Food Blogger Camp – Food writing, photography & styling workshops

by on January 12, 2010

Club Med’s food blogger camp is in full swing with dynamic and highly informative workshops in an amazing tropical setting. A group of food bloggers from all around the world gathered in daily workshops super-charged with information rich content to better our blogs by some of the communities leading bloggers.

Michael and Donna Ruhlman from

Sunday’s workshop with Michael and Donna Ruhlman included an intimate and engaging discussion for aspiring writers and photographers. Michael has written a series of highly successful food related books and Donna has been a photojournalist since 1982. Some valuable tips that this dynamic husband and wife team shared with the group were:

  • To better your writing skills, you need to practice, practice and practice. Commit yourself to set aside writing time,  a little bit every day.
  • Start small and give yourself short writing project. For example, set aside 2 hours a day and work on a 350 word piece. Train your brain to write a little bit every night. Make it a daily routine.
  • Time management is of the utmost importance. Turn off the email and remove yourself from other distractions like Facebook and Twitter so that you can purely focus on your writing.
  • It’s important to not just write about yourself, but to reach out to other people. Write about the people around you and become part of a community. Giving more of yourself to helping others is the greatest reward and that’s in return will pay back in many ways.
  • Michael was extremely encouraging about the future of writing and the continued possibilities in making money in writing.
  • Photograph every day and focus on simple, single subjects. Then graduate to photographing multiple elements in a photo. Sometimes less is more.
  • Make time to understand lighting and again, start simple with one light source, then gravitate to adding more light sources when you need it. For example, Donna loves the simple set up of back lighting and then adding a bounce in front of your subject if needed.


Professional food stylist, Adam Pearson

Monday’s workshop with Adam Pearson, a professional food stylist, focused on some really unique techniques and tricks used to create some of the most stunning food shots. Adam gave a wonderful and fascinating discussion about current trends in current food styling techniques vs. old world food styling techniques. Food styling now is gravitating toward using real, edible, delicious and attainable food, rather than food made to look real by using motor oil or other non-edible stand-ins.

Above: Adam demonstrating building a pasta plate. He cuts pasta to show the pretty ends of the pasta for more texture.

Below: Adam twirls pasta around a fork to create swirls of noodles for get more movement on the plate

Adam gave a big shout-out to food bloggers for photographing real food for our blogs. Because of food bloggers showing real food coming from real kitchens, this standard practice has encouraged the styling world to re-consider using fake and non-edible products for their food shots. Yay! Go Adam! Here are some more tips he shared:

  • When photographing a dish, focus on some of the individual ingredients, highlight them and try to show them looking their best.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the food, take control of the food. Be confident with your food so you can manipulate it and control it to do what you want.
  • Using the patina off of old wood, dough board or cutting boards adds great texture to a food shot.
  • Don’t be afraid to use old pieces with new pieces of dishes. Mixing vintage and new pieces in a photo adds interest.
  • Build your plate in small portions and small scale. Use smaller plates (about 8 inch diameter or smaller) or smaller glasses.
  • Stack your plates to add height and interest to the photo. Use parchment paper or linens underneath to add movement to the photo.
  • Build your plate to add height by using cut pieces of sponges underneath.
  • When working with sauce dishes, don’t drown the food in the sauce. Lightly dress it, then ladle in the sauce a little bit at a time with spoon.
  • When garnishing with herbs, turn the leaf upside down. The veins underneath have beautiful texture.
  • Shooting with red wine can be dark and add a black hole in your picture. Start with water and slowly add wine in until it looks good in your lighting.
  • Use toothpics to hold food in place and to build the food higher.

Above: Adam demonstrates using toothpics to hold food in place during his sandwich-building demonstration. He folds the deli meat to achieve height and movement in the sandwich, which gives visual appeal.

Above: Everyone learning and having a great time!

Above: Final sandwich, showing the height, movement and visual interest of the sandwich.

Above: Our “big red” styling hero! Adam is a walking piece of art. Literally.

That’s it for today! Tomorrow we’ll share what Matt’s discussion on food photography!

Above: top from left: Todd , Donna, Cecilie . Below from left: Brooke, Michael and Romaine

Above: top from left: Diana, Stephanie, Jaden, Elise . Bottom from left: Dianne, Adam, Steve-Anna , Garrett

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Divina January 12, 2010 at 7:03 am

Super great information. I think the only light source I know is the sunlight. Definitely, more, more, more practice for me and absolutely attend workshops like this and have a really good mentor.


2 chika January 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

thank you, THANK YOU for sharing all this! this must be the second best thing to being actually there and learning things first hand. i’d be lying if i said i’m not jealous (of course i am!), but it’s great to follow you guys’ updates and see you are all having a blast – you all so deserve it! have a wonderful time for the reminder of your time and keep these coming please!


