Behind the scenes with..

Behind the scenes @lisatutmanoglesby

Greetings to all, and thanks so much to Lucie, for the opportunity to introduce myself to everyone. 

I’m Lisa Tutman-Oglesby, a Food/Lifestyle blogger, lover of all things creative, home cook, mom to two college-age kiddos, wife and fraternal twin (I’m five minutes older than my sister).  
Before turning my attention to photography and blogging, I spent more than 20 years as a television news reporter and anchor including a decade at NBC in Chicago where I also won an Emmy award for my reporting. Many of the skills I used as a reporter, helps to inform my approach to blogging, where I aim to inform, educate, entertain and inspire.  While, I’ve been shooting for a while now, I still consider myself a student of photography and I’m always working to grow my skills and development of new technique to help my photos shine. 

I’m honored to share a little more about myself through Lucie’s questions.

How did you start and how did you learn? Do you have any tips for online courses?

My food photography started with the creation of my scrapbook-inspired blog (celebrate-creativity) back in 2007.  Allow me to explain. Back in 2007 there weren’t nearly the number of blogs and sites out there, and blogging felt more like a novelty.  I won a national scrapbook contest that year (anyone remember Memory Makers magazine?), and the role included providing scrapbook pages for the magazine and also maintaining a presence on the Memory Makers blog. In that capacity, I often included posts on my other interests like sewing, embroidery, gardening, thrifting just to name a few. I admit, it felt a little weird to write so many posts on subjects other than scrapbooking. After all the blog was owned by a scrapbooking magazine. 

So, that’s when I started my own blog, (celebrate-creativity.com), which freed me to comfortably post about all my different interests and hobbies. Also, it provided the perfect reason and forum to continue developing my long-held interest in photography.  While my blog is now more than a decade old, it’s only been within the last few years that more of my focus has been on food photography and styling. I gotta say, I’m pretty hooked on making food, finding interesting ways to style it, and then, taking lots and lots and lots of pictures of it.

As for online courses, I’ve never taught an online course, but I have purchased many of them. In fact, I feel like I’m a bit of a collector of online classes. Now, I just need to find the time to actually watch ALL the courses I’ve purchased over the years. I’ll get to it, albeit a bit slowly.

Which photographers inspire you or where do you get your inspiration from?

Oh, my gosh! I get inspiration from soooo many sources and photographers. I don’t have room to name all the photographers whose work inspires me. The main thing I’m drawn to is the ability for the photography to actually tell a story just from the image itself through, styling, props, lighting, etc. I love looking at a photo and seeing a story revealed, primarily through big and small details and styling. I love light and airy photos, but I’m especially drawn to dark and moody images as well as images that look like film and paintings. 

Since, we’re on the subject of food photography, here are a 10 of my favorite IG foodie accounts, (but this is in no way a complete list):

Melissa @asweetpointofview , Aimee @twiggstudios, Zaira @thefreakytable, Jamie @jamiebeck.co, Benjamina @bakedbybenji , Katie @Katie_Clova, Bekah @theedgewoodbaker, Lucia @healthygoodiesbylucia, Dyutima @dyutima_myfoodlens , Anna @annagarciafrigola

How often do you blog?

My blogging frequency has been a little all over the place lately. Generally, I try to post once a week but that schedule is a bit off right now. I hope to get back to that schedule this fall after what has been a very crazy, somewhat disorienting summer.

I typically post to Instagram once a day because it’s easier and less labor-intensive than posting to my blog.

And what are your topics with blogging?

While much of my blogging and attention is on food photography and styling, my blog is filled with content that represents so many other things that I’m interested in. I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many hobbies and I think my blog reflects that with fun posts in many categories including; crafts, sewing, embroidery, home décor, scrapbooking, thrifting, gardening and quilting just to name a few.

What are the best tips and tricks for blogging?

I keep a seasonal calendar that allows me to plan my posts in advance. I know right now we’re coming to the end of summer and I already have Fall ideas jotted down in my book.

I also try to provide as much information and instruction that I can within my blog posts. I want readers to not only be inspired but to easily see how they can duplicate the project or recipe themselves.

Finally, I always try to post the best photos that I possibly can.

Do you have any good tips about your portfolio?

I think any portfolio should not only showcase variety, and a range of creative and technical skill but also suggest a story behind the image.  As a former news reporter, words were always a critical tool in my career.  As a photographer, words are replaced with images and those images can be just as powerful as any amount of words.

