When I started my first food blog, it was June 2012. Armed with a cute pink point and shoot and daylight until 10PM (London summers!), I had a great time practicing my photography every evening after work. But then the inevitable happened… winter! Dark at 4PM! I blogged infrequently through that first winter, and totally skipped the next.
Blogging in the winter, when you rely on natural light for food photography, is hard work. You can only take photos at the weekend, and it’s not like every weekend is free time.
I am not a pro at keeping the momentum (I go back and forth between weekly and twice-weekly posting schedules), and I rarely take my own advice. But nonetheless, I have picked up a few techniques and coping strategies for how to keep taking food photos for the blog through winter, without resorting to artificial lighting.
I wanted to share my ideas because, hey, two heads are better than one! So if you’re a new blogger who is struggling, maybe it will help. If you’re a seasoned blogger who can share much better tips, then pleeeease leave a comment and tell us all!
This post is tailored to bloggers who work full time, and live in an area with daylight variation so that it’s dark by the time you eat dinner in the winter. That’s not everyone, but if its you, you’re in the right place!
1. You can post different types of recipes
You won’t be photographing many dinners, because it is always dark at dinner time now. Time to start thinking about more elaborate weekend breakfasts and snacks which you can photograph before you eat.
So you can shift the focus more to these types of recipes, especially if you have been able to save some dinner posts from the summer to throw into the mix occasionally.
2. Break recipes into components
It’s kind of obvious that you need to photograph more breakfasts and snacks at the weekend but if you’re trying to churn out a lot of recipes on your blog, you won’t get enough that way. So you know it’s going to be necessary to make some things in advance.
But it’s just depressing to make an entire meal in advance and not get to eat it when it’s fresh. So this works better when you break up a recipe into components.
You could make a sauce on a Sunday, take some photos of it in a bowl, and blog it just as a sauce recipe. When it gets dark, add it to some pasta and dinner is served!
Ditto with an awesome salad dressing or gravy.
You can always reference back to that sauce/dressing as part of a complete meal in the summer when you’re able to photograph your main meals again.
Not every blogger likes to do this, but for me it’s a life saver when I can’t get lots of complete meal photos.
3. Sometimes you can get lovely photos from your leftovers
Not everything can be photographed cold, straight from the tupperware. But think about the foods that look more or less the same whether they are hot or cold, fresh or a day old. Soups, sauces, certain rice and noodle dishes, quiche… it will depend on the actual recipe.
Cook these things on Friday nights, and reserve one portion for a Saturday morning photoshoot. It can then be your lunch on Monday.
Some judgement is needed here and it won’t always work out, but it’s often worth a punt.
Even if you find yourself with just a small amount of leftovers, get creative and shoot mini portions. A small mug of soup, for example, could be microwaved and photographed, then given to your kid for a snack.
My gnocci hearts photoshoot only featured a few bits of gnocci, not a full plate, because they were leftovers from a mid-week evening meal. I assembled and photographed them on a Saturday, returned them to the fridge, and had them in my lunchbox on Monday.
Just make sure to specify the actual yield of the recipe in the post.
4) When you get stuck, bake more
Baked goods can almost always be photographed the next day. So if you have ever had the inclination to put more baked goods on your blog- whether they are breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, etc – now is the time! Start baking on Friday nights, and taking pictures on Saturday. This is an easy way to generate lots more recipes for your blog.
5) Take photos whenever you get a chance, even if the recipe isn’t final
If you’re developing a recipe for your blog, take the photos when you can. Even if it takes another 5 tries before the recipe is right- you can go back and check whether the food looks the same. Because sometimes it will be identical to the final perfected version of the recipe. So get those photos done when you have an opportunity, and then you are free to perfect the recipe in evenings. You may have to re-do them, but you often won’t.
These waffles were photographed before I decided they needed vanilla. I took photos on my first attempt, because in the end, the addition of vanilla made zero difference to the look or texture of the waffle and I had the time to take the photos on that day. So I just made waffles for dinner one night to perfect the formula, and then by the next Saturday I could move on to something else.
Posting less often through the winter is no biggie, and doesn’t mean you can’t make progress. You can still spend your time developing recipes and writing posts. Then, in the summer, you just need to tip the balance back to cooking and photographing your backlog of recipes and you can spend a little less time on development. By winter 2, you will have built up a decent stash and the pressure will come off a little. If you really don’t want to post less frequently, you could try doing some recipe round-ups or behind the scenes posts so that your readers still hear from you.
(And also gonna just pretend that snow in London is normal. That would be amazing. But it’s not. No matter what the Doctor Who Christmas specials try to tell you.)