Food Photography & Trying out HelloFresh Food Delivery

Food!  Are you a foodie?  Do you love food?  Do you relish it?  There’s even a code for you at the end of this post to save some beans on food.  (Beans…food…maybe only I make myself snort/laugh.)

I’d say food is pretty important in my family (my parent and siblings).  A lot of our memories are based around food.  What food we had on vacations.  What food we had for our birthdays.  What food we will make when we’re together.  What food to try when we’re out somewhere.  Yep, food.  It’s what holds us together.  We all just got an email the other day from my dad about food to eat at our next family gathering.  I’m salivating thinking about it.

My husband thinks it’s hilarious when my parents call on our birthdays and the first question is, “What did you have to eat?”  (Note to my family…there would be extreme disappointment if you missed that one year.)  My kiddos even get to pick what special meal I’ll make them on their birthdays.  Whatever they want.  I’m secretly (okay, it’s not a secret) happy when they pick bacon!  I’m thinking that’s what I’ll have for my next birthday.  BLT’s and donuts.  Hey sweetie…make a note of that.  I’d like donuts, rather than a cake.

So food and photography?  I haven’t quite meshed the two together yet.  It’s difficult.  I love photography, but I’d much rather eat the food than photograph it.  Maybe it’s easier if you have 13 cupcakes and you can eat one while photographing the rest.  Maybe.  The other 12 would be calling my name, taunting me.  “Eat me, eat me, eat me….”

So…one to my point of this post.  HelloFresh food.  My husband got a $40 off card in a box with an order of bike stuff. I held on to the card thinking maybe we would try it.  I’ve gifted people with new babies a food delivery service before, but hadn’t tried HelloFresh.  Well, the $40 off wasn’t good enough for me to order food for a family of four.  I’m serious about good deals and that wasn’t good enough for me.


But, I found a reason to make it good enough.  My husband took the kids over Labor Day weekend for a trip.  A whole weekend to myself.  That hadn’t happened in over a decade!  But, while I’m good at making food for my family, I’m not so good when it comes to just myself.  I’d be eating popcorn, fried Cheerios, and chocolate if left to my own devices.  So I decided to use the $40 savings for HelloFresh to order a weekly menu for 2 people.  I figured that would cover 6 meals for me and it was even cheaper than going to Subway for every meal  (that’s the closest place to get food from my house).


Bonus…I thought I could try food photography with all my family out of the house.

But seriously….I didn’t think about it clearly.  I’m pretty sure food photographers don’t always eat the meal they are photographing because it would be cold by the time they got to it.  How do they do it?  I was too famished and I didn’t want my meal to get cold, so I quickly snapped photos and then ate.  I didn’t take the time to prettily style my meals.  I have no patience.  Kuddos out there to food photographers…they are talented and strong people.  I apparently don’t have self-discipline when it comes to food.


So, I got to try three meals.  Oh, they were all good.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.  Maybe it was the catfish meal.  That’s the first one I tried.  The meals arrived in a box with everything sorted and labeled neatly. It was well insulated and had freezer packs.  The dog was keenly interested.


I attempted the catfish meal first and it was delicious.  Everything was all measured out and ready to go.  I just had to chop, add in olive oil, and add in salt and pepper.  I was very impressed with the directions.  Everything worked out smoothly as far as time and prep.  Everything came together perfectly!  I made the meal after a run around the neighborhood with the dog.  Run first, food second.  The other way around doesn’t always agree with the stomach.

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When the meal was together….yeah…forget about styling and taking photos.  I wanted to eat it!  So I quickly took photos and ate.  I split the meals into 2 portions, since they were for two people.  I ate the other half for lunch the next day.  But seriously, there was enough food in one serving for me to share it with a child.  But I didn’t.  I ate it all.  I relished it!  I even sent a photo of the food to my parents and siblings.  Yep, that’s how we roll.  Family food talk.

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My second meal was a  steak on top of a salad with nectarines. Oh, so good.  I can still taste it!

