We interviewed Michelle Williams (NYC-based food & style blogger) to hear her tips and tricks for working with food.
Tell us about how you got started blogging, and what lead you to making it a full-time gig:
I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet outside of work that was just for me. So after work, I started writing about what I did, including tips and tricks to planning my own wedding. Ultimately, I ran out of content and not being a super girly girl, didn't want to hear about and write about other people's weddings so I expanded to all of the elements outside of my 9 to 5 that filled my life. Clothes, Music, Restaurants, Recipes, Cool Things Happening In The City.
At some point not too far after that, I switched from a corporate job to a less stable startup. Thinking that I may be a bit too exhausted with the new role to do all of my blogging at night, I decided that narrowing the focus of my blog would make it less daunting. I also hoped that this narrower scope would allow me to learn more about a specific topic. So, I made the decision on the spot. I get dressed every day and I eat every day, so I can be a fashion blogger or a food blogger. At the time, I knew more about fashion so I went the harder route and landed on food. In the snap of a finger I became a food blogger. As time progressed, my blog gained more and more traction. I began thinking I should do it full time but knew I wasn't quite ready to. Then, well, then the startup I was working for got bought out and got rid of all it's current employees. Knowing I'd dive into my next job and give it 100% of my attention, I chatted with my husband and we decided that I should try my little hobby full time and see where it could take me because the worst thing in the world is wondering "what if?". That was three-and-a-half years ago. It's been an incredible adventure of highs and lows since then. I wake up every day and get to take on exciting and creative projects in my own vision. It's a ton of work to make it a successful business but I absolutely love it!
What is your favorite food?
Sushi. There's something about a clean cut piece of nigiri with no frills that shows off the fresh high-quality of it's fish. As someone who loves farm experiences and farm fresh food, this experience, when done right, is always exciting to me.
What is your personal favorite restaurant, and why?
Root & Bone. I haven't really found better Southern Comfort food in the city. Every dish made me happy. From the biscuit crumble on top of the mac & cheese to the perfect crispiness of the fried chicken, or maybe it was the bucket of canned rosé sitting on the table—the mood was unbeatable and the company made it incredibly memorable.
What is the easiest food/dish to photograph and why?
As time goes by, I've found what angles and styles work for each dish. But if I truly have to think on it, I'd go with spaghetti. There are so many options for how to shoot it. Twirl it on a fork, do the classic pasta pull photo, add some parmesan for some visual texture—there are options which make it a great dish to practice your photography skills on.
What is the most difficult food/dish to photograph and why?
Any dish that is mostly one color. It makes the image flat. Especially if the restaurant has styled it on a plate that matches the food. It's not your fault if you come out with a bad photo, in this case, you have full right to blame the dish.
What are your tips for photographing food?
1. Shoot in natural light or by a window.
2. Make sure your light source is behind you but not so far behind you that you are casting a shadow (unless you are going for a specific shadow style).
3. Don't be afraid to move things around on the plate to make the dish look more photo-friendly.
4. Carry wet wipes for cleaning off your hands after all of those hand held food photos (trust me. And, you're welcome)
Why do you enjoy working with companies and how do you choose certain collaborations, any criteria?
I love working with companies. I come from an advertising background so working with great brands has always been a part of what I do. It's in my DNA at this point. Working with brands allows me to think outside of the box and create content around incredible products that highlight them in fun and innovative ways.
Tell us about your biggest personal achievement as a blogger.
I have had a lot of amazing opportunities not only come my way but ones that have been catered specifically for me. To work with brands that make me an ambassador of theirs and then getting flown places like Ireland to write about an event or have a booth at The New York Coffee Festival with my company's name embroidered into aprons of hired baristas and written on the walls of a booth—honestly, there are a lot of moments that I take great pride in, it's one of the reasons I love this career choice. The experiences and levels of achievement are unparalleled.
Do you have any lessons from past failures others could learn from?
Always have a signed contract before committing to a project or event. It doesn't matter how big the company is, there is a chance you can be taken advantage of. I surely was even with email written proof. Cover your bases. It's not awkward. Know, everyone does it.
Any advice for up and coming bloggers?
Figure out what your brand is. How you want it seen. What you want to say and stick to it. Don't sway. Even if a great brand reaches out, if they don't make sense for your brand, it's not worth it. Your audience will see through it and you will lose their trust. I've hated saying no to some big brands but sometimes visions don't align and it's not in the best interest of my company in the long run.
What social trends are you seeing unfold for 2018?
I don't know about other companies at this point, but my goal for 2018 is to show more of my life in a stylized way that still has a heavy focus on food. I've always done it a bit in the past. Now, I want to pay attention to doing it right with more attention and planning.
What did you think about City Marketing for Garment District?
I loved this project! As a person who explores New York City on a regular basis, focussing on one aspect of one neighborhood is exciting. I chose to focus on rooftop bars in The Garment District. It made for a super fun cocktail filled adventure while also creating a really useful guide for my readers.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
The approach I take to knowing food is two fold. One side of it is exploring great restaurants both new and old. The other is recipe development. Yes, I cook! And, well (not to toot my own horn too much). So, a few of the upcoming projects I'm most excited about will be created in the comforts of my own kitchen. To give you a little taste, I'm currently developing a recipe for Jarlsberg cheese where I am creating a savory play on cinnamon buns and am baking up homemade French Onion Buns! They for sure do have that classic spiral but inside are the delicious flavors of a French Onion Soup and they are topped with melted down creamy Jarlsberg cheese.
New York City, New York
United States of America
Primary Blogging Topic(s):
The Lifestyle Around Food
• Canon Rebel tt5i
• Tungsten Lamp (for videos shot at home)
• All Saints Backpack (her mobile office)
• SnapSeed (for on the go)
• After Effects
• Google Drive
• Coffee (it just makes all the work better)