Let me start off by saying, if you are ever so lucky to spend time with Regan Baroni she's probably one of the nicest humans you will ever meet. Not to mention a fantastic photographer. Back when I first started blogging I followed Regan's blog Up Close & Tasty and have admired her work ever since. It's hard not to get overwhelmed with the countless food accounts on Instagram but Regan's work is unlike anything I've ever seen. It takes someone with a true passion and creative eye to be able to capture the natural raw beauty of food. Not only is she someone I look up to in the world of photography but also in regards to being able to handle her own photography business like a true girl boss.
How old were you when you got into photography? What was your first camera?
I started out using my smartphone camera and lighting from our apartment's living room window. For my 32nd birthday, my husband, Mike, and my family surprised me with my very first DSLR, which was a Nikon D3100. It was a really great camera to get me started in the DSLR world.
When did you find your love of food/cooking?
I always had an appreciation for good food, but never really got into cooking until I met Mike. He actually cooked for me on our second date and made us Asparagus Risotto. It opened my eyes to how much fun cooking can be and my love for risotto. And, even though cooking has it challenges, it can be really therapeutic. I also think getting my hands dirty in the kitchen has really helped me as a food photographer.
Do you have a favorite dish you've made recently?
Yes! I found a bunch of fresh figs at our market recently and went overboard on buying them. I made a Fig & Serrano Jam and then used it on a Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza with Arugula. I love combining sweet and spicy together.
What is the most common question you get about photography?
"How did you do that?"
How has your photography evolved over the years?
Photography has evolved into more of an art for me, capturing more of a story, as opposed to just capturing food on a plate. There's a process behind cooking the food and so many gorgeous ingredients that I can't ignore. I like to play with textures and different surfaces and I always let the food be what it is... natural, beautiful and a little messy showing off crumbs, drips and gooey drops.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration is so important for everyone, creative field or not. It can be easy to burn out if you don't know how to take a break and recharge from time to time. I get the most inspiration from people, places, music and, of course, food. I'll go to lunch with a friend, plan a trip near or far, listen to some of my favorite bands or walk around the farmers market with no plan. Whether I'm in a creative rut or not, I always find inspiration when I surround myself with these things.
What advice would you have for someone looking to get into food photography? Any good resources? Favorite props?
I get so excited when I meet people who are interested in food photography! I always say that there are two sides to photography: 1) The technical side (knowing your camera) and 2) The creative side (executing your vision). We all have to learn the basics of our camera first. Once you get the basics figured out and start seeing your camera as a tool to help you, you can really grow into your creative vision. While there are a lot of online tutorials and books about the technical stuff, there isn't a book to teach you what your creative vision should be... that is up to you and comes with practice, practice and more practice.
My advice would be to get a good starter camera. There's no need to break the bank in the beginning. Learn the basics and I promise, you'll grow from there. I also recommend getting a book that is specific to your camera model to help you really learn how to use it. For example, I started with the Nikon D3100 and bought a book called, Mastering the Nikon D3100. Another book I bought was called Plate to Pixel and it was super insightful in teaching me about using my camera to photograph food.
I also highly recommend CreativeLive.com. It's an online resource with several different photography courses and workshops to help you. I still use this resource today.
When did you start blogging?
I launched Up Close & Tasty in the summer of 2013. It was just a hobby and my "blank canvas" to post my photography and recipes each week. I always looked forward to my weekends, because I would cook, style, shoot and post. I started to dread going back to work on Monday, because for the first time in my career, I felt like I had found what I was supposed to be doing. I had no idea that my hobby would turn into a career-changing passion, but it did. I grew my photography business on the side, got out of debt and eventually quit my day job. I couldn't be happier and although it has its challenges, I'm not looking back.
Favorite brand collaboration you've had so far?
Each brand collaboration has been unique and so much fun for me! I don't think I can pick a favorite, because they're all different collaborations. Some advice I have when it comes to working with brands is don't be afraid to reach out to them. One of my brand collaborations happened after they re-posted one of my images on their Instagram and credited me. My following boosted a bit and I sent a message to thank them and asked if they'd like to work together sometime. Long story short, we have had a partnership together throughout 2017 and now we're talking about 2018. So, you won't know until you ask! Also, don't assume silence is a "no." People are super busy, so follow up, but do it in moderation.
Any words of wisdom for those looking to start their own business whether in photography or in another field?
I once heard that, "Entrepreneurs are people who are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40." It's completely true. You'll work harder than you ever have before and learn so much about yourself in the process. But, if you love what you do, it doesn't always feel like "work." It's incredibly freeing and challenging to be your own boss, and it's incredibly rewarding to watch your craft grow and have people gravitate towards it.
Also, you'll have to learn to think like a business person, not just a creative person. It's very exciting to have a passion that you want to turn into a business, but it will involve learning your numbers - your cost of doing business and how to price yourself. Sue Bryce is an incredibly talented, self-made, successful photographer and has some great workshops on CreativeLive.com, including one on 'Discovering Your Worth.' I highly recommend it.
Do you have any favorite spots in Chicago?
I'm loving the Cold Storage happy hour lately. It's in the West Loop (my favorite neighborhood) and they have $1 oysters and beer and wine deals from 3-6 Monday through Friday. :) I also am a forever fan of the Oyster Bar at Shaw's.
What is a quote you live by?
"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow."