Skip to main content

Food Blog Forum Orlando & A Sangria Recipe!

Food Blog Forum Orlando

Hard to believe that just last weekend I was in lovely Florida teaching a hands-on photography workshop to a great bunch of bloggers or food enthusiasts. That Sunday was just the icing on the cake actually of an already darn good time in Orlando where I had come to speak at Food Blog Forum (FBF).

When Jaden asked if I wanted to be part of FBF Orlando for the photo sessions, I did not hesitate long. Jaden’s energy, kindness and genuine interest in people know no boundaries. She’s always been great of great counsel to me and I always feel relaxed and smiling after a few hours in her presence. After the intense rhythm of the past 6 months I needed to relax. Mapping out the next six months made me realize it was now or never to give myself a mandatory break.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

With Jaden and Julie.

I was thrilled to see Julie again and let me tell you, she deserves a long line of kuddos, and "thank yous" for organizing the event so successfully. Not only did she organize the main event on Saturday but she also helped put together an extra hands-on worshop on Sunday for people who wanted to practice more or could not make it to FBF the day before. Thank you Julie!

It does sound cliche but I was thrilled to see familiar faces as well as finally meet the people behind my weekly reads. I love this community. Food bloggers are the best! The generosity of the food community in Florida is awesome. It made me even more excited to be back that way later in the summer and I am looking forward to seeing those wonderful peeps again.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

The weekend kicked off with a little mixer/get together at Whole Foods where we were showered with attention, food and wine. Everything from small savory bites, chocolate mousse in chocolate cups to live cooking demos. Every one had the chance to mingle and introduce themselves as well as get all revved up for the next day’s events.

Indeed, Saturday was packed. I love events such as these because there is always something to learn, something to contribute and something to walk away with whether you are a speaker or an attendee. It was like a grand big talk where everyone was at ease to speak, listen and as questions.


Picture courtesy of Julie at The Little Kitchen.

It was a treat listening to Jaden and Scott, Jeff Houck from the Tampa Tribune, Heather McPherson from the Orlando Sentinel, Peter Scott from Izea, Lindsay Landis from Purrdesign and Dawn Viola from Wicked Good Dinner. Tons of topics were covered so that everyone could find something that pertained to where they were in their blogging journey. Branding, working with newspapers, working with brands, SEO, blog design, and photography and styling.

My presentation was broken in two parts with the first one covering basics of camera modes, natural and artificial light while the second part was a live composition and styling demo. I focused the demo on two items, one was a pretty and colorful mixed salad and the other a goopy brown scoop of sun dried tomato and white bean spread. I took the group through my thought process for composing my shot and styling the food just as if I were at home working blog or in the studio with a client.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

Here is a recap of the styling photo composition session. Bear in mind that these were just decisions I took on that specific occasion. I am in no way saying that these are the decisive steps to style salads or dips. Every time I style salads and spreads I find myself doing it in a myriad of other ways:
– The salad was to be composed of mixed greens, mixed bean salad, cucumber salad, grilled shrimp and grape tomatoes.
– I decided not to scatter the ingredients all over the salad because they would get lost and would make it hard for the viewer to tell what was what.
– Instead I created small clusters of each component and placed them on the outside so that the bulk of the greens would still be visible and indicate it was a salad indeed.
– I cut a couple of the tomatoes open to add visual interest with a different angle and cut.
– I did not have vinaigrette for the salad but if I’d had some, I would have waited until the last minute to use it on the salad to keep the greens as fresh as possible.
– there were only white plates or rustic yellow bowls available as props (I had brought linens and my styling kit).
– I picked the yellow bowl to play with the all the colors of the salad components and it complemented the linens and surface I was working on.
– kept a 3/4 camera point of view so that I could show the bowl in its entirety without any weird angle and without being too "in your face" which is not helpful when you are trying to see the bigger picture.
– I picked and a medium depth of field, not too shallow that you could not tell the ingredients apart and not too deep that they were all in focus. It helped hide the fact that the cucumber was a bit passed its prime too.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

