Day in the Life: Recipe Photoshoots

‘Sup fam? Serious question. I’m 29. Is that too old to be calling everyone “fam”? Because I can’t stop. Somehow I work “Come through fam, it’s lit” into a sentence like once a day and I’m starting to think I need an intervention.

Anywho…

DITL posts always seem to be a hit so I figured I’d throw another one at you to show you what a recipe shooting day looks like for me (this was yesterday). I’ve mentioned before that I try to focus on one task category a day because it helps me be way more productive. I’ll go into a recipe shoot day with at least two weeks worth of food content planned. In the winter months, sunlight hours are limited, so I wouldn’t be able to shoot more than that in a day, but in the summer, I am typically able to stretch that to three weeks worth of food content. Clearly some preparation needs to happen prior to shoot days so I’ll start with all that’s done leading up to them.

Preparing for a Day of Recipe Shooting

  • Recipe creation and testing – I’m not a dedicated food blog so it’s not like I need to be cranking out new recipes right and left. I’ll play around with new recipes throughout the week and jot them down in a notebook as I go. If they need tweaking (they almost always do), I’ll leave notes and jot down ingredient changes for the next time I attempt the recipe. Once I have 3-5 keepers with all the kinks worked out, I’ll set a date for a big recipe shoot of all of them.
  • Check the weather forecast – Lighting is EVERYTHING when it comes to taking pictures of your food. With my window setup, I need a sunny day with little to no clouds for the best results (for others, cloudy days might actually be best–totally depends on the direction your window is facing and the layout of the room). I’ll look at the week’s forecast, pick a sunny day, and mark it down on my calendar.
  • Make a grocery list – I then go through my notebook and write down all the ingredients I’ll need for all the recipes in a separate shopping list, crosschecking my kitchen cabinets so that I don’t buy anything I already have.
  • Grocery shopping – I live in a city and don’t have a car anymore so big shopping trips are tricky. I’ll usually break up my list into a few separate trips, going to Roche Brothers a couple days in advance to get the bulk and stock ingredients and then Whole Foods the day before or day of to get all the produce.

Day in the Life

5AM | Wake Up, Walk to the Studio, Panic Attack

I woke up at 5AM, quickly got myself ready and then made the short walk to Btone to teach my morning classes. I spent a couple minutes testing out one of the transitions I had planned for that day’s routine and I’m glad I did–totally weird and clunky. Change of plans! As I got my playlist queued up and waited for everyone to arrive, I realized I hadn’t brought a snack with me to the studio (usually I eat a Larabar or an apple before teaching in the early morning). NOOooOooOoOOOOoooo. I stared forlornly at my water bottle full of stupid water, wished it were edible, then got over it.

6-9AM | Teach

WEARING | Fabletics top & leggings // ToeSox grippy socks

On Wednesdays I teach three back-to-back classes. There are always tons of regulars and familiar faces so it’s a really fun block for me to teach. I know teaching three fitness classes on an empty stomach sounds insane but there’s no downtime in between the classes to even really think about it. Honestly didn’t bother me until the last class ended. Then the hanger hit …

9:30 | Whole Foods Run

I walked from the studio to the Whole Foods at Ink Block, blind with hunger, stumbling off the sidewalk, clutching to chainlink fences as my vision blurred and the world around me spun dangerously out of control. My knees buckle as my empty stomach churns and twists and I hurl myself across the pavement one forearm in front of the other, dragging my lifeless body inch by inch closer to the doors of salvation.

Me? Dramatic? Nahhh.

YOU GUYS. I am a real peach to be around when I’m hangry. That above paragraph didn’t actually happen per se, but it was happening in my mind, ya feel me?!

I booked it straight to the smoothie bar, probably shoving innocent elderly women out of my way in the process (can’t say for sure, I think I blacked out), and ordered a juice and a smoothie and then grabbed a Larabar off the shelf and ate it while I waited for my breakfast. As long as you don’t rip the barcode and hand the cashier your wrapper to scan, I think it’s totally acceptable to eat your food before paying for it at grocery stores … right?