I not only try to tell a story with my photos when I can, but I also try to evoke a feeling or a mood that can resonates with the observer’s own imagination.  

For example, my Dutch Baby pancake image may not have been shot in a quiet country kitchen, but I hope the mood I’ve created around it through styling, props and lighting, suggests that’s exactly where it was photographed.  Take a look at the BTS shot and you’ll see it was actually shot in front of a small window. 

Of course, the person observing your photos can fill in the blanks with their own imagination, but I think it’s the photographer’s job to try to provide that spark. 

How much time do you spend on social media and which channels do you use the most?

Hmmm, I spend more time on social media, then I realize sometimes. Instagram in particular seems to capture most of my social media time. I have a feature on my phone that tracks my screen time and for example, this week, I got a notice that listed my time had ticked up, with 3.5 hours a day, on average. What? I had no idea that I had been spending that much time on social media on daily. Of course, time is relative. That seemed like a lot of time to me. I was glad to get that little phone reminder, so that I can better pace my Instagram energy.  While I do have Facebook and Pinterest accounts, I don’t really post often on those forums and I’ve never had a Twitter account. My blog and Instagram are pretty much my go-to platforms for social media.

Do you have one good tip for Instagram and one good tip for Pinterest?

My biggest tip for Instagram (and I’m hardly an expert) is to try to be meaningful with everything you post. When I first started using Instagram, I was just excited to post a photo and see a few likes register. I never really put much thought into what I was posting and how I captioned the image. I get the most engagement when I write a caption that actually expresses something meaningful. An interesting story or anecdote or has something meaningful that would be consistent in the look of photos and topic and consistent in posting. I try to post at least once every day and sometimes that’s hard. I should probably use some kind of planner to help with that.

I think my biggest tip for Pinterest is to get a good understanding of how to use it. Sadly, I’m in the group of people who haven’t quite figured out Pinterest. It’s on my to-do list to get a better handle on how to use Pinterest better to my advantage as I continue to try to grow my reach.

Who are your clients and how do they find you?

Despite having a comparatively small following on Instagram, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several national brands over the last year or so. I’ve enjoyed some nice partnerships as well as gained some sweet magazine work.  Instagram and my blog are the two top ways that partners have discovered my work and reached out. 

How do you make sure you find the right balance between leisure/home and work?

That’s probably one of the hardest things to do. Especially now with so much of our daily lives impacted by the pandemic. Honestly, there are some days when I wake up and can’t remember what day of the week it is. I don’t think that’s an anomaly. I’ve heard the same thing from many of my friends. So much seems to blend together right now. It helps that I keep a large desk calendar (not on an electronic device) and I can see easily see how my day’s activities and assignments line up the whole month at a glance.  It also helps that my children are now young adults who are actively engaged in their own balancing acts, which leaves me more juggling time.  

What would you have done differently if you had known this at the beginning of your career?

I think time management is at the heart of any successful career. But equally important is the ability It’s challenging to juggle so many things, but I think I would have paid more attention to probably pay more attention practice more and read my camera’s owner’s manual earlier. Thank goodness for YouTube videos.

Where do you make your photo’s? At home or in a studio?

I’ve claimed a well-lit corner of my formal dining room as my main shooting space.  In fact, I’ve actually commandeered most of the entire room for props, gear and backdrops. When I first started taking over the space, I got a few questionable looks from family members, but they’re all-in, for my full usage of the dining room now. Besides, we never really ate meals in there anyway.  The space is right off the kitchen, which makes it especially convenient for food photography.  Now, if only I can claim another room for exclusive prop storage. 

How do you prepare a food styling set?

First, I set a time for when I want to shoot. If there are things that I can prepare the night before, I do that. I don’t sketch out anything on paper, but I do sketch it out in my head.  I always think about what mood I want convey and then choose props to go along with how best to tell that story.  Many times, the inspiration comes directly from the food itself in the form of a color or texture that I think will help the food shine. Generally, I’ll lay out the props first, and then place the food into the frame. After that, I start moving things around the plate/main focus to see what looks good. I love negative space and more often than not, I’ll place the food off-center, flush left or flush right and build the styling around that placement. Every once in a while, I’ll set up my laptop and shoot tethered, but I do that far less than I used to, now that I have the Wi-Fi monitoring capability on my iPhone now. 

