How to Write Recipes and Food Photography Tips
By Natasha Hoover
How to Write Better Recipes Online
I love cooking and sharing my dishes with others. Cooking for people I care about and watching them enjoy a meal is one of my greatest pleasures. I also enjoy bringing my cooking to a wider audience by writing recipe hubs and blogging about food.
In college, I studied hospitatliy and tourism management. In one of my restaurant entrepreneurship classes, we discussed what makes a good recipe and how to write recipes that are easy to follow. We actually had an entire project based on creating a menu with sample recipes! Over the last year, I've learned a lot more about writing recipes for an online audience and how to take tasty food photos. I hope these recipe writing and photography tips can help you take your food writing to the next level! Oh, and if any of the photos look appealing, I'd be honored if you have the time to check out my food blog, Nibbles and Noshes, to find the recipe.
Create Something Original
Obviously, you didn't invent the hamburg or the chocolate chip cookie, but there should be something unique to set your recipe apart from the rest. Don't just copy a recipe verbatim from your favorite book and write about it (unless you're testing out a cookbook for a review). Instead, incorporate your own ideas, tips, and tricks into a recipe. Most people experiment at least a bit when they cook - have you ever added any ingredients or made surprise substitutions that turned out great? What makes your recipe better than the rest? Is it easier? Does it have more flavor? Make sure to communicate why your recipe is unique, special, and worthwhile.
- Six Types of Food Writing Articles
Anyone can write a recipe. The trick is to find a special niche that makes your food article stand out in the crowded field. Try these suggestions.
Give Accurate, Precise Directions
When writing a recipe, you can't take shortcuts. While it is usually safe to assume people know common abbreviations like tsp for teaspoon, this isn't always the case. You need to carefully spell out each step in the process without assuming specific prior cooking knowledge. You don't know who might try to use your recipe - it could be someone who has never cooked before or who isn't familiar with the language you are writing in.
In my restaurant classes, my professors hounded us on the importance of including more than one way for the preparer to tell if a specific step is accurate or completed. For instance, don't simply say "bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes." Tell the reader to bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned but the middle still looks slightly moist. Yes, it takes more words, but it is very important. Cooking appliances and utensils vary, and every little variation impacts the cooking process.
Tasty Food Photography is written by a successful food blogger and contains amazing tips that instantly up your food photography game. It sounds unbelievable but my pictures improved immediately after I read the book and implemented her tips!
Take Appetizing Pictures
In the world of Pinterest, having an appetizing photo of your finished dish is really important. This took me a while to figure out! Here are a few basic tips to help you take better food photos:
- Get down to 'eye-level,' or as close to it as possible. Food looks better up close than from above.
- Take pictures when it's hot and fresh. By the time you finish eating and photograph the leftovers, they just won't look as appealing.
- Try to plate the item in an attractive way. Place bright, colorful foods on a white/plain dish or surface, and add interest to a plainer-looking dish by placing it on a bright plate.
- Get pictures in natural light, if at all possible.
- Randomcreative Art: the making of Chai tea cupcakes
This blog post has fantastic in progress cooking photos from fellow hubber Randomcreative.
- Leave space for a caption. This can help Pinterest users (and people who just see a thumbnail) tell what your recipe is for.
- If you really want to step up your game, accessorize your shot. For example, take pictures of a loaf of bread wrapped up in a tea towel as if it is warm and ready to be served, or show cookies with a glass of milk in the background.
- Try to have at least one photo of the finished product that is square, or looks good when cropped to a square. Most feature spots on FaceBook, blog link ups, etc. use square photos. Having a square picture that looks good is key to piquing interesting in your link!
Just look at the photos below and you'll see the difference incorporating these techniques into your photography can make!
To get photography inspiration, browse through your favorite cook books or recipe websites. Don't have any? These blogs have very tasty food photography that's sure to inspire you!
Kristina Ackerman's blog, Knuckle Salad, has really great food photography. Even her pictures of the cooking process are pretty! She does a particularly great job of presenting food and accessorizing shots.
Lorraine of Cookin' for the Seven Dwarfs blogs a lot of about food and takes nice photos in a very real person way. I don't have a professional food photography set up, so a lot of really excellent food shots seem impossible to me. Lorraine's pictures are inspirational in a totally accomplishable way.
Tash of The Velvet Moon Baker also does a great job in an attainable way. Plus, her name is Tash, so of course I like her.
As with anything in life, the only way to improve is practice. Don't be afraid to write and post a recipe just because it doesn't look like it fell out of a home living magazine. If you love cooking and sharing your recipes, your passion and desire to improve will make each recipe better than the last.