Wow this blog post is all over the place. Focus, Nicole, FOCUS!

I got the remaining ingredients I’d need for the recipe shoot and walked home.

10:30 | Prep for Cooking/Shooting/Life

Joe left the kitchen really clean for me, which was awesome because I could get right to work!

In all fairness, I, too, am a bit of a slob. Before diving into the cooking I:

  • Cleaned the kitchen
  • Got dressed – I’ve noticed that taking a few minutes to put together a cute outfit and maybe–MAYBE–some mascara actually helps me be a little more productive when working from home. It doesn’t happen every day (as my Snapchat followers have probably noticed by now haha), but the past few months I have been making an effort to wear normal clothes more often.

WEARING | Demi Bolo Necklace by Vanessa Mooney c/o Shopbop // RAILS shirt (RAILS is amazing–seriously worth the money!!) // Level 99 jeans

  • Queued up an audio book – When I’m cooking, I either like to listen to informative podcasts on health and wellness or listen to scandalous fiction crime novels with absolutely no educational value. There is no in between. Right now I’m listening to The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz which is good–definitely entertaining–but a little ridiculous. There’s a brain tumor and amnesia involved soooo … enough said.

Now it’s time to cook!

11:30-4PM | Cook and Shoot (and Eat)

As far as my shoot setup goes, it’s about as barebones as it gets. My desk is white and in a corner right by a big window so I just clear it off and use that. Back in my old, dark apartment, I had a whole white poster board wall system to bounce light, but the walls of my desk nook pretty much take care of that for me. I don’t use a ton of props either because I live in a one-bedroom apartment–storage space is far from plentiful.

It looks a bit depressing from behind the scenes but just check out the end result: 

Like what?! Proof that you don’t need a ton of expensive equipment to start a blog.

Whatever the cook time of a recipe is, I have to add on at least 30 minutes when shooting because I’ll stop throughout the process to walk everything into my bedroom and take pictures of it. The in-progress shots don’t always make it into the final recipe blog post, but I find they come in handy when I need pretty stock photography of food for other blog posts and social shares. 

In total, I shot three recipes and then two other food-related things for a client. Since I don’t post more than one or two recipes in a week on the blog, this content will last me until mid-February–score!

4-5:30PM | Emails

My most loathed part of blogging: the ever-exploding email inbox.

6PM | Yoga

(I chickened out taking a selfie at the studio and instead just took one of the mats–so stealth haha)

Monday and Tuesday were intense workout days for me and my body was like gurrrl get yo’ ass to yoga. I went to Slow Flow at YogaWorks with Kate and I seriously can’t recommend her classes enough. Slow Flow is a gentler vinyasa mixed with restorative poses and my body just screams YASSS this is delicious the entire time.

Side note: why is my body talking like a sassy drag queen?!

I actually had one of those emotional release moments in this yoga class that I talked about here. We were laying on our backs with a rolled blanket under the base of our shoulder blades and the stretch was giving me an intense opening through the upper rib cage. Suddenly a wave of intense anxiety came out of no where and I had a mini panic attack. Why am I so anxious? Am I forgetting something I should be doing right now? Did I leave the oven on? But just as quickly as the anxiety rose up, it vanished and I realized it was probably getting released with the stretch–so crazy when that happens!

7:30-10PM | Dinner, Class Plan, TV

After yoga, I showered, munched on some leftover stuffed peppers from the shoot for dinner and settled onto the couch. I planned the next morning’s Btone class and watched some mindless TV before getting into bed at 10pm.

And that was my day! Any crime/murder mystery book suggestions for me? Boston friends–have you tried Slow Flow? Fellow bloggers–what do your recipe shoots look like?

