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Chocolate-Covered Katie: My Food Photography

sugar free fudge

Above is my No-Sugar Chocolate Fudge.

Delving into the blog’s stats page to find the most-viewed posts for my 2012 recap, I was surprised to see, among the popular posts, a page called “sugar-free chocolate fudge.” I didn’t even remember writing such a post!

So I clicked on over… and was embarrassed when the following photo stared back at me:

fudge

When I first took this photo, I remember being really proud of it. It’s like when I was three and would draw pictures of people… with their arms and legs attached to their heads.

Did you draw pictures like that, too?

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot in the 23 years since then. For example, I now can draw bodies. Progress! But I wouldn’t trade those stick-figure sketches—or the journey and life-lessons they represent—for the world. Old photos ought to be seen in the same light; many of them are cringe-worthy, but they offer proof that the time spent practicing and reading photography books and tutorials has definitely been worthwhile.

As it’s been more than a year since my first food photography post, today seems like a great day to give you all the opportunity to laugh at me. And so…

My Photography Journey:

point and shoot photo

Above, from one of my first-ever posts: Chocolate Stud Muffins.

The scattered almonds were an attempt at food styling. I think. When I started the website, I was using a Kodak point-and-shoot, and I had no interest whatsoever in photography. However, I was having fun, which is all that matters.

ISO might as well have been UFO.

peanut butter banana ice cream

Getting better…

In the above photo: Peanut Butter & Banana soft-serve.

Finally, finally, I learned that food photography looks vastly more impressive when you turn off the camera’s automatic flash and switch to either manual mode or aperture priority mode (or use natural light, if you have a point-and-shoot as opposed to a DSLR). As a result, my photos started to look much better: 

frozen hot chocolate 

blue cupcakes

breakfast pizza

For the most part.

ugly

What in the heck??? 😕

greek yogurt cheesecake

Above is one of my favorite photos: Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.

Shot in natural light, with a Canon Rebel and a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Someday—when I can afford it—I’d love to upgrade to the 5D. But for now I think the little Rebel works just fine. (I thought the Kodak worked just fine, too. I’d probably still be using it if the poor thing hadn’t dropped on the floor and stopped working. I loved that camera!) Do I still have a lot to learn? Yes, definitely. But at least I now know that peoples’ arms and legs do not attach to their heads. Thank goodness for progress.

Do you ever go back and look at old artwork or papers you wrote for school?

Or at any of your old blog posts? Do you cringe or laugh? A few weeks ago, while cleaning out my room at my parents’ house, I found an old sketchbook filled with drawings I’d made when I was 5. By then, I’d learned to include bodies on my drawings, but they were still so funny. I was obsessed with rabbits when I was little, so pretty much every drawing included a rabbit. Rabbits with hairbows, rabbits in cars, entire rabbit families dressed up in high heels and top hats…

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Published on January 18, 2013

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
featured on The 
Today Show, CNN, 
Fox, The 
Huffington Post, and 
ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day.

Learn more about Katie

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54 Comments

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  1. Joy @ Caspara says

    Totally! My parents saved most of my old reports and stories from grade school, one is even in an old photo book that my kids discovered the other day. My thirteen-year-old read it and declared it “pretty much the worst story ever” but said my drawings were cute and she thought it was funny. If only she could have read one of my old “mysteries” — I always had trouble coming up with an actual mystery. Ha!
    Oh and, my ten-year-old is also obsessed with rabbits. So cute!
    There are some recipes here I seem to have missed before. I will definitely have to try them!

  2. Kammie @ Sensual Appeal says

    Hahaha yesss I recently found some 7 and 8th grade projects and papers and I was stunned, they weren’t terribly bad but still pretty funny when compared to stuff I write now. Same with photos, especially food. As food photography is pretty hard to master. It’s a journey /) I’m definitely much better now then I was when I started my blog in march

  3. Tom @ Chocolate Dreamers says

    Suppose its like anything Katie we get better with practice. I remember my first tries of Photoshop, thinking I had created master pieces. Those same attempts make me cringe now, honestly. Love that first pic by the way though.

  4. Sarah says

    I love this post, Katie! I am very much a beginner photographer, and cringe when I look back at old photos too. I still have a looooong way to go, but I can tell year over year that I’m getting better. Feels good!

  5. Alissa N (GirlMakesFood) says

    Hi Katie!! I have loved your blog for a while, but for some reason have yet to comment!! I loved this post, I still have no idea what I am doing with a camera, but I am learning a little and I cringe looking at some of my old photos!! Yours are gorgeous, and while I am leaving a comment (finally) I will also let you know I love your stuff, you are quite a genius!! 🙂

  6. Frankie says

    Hehe I sort of do the same thing, but with my photos as well, Katie! I’ll look at my archived photos from my freshman year photography course, remember the ones I thought were “good,” and then think “hmmm…..” So I totally relate to you 🙂 Photography is definitely a learning curve that takes experience and time. You have developed a great eye (and still did have one even in your first post), and the upgraded camera also helps 😉

  7. Nikki @ The Road to Less Cake says

    I’ve looked at old blog posts and gone…did I really write that? Lol.