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My third meal was chicken fajitas.  We’re big here with Taco Tuesdays and fajitas are in the mix often.  Except for the chicken, I have an aversion to touching raw poultry.  Ewww.  Yes, I’m strange.  On the rare occasions I have to cook raw poultry, I throw it whole from the bag into the pot or slow cooker so I don’t have to touch it.  I touched raw chicken this time. I survived.  I’m shuddering thinking about it, but I survived.  The only bummer with this meal is that my avocado was as solid as a stone.  There was no way I was making guacamole with that thing.  I don’t fault HelloFresh for the avocado.  I’ve had that happen to me when I buy avocados.  Sometimes they just stay hard forever.  Sometimes they’re icky when you open them up.  Oh well.  I did miss the guacamole, but the sour cream and pico de gallo made up for it.  I added my own Red Hot cause I like a little spicy!

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I just clarified the fact that as much as I want to try food photography, I don’t have the patience.  Or I just need to make food I won’t eat.  Mushrooms, I don’t eat mushrooms.  Maybe I could be a fungus photographer?

As far as HelloFresh, I was pleasantly pleased.  I am way too cheap to order it without a deal and I wouldn’t use the $40 off for a family of four unless it was going to be a crazy week and I didn’t have food in the house.  It was a treat for me when I had to cook for myself and I enjoyed it, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have eaten so well. I think it came out to be about $5 a meal for me (6 meals) with the coupon code I had.  That’s pretty good for the quality and amount of food I got.  In a restaurant, that would cost you twice as much or more.  Yes, I had to prepare it, but that was fun.  Meal delivery isn’t something we will do very often, just because of the expense.  I hate grocery shopping, but I love cooking….so if that’s you…meal delivery might be your thing.  I put up with grocery shopping because it saves money, not time.  I could see busy people using this, if they want to cook, but don’t have the time to shop and plan.  It also makes a great gift…it’s something people who enjoy cooking will use.  It’s a gift that doesn’t sit on the shelf unused.  I wouldn’t hesitate to gift someone I love HelloFresh meals.  People complain about all the packaging, but really…when you go to the grocery store…there’s a lot of packaging too by the time your produce is in bags and your meat is wrapped.  You do need to plan ahead with HelloFresh and order ahead.  You can see what meals are coming up and when they will be delivered to your home.  Make sure to check it out before you order.  Also, if you use a coupon and don’t want the delivery all the time, you need to make sure you pause deliveries you don’t want or to cancel your account.

If you want to give HelloFresh a try, I’ve got a code to save you $40. SUWJ2U .  HelloFresh has classic/meat boxes and veggie boxes (which are a little cheaper).  Both look amazing and I was quite pleased with my classic box.  The code can only be used by new customers and you can’t use it with any other offer (such as a Groupon or another code).

Again, if you want to try HelloFresh, you can use this code to save $40 off your first box: SUWJ2U

*I purchased HelloFresh on my own.  I was never contacted by them to write this post, just so you know.  I’m just sharing my personal photos and experience.  I’ve determined I need more practice with food photography.*

Guest Post & Giveaway from Sleeklens: Getting to Know Adobe Lightroom

Today we all get the pleasure of reading a guest post about Adobe Lightroom.  Jane Grates, a Cofounder of Sleeklens, is introducing my readers to Lightroom.  I currently don’t have Lightroom, but it’s on my wishlist.  This post really makes me wish I had it now. You’ll even find a generous giveaway at the end with a chance to win a Lightroom Newborn Bundle of Presets from Sleeklens.  Thank you, Jane and Sleeklens!


Getting to know Adobe Lightroom

Whenever you chose to start work as a professional photographer, one common question that will arise is which software you ought to use in order to accomplish digital postproduction at a very high level.

Even if you can find several options under popular image editors such as GIMP, Picassa, Photoshop, ACDSee (to mention a few), none of them actually have the tools to provide a neat workflow and to enhance photographs exactly like Adobe Lightroom has.

Autumn Sunset over vineyard

Autumn Sunset over vineyard

Its only real competitor was Apple Aperture, although Aperture has now been discontinued and is being replaced by Apple Photos. Therefore it remains to be seen how much they resemble each other in regards to tools and compatibility with the most common image formats.

Unlike Aperture, Adobe Lightroom works on both Windows and Mac OSX, eliminating a common limitation for Mac users that affects several areas of design because of the otherwise frequent incompatibility between Windows and Mac.

With all these elements in mind, I’d like to invite you to follow along in this guide to learn the main reasons why Adobe Lightroom should be your first choice in postproduction software.

Smartphone Photography

In the old days, the first smartphones required a constant USB connection (or some of you may still recall the old and frustrating infrared system) for syncing our pictures with the pc. Some of the common issues were driver problems, cables breaking when we needed them the most, etc. Today, modern smartphones have really taken a step up with the development of their own operating systems for implementing apps, such as Lightroom Mobile.


Lightroom Mobile allows users to edit their pictures inside their phones in a quick, friendly fashion, similar to the way it is done in apps like Instagram, but with significantly more tools available to explore. As fascinating as this may sound, the key reason for the existence of Lightroom Mobile is the option of syncing data with the Lightroom desktop without any other requirements than having an account set up in both devices.


In mere minutes, you can access your entire catalog at your PC, you can edit them with fancy presets like the ones offered by Sleeklens, and much more.

Non-Destructive Workflow for Digital Photography

Are you tired of Photoshop limiting your options of going backwards if, by chance, you forgot to add a layer prior doing some adjustments? Well, here is the good news – Adobe Lightroom works in a non-destructive way, which means the original file is always there for you to grab, if by chance something goes wrong during the processing. Another very useful feature is the option of closing up Lightroom and then opening it and continuing to work from the very same point we left our image. Photoshop doesn’t offer such a feature, which can be extremely annoying in case of a blackout, unless you are in the habit of saving your files every certain amount of minutes (or if you happen to be working on a laptop).


The basic steps that define the workflow for digital editing in Lightroom can be organized like this:

  1. Import your pictures: At the Catalog module, you can either import your pictures using the Import button or work with previously imported pictures. Remember that unless you have turned off the option at the Preference menu, every time you plug in media storage such as pen drives or SD cards, Lightroom will pop up and prompt you to import your pictures inside the software.
  2. Analyze the needs of your photo: Check if the picture looks underexposed or identify the characteristics of the scene (if it is a sunset, winter photo, beach scene, etc.) in order to define your course of action inside Lightroom. Looking at the Histogram can be quite helpful in order to define conflicting areas of the picture itself.
  3. Apply Lens Corrections: Correct the aberrations made by the camera lens, such as perspective failures.
  4. Compensate White Balance: This should be your first step at the Develop Module in Lightroom, unless you need to crop/rotate your image. If you start doing adjustments without correcting the White Balance first, you may be applying the wrong adjustments to your image since the hues will likely change after you correct WB.
  5. Use the Basic panel tools: By this, I mean use the Sliders that are intended for every part of the Histogram according to the needs of your project.
  6. Extra effects? Those can be either Split Toning, Tone Curve, Sharpening, or Presets…. It is completely up to you.
  7. Export your work: You have several options for doing this
    1. Export to Photoshop – For further editing
    2. Export to file – JPEG (right click anywhere you want on the image)
    3. Print module – For printing the image (also works for exporting to JPEG)
    4. Book module – For creating a book with several images from your catalog. Can be published online via Blurb tools (extra fee required) or saved as PDF
    5. Slideshow module – For creating presentations
    6. Web module – For creating media galleries

Those are the basic steps to do a high quality job. Remember that Lightroom doesn’t work with Plugins the way Photoshop does, rather Lightroom uses Presets, which are sets of instructions defined in Lightroom tools, designed either by you or professional designers. A good quality preset is the one that won’t add noise to your image or affect


About Us – Sleeklens and Professional Photography

We’re a company based in Denmark with the one purpose of helping users to become better photographers little by little. In order to reach this goal we have created hand-crafted professional presets in order to help photographers, always keeping in mind users’ needs, and – of course – quality above everything else.