The spread came from a standard grocery store plastic container which I decided not to keep for aesthetics reason and instead decided to show what one can do with a "goopey mess".
– Instead of plating a mound of spread, surrounded by bread slices and a few salad leaves for garnish, I decided to show a progression and use the spread in action so to speak.
– it allows one to play with shapes and angles and not be restricted by just one direction and composition.
– Spreads and dips are less difficult to style and more interesting to shoot if you make them do something.
– I placed a large spoonful of the spread on the side as to show my starting point
– I cut out some slices of bread and spread some of the dip on half the slices, leaving the remaining half without to show that there were still plenty to be used.
– I left the knife on the plate to reinforce this idea of movement from the starting scoop of dip to using the bread to eat it with, etc…
– I used a spring of thyme as it was part of the herbs listed in the ingredient list and it added a nice touch to the plate. I could have scattered more around but it was not really necessary with the view point I wanted to try for taking the shot.
– I went with a closer/tighter camera angle and viewpoint than the salad because there was no reason to show more of the spread/dip than necessary. It was not pretty in its natural state so it was best to focus on the best toast with dip on it.
– I chose a shallow depth of field to keep the background element of more spread and bread which were not that visually interested out of focus but still part of the plate.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

Picture courtesy of Christian Stella.

Beside picking out the ingredients to style, I did not think a whole lot about what I would do until it was time to do the demo. I wanted to keep things as spontaneous as possible and talk participants through issues or decisions as I was encountering them myself. It also showed them that there is no trick or scientific formulas behind all this. The magic one creates is nothing but a series of decisions and attempts. I also stressed out that this is what I went for that specific day but I could have gone many different ways on many different days depending on light, props, ingredients, time, mood and feel I wanted to portray. There is no wrong or right. Just do what feels sincere to you.

That was the focus of the Sunday workshop which took place independently from FBF. I pretty much let the group lose at Whole Foods (!) to pick a few items to style and we went more in details about camera modes and angles, natural light and how to use its different sources for different purpose, diffusing, bouncing, speedlight and studio light for those who have to shoot late at night. After that everyone styled and composed a shot and I went around giving tips and techniques they could also use.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

Adam and Joanne from Inspired Taste with Jaden. After the Sunday worshop, they surprised me by asking if I’d mentor them in photography. I said "of course!"…of course!

My goal was to give them as many tools as possible whether they decide to use one or ten. Knowledge is power. So is coming up with your own visual identity. I was thrilled to have 12 participants come up with 12 different ways to view their relationship with the camera. What a breath of fresh air! It was the best 4 hours spent before an airplane ride back to Charleston.

Thank you to all the people who attended FBF! If a Food Blog Forum comes close to you one day, hurry to be part of it. You won’t regret it. You can read more opinions, recaps, thoughts and takeaways on the event at the bottom of the Food Blog Forum Orlando page, here.

Food Blog Forum Orlando

It’s another packed Sunday here with friends as well as scheduling work and we are all in the kitchen making Sangria, one of the drinks served at the FBF Saturday reception held at McCormick & Schmick’s. I was so busy playing that I forgot to ask them for the recipe but I knew that my buddy Taylor had a scrumptious one on his blog. Head after the jump to read more about it.

Happy Sunday!

The winners of Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson are: Avery at Love Veggies and Yoga and Janna from Knitting Relaxes Me. Email me your mailing addresses at mytartelette [at] gmail [dot] com so I can pass them on to the publisher. Congrats!

Blood Orange & Blackberry Sangria,reprinted with permission of Taylor Mathis:

3 blood oranges
1 cup blackberries
1.5 liter of good red wine
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup Grand Marnier

Save one of the blood oranges for garnish. Squeeze the juices from the remaining oranges and combine with the blackberries, wine, honey, Grand Marnier into a large pitcher or punch bowl. Stir the mixture until everything is combined.
Chill the sangria over night. Right before serving, cut the blood orange into thin slices and add them to the pitcher or punch bowl. Serve cold.

Related Posts

Similar Articles


Mr. Bill April 17, 2011 um 6:09 pm

Loved the shrimp pic…beautiful.

Melissa Crane April 17, 2011 um 6:16 pm

FBF Orlando looked like it was amazing! I'm so sad that I missed the one in my hometown (Atlanta) back in Sept so I was so happy to be able to read through your recap of this one!