    I need to get a decent camera that I can take gorgeous food porn pics with but I can’t afford one at the moment :(. What camera do you use?

  8. Heather says

    Haha, yes. I look back on stuff all the time. I’m such a nostalgic person when it comes to growth. A wise person once said not to focus on where you want to go, but how far you’ve come. Count your blessings looking back and use those to go forward… or something like that.

    Either way, yes, I go back all the time. Recently I went back on an English paper I wrote for Comp II (college not all the way throwback), and I saw a spelling error in a graded paper that wasn’t corrected. I was so shocked and a little relieved. For the first time in my life I really got away with something ;).

  9. Michelle says

    I definitely look back at some of the old photos on my blog and am horrified! At the same time, though, it makes me feel even more proud of my current –much better– photos!

  10. Olivia @ OmNom Love says

    I cringe at my old photography taking skills. I actually improved a lot after reading your post on photography taking tips. I have a select few that I’m really proud of now. When I go back to look at old books or drawings I’ve done, I laugh. Back then I thought they were so good, but now I can’t believe I actually thought that. It’s cool to see how my skills have progressed, which is why I look back at my old projects often. It reminds me of what I’ve accomplished. 🙂

  11. Megan says

    It’s so fun to see all the progress you’ve made! I love to write, and I always laugh looking back at my third grade poetry. It was real refrigerator-material 😛 It’s great memories though. Like you said, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  12. Gi says

    Aww this whole post was lovely! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it in order to share it!

    I love this kind of post as much the recipe one 😀

    Thanks! (:

  13. Lara says

    Haha, it’s so funny that you can’t remember writing about that fudge. I just looked at it yesterday! I guess I know every single blog post of yours.. 😉
    I sometimes look at old pictures. I was really into drawing and crafting and painting – as I couldn’t keep my room clean, my parents decided not to give me too much toys. So painting and drawing was basically what I did every day. Guess what my favourite motive was? Rabbits!
    I have a painting where a rabbit wears a Harry-Potter-costume and has a flash on his forehead 😀

  14. Liz says

    My blog pictures have gotten better too, but please don’t look down on us that don’t have fancy cameras and time for fancy food styling and photo shoots. The food still tastes great even if the pictures are mediocre!

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Oh no, I definitely don’t! That’s exactly how I felt when I started out blogging: who cares how it LOOKS as long as the taste is good, right? (Not vice versa.) Somewhere along the way, I became interested in photography more for the artistic aspect of it. But I agree with you 100%. Taste is way more important. (See that ugly green saag picture in my post ;).)

  15. megan100779 says

    i recently started a blog and most of my pictures look like your before pictures. hopefully im getting better though, and after my kodak bit the dust (sturdy little thing) i am now on a new camra hunt. any sugestions that arent too pricey?

  16. Maya says

    Actually, I liked blogging but haven’t in so long because the photo part is so labor intensive!!!! Working full time and then cooking dinner does NOT make me want to sit around and position things in the best light and take pictures 🙂 But, I agree that practice is the only way to really learn because I did learn a lot while I was still blogging regularly.

    Also, I couldn’t care less about calories, but I started tracking foods that I eat to make sure I’m getting enough of certain nutrients- iron being one in particular. Good thing Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate cocoa powder are good sources! I suppose I can handle that kind of iron supplement!!!!

  17. Red Deception says

    My pictures are far from artistic, but I use my blog more for cathartic purposes than anything else. The element of perfection is lost on me, I think.

    Plus, I’m too busy to arrange food photo shoots. I get too hungry!

  18. Alessandra says

    I think you don’t have do be embarrassed.
    Life is a journey and you are here to learn.
    Be proud of yourself, because you mastered that challenge.

    Although if you take a look into old cookbooks with pictures in it a lot of times or let me say always the pictures in those are horrifying. But at this time I guess they didn’t have the right equipment and/or the knowledge how to do it better.

    I can say that to me your pictures look aesthetic even in the beginning.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. 🙂

  19. the 3volution of j3nn says

    I cringe when I look at my older blog photos. I’m still not an expert but I think I’ve improved a bit since day one. 🙂

  20. Ali says

    As an animation major, I know exactly what it is that you’re talking about! I go back to pictures that I was drawing in elementary and high school and laugh to myself, but then I realize how grateful I am for the progress that I’ve made throughout the years :). It’s awesome seeing that.

  21. kimmythevegan says

    Haha I think the first one that you are embarrassed is actually pretty great!
    I just recently started a blog and can only afford to use my camera phone for the time being, and I am getting better, but I still have a ways to go ;p
    It’s nice to know others have progressed so nicely, I hope mine look half as nice as yours one day =)

  22. jo @ includingcake says

    I was obsessed with rainbows when I was 5, they covered the pages of my school books and turned into peoples hair and all sorts! I also look back at old blog photos, I remember thinking in the beginning that bright daylight must be best as it looks so nice in real life and I used to take my food outside to shoot….I soon learnt not so great for photos- intense shadows! 🙂

  23. Karen says

    Ha! Yea, not a blog but when I look back at facebook posts or picture descriptions I’m like oh man really I said that? Sometimes I think oh yea that was really good other times not so much… 🙂

  24. katreece @ the chocolate addict.com says

    Your photos are coming along great Katie! I love photographing food, especially chocolate which can be tricky. It’s hard to get the light just right. Yes, I hear the right lens (macro) really helps. Have you heard of the book “From Plate to Pixel” ? awesome book on food photography, and really easy to understand. Have a great weekend, Love your blog!

