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Why I Use Unstyled Photos

The world we currently live in is filled with a lot of highlight reels.  We see the perfect food, the perfect outfit, and the house that looks perfect.  The reality is that life isn't perfect and I feel like we need more real than highlight in our lives.

I've thought a lot about the photos I take and use here on the blog, as well as on Instagram.  I've also thought a lot about the styled photos so many other bloggers use.  I feel like there is no right or wrong way to take and share photos.  So, why do I choose real-life rather than stunning styled photos?

My number one reason is time, and maybe a bit of laziness.  I take most of the photos in the moment.  Right before eating the meal, or in the spur of the moment as things in my life happen.   I have zero interest in styling my food with props and the perfect garnish. Not to mention my daily life has no room for perfecting a food shot before we eat a meal.  I know millions of other bloggers value this step and feel it's worth the time, but I'm not a million other bloggers.  I don't play by anyone's rules but my own.  That's not to say things won't change in the future.  I always leave the door open for change and new opportunities.

Reason number two, which should maybe reason number one.  I want you, the reader, to feel like you can actually make and do what I share.  I don't want anyone to look at my photos and think "oh that looks amazing, but I could never make that".  I try to keep it real because let's face it, there's enough highlight reels int he world.  Real-life is messy, unstyled, and full of so many wonderful things.

The struggle is real in my own cooking, the perfectly styled photo is very intimidating.  Seriously, there is nothing more disappointing than making something and it turns out nothing like the photo.  I hate the feeling of failure that comes with making something that looks amazing online, but not in my kitchen.

I think one of the silver linings in all of this quarantine is seeing the real-life in everyone's kitchen.  The editors of Food 52 are cooking in their home kitchens, with just their phones and no videographer.  I can't get enough of their Instagram stories!  The Kitchn is another great one to follow in stories.  Rachel Ray has moved her "show" into her home with her hubby John doing the filming, sharing on Instagram TV.  Tasty is sharing a lot of at-home cooking as well.  We get to see their real kitchen, large and lovely, or tiny postage stamps in an apartment.  I'm also loving Alton Brown's Quarantine Kitchen that he's doing on Youtube with his wife Elizabeth every Tuesday.  The look into real life is refreshing and encouraging.  It humanizes all the cooks we love watching, following, and reading.

This is my goal of using real-life photos, to humanize what's happening here on the blog.  This is a look into my real life.  It's a small window, but shouldn't that window be into the reality of what my life is really like?  Shouldn't I be sharing reality instead of another sugar-coated option?

All of this said and laid on the table, it doesn't mean I don't put effort into the photos I take.  I do think about what is appealing when plating my food.  I also take lighting into consideration, which will always be a challenge in the winter in Alaska.  I want to take a photo that makes you want to eat my food, but more importantly, it makes you want to try the recipes I share and review.

As for the photos that aren't of food, my effort is to share with you our normal life in Alaska.  We aren't living the wild lives that the world is being fed from reality tv and if I'm going to share, I'm going to share what's real.  We're actually very much like so many other small towns in the US.  There are things that make Alaska unique, as there are with any other state, but most of us aren't hunting to survive and building a cabin in the wilderness.

In the end what it comes down to is keeping it human and real.   I choose not to style my photos because this isn't a lifestyle blog or a pro food blog.  This is a look into the life I live and a place for me to share my love of cooking.