Please join us in the journey of professional photography and be ready to take your pictures to the next level!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jane is the Cofounder of Sleeklens and she specializes in Portrait photography. During her career, she has traveled all over the world and have now decided to settle down in San Diego, California. You can find Sleeklens on Twitter and Facebook.

Portrait Preview: Senior Portraits – Best Friends

Oh my!  Busy, busy, busy.  I guess I haven’t posted in a bit.  I’ve got two senior girls to showcase from this past summer.  It was a fun chance to work with two girls and try out some new places.

Their first choice of a setting was locked.  And then we just happened upon this graffiti wall, with old buildings in the background.  I think we made it work.  It was an overcast day, which probably worked better than a sunny day!  The girls looked amazing and I did my best to capture them in the environment.  They rocked it!  We then ventured to a picnic ground with the mountains in the background.  It was spitting rain on us and blowing wind during that time.  Then we ventured to a third area to try and capture the sunset.  The sunset was amazing, capturing it was not as easy!  Getting the horizon line where I wanted it meant we were practically running uphill trying to beat the sunset!  I think we all got a workout!

I’ll showcase the best friend portraits today and each girl will get a showcase of her own.  They were so splendid to work with!  Such beautiful girls, inside and out!  I have a feeling they will do amazing things as the years progress.  Good luck, ladies, during your senior year!

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First Day of School Photos

Oh, first day of school photos.  Insert a huge sigh here.  So many ways to do them….or to not do them.  Do not look up first day of school photos on Pinterest.  Especially after you’ve already taken them.  Just sayin’.  Makes me feel like a slacker mom.  Pinterest is good for that.  But hey…I shoved my kids out the door…I’m feeling pretty good about that.  And if you get photos of your kids before they catch the bus….I’d say you’re super mom!  Mine just walk back in the door and it doesn’t matter if we’re a minute or two late.  (You can substitute dad for mom if you’re the dad…I just write mom because I’m the one writing this.)  And if you don’t take first day photos of your kids….there’s no shame in that.  We all have our thing and our own traditions.  (Bummer it all…that reminds me I need to take the photo of the kids with their dad by the aspen tree before I forget another year!)

For being a hobby photographer, it’s slightly disappointing that I don’t take better photos of my kids’ first day of school.  I’ve got nothing creative going on and my photos aren’t even that well taken.  But for being a mom, I’m pretty darn proud that I push the kids out the door and make them stand in the driveway every year to take a photo.  And we’ve been fairly consistent in how we take the photo.  Someday the kids will thank me…at least that’s what I tell myself.  Well, someday I’ll thank me.  You can tell when my son is not at all too pleased about it (second and third grade…hmmm).  I just ask them for 4 photos.  Just 4 each.  2 individuals and 2 group photos.  They each get an individual vertical and horizontal.  And bummer it all…my son’s vertical one turned out blurry this year.  Oh well.  At least I got one decent horizontal one.  Just ignore the sun spots.  And when I say I only take two photos….I only take two.  Hence…a blurry one.  At least he was pretty happy about taking photos this year.

First-Day-Boy2 First-Day-Girl2Then I take photos of the kids together. I was able to get more vertical ones of them together because they were insistent on getting the dog to sit for a photo.  Success!

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While the kids eat breakfast I quickly write up the chalkboard sign.  Then right before school starts I push them out the door to get a shot in the driveway.  I don’t worry about lighting conditions.  Obviously.  Apparently I don’t worry about what the kids wear or how they do their hair.  I’m pretty hands off when it comes to the kids picking their own clothes and doing their hair…as long as it’s appropriate.  I asked my son to comb his hair this year and his reply was, “I don’t usually, so do I have to?”  Okay, he got me on that one.  I guess we’ll make these first day photos realistic.  Forget combing the hair.  Let the kids dress themselves.  Oh, this is our third year of homeschooling.  They can’t wear their jammies to school (what?!), but hair combing is optional.  I sometimes wear my jammies to school, because I’m the mommy/teacher and I can do what I want to.  (Sing it!)

