Behind The Butter

ELR Photography I

Because I’m currently sitting in the cell phone waiting lot of the San Francisco Airport and the time is 12:56 am and because I’ve gotten many requests for a post on this subject, here is the very first ELR photography post!


Please be warned that I really know absolutely nothing on photography whatsoever. I’ve never taken a class or read a manual….everything I know (or, pretend I know), I’ve just learned by trial and error. I got my first dslr camera last October and have had a blast playing with it so far. I love photography as an art form and food photography makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You definitely do not need a super expensive fancy camera though to take good photos. I shot with a tiny red Canon Powershot for years and loved it. As Almanzo would say, it’s not the camera (or the lens!), it’s the photographer.

A bunch of you all seemed interested though in how I’ve been getting the shots I’ve getting (like the above photo) and I’ve been getting quite a few emails asking what lens I’m using and what setting I have my camera on. To get these kinds of close-up photos with a blurry background, you really need a macro lens. I just bought a Tamron 60mm macro a week ago and LOVE it. It was definitely an investment, but for what I do it makes sense.

With a macro lens, you can get photos like this:



And this:


All these photos were shot with my 60mm macro, in manual mode with a very low aperture and a fast shutter speed. If what I just said makes absolutely no sense and you would rather just go eat a cookie, go ahead.

That’s better.
Now when I say I’m using a “low aperture” that simply just means I’m letting more light into camera. If I’m shooting in a low light area (like my kitchen), I usually keep my aperture set really low so I can get a really good close-up shot of the food I want to photograph as well as a good depth of field (blurry background). If I’m outside and it’s bright sunny daylight out, I’ll raise my aperture because I don’t need as much light to come into the camera (because it’s already light outside). Get it?
It’s okay if you don’t. It took me about six months for that idea to really stick in my brain. I promise, if this is confusing to you, one day it will just stick and you will have that photography “ah-hah!” moment and love everything and everyone. But until then….it can be a difficult concept to grasp.
You want to know another one of my secrets? I edit all my photos. I have no idea how to work Photoshop, but I do my fair share of photo editing on iphoto and mess around with the contrast, saturation and sharpness of all my food photos before I post them. Using a photo editing program, you can really turn good photos in AMAZING photos.

It is now 1:13 and Almanzo just texted me to tell me he has FINALLY landed (after being delayed four times coming out of Chicago), so I must retreat….but we shall discuss this later. Hopefully something I said just made some sense and I’m not just writing this mindless post while half asleep in the airport parking lot.
I’ll be back.

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  • Julia @ Brit Bride
    August 10, 2010 at 1:36 am

    You are such an enabler – you make me want to buy a new camera so badly!

    Maybe for Christmas?!

    Julia x

  • Becky
    August 10, 2010 at 3:12 am

    I’d love to learn more about the editing process. Could you post some before- and after- shots so we can see how you adjust the images?

  • Tina
    August 10, 2010 at 3:13 am

    I know that photography “aha” moment you are talking about! Just this past weekend even things started clicking more and I ventured into manual mode from eithe Av or Sv mode. Love it! I know I would still love a macro lens though.

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is
    August 10, 2010 at 3:30 am

    This is perfect because I just got a DSLR. Thanks Jenna!

  • Maggie
    August 10, 2010 at 3:33 am

    This post totally made sense, don’t worry!

    But I really want to say that I read your chocolate chip cookie post right before I went to bed last night and I had a dream I was browning butter and making chocolate chip cookies. It was pretty great. 🙂

  • Keri
    August 10, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Thank you!!! I didn’t email you but I have been so curious about this! I want to get a dsrl but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to figure it out…

    • Kelly
      August 10, 2010 at 11:17 am

      It’s easier than you would think although I think taking a class helps. I am more of a hands on learner myself so I found being with an instructor SO much easier than using a manual. Playing around also helps.

  • Pure2Raw Twins
    August 10, 2010 at 3:43 am

    Thanks for sharing your tips. I have so interested in learning more about photography and cameras. Now this makes me what to get a new camera 🙂

  • Jenn
    August 10, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Gorgeous photos…earlier inspired me to make your zucchini pizza….ROCKED! I added fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden. heavenly!