I really enjoyed reading your food styling and photography summaries. Especially the salad styling and compositions. I always have problems trying to figure out how to style salads, so your tips were very helpful 🙂

Sips and Spoonfuls April 17, 2011 um 6:18 pm

Thank you for such an informative post. Even though I could not attend, your tips in this post are invaluable and you really do give some food for thought here regarding styling. I wish I could attend the workshop in Mexico but alas, it is just not financially possible for me. Instead I will be attending Food Bloggers Connect in London which Im sure will be useful. Lookign forward to you book even more now and hope to meet you at some point! You're a real inspiration.

Soma April 17, 2011 um 7:03 pm

Love the post Helene. Wish I could have been there. I am minutely reading thru' your tips over and over again; every bit helps. Thanks

FOODalogue April 17, 2011 um 8:22 pm

It is a pleasure to relive the FBF event a week later. I'm very appreciative of the information you shared in a very clear, often humorous and always stylish manner. Thanks, again!

Averie April 17, 2011 um 8:40 pm

First, I am thrilled about the give away win! Thank you and I will email you next!

This post, Helene, is just amazing…

Last weekend I went to a Food Styling and Photography Workshop with Matt Armedariz of Matt Bites and his partner Adam Pearson in So Cal. It was one of the best days of my life. I learned sooo much!

I would have given anything to be at this Orlando event. It's a long way from San Diego though 🙂 I had not even heard of it. Funny I feel like I am pretty well connected to events and stuff in the blogging community and had not heard of this one…at all. Darn!

Your presentation would have been worth it's weight in gold. Thank you for taking the time to spell out exactly what you did, and why, when plating & shooting the salad and the spread. i.e. not pretty in it's natural state, depth of field, movement, etc…all reinforce what I learned from Matt & Adam and thank you for these words of wisdom.

What a great event and thanks again for the win!

Helene April 17, 2011 um 9:00 pm

Averie: Matt and Adam have great workshops so don't feel like you are missing out on anything happening on the East coast. I happen to know them well and Matt and I are represented by the same photo agency.
I am doing a 2 day workshop in Sante Fe that was announced 2 months ago but it's already full. Working on a couple more out west.

Binky April 17, 2011 um 9:03 pm

FBF was such a great time. It was my first in-real-life exposure to the food blogger community, and I fetl so honored to be there.

Thanks for the recap on your food shots from FBF! It's nice to see how you make your decisions when you compose your beautiful shots.

I had a wonderful time learning from you, on both days. You are very funny, and such a good teacher! Thanks so much, Helene!


Binky April 17, 2011 um 9:09 pm

FBF was my first in-real-life experience meeting the food blogger community, and I was so honored to be there!

Thanks for the recap on your FBF session. It's nice to know how you approach composing your shots.

I had a great time learning from you on both days. I learned so much. You are such a good teacher, and very funny too! Thanks Helene!!

<3 Binky

Michelle Stiles April 17, 2011 um 9:23 pm

Your presentation sounds so informative and creative.

LoveandConfections April 17, 2011 um 10:02 pm

FBF was amazing, and your presentations made it more so! I am planning a trip to the hardware store and already bought some foam-core boards. Thank you for all the helpful tips and walk-through of styling.


zenchef April 18, 2011 um 4:18 am

You are such a busy bee, aren't you!? I'm exhausted just from reading about all your adventures. How do you do it all?

Ah ben en plus je t'ecris en Anglais. Ca va pas la tete, moi. 🙂

notyet100 April 18, 2011 um 6:45 am

fr the tip on photography,

Winnie April 18, 2011 um 1:38 pm

Looks like a great event and thank you for sharing your thought processes as you styled these gorgeous plates of food. I pre-ordered your book and just cannot wait for it 😉

jenn from midlife modern April 18, 2011 um 2:25 pm

Wow–sounds like a great seminar! Your tips are wonderful; thanks for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us!

Anonymous April 18, 2011 um 4:09 pm

I have yet to attend one of these wonderful events. Any chance your ventures to the west will bring you to Portland? hint, hint…
Also, you mentioned your styling kit in your post. Curious, what's in your styling kit?