It’s nice and slightly tear inducing to see the kids photos from the past years.  Seriously…why do they have to grow up so fast?  Dude…fifth grade?  How did that happen?  Just  yesterday you were just the tiny 5 pound baby who would sleep on my chest.  Now you’re in fifth grade!


It’s also interesting to see my photos.  Whoa…batman…who over photoshopped the kindergarten girl?!  Warm photo in 2104 and cool one in 2015.  I am all over the board with my photos.  Baby girl….You’re still as cute as ever.  Stop growing up so fast.  It’s lovely to see your progression past pink, though pink is still a great color on you.


I’ve progressed to a “Let It Go” attitude with my photos.  I didn’t photoshop the photo from this year in the collage.  No combing hair = no photoshop.  Oh…I just want to squeeze the cheeks of that little girl with the bear.  *sniff, sniff*  And that smile on the boy…melt a mama’s heart. *sniff, sniff*


So, first day of school pictures?  What did you have going or what do you have going?  We’ve done three days of school so far and I haven’t shut the kids in the room yet because they’re driving me crazy.  I’d say that’s success!  Honestly, though, I love being able to homeschool them and spend time with them.  It’s been a precious time with them to see them grow and develop.  I’m super crazy busy and barely have time to do photos and other things, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Photos and other stuff can wait, my babies are growing up way too fast!  How do I have a fifth grader?  Wasn’t he just going to preschool last year?

Life: First Competition – Black & White Photos

Summer has blown by and I’ve lacked on posting.  I feel as if I’m lacking on everything.  So much going on, but I’ve accomplished so little.  I’m actually looking forward to the routine of daily life when school starts back up for us.  Monday.  We start school back up on Monday.  And I’m no where near prepared.  I’m a planner, I plan and plan and plan….and then lack the execution!  Anyone feeling me there?


I’ve picked up the camera now and then, but not nearly as much as I should have.  Or maybe it’s better that I didn’t.  I want to start taking photos of my kids doing their daily things once school starts back up.  But if I don’t, it just means I’m with them.


My daughter had her first skating competition recently.  I took 2 cameras with me.  The lighting was really low and you couldn’t use a flash in the arena.  I got a few photos.  I won’t post them all because I’m not a fan of posting photos of other people, especially kids I don’t know.  I took some photos of my girl getting ready and warming up.  I didn’t photograph during her two performances.  Then I got some photos of the medal ceremonies…kind of…there were tons of people taking photos, so I’ve got lots of her on the medal stand with heads in the way and horrible lighting.  Oh well, such is life.  My little beauty got two second places.  She skated beautifully and I’m so proud of her.


The thing with photos in low light, fluorescent light, and just plain bad lighting….you turn them black and white.  Black and white has a way of calming things down.  I turn all my portraits black and white, in addition to color, but I think I need to really practice my black and white techniques more.  Black and white photography is really a whole other technique with it’s own hidden treasures.  I haven’t yet mastered it, it may be awhile.  But it’s fun to try.  I don’t have any real tips on it.  I used a gradient mask on these and then played with a levels layer.  On a couple I changed the brightness and contrast.  I have much to learn.


I just photographed two best friends for their senior photos.  Sneak peeks will appear on my FB page.  Hopefully I’ll get some tutorials up, but I’ve found I can’t promise much on posts.  I’ve got a few more sessions coming up, but I’m taking a break from scheduling paid sessions.  I’m doing free sessions for friends as gifts, a few sessions I promised people, and I’m just taking my time doing it and I feel good about it.  I told my husband, the sessions that fall in my lap are the ones that I’m meant to do.  They’re the ones God puts there and they turn out more beautiful than I could have ever made them.  I don’t stress about those shoots, the photos get done when they get done.  I mean….school starts Monday…and I have a third grader and a fifth grader to teach.  How did that happen?


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