3 Ed Schenk@ Real Foods Blog January 12, 2010 at 7:25 am

Great post. The phtography has been my biggest challenge. My shots tend to come out blurry (I think I need a better camera). Thanks for the information (composition,lighting etc.)


4 Dawn (KitchenTravels) January 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

@Ed Schenk – hi there. Does your camera allow you to override the “auto” settings, or alternatively, does it have a “close up” setting? Does it give you the option to turn off the flash? Are you able to photograph near a window for natural light? All of these tips (which I learned from Todd & Diane @WORC – thanks!) can greatly improve the quality of your photos. I have an old, slow, very basic point-n-shoot (Kodak “easy share”) camera, but I’ve been much happier with my food shots since I put their advice into practice. Hope this is helpful. Happy shooting! :)


5 Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary January 12, 2010 at 7:41 am

What a terrific post! Thanks so much for sharing Adams food stylin’ tips! I love the sponge trick! Genius! Looks like you guys are having a good time. Can’t wait for the next installment.


6 Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite January 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

Great post and thanks for sharing with those of us who couldn’t attend….


7 Jessica@FoodMayhem January 12, 2010 at 8:21 am

Great tips! I wish I was at blogger camp =(


8 Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy January 12, 2010 at 8:28 am

Thanks for giving us this wonderful “consolation prize” for not being there :) Great information :)


9 Kristen January 12, 2010 at 8:37 am

That first photo makes me feel like I am sitting poolside with you! I love it.
Great tips – thanks for all of the excellent info sharing!


10 Patricia@TheTravelingTable January 12, 2010 at 8:48 am

Thanks for the tips! Have a great time! Hope I can join you next time.


11 Neel | Learn Food Photogaphy January 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

Amazing! Thank you for sharing this with us. Although we weren’t there, we are following you on Twitter and trying to learn as much as possible without missing a fulltime job.

Thank you again.


12 Kathleen January 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

I wish I was at blogging camp!


13 Gastronomer January 12, 2010 at 11:24 am

Sounds like you guys are living it up and having a blast. Thanks for the detailed report. Looking forward to the next one!


14 Domestic Executive January 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

What a way to learn from others. Thanks for sharing what you’re taking from this blog camp. You might want to check your links on the post though as when I clicked through they didn’t take me where I was expecting.

Here’s what I got when I googled instead:

Hope this is helpful.


15 White on Rice Couple January 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Domestic Executive – thank you for the corrected links!


16 David January 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

what a studly line-up!


17 Sarka January 12, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing all those valuable tips. I wish I could join you at blogging camp. At least I can follow you here and on twitter. Have fun guys!


18 Joan Nova January 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Thanks so much for sharing what you learn…though I think you can skip any photography sessions. Yours are great!
P.S. I recognize a few familiar faces.


19 White on Rice Couple January 17, 2010 at 10:59 am

Thank you, but you can never learn enough. Nobody is so good that they can stop learning from others.


20 Jencrafted January 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for sharing. What a fabulous event! I think it should be held bi-annually; I don’t want to wait a whole year for the next camp!


21 Little Miss Cupcake January 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

ah, you have the life! as someone who continuously struggles with food photography, thank you so much for sharing this. looks like an awesome time (and educational too!). enjoy the sun – it is freezing back here in Paris!


22 Andrea Meyers January 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Ok, the cocktail by the pool looks way too inviting from here in the frosty North! I could use some of that sunshine. It sounds like the conference has been very worthwhile. Thanks for sharing highlights!


23 Anita January 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

So bummed I’m missing out on this! Thanks so much for sharing all this wonderful information. Hope you’re enjoying yourselves!


24 food lover kathy January 12, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Thank you so much for sharing all of this great information. Truly appreciated. Please keep them coming!


25 Karen@Mignardise January 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Great post – almost makes me feel like I’m there. I’ll just have to get my own margarita.


26 Rebecca January 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for sharing all the best of FB Camp with those of us who are only there in spirit! Wonderful suggestions from both the Ruhlmans and from Adam!


27 Tokyo Terrace January 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for posting the info you gathered! I think it’s so great that you all are able to attend the Food Blogger Camp. What a great way to bring new perspective to your blogging and make some improvements. There’s always room to learn and improve, right? Have fun!!


28 Broderick @ Savory Exposure January 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Love the styling tips — Thanks for posting — keep it up! Now if you could only send some of that Mexican sunshine through the blog…


29 January 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Thanks for the generous sharing. Why don’t I ever think of something as simple as toothpicks!


30 January 13, 2010 at 6:38 am

I had every intention of attending the camp, but the planets didn’t align this year. Next year, I’ll force them!




31 Fuji Mama January 13, 2010 at 6:42 am

Love the sponge and toothpick info! So glad you’re sharing this! Was bummed when it turned out I wasn’t going to be able to come. I’ll have to live vicariously through your pictures and posts! XOXO


32 Tangled Noodle January 13, 2010 at 7:39 am

While I’d love to be enjoying the charms of Ixtapa, this is a fantastic ‘post’card! Many, many thanks for sharing all these excellent insights, tips and strategies for better food blogging.


