck white balance was.  Seriously, food is not supposed to be blue my friends...unless you happen to be eating a blueberry, or these Blue Velvet Cupcakes, or blue cotton get the idea.

I purposely kept those ugly images up because I wanted a reminder of where I started at. I've decided to go ahead and update my old photos with new ones, but instead of the old picture being dumped (rightly so) into the recycle bin, I'm going to turn it into a Before & After post. If you're just starting out in the food blogging world, and get discouraged looking at other bloggers food photos, maybe these posts will help you see that everyone started somewhere.

Even if somewhere was ugly blue food. :)

Here's the before shot of my Browned Butter Pecan Shortbread.
O.K. here's where I'm going to completely trash my own photo. Don't worry - I'm a pro - I've gotten enough rejection emails from Foodgawker over the years that I can handle it.

Obviously. Food is not supposed to be blue. Unless it's the aforementioned blueberries...or cotton candy. If you don't already know about white balance, find your camera's user manual and learn how to set a proper white balance in camera. This does not mean Auto White Balance. To get the most accurate white balance, you should set a custom white balance using a grey card, or if your camera has the option you can set the Kelvin number to somewhere between 5500K and 6500K. This range should cover most daylight lighting situations. Here's a great Kelvin Chart to help you out. If you don't want to mess with setting your white balance in camera, you can also adjust it in your editing program. Most editing software has the option to adjust the WB to a more natural color.

Seriously, getting in close for a detail shot is alright but when you start to loose the ability to tell what's in the picture, you're too close. The same goes for cropping your pictures, leave a little room to me...your food will thank you. :)

This image is underexposed AND overexposed, making the left side of the image too dark and the right side too bright. This easily happens when shooting a side lit image (when you're light source is coming from the side of your subject.) To fix this, you need use something to reflect some light back onto the shadowed side of the image. I like to use a white foam board or reflector to open up shadows. To prevent overexposed areas, you can either move the plate further away from the light - so it's less harsh, or use something to diffuse the light (make the light softer and not so harsh). I have sheer white curtains hanging from my kitchen patio door. These work great for diffusing the light when it's too harsh.

The crop is part of the bad composition, but a little planning and food styling/arrangement does wonders. This subject is too broad to cover now, but when you're looking through your viewfinder really look at the image before you snap the shutter. Is your picture crooked? Is there enough room to crop if needed?  I'm still guilty of not paying close enough attention to the composition before I snap the shot.

Now for the AFTER shots:

Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread
Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread

There you have it. How I went from glowing blue cookies to something a little more edible looking. If you'd like a more in depth explanation of anything I mentioned, let me know! If there is enough interest I'll do more food photography posts, diving into more detail on photography tips and tricks I've learned, and showing you how I like to get the shots for my posts. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. :)

Note: I don't claim to be an expert, but I have learned a thing or two over the years and will gladly share those things with people. I'm also a family photographer in the St. Louis area, so if you're interested in seeing my work outside of food photography, visit Amber Potter Photography.

Update: If you're just starting out in the photography world and need some help understanding all that photo jibber-jabber, my pal Karly at Buns In My Oven has started a great series called So You Want To Be A Better Photographer? Her tutorials are sure to help you "see the light". Hehe...bad pun? Anyway, her tips combined with my before and after critiques are a good way to see the photography principals put into practice, and learn to recognize what's wrong with an image. When you can tell what's wrong with a photo and why it doesn't work, then you can better improve your own skill!

You can find the recipe for these cookies in my original post for Browned Butter Pecan Shortbread.
Have a great day!



cathy @ Noble Pig said...

Love the before and after, thanks for sharing your tips!!

Unknown said...

Thanks Cathy! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

Leanne said...

Oh my, you aren't the only one that looks back and cringes and old posts - I do with mine all the time! What a great way to update them :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Leanne! I didn't want to just delete all the old photos, so I thought this way was more beneficial. :)

Averie @ Averie Cooks said...

Love this post! "This image is underexposed AND overexposed..." You know I have never thought of my old pics that way, but they are all just that. And I'm sure some of the newer ones :) As well as back up! and yellow plagued them more than blue; equally horrible, actually worse I think. And then the bad comp. Yep. This was my entire blog circa 2009-10 and then some. I shudder. Thanks for keeping it real, Amber :)

Danielle said...

I do love these posts! So here's my question, what kind of lens did you use to shoot your new pics and what was your av? Do you use a tripod? I ask because I feel like when I step back from a picture, I lose the crispness of the image. I'm also curious how much you actually cropped of either of the 2 new images. I'm definitely guilty of cropping in so close that I'm left with just a square with the subject in it. Thanks for offering to answer more questions! You're the best!

Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious said...

Amazing! Love the before and after pictures! I've always wanted to do posts like these.

Shanna @ Pineapple and Coconut said...

I love this post - I actually played around with using some of your techniques last night. I set my WB to Kelvin and played with 4800-7700 and it was amazing to see the difference and with bad lighting in my house that one change made it look like I had good lighting!! So thank you!

Unknown said...

Hi Shanna, I'm so glad you liked it and it helped you! You're very welcome. :)

a farmer in the dell said...

I love this post! I totally cringe when I go back and look at my old photos. You have come a long way lady! absolutely beautiful photos!

Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet said...

I have so many posts that could use makeovers like this. :) Thanks for all the great tips, Amber!

Unknown said...

I love this makeover!!

Anonymous said...

I have improved a bit with my photos but I have a long way to go. Thanks for the tips.
I do still get that darn blue look at times. lol

In the Farm Kitchen said...

Yes! I appreciate this post and would love to see more. Great tips...I know I have a long way to go with my photography. I look forward to (hopefully!) having more time to put toward it in the future.

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