Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I'm thrilled to share a brief interview with one of my favorite photographers, Beatrice Peltre. Many of you may recognize her bright images from her highly acclaimed food and life blog, La Tartine Gourmande. Bea's blog was one of the first that really drew me in, mainly through her colorful images and approachable (seemingly effortless!) style in photographing the places she visits. Bea uses pattern, texture and color like no one else! I always feel transported by her vibrant foods, props and ways of seeing. It's such a privilege for us to be able to pick her brain and peek into her process. Thanks Bea!

How do you first start to conceptualize how a recipe will come to life through your series of images?
I look at a recipe like a story. I am always inspired to cook something because of an event that happened in my life. It could as simple as a visit to the farmer's market where I find a lovely bunch of fresh radishes. I am immediately taken by their shape and color--I must confess a weakness for red in fruit and vegetables. And the natural beauty found in the simple shapes of fresh produce. Right there, I build around my ingredient. And I imagine images that come along. I love to shoot raw ingredients, and the produce I am using at different stages before the recipe is completed. With my images, I want to inspire the reader to imagine a story. The story of the making of a delicious recipe that prompts "I want to eat that. I want to live that moment."

Does the final result differ from your original idea?
Sometimes it does. I am not always sure of what props, fabrics I will end up using before I start. I always work as a food photographer with a food stylist vision. Separating both seem difficult for me. One comes with the other in my vision of the end result.

How do you get yourself out of a food styling/picture-taking rut? do you ever find yourself in one?
I guess not. Or if I do--and I have since I've worked as a food stylist or a food photographer exclusively, I always ask if I can step in in the role that I am not assigned to do. So there you are....

How do you use light within your images of foods on a tabletop? what does your set up look like? (near a window? certain time of day?)
I only shoot with natural light. There's a window near my setup. Lots of natural light coming through. The light is filtered. Never direct sunlight. Best around 10 AM or 3 PM. Depends how sunny it is. I actually don't like when it is too sunny. And I use bouncers to fill light where I need it. So I guess I am not the best candidate for night time photography (unless my ISO setting is really high).

What's your favorite part of the recipe to image to blogging process?
Well, I really love every part of the cycle involved: recipe development, recipe testing, styling and photography, writing, photo post production. A lot of people don't particularly enjoy the post production, but I am really fond of that part. Not so much in terms of the manipulation of images--I only adjust basic settings, such as contrast, color, curves etc-- but in terms of creating a story with a collage of images.

Any advice for less experienced photographers shooting foods, people, environments?
Shoot as much as possible. If you are shooting digital, it makes it less cost involved. So why not experiment as much as possible? Try the same setup with all sorts of different camera settings and compare. Change the light source and see how it changes the image. Identify what you like in an image. Be critical and not scared to try again. When I started, my pictures were really really bad. I worked hard at it because I love what I do. I love to memorize moments with my camera.  I am lucky it paid off the way it did.

//  V I S I T   L A   T A R T I N E   G O U R M A N D E   //

*all above photos by Beatrice Peltre, via her blog La Tartine Gourmande

Monday, January 30, 2012


I just wanted to talk about walking into a space to shoot your first tour - many of you are in that position, are considering the task or have just shot one or two and are kicking yourselves at the mistakes you made.

I remember the first tour I shot so vividly - why? Because I blew it. The lead image has me in the reflection of the stove (why didn't I move?! what an insane dork!). All the lines are wonky, things are out of focus, the color balance is off and a lot of the pictures are too dark.

I gave myself thirty minutes to shoot this space, the homeowner said yes to the time frame and then when I got there, she called to say she needed a little more time, "Could we start 10 minutes late but I still have to leave at the appointed time to pick up my other child?"  Now I had 20 minutes to do a big job I was unsure of and nervous about and I stumbled out a  "Sure, of course."

I arrived and her young son had a meltdown, so I was really working with about 12-13 minutes to shoot the tour and interview the home owner. "Being rushed" would be a polite way of describing what was going on with me. I was shooting and sweating like a mad woman. I couldn't think of any real compositional strategies as far as photographing her in the space so I just started with where they were (and didn't move from it - I had a mean case of dead legs). I got onto her counter to get an overview shot and hit my head on a dangling light. I continued my disheveled, nose dive of a tour, bonked head and all and said things were 'cool.' I left a hot mess with about 50 images, 30 of which were too blurry to be usuable (no tripod) and a passable gallery for a first shoot.

The shoot went down in flames, I scooted out with a big sigh and obscenities flooding from my mouth at high volume in the car all the way home -- but I learned a TON.

  • Timing. Hello - 30 minute window, yeah right! We need at least an hour planned to shoot any space. First we arrive and we banter - so critical that banter is! It greases the wheels for you and the folks you're photographing -- sets the tone for a fun experience for all. I arrive early, addresses can be hard to find and I leave a little early if I get done - but you never know, they could be living in a  6 bedroom in which case it's going to take longer than shooting just one room.