33 megan January 13, 2010 at 8:47 am

Looks like a wonderful time! Loving the food styling tips!


34 Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. January 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Thanks for sharing with us, those back home (sniff). Wish I could be there. Maybe next time…


35 Belinda @zomppa January 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for sharing this!! Boy, wish I was there….


36 Donna - Dishy Goodness January 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Thank you so much for the summary of food photography/styling tips! I find it a constant challenge to plate my food beautifully, yet without fussing over it too much or making it look too fussy. What a wonderful camp! Thanks for sharing.


37 Hélène January 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Thanks so much! I’m so envious :) Love looking at all the great pics.


38 LoveFeast Table January 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Thanks for the tips….I’m glad motor oil is on the outs! ~Chris Ann


39 Dawn (KitchenTravels) January 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

It’s been great to see these “real time” updates from you and a few other prominent food bloggers. Thank you! I am really hoping there will be another FBC next year (in a tropical location, natch). Saving my pennies, quarters, dollars…


40 Jonathan January 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

How does one sign up for next years conference! Please help a fella out.


41 tracy January 13, 2010 at 9:10 pm

thank you for taking the time to post this! great techniques & tips!!!!!!


42 Sheetal January 14, 2010 at 7:13 am

Thank you so much for sharing! This is really such a treasure trove!!


43 The Teacher Cooks January 14, 2010 at 8:21 am

Thanks for sharing this information. It was very helpful. I’m excited about your next post!


44 Kathleen January 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

It’s interesting to see how a professional food photographer works, but I still think that real food, photographed how it really looks, not toothpicked or built up on sponges, is…well, real. I want to see photos of how the food will look in front of a guest at my table, not how it will look if it was photographed for Bon Appetit. There have been times when it was completely impossible to duplicate a photo when following a recipe. Now I know why.


45 White on Rice Couple January 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Food stylists have a tough job and have to produce the look that the client is paying for. Adam mentioned how he loves it when the client wants the real deal. It is fascinating to see Adam work his craft, plus the man can cook, so even his “real food” styling is beautiful.


46 zara January 15, 2010 at 9:10 am

Thanks for sharing. Wish I was by the pool having a cocktail right now ;)


47 Cheryl January 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

Many many thanks for this. Even after five years of blogging about food, I still find that there are still many areas of improvement I could look into. What you’ve written, is what I needed to read. I just got my domain up, after using blogspot all this while. I am bent on building up my new blogspace slowly but surely. Everything from my food photography (saving up to buy a DSLR like finally!) to my writing – going to bring it up several notches. I’m a huge fan of Ruhlman and it is great reading the tips that he shared. Very useful. Can I say once again how brilliant this camp that you guys are on, is? It’s also my first time to your blog, and I like it. It’s been bookmarked. :) Keep up the good work.

Cheers from sunny Singapore.


48 Lisa January 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

Wonderful synopsis of the workshops. Terrific tips. Life is a college class in which the semester never ends. Look forward to reading more!


49 Jenn January 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Great tips! Looks like you all had a great time, I would have loved to come! I would never have thought of the sponge trick :)


50 marla {Family Fresh Cooking} January 18, 2010 at 7:11 am

Thanks for the virtual “lessons.” I just visited David, Jayden, Matt and now you guys. It is a blast seeing all the photos and reading everyones take on the week to Ixtapa. You guys learned so much and I am grateful to be able to read, learn and share the fun. Now on to your next post……


51 laura January 19, 2010 at 7:02 am

Like the tips on building higher and working with wine. Thanks for sharing!


52 cindy espinoza January 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

I need advice on every aspect of food blogging as mine is so new, the idea of a blogging workshop is so appealing! Thanks for sharing all this great info…although I would much rather learn it first hand in a sunny location:) ha!
when is the next workshop?


53 Sean January 23, 2010 at 4:25 am

I love this photography advice. This is my biggest challenge. Trying to figure out if my current Sony is capable of producing sharper inmages, or if in fact I have to bite the bullet and upgrade. These tips will help. Hope to attend the next camp.


54 Nancy Singleton Hachisu January 25, 2010 at 4:48 am

Diane & Todd, I saw this as I breezed through a few of the FBC posts. My immediate thought was, “I’m never going to get these shots.” The photos jumped off the page. Really incredible stuff. All your time spent certainly shows. The video was fun, especially without lots of people crowded around the screen. I can tell I have a lot of studying to do after your workshop. I’ll be visiting your website for pointers. I’ve got to get cracking on rearranging my trip to Vietnam and will be looking closely at Danang. Thanks for all the tips and it was great fun chatting in Ixtapa. Hope we’ll all be meeting in Thailand next year. If so, stop in Japan and I guarantee some great food. Nancy


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