Some links to outfit details are affiliate. 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

Hey there! Remember me? I’ve been on a much-needed social media/blogging break these past couple weeks. With a crazy-busy teaching schedule subbing classes during the holidays and already feeling a bit burnt out, I decided a mini blog vacation was in order. And I must say, a week of eating my food without first worrying about taking a picture of it with optimal lighting was pretty damn refreshing. 😉

My teaching schedule goes back to normal next week and I’m excited to get back in the swing of things with Pumps. Clearly my little hiatus was needed because I’ve gone from feeling totally uninspired to bursting at the seams with plans and ambitions for the new year. Time to get to work!

Before jumping to the new year’s plans, I wanted to look back on some highlights from 2016. These are the most popular blog posts (determined by page views) from this last year. For fellow bloggers, I’ve included my thoughts on why these particular posts performed better than the rest–hopefully it will give you some ideas for strategizing your content calendar in 2017!

Top 5 Blog Posts from 2016

5. Slow Cooker Mexican Rice & Beans

It’s funny. I consider the backbone of this blog to be the workout posts yet they are NEVER the most viewed. Recipe posts do well for me because they’re the most likely to be picked up and shared by list and roundup-style sites like BuzzFeed.

4. What I’m REALLY Thinking While Teaching a Group Fitness Class

Posts like this do well because the title makes you want to click and the content is a conversation starter and relatable. Most of the traffic to this post came from Facebook as fellow fitness instructors shared with their friends and tagged others in the comments.

3. Stitch Fix Review–Help Me Decide What to Keep!

Yumi Kim dress on left also comes in a mini length that’s cute

Stitch Fix posts always seem to be popular, but this one most likely did especially well because of the call to action in the title.

2. Standing Core Workout

The only workout to make the top 5! I think this one did well because of how specific it is. Not just a core workout, but one using only standing exercises. As far as SEO and Google goes, often the more specific you get, the better chance you have of showing up higher in the search rankings. If I generically title a post “Core Workout” I’m competing with thousands of other “Core Workout”s and who’s going to win that SEO race–lil’ old me or a goliath like PopSugar? No contest. Another reason this one did well was because of the great lighting I had that day. I consider the photos in this post to be some of the clearest and cleanest of my workout posts and the result was a pictorial that blew up on Pinterest. Good lighting + solid-colored backdrop + cute outfit = Pinterest success.

1. Almond Butter Banana Chia Seed Pudding

This recipe is delicious! Again, food posts always do well for me as they’re the most likely to be picked up and included in roundups by other sites.

Now a couple other highlights from the year …

Top Blog Post from Any Year: Stupid-Easy Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken

This was my most highly trafficked blog post this year (originally posted in 2015) and it’s a bit ironic because I actually don’t eat chicken any more (I’ll do a blog post elaborating on that eventually).

Most Viewed YouTube Video: 12-Minute Lower Body HIIT Workout

This workout targets the butt and legs and while it’s only 12 minutes long, trust me, you wouldn’t want it to be a second longer. So. Challenging.

Most Liked Instagrams

I love that the most popular photo I’ve ever posted isn’t a recipe or a workout or anything remotely health related. Nope. Just me and my boyfriend dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro (LOL). Other highlights included running the Boston Marathon, a childhood diary entry (this one is funny, too) and pretty scenery. 

dress in bottom right is Jetset Diaries – love their long-sleeve boho dresses, too (how cute would this one be with over-the-knee boots?!)

And that’s that! I used to set all these lofty income, traffic number and follower count goals for the blog each year, but I’ve found that just leads to disappointment and a focus on the wrong things. Last year I shifted my goal-making strategy to be more project based. The big one was to get a YouTube channel up and running and while I’ve still got a lot of improvements to make, I’d consider that a success! For 2017, I’m focusing on furthering my own education in the health and fitness fields so that I can then share more with you guys. The only thing I love more than teaching is being a student and I’ve found that I really miss the whole schooling process (cue the nerd jokes). I intend for the new year to bring courses, classes, certification programs, and conferences my way. 🙂

Are you setting goals for 2017? What are they? What were some highlights from 2016?