  • Compositional Ideas. Now I arrive with a few compositional ideas in my head for my lead image/portrait; even if they're as basic as tight portrait, interacting with an object and hanging out outside… At least I have some variation and safety within a few different options. I love looking at inspiring photos, and using compositional or framing ideas I've been inspired by.

  • Slowing Down. (So as not to hit my head on a lamp or break their stuff!). Going slower makes me relax, I take better pictures when not totally nervous out of my mind with a welt on my head. It calms the people you're photographing too - they're nervy w/their space going online for millions to see and now I see part of my job is to just be as chill as possible and get the job done and get to know someone through their space.

    It's also great to walk away from a room or a person for a minute, try to clear your head and see the scene anew - maybe there's an idea there you hadn't tried instead of being slave to the first shot that came to mind.

  • Not getting locked in. As much as I can, I'm moving during a shoot and not getting too comfortable ("free work out" my father-in-law calls it) getting into all nooks and crannies and holding squatting poses. It's no good to get stuck in one position (especially when you realize that wasn't the best angle when you get home and download pics!) - shooting from multiple perspectives/modes gives you choices and great images are about selecting from a handful of good pictures.

  • Equipment. I bring my tripod now and get lead images straight - It takes a little extra time, but so worth it. It also helps me to slow down the process and notice details I may have missed as I'm lining up my shot. I also have an external flash and swap out lenses if I need to. And extra charged batteries.

I treated each tour as a small step to understanding shooting spaces, the life they breathe and those who inhabit them. And with little steps came bigger steps, and on occasion, a big leap and a great image.

Monday, January 23, 2012


We are lucky to have Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, founder of The Kitchn, cookbook author, mother, celebrated food writer and budding photographer, join us today to talk about her Instagram feed. Sara Kate is an accomplished person in many regards, but it's her Iphoneography that has captured my attention the most in recent months.

Sara Kate posts at least once a day and manages to capture her surroundings within striking compositions, usually black and white. Her vision reminds me of photography greats from the 20th century - Brassai and Robert Frank - two photographers who were gifted in showing their environment in interesting ways and observing life around them so many others would just let pass them by. Sara Kate's skills in seeing the photographic potential while out and about is extraordinary.

// P H O T O   V I S I T   W I T H   S A R A   K A T E   G I L L I N G H A M  R Y A N //

What do you look for when shooting with your phone around NYC?
I look for natural moments - it's the bizarre, the moving, the sad, the thrilling, the unexpected, and even the mundane of everyday life that contains nuggets of beauty. Some of it has to do with food and of course I'm drawn to those scenes, but I've let myself open up wider and now I'm not looking for anything, no limits. Just walking around with my eyes willing to accept whatever comes across my path.

Now that I look back, in the beginning it was more about me. "Look, my feet!" or "Look, the tomato I grew!" but I started looking past my feet and past my plate and realized, in a very small way, how photography really is a practice in observation, the kind where you look beyond yourself.

How do you surreptitiously accomplish photographing people without their knowing, what does that actually look like?

I shoot from the hip a lot. Often the kinds of scenes I find are ones where people are really lost in themselves, or in their own moment, so it's not too difficult. But I also feel like I miss a lot because I don't want to intrude. I'm working on being more bold!

How has shooting with your phone been different for you than a (much larger) DSLR?
Well, there's the obvious: it's with me all the time. With the technology available through processing apps and even the sheer quality of the lens on the iPhone, it's possible to make some beautiful images with very little camera.

I've noticed you post primarily in black and white - Why?
I have a sister who is ten years older. She is a photographer and I grew up, literally, in her darkroom, helping her process her photos. She shot almost exclusively in black and white and the photographers I grew up admiring did the same, so it became part of the way I saw the world. Gosh, that sounds corny.

Black and white images have this essence to them, as if they've quieted down enough for the observer to really look and see what's happening story-wise. So as a writer -- if I may stretch this even further -- I feel like I can connect with the story aspect of a photo more when it's in black and white. Of course, there are exceptions. I made a photo of my new boots with their pink laces in a pile of autumn leaves and for that photo, I left it in color. [might be nice to put that one in here, no?] But in general, shots with emotion, I leave in black and white. Lastly, it can be more forgiving.

Who's Instagram feed are you loving right now and why?
Sion Fullana (sionfullana) His photos, many in NYC but also many from his travels, are really candid. His captions are often like long stories and I enjoy the way he combines images and words, since I'm a writer. He has a series of portraits of people through the windows of Starbucks and his captions nail the scene every single time.

Giovanni Savino (magneticart) - he's putting out some really intense and raw stuff from Haiti right now that inspires me. Great portraiture.

Dimitri Skarathanos (dimitriskarathanos) - he's mostly shooting out of Greece. His photos have a sense of quiet and affection to them that touch me and I study them.

Renzo (aliveinnyc) - I actually met this guy in person and walked through Occupy Wall Street. What a sweetheart! He's a Peruvian working in NYC at the UN. He makes photographs of people on the street in New York. He captures expressions really well. His photographs have a really raw documentary feeling to them and I like seeing what he puts on Instagram now that I've watched him shoot in person. He's very casual, shoots almost exclusively from down low. Also, he spends a lot of time liking other people's photographs so I like to follow along and find new photographers to follow through him.

Sandy [last name?] (msbluesky) - I like the light in her photos. She does a lot with people on bikes, so I like watching how a study like that can progress (or not.) I think she's in Hong Kong but I'm not positive.

Nikii Xia (nikii) - this guy is in Beijing and has a really distinct style from the light to the cropping.

Ironically, I don't follow a ton of food people. I think what attracts me to instagram is how on-the-go it is - sure there are people finding those unexpected food moments (David Lebovitz, {davidlebovitz

What filters/apps do you use if any?
I usually don't filter in Instagram - occasionally I'll use the Instagram B&W filter (it's called Inkwell) to lighten up a B&W photo that's rendering just a touch too dark.  According to (where you can get pretty much any metric from your instagram feed) I also tend to favor Hefe and X-Pro II, both offer a bit of pop, but that statistic is from since I started on Instagram; these days I know that I mostly process in Filterstorm, PictureShow or TiltShiftGen. Some other ones that are fun to play with are Diptic and Lo-Mob for more effects. Filterstorm and PictureShow seem to off the largest range of tweaks - think of them as mini PhotoShops - but with a slightly different interface.

Has shooting with your phone affected how you shoot with your camera, does it even matter anymore which tool you use to communicate an idea?
If nothing else, shooting with my phone has helped exercise my eye in a way I would not normally do if I just toted around my camera. Half of it is the shooting that is so much easier with the phone, but the other part is the sharing, which can happen within seconds - this isn't possible lugging around my DSLR.

Any other thoughts/recommendations with Instagram and shooting with your phone?
Use it as a playground. Don't be shy. I used to think I could only use it to show pictures of food because that is my business but now I see it as an extension of who I am and a place to practice creativity, which is why we're all here anyway isn't it?

*all above photos from Sara Kate's Instagram Feed - follow her at skgillingham

Sunday, January 22, 2012


After a week of posting the first ever Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn Photo Contest, readers have chosen a winner. Bethany Nauert, a contributor and photographer extraordinaire, based in Los Angeles has garnered the most votes with the above image. This photo is a knock out, and when you think about it, the scene represents the ethos of our sites-- It celebrates design, good living and gathering for a meal. It's beautiful.

Congratulations Bethany and cheers to many more great images from all of our team in 2012!

Thank you to all who nominated an image for best photo of the year. There was such a diverse group of images, showcasing the talents of many different contributors.

Image: Bethany Nauert for Apartment Therapy

Friday, January 20, 2012


I just spotted some very inspirational interiors images and wanted to share. Yes the spaces are beautiful, the furniture pitch perfect and the light just pouring in, but it's the compositions in these photos that are full of movement.

The photographer (and for the life of me I cannot figure out who this person is, if you speak Swedish or can find a link, please let me know so we can credit him/her here) captures each room with a wonderful sense of creativity and a great feel for having objects in the foreground, middle ground and background - by having several layers within a space, a more lively, compelling image is created.

These photos have a lot to teach us - this compositional device, placing an object (doorway or furniture or person will work too!) in the foreground and a major item at the center of the depth of the picture and a few things in the background (artwork is a natural fit for this), will make for more interesting interiors shots - something that can be a problem to solve no matter your level. This is a life-long challenge for every photographer, making spaces come to life! Finding a solution to every shoot is part of the gig, and I'd argue the most creatively satisfying.

So give these a look and next time you're shooting a space get creative with the depth of a space, and look out for small things to put at the foreground of your composition, inviting viewers around the picture plane.

All photos via

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Bethany Nauert, one of our contributors located in Los Angeles, just posted a few excellent, easy-to-understand videos on her post production process. Many of you have expressed further interest in this fine tuning portion of making beautiful, balanced images and Bethany breaks it down here for us today.

This is such an excellent opportunity to see how a professional (Bethany also works for a host of other clients outside of Apartment Therapy) puts the 'icing on the cake' sorta speak. It's her ability both while shooting on location as well as the post details that make Bethany's work come to life.

Remember, we are just as much a photographer as we sit slaving away at our computers editing as we are with a camera at our eye.

For those who've asked about editing, these are the videos for you. And if you don't have Light Room, Photoshop has many of the same features (just slightly different names/tools) . . . If you don't have either, I'd suggest Light Room - it's much less expensive than Photoshop and is very user friendly.