  25. Leigh says

    As an artist, I can completely relate! At the beginning of each year I compile my favourite pieces from the year and compare it to pieces from past years… I must say I’ve had my fair share of laughs over some old pieces I thought were “perfect” and “the best thing ever”! 😀

  26. Bek @ Crave says

    My photography is shocking atm..I use my Iphone 5..shame. Ha, but my camera is worse and I don’t have a DLSR even though I’d love one!

  27. Debbe says

    I’m here for the recipes, not the photography. I prefer to see what the food will look like when I’m done making it, not how it can be “styled” to look good in a photo shoot. I have left blogs that I would otherwise have enjoyed, because their food styling got in the way of seeing what the food looked like. I really hate the “too close”-ups, they make me feel claustrophobic! My only criticism of your food photography is that there is nothing in the photo to give me a reference on the size of the item (like a cookie).

  28. Marie says

    I have always loved to draw. At one point, when my work had improved to the point that other people were offering to pay me for it, I found it very encouraging to go back through my stacks of old sketchbooks. I’d look at my “before” work and realize how far I had come in developing my skills.

    I’ve always meant to go back to a couple of the drawings from my early days (around 6th and 7th grades) and to “reinterpret” them … that is, to draw the same characters with the same costumes, but in my current hand. Just to see how much has changed. I think it would be cool, but I’ve never actually taken the time to do it.

  29. Shay says

    The pictures still look good though!:)
    Sometimes, i look back at my first grade stuff, and I cant even tell what the words/pictures are supposed to be!

  30. Christine @ Cooking Crusade says

    I definitely think that anyone who has a food blog has a food photography journey. My food photos at the beginning were pretty appalling and I think I’ve come a long way – but at the same I still have so much to learn – I am still completely hopeless when it comes to food styling, backgrounds and all the other tricks but I still love finding heaps of handy stuff on other’s blogs like this post 😀

  31. Jennifer says

    I wasn’t going to comment on this post and then I read about your obession with rabbits. When I was younger, I was totally obsessed with rabbits. I can’t even tell you how many stuffed rabbits I had and how many drawings of rabbits I did or stories about rabbits I wrote. I even convinced my parents that I needed a pet rabbit (not a dog, not a cat, a rabbit). Glad to hear that I was not the only one!

  32. Anonymous says

    Hi Katie!! I really enjoyed reading about all your healthy desserts! I’m nominating you for a Liebster Award. Check out my post with the details and let me know if you have any questions! It’s all about new bloggers getting to know each other!
    http://www.smileandsprinkles.blogspot.com

    -Heather
    (your newest follower!)

  33. Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning says

    Your photography is gorgeous! And it’s accepted by FoodGawker- NOT an easy feat!
    I actually taught photography for seven years. But, I generally put NO effort into my blog photos. I resolve to change that one of these days (when I can find an extra hour in my day…)

  34. Karen says

    Hello there! I am relatively new to this blog, so have been enjoying it very much. The pictures and recipes are great. am so happy that a young person can have such success on the internet. I am SERIOUSLY addicted to the lentil soup, and today I enjoyed chocolate oatmeal for breakfast!

    This might be a bit personal, so feel free to hide/ delete this post, has little to do with the topic here.

    I’m new also to the “bloggers talking about bloggers” world as well ( being 53 might have something to do with it, LOL!). I was therefore surprised and wayyyy taken about by the negativity out there from some regarding you and your blog. They rant and rant and rant…and seem to be no better than female middle school shaming societies. Just couldn’t believe it! And the fact that some think that they’re doctors and therefore are qualified to diagnose you is just beyond the pale.

    What’s wrong with young women today? Are they so obsessed with their bodies and others’ that they are willing to stereotype and brand each other with the scarlet letter A(norexia)? The whole body obsession thing is also something we didn’t see when I was young. It’s amazing.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I enjoy your blog a lot, and can see you working hard to keep it fresh. Hang in there!

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Thank you so much, Karen :).

      I was surprised too, when I first found out about it. It’s strange people would want to waste so much of their own time talking about someone they don’t like. There are so many more fun things they could be doing!

  35. Baker Bettie says

    Thanks for sharing your progress with us Katie! I hear bloggers say all the time that they are going to go back to their old posts and rephotograph them and update their pictures. I cringe! I think it is such a good reminder of where you came from and the progress you made. It would be like re-drawing your kindergarten assignments and replacing them in your scrap book. (although I guarantee my drawings would look quite similar)

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