Which props do you use the most?

I have a dark rustic farmhouse table that I absolutely love and probably use it 85 percent of the time in my food styling. I also LOVE linens of all shades. I strategically placed piece of fabric can make all the difference in a shot. I have a fun tutorial on my blog on how to hand-dye fabric for food styling that may interest you. That’s an easy and inexpensive way to add custom-colored fabrics to your stash.  Finally, I often like to create the look of an old fashioned, vintage table setting and I’m drawn to the kinds of props that help with that theme.  You’ll often see old copper pots, rustic wood spoons and rolling pins, along with vintage transferware dishes and utensils in my photos.  These are all lovely props that you can find on Ebay, Etsy and also by scouring your local flea markets and thrift stores.  The discovery of a beautiful, rustic prop to add to my collection is the kind of thing that truly makes my day. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know when you’ll stumble over your next favorite prop.

What backdrops are you using?

I have some old wood boards that I’ve stained that I often put to good use. However, most of the time I use fabric as a backdrop. My favorite is 3 yards of dark blue, faux suede fabric that I keep hanging from a backdrop pole in my dining room. It has a deep jewel tone and subtle texture that I really like. 

By the way, you can find faux suede at most home décor and upholstery stores and if you can, grab a few yards in multiple colors. I think you’ll find it a worthy prop investment.

With which light do you work? Daylight or artificial?

I’ve always used natural light in my photography, but I have a number of tools that help shape and direct the light. I use diffusers to soften the light and reflectors to help throw the natural light where I want it. As we move into the Fall months, the light does become more challenging with the shorter, days and no doubt, that’s where artificial light would be helpful. I’d love to learn how to use artificial lights and flashes and it’s definitely on my list of things to put my attention, when I find more spare time for additional tutorials. 

What camera and lenses do you use? And do you use a tripod?

For many years, I used a Canon 5d Mark II, but last Christmas (2019), I finally upgraded to a Canon 5d Mark IV.  I love the Wi-Fi ability of this new camera which allows me to use my cell phone as a monitor as well as using it as a self-timer. I’m actually still learning how to use all the features of the Mark IV. I know it has far more capability than I’m familiar with and my goal is to know this camera inside and out, like the back of my hand. 

I use a variety of lenses that I switch up, depending on what I’m shooting and the effect I’m going after.

It’s taken about a decade, but I’ve slowly built up a sweet collection including; 85mm f/1.2L, Macro 100mm f/2.8L, 50mm f/1.2L and a 24-70 f/2.8L.  While I use all of them for various scenarios, I probably use the 85mm and the 100mm Macro the most for my food photography. 

Right now, I use a Manfrotto (MR055XPRO3) tripod that I’ve had for many years along with a Manfrotto (MH804-3WUS), 3-way ball head.  I’m actually in the process of looking for a new tripod because the center column keeps slipping and it drives me crazy. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to snap the shot, and the tripod column starts slowing sliding down and out of position with your camera attached. Bummer.

Which program do you use to edit your photo’s?

I use Lightroom on every single photo that I post. You know, it’s funny… I used to think that editing photos was somehow cheating and I was reluctant to alter an original image. I’m so glad I changed my tune on that. I don’t think there are many photos out there floating around on Instagram or blogs that have not been edited in some way. I typically edit my photos for color, sharpness and very often, exposure. I also use the radial, dodge and burn adjustment brushes in Lightroom to help create that dark and moody presentation that really appeals to me and dominates my IG image.

Tips & tricks?

This isn’t a tip or trick, but I’ve had this on my mind, and I’d like to share it here.

We all move within this incredible social media space, sharing our artistry and leaving ourselves open for not only feedback, searching for inspiration and in the process, creating genuine connections.  I love the virtual friendships that I’ve developed over the years and it’s helped me grow as a creative, photographer and better visual storyteller.

Now, more than ever, I hope we all continue to find ways to embrace our commonality and shared humanity.  The world is wide enough for all of us to try to treat each other with kindness, dignity, respect and understanding.  I appreciate the opportunity that I have to add beauty to the world, in my own special way. In the end, I hope my efforts (and yours), bring us closer together not further apart, through our shared interests, creativity, new friendships and good will.

Want to see more of Lisa’s work?

Check out her blog celebrate-creativity.com and het Instagram @lisatutmanoglesby

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