A Day in the Life: When Blogging Is Not Your Average 9 to 5 (+Giveaway)

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogAs promised, I’ve got another day-in-the-life post, this one documenting a hands-on, active blog work day. If you missed my first post, here’s a day of desk-job blogging. For today’s I thought it’d be interesting to tie in one of my current blog partners as well so that you get a peek into what the interaction with product sponsors is like.

Orchard Valley Harvest has two new fruit and nut mixes available as Multi Packs (eight, one-ounce pouches), and as they’re delicious, I was excited to team up with them. As part of the project they sent me a bunch of samples of the Omega-3 and Antioxidant mixes and when you combine edible free gift packages with a work-from-home job, the result is often nonstop snacking. I’ve been on a three-pack-a-day habit, and as I was documenting my day for this post and realized every other picture was me eating a nut mix pack, I decided that this should be the feature. So while, yes, Orchard Valley Harvest is a partner of this blog post, the copious mentions are by no means forced. You try looking at snack-sized portions of nuts all day without going to chow town on them! 😉

This post was my day Wednesday–on the calendar for me was a video shoot and recipe test.

A Day in the Life: When Blogging Is Not Your Average 9 to 5

5 AM | Wake up, flawless

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogHair on fleek, face on fleek, breath on fleek. I had stayed up until 2AM watching election coverage against my better judgement (I couldn’t have slept if I tried) so I wouldn’t exactly say that alarm was welcomed. But one good thing about my late night was that I had the time to brew a big pot of coffee to have in the refrigerator for the morning. A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

I downed a glass of water and my vitamins (MegaFood vitamins can be taken on an empty stomach–score!); poured a little almond milk into my iced coffee; and grabbed a snack to keep me energized through my classes.

6 – 9AM | Teach

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

shirt c/o Fabletics // Booty By Brabants leggings // ToeSox grippy socks

On Wednesdays I teach three classes at Btone’s Back Bay studio. I don’t do the workout while teaching (I demo exercises and then walk around correcting form) so teaching three isn’t as daunting as it may sound.

9 – 9:30AM | “Me” time

I just could not shake the sadness I felt about the election, so as I walked home through the Public Garden and Commons, I decided to take a few minutes to sit on a bench, clear my head and meditate. I’m about to sound like a total weirdo, but I have a favorite bench in the Public Garden (sure, why not) and any time it’s unoccupied on my walk home from teaching in the morning, I take it as a sign I should stop for 5-10 minutes, sit down and meditate. A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

I meditated for about 10 minutes and then continued to sit there calmly, appreciating the beautiful city I call home and the crisp fall weather. In all it was only about 20 minutes out of my morning, but it really helped set the tone for a productive, positive day. Remind me again why I don’t do this every morning?? A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

On the walk home, I ate the Omega-3 Mix that was still in my purse (I surprisingly wasn’t hungry while teaching).

9:30 | Breakfast

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogI had some leftover roasted veggies in the fridge from last night’s dinner so I reheated those and spread them over a piece of toast and a fried egg. Easy, yummy, filling. I had roasted the veggies in cumin, paprika and cayenne so breakfast had a bit of a kick to it which I love.

10 – 1:30 | Shoot three videos (two workouts and a form tutorial)

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogGoing into a shoot, I already have the workouts planned out. I have a notebook that I write them down in along with recipes in the works and any other blog content ideas I come up with throughout the week. I also plan the outfits the night before so that I can be sure to incorporate any new activewear I haven’t yet worn on the blog. There are other little considerations that also need to go into the outfit planning: If it’s a sponsored post, I often need to make sure no other brand labels are visible; if it’s a tutorial on form, I try to wear a tight-fitting top instead of a loose muscle tank so that you can more clearly see my body alignment. I had these three outfits already planned: A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

After almost a year of using Breather room rentals for video shoots, I’m done with the service. At first I had credit with them, but the credit has dried up and their prices have risen so it doesn’t make sense for me to spend $30-60/hour to shoot blog content. Plus, lugging workout equipment to the rooms was buh-ru-tal.