Trish April 18, 2011 um 4:29 pm

Next seminar, I want to come! I must have missed the info if you posted it on the blog! I hope you'll do it again… maybe in PHX… on a Saturday… {hint, magical hint}

The Chocolate Covered Kitchen April 18, 2011 um 5:52 pm

Thank you for going over your thought processes; photography is an art, and it is hard to translate any artistry to replicable steps. By sharing the "whys" behind your choices, it helps immensely. Hope one day to attend one of your demonstrations!

Brian Samuels Photography April 18, 2011 um 8:39 pm

What a wonderful event. I'm telling you, we need to get you up to Boston.

And that sangria… that's my drink right there. I'm relaxed just thinking about sipping on one.

kokocooks April 18, 2011 um 10:00 pm

I go to that Whole Foods all the time for lunch, and have never seen that food look so good. Thanks for this recap, as I. Was not able to attend FBF.

Shelby April 18, 2011 um 10:43 pm

Wow, what an amazing event! Would have loved to have been there.. It sounds like you left everyone with inspiration and helpful pointers! So thankful that you could share it here on your blog too 🙂 Thanks!

Linda Wagner – Nutrition to Invigorate Mind, Body & Spirit April 18, 2011 um 11:19 pm

Wonderful article and great tips!! Thank you so much! I am always so inspired by you!!


Maris (In Good Taste) April 19, 2011 um 12:27 am

Fabulous recap so we feel we were there! Lovely photos!

marla April 19, 2011 um 3:08 am

Helen, it is so fun to read about Food Blog Forum. Such a fun event. Your styling & photography tips are very helpful. Makes me even more excited for plate to pixel.

Unknown April 19, 2011 um 4:45 am

That looks like it was a total blast. Great food, great people, and lovely photos, who could ask for more?

Isa April 20, 2011 um 2:53 am

I'm not a food blogger but a teacher. I'm amazed at the storytelling in your photography. Your pictures don't simply reveal the colors and textures of food: they tell a story. I work with teaching colleagues to expand their view of reading and writing to the digital world. Your photography is a true example of digital writing. The careful thinking, the composition, the colors, the props, the focus: all had to be thought through or "written" to get the end results and evoke the right mood. Thanks for sharing!

Helene April 20, 2011 um 4:27 am

Thank you everyone for the kind words and the feedback on telling you my thought process.
I plan on doing that more often when things settle down a bit around here.

Isa: I just feel like I just received a huge warm hug from you. Thank you for getting me. That is exactly what I try to do when I photograph.

the domestic mama April 20, 2011 um 1:06 pm

You did do a wonderful job in your presentations~ I was thrilled (or, should I say AM thrilled) at what you taught me. I am hoping to take a course from you in the future.. I was bummed I couldn't do Sundays. 🙁
I can only imagine what you taught~ I learned sooo much in the "shorter" presentation. Thank you for that, and for giving back to all of us in your participation in the event.

Gen April 20, 2011 um 6:50 pm

Très intéressant! J'aurai adoré y assister! C'est ce qu'il me manque parfois, un peu de technique à laquelle je n'aurai pas pensé!

Rocky Mountain Woman April 20, 2011 um 9:06 pm

Looks like so much fun.

I'd love to attend sometime…

Any chance of coming to Utah?

Denise April 21, 2011 um 11:03 pm


I was SO excited when I found out you'd be presenting at FBF Orlando!! I learned so much from your demonstration, and have been playing a lot more with my point and shoot.

I also wanted to thank you for all the camera advice you gave me after I returned home. Now buying a used SLR camera doesn't seem like such a risk. 🙂

Thank you for sharing your knowledge!! I had a great time at FBF…what a great event to be my first food blogging event! Everyone was SO friendly. It was incredibly great to meet you…you are as sweet in person as you are on your blog!

Thanks again,
Denise @ Creative Kitchen

Weekend Cowgirl April 25, 2011 um 7:13 pm

Sounds like a fun time! I love your blog!

George Wells George Wells May 9, 2011 um 6:33 am

I like this website. This website helped me with prayer learning. Good job. Thank you. and welcome to my home to see you ~! My address is: true religion jeans outlet.

Write a Comment