  • Courtney (Delightful Devours)
    August 10, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Fantastic post! I really do love your photographs. I really want a new camera (want, not need) and now that I know you edit your photos, it gives me hope!

  • Stacey
    August 10, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Thanks for the great tips.

  • Annie D @ Annie's Simple Life
    August 10, 2010 at 4:14 am

    BEAUTIFUL pictures. OMG. You’re so talented!!

  • eatmovelove
    August 10, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Photography is an art I think. People think it’s just snap the picture…but uh, no…especially if you’ve seen mine..

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    August 10, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Great pics!! Hopefully I can get a macro lens someday 🙂

  • Chelsey
    August 10, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I agree, your new lens investment was a good one!

    I have never ever THOUGHT about editing my photos before I put them up. Thanks for the insight – maybe now I can live with my cybershot for a little bit longer. 🙂

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie
    August 10, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Through my blog I’m slowly but surely learning more about photography but I’m definitely not where you are yet! Your photos are beautiful.

    Manual focus kids, it makes all the difference.

  • Heather
    August 10, 2010 at 4:45 am

    it’s totally all about the photographer…but having a nice camera helps too 🙂 i’m thankful that i have a photographer husband and learned how to use our cameras, but just like anything it’s a process. there’s still so much to learn!

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down)
    August 10, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Photography is such a learning process. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the “aha” moment, and I feel as if I’ve had at least half a dozen. I’m constantly learning new things, and that’s one of the things I love most about it. 😀

    GREAT pictures, once again, Jenna! 😀

  • Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble)
    August 10, 2010 at 5:03 am

    AWESOME post! I really want a DSLR and I know I will be so darn confused when I get around to getting mine… these will help for sure!


  • OK Chick
    August 10, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Great pictures!

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    August 10, 2010 at 5:13 am

    I think the main reason I love my DSLR is for the ability to play with the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. If I were just shooting auto then I’d stick to a cheaper point-and-shoot. And I also love iPhoto’s editing capabilities. I had used Photoshop on my old computer but never put it on my new one yet. I was surprised at how much you can do just from iPhoto.

  • Marisa @ Loser for Life
    August 10, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Thanks for the tips! One of my goals this coming year is to take better pictures! I die for a DSLR. Saving, saving, saving…

  • rachael
    August 10, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Love the photography tips, keep ’em coming! I started reading your blog last fall and you have really become a wonderful photographer.

  • Katie P
    August 10, 2010 at 5:30 am

    when you use manual, how do you keep your entire photo from not being blurry? no matter how still your hand stays it still moves a little bit and that shows up in my photos when I’m using manual.

    • Kelly
      August 10, 2010 at 11:15 am

      Usually when people are referring to shooting in manual they are referring to adjusting the appeture, shutter speed and image sensor. But you can adjust these things and still have the focusing happen automatically. It sounds to me though like you probably need to use a faster shutter speed or use a tripod. Those are the common causes of blurring.

      Note that if you are using a macro lens shooting at a higher speed or using a tripod is even more necessary because the closer you are the more you are magnifying the shake.

  • jassy
    August 10, 2010 at 5:35 am

    thanks for sharing your secrets on food photography…so macro is the answer 🙂

    • Kelly
      August 10, 2010 at 11:16 am

      Definitely agree that macro lenses are great. I have one and love it. I think not being afraid to go off of automatic is also key. The computer in the camera tries to do the best it can, but often as Jenna says the photographer is so much more important than the equipment.

  • Daisy
    August 10, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Jenna – this is great. I took a photography glass in high school and it’s kind of all coming back to me! basically what I am saying is, I know what you are talking about. You are making sense, perfect sense. I have a Cannon Powershot and I think it takes lovely pics as you mentioned! Some cameras (such as the powershot) have a macro function. People might now know this…while it’s nothing like your 60mm lens, its a great tool to shoot close up shots of food and have them be a little clearer! You should mention that!!

    A DSLR is a distant dream of mine. Keep taking brillant shots, and editing them however you do.