Here are the links to her videos: Finding the White Balance, Small Changes in an Image, Cleaning Up an Interior Shot from Start to Finish

// view Bethany's portfolio

Friday, January 13, 2012


Today we have the distinct pleasure of welcoming a wonderful food, travel and lifestyle photographer to Super Photo Magic School. I've long since admired the photography of Danielle Tsi. Her award-winning blog, Beyond the Plate focuses on food, the people who produce artisan goods, travel and the real stories that come with all of these subjects.

Danielle has worked with a myriad of clients and has taught at several photography workshops. Her natural, graceful aesthetic is apparent no matter what she's capturing. Be it a plate of citrus, a pair of French country doors, or a portrait of a chef at work -- her point of view is strong.

We can all benefit from Danielle's words of wisdom and candid view into her journey as a photographer.

// P H O T O   V I S I T  W I T H   D A N I E L L E   T S I //

Describe your most successful shoot . . . 

I consider a shoot to be successful when my subject forgets that I’m there (for a portraiture piece) and I get completely wrapped up in working the scen. I’m interested in capturing the authenticity of the moment and translating that in the camera, and some of my best images have come from those shoots when I lose myself in the process of creating a photograph – moving around, changing perspectives, framing, observing, thinking – it’s all a very fluid process.

It’s slightly different with food shots, but the principle of being fully absorbed with the subject applies too. I love figs, for instance, so when I blogged about a Fig Almond torte last year, I spent over two hours photographing the figs in various configurations and shapes. That’s a long time for one subject, but in all honesty, time flew by.

What pushes you and inspires you out of a creativity rut?

In no particular order:

Instagram, prop shopping at thrift stores, browsing magazines like Australian Gourmet Traveller and Donna Hay, gazing at the work of photography pros that I admire (Aran Goyoaga, Katie Quinn Davies, Lynn Johnson), going for a walk, reading snippets from Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott).

What's your equipment set up? How did it evolve as you got more serious?

I shoot with a Nikon D700, and for portraiture shoots, that’s all I need, with a 24-70mm/f2.8. For food photography, I shoot primarily with the 60mm/f 3.2 macro and occasionally with the 50mm/f1.4, along with a tripod and a reflector. I use natural light and bust out the Lowel Ego light kit for product photography. I also have a 35mm/f2, a C-stand in the studio for backdrops and reflectors, as well as a speedlight that I use for events.

My first DSLR was the Nikon D40 that I used with its kit lens for four to five years, before upgrading to the D700 in 2009. I had reached a point where the camera’s technical limitations (poor low-light capability, cropped image sensor, limited resolution) were affecting my growth as a photographer, otherwise I would still be using that model now. I love that camera.

I guess you could say that I ‘fell’ into using prime (fixed) lenses with the 60mm macro, which was then followed by the 50mm (I needed something wider than the 60mm) and the 35mm (for outdoor/travel images). These lenses were acquired over the course of 1.5 years, and with the 24-70mm lens, I’m pretty satisfied. For now.

Are the images you create (especially the food/portraiture) close to your idea you had for them at the start? Do you change gears midway? Are you ever surprised at your results?

For food, it really depends on the dish. Desserts are more photogenic than roasts and purees, so styling and photographing them is straightforward if I begin with a clear vision of the final image. If, midway through a shoot, I feel like I’m not getting the type of image I’m looking for, yes, I change things up. Shifting the perspective (going overhead instead of ¾, for instance), switching the plates and sometimes changing the color scheme entirely. It’s a very fluid process. I don’t recall being really surprised by the results because it’s a process of adding, subtracting and experimenting that gets me to the final product.

The portraiture shoots are a lot more dynamic. I work instinctively. I start out with a rough idea of the basics that need to be captured – a sense of place, details of equipment, group shots – but adapt as I go. There’s a certain degree of openness that’s needed when you’re photographing people at work in their environment. You need to be patient and attentive to the opportunities that arise and capture them. This fluidity tends to give rise to more ‘surprises’ in the photo editing process when I get to review the images with fresh eyes, although sometimes when you get the shot, you just know.

Do you have any tips/advice for photographers just starting out?

Find a subject that interests you and shoot constantly, whether with your DSLR, Holga or phone. Each time you look to create a picture you’re training yourself to see beyond what’s in front of you and to express what you see in the form of an image. Be aware of how your environment inspires, engages or disgusts you, and how that translates in your images. Don’t worry about how many Twitter followers you have (or don’t have) or your Klout score. Don’t worry if nobody ‘likes’ your photo on Facebook. Just keep shooting and be true to yourself.

//Visit Danielle's Site
//Visit Danielle's blog: Beyond the Plate

*all photos in this post by Danielle Tsi

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