My apartment is not by any means ideal for shooting workouts. The bedroom is the only room with natural light but there’s not a ton of space so I have to push the dresser out of the bedroom and into the living room in order to shoot. Still way more convenient than shooting elsewhere though! Eventually I need to come up with a better solution but my motto with blogging has always been “Do the best you can with what you have,” so this will be a-ok for now. 🙂

Joe and I are messy, so in addition to moving my dresser, I have to spend some time cleaning before I can shoot. And in our defense, there is a big difference between messy and dirty, and we’re just messy. I scrub the bathrooms, do the dishes, dust, vacuum–I have a sanitary home, I promise. I just also happen to throw my clothes all over the place when getting dressed and haven’t made the bed in, oh I don’t know, five years.

I start with ambitious cleaning goals before shooting workouts but usually end up just pushing my heaps of clothing out of the video frame. Here’s the side of the room that’ll be in the shot vs. the side of the room behind the camera: A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

L.O.L.

My least favorite part of days when I have to be in the pictures is making myself look presentable (wow I’m really making myself seem like a slob in this blog post, huh??). I’m unskilled and uninterested when it comes to hair and makeup but I cover the basics before putting on my first outfit. When choosing the order of videos to shoot I usually save the sweatiest workout for last so that I don’t look like a hot mess in the others.  A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

Usually between two and fifteen things don’t go as planned during shoots (another reason it makes sense to do them in my apartment!). The three I did that day went fairly smoothly, but I shot the last workout and as I watched it back realized how obnoxious these cables look: A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

Do I re-shoot it somewhere else? Where? They’re threaded into the wall so I can’t remove the cables. Ughhh. Might just call it a wash and post to YouTube, cables and all. A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

In between shooting, I had two more Orchard Valley Harvest mixes. The first one because I was hungry; the second because, well, you try working four feet from your kitchen. 😉

1:30 – 3 | Recipe testing for lunch

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogI had a baked oatmeal recipe I wanted to test out and planned ahead to have all the ingredients on hand. It’s a recipe I’ve played around with before so I was hoping I’d nail it this time and be able to photograph it for the blog. Success! I shot the pretty oatmeal cups by my bedroom window and enjoyed a couple for lunch.

3-6 PM | Emails, social scheduling, class planning

By now my energy is starting to wane (staying up until 2AM will do that to you), and while I had high hopes of editing all the video material I just shot, I needed to call it a day with that. Instead I spent a couple hours digging myself out of the never-ending email hole I’m in, scheduling posts for Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and planning the next day’s class.

6PM | Veg Out

img_5849I had plans to get out of the apartment, grocery shop and make a nice dinner but I’m clearly not in my early 20s anymore because that whole three hours of sleep thing knocked me on my ass. How did I used to pull all-nighters in the library (…and club, let’s be honest here) during college and still be fully functional the next day? How?? Oh, to be young again. 😉 A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the Blog

I lounged on my couch reading (just finished Still Life, which I’d summarize as a good–not great–murder mystery), and instead of grocery shopping and cooking, Joe brought me home a bowl from Sweetgreen (Earth Bowl, no chicken = my go-to order).

8:30PM | Bedtime

With another 5AM wake up ahead of me, I went to bed early and it was glorious. I’m actually surprised I even managed to stay up that late.

Reader Giveaway

A Day in the Life: Creating Content for the BlogOrchard Valley Harvest is giving one reader a prize package of these two mixes AND a $50 Visa gift card. The Antioxidant Mix is a blend of roasted almonds, dried sweetened cranberries, blueberries, roasted cashews and pepitas. The Omega-3 Mix is a blend of walnuts, dried sweetened cranberries and blueberries, almonds and pistachios. Both are delicious, non-GMO and free of artificial ingredients. Score!

Use the widget below to enter the giveaway. I’ll pick a winner Monday evening. Good luck!

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Have you tried Orchard Valley Harvest’s fruit and nut mixes?

Did you stay up late to watch the election or wait until the morning to see the results?

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Orchard Valley Harvest. The opinions and text are all mine.