  • Nicole - yuppie yogini
    August 10, 2010 at 5:57 am

    Thanks for the photo tips…that would be a cool blog segment and you obviously have learned a thing or two 😉

  • jenna
    August 10, 2010 at 5:59 am

    these are some really good tips! I’m also a firm believer in a good can achieve this quality with a point and shoot.

  • Heather @ Sugar & Spice
    August 10, 2010 at 6:05 am

    Jenna – your photographs are always so beautiful!

  • Nancy @ The Wife of a Dairyman
    August 10, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Love your all your photographs but especially your food photography. When in a dark restaurant, do you use a flash? If not, what is your camera set at? Thanks!

  • Barb
    August 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

    question — is Almanzo aka Adam the same Adam you worked with in the bakery in 2008?

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf
    August 10, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Thanks for the info! I like hearing what other bloggers do for their photos. I used an SLR all through college (borrowed. I was the photographer for the school newspaper, and was an art major, so they forgave me for using it to do everything), but some of the best photos I’ve ever taken were taken with a dinky fuji digital camera (2.0 megapixel!), circa 2002.

  • RhodeyGirl
    August 10, 2010 at 6:36 am

    That last photo makes me want to jump through the screen.

  • Chelsea (Chelsea's Chew and Run Fun)
    August 10, 2010 at 6:38 am

    This is a great introductory post. I’ve been fiddling around with a macro lens and the quality is amazing. However, I’m still having trouble shooting in low lighting…I’ll have to tinker with my aperture settings now that I’ve read this.

  • Camille
    August 10, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Gorgeous photos!
    An SLR is my birthday/holiday wish… hoping and praying!

  • Cynthia (It All Changes)
    August 10, 2010 at 6:58 am

    I think I’ll eat the cookie 🙂 But I have learned the Macro setting on my point and shoot is a life saver when it comes to most food photography. Someday I’ll invest in a DSLR. Until then I’ll stick to the cookies 🙂

  • Dorry
    August 10, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Great tips – gorgeous photos!

  • Katelynn
    August 10, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Gorgeous photos Jenna! I am hoping to get a good camera soon. A DSLR is on my list!

  • Maria @ Oh Healthy Day
    August 10, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’m still learning aperature and AV settings, etc. and yes, it’s kind of hard to keep it all sorted out. All I know is that my photos turn out so much better outside than inside…

    I was at the SFO cell phone lot a few nights ago and its super spooky. And why does it seem like it’s in a whole new city than the airport is?

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers
    August 10, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Your pictures are definitely beautiful!!! Funny that you just posted this- I got my first dslr this week, but did a post yesterday about how to make the most of your point & shoot just to prove you don’t HAVE to have a fancy camera- although I love mine so far 🙂

  • Lauren @ 40Apples
    August 10, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Such beautiful photographs! Seriously, lense might be great but the photographer had a lot to do with it 😉
    I have a dslr but what I really need is the up-close-and-personal lense; I’m such a sucker for good food photography I feel it’s highly necessary.

  • Jasmine @ Eat Move Write
    August 10, 2010 at 7:49 am

    I have a Nikon D3000, so my pictures are pretty decent already (me thinks). I CANNOT imagine, though, how much cooler they are with a macro lens. I’m still trying to justify that purchase. The camera itself was a small fortune!

  • Beth @ DiningAndDishing
    August 10, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for this post Jenna! I am interested in purchasing a good camera for foodie photography in the near future. I’d love to hear more on this topic :).

  • Maria @ Kale and Cupcakes
    August 10, 2010 at 8:29 am

    You totally explained it well! I’m a true photography novice so this is totally helpful.

  • Lindsay
    August 10, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Love this post! I also just want to echo another commenter that on many point and shoots there is a macro setting (usually the little flower) and you can replicate these types of photos – blurry background, super clear/crisp shot of a flower, food, something else up close. Try it out! This setting has kept me busy, while I save for my first DSLR.

  • kellie
    August 10, 2010 at 8:56 am

    any lens that allows you to dial down the aperture (which actually makes the opening bigger to let in more light) will give you a short depth of field (resulting in blurry backgrounds or foregrounds). canon makes a 50mm 1.8 that’s around $100 that works great for this.

    • Kelly
      August 10, 2010 at 11:26 am

      Agreed. The macro has more to do with how close you can be to your subject where as if it it’s a depth of field you’re going for aperature is much more important.

  • Susan
    August 10, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Amazing, and what’s more amazing is that nothing has been done to the food to enhance the “beauty shot”.

    Thanks for the tips…

  • Maria
    August 10, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for the informative post. I want a dslr, so I too can take great photos.

  • Suzanne de Cornelia
    August 10, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Great post and photos! You are developing such terrific skills! I never was interested in cameras and photography-for myself-until had a blog. When a BF gave me a new fancy professional Minolta outfit, I gifted it to my Danish exchange student months later and still unused with a ‘Here you go’ when she said ‘Wish I had a camera like that.’ I might regret it a bit, except she loved it so much, and now that I’d actually appreciate having one, perhaps an even better camera is on the way.

  • Sarah @ Sarah's Shaping Up
    August 10, 2010 at 10:03 am

    When I’m no longer living on my college student budget, the first thing I’m purchasing is a DSLR camera.. and I will definitely be referencing this post. 🙂

  • Sarah for Real
    August 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Thanks! Yes that was very accessible information. It’s nice to hear from someone who is new-ish with fancy schmansy photography. Your stuff is beautiful!

  • Amanda
    August 10, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Thanks! I love hearing this explained from someone who hasn’t taken a class! Sometimes trial and error is much more fun!

  • Rhonda Pearson
    August 10, 2010 at 10:44 am

    What photo editor program do you use?

    • jenna
      August 10, 2010 at 10:52 am

      oh, just iphoto on my mac!

  • Rocky Slaughter
    August 10, 2010 at 10:58 am

    SHALLOW depth of field. SHALLOW! (not good)


    Good work Jenna. I’m proud of you.

  • Tammy (Defining Wellness)
    August 10, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Glad you got your lens! I remember when you were eyeing up my camera a few months ago. 🙂 It’s so much fun to play with cameras and lenses and iPhoto editing — one of the best parts of blogging for me.

    So nice of you to post your tips!

  • Megan (Braise The Roof)
    August 10, 2010 at 11:35 am

    This is a really helpful post, Jenna! Can you tell us more about how you edit the photos? Are we talking cropping/resizing/color editing?

  • Janna (janna's keeping it real)
    August 10, 2010 at 11:45 am

    What a great post! I’m bookmarking (right next to Caitlin’s) for the future…I WILL be a DSLR owner before this year is over… I just loved taking photographs in highschool photography, and it has been on my “someday” list since then…

  • Stacey
    August 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Not only are your photos great, but they are seriously making me hungry 😀 Thanks for the info!

  • Crystle
    August 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I like the exposure of your photos.
    I’ve always wanted to own a digital SLR, preferably the Nikon D300s, unfortunately the money Gods are not on my side.
    Btw, your previous posts had gorgeous shots of the cookies, as well as the pasta!

  • stephanie@Avocado Nation
    August 10, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    My boyfriend has a DSLR and he loves it like a child. I would really love to learn how to use it so I think I will be paying extra attention to your posts from now on.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    August 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    You sound pretty knowledgeable for someone who is only self-taught! Great post!!

  • Julianne
    August 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I can’t believe you’ve never taken classes! Seriously, your take amazing photos!

  • Rebekah @Rebeltarian
    August 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm


  • Chandra (@ prettytimepiece)
    August 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    gorgeous pic-chaaaas! 😀

    i am dying to get a DSLR. i’ve loved photography for a long time but always just made due with a point&shoot. and lots of iphoto editing as well, hehe!

  • elise
    August 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

    thanks for this post. i always admire your pics, and its a relief to know that it doesnt take a super tech photo nerd to produce such gorgeousness…do you think a macro setting on a non-dslr camera could create such beauty? i know you say its the photographer, but i only have a canon powershot…for now (one can dream right?). anyways, for random question number 3 for you, how many cameras do you have now?

  • sarah k. @ the pajama chef
    August 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    thanks for all the info. i just got a new camera (a nikon p100) and it’s a point & shoot but it’s got a lot of fancy features that i can’t wait to try out. i’d love to get a dslr but currently don’t have the resources/time to use/learn a dslr to the fullest now. but this was very helpful. thanks!