Welcome to my blog which has been the place for me to share the inspiration and my love for healthy food and lifestyle.
Why do you blog?
I started this blog because of practical reasons. Quite often I found myself in the kitchen creating new recipes. Then sometimes I wrote them down in my notebook or some random papers which were everywhere. So, when I wanted to make the same thing again, then those notes were gone and time has passed … I had to start all over again.
Also, many people were asking me some of my recipes. Quite often I was in trouble because many of my “recipes” were just in my mind or feeling and I couldn´t tell the people how many grams or cups of something I used. So, one day when I was looking for my random sheets to give someone my recipe, I understood that these endless notes are useless when I need them. So, it was easier to write them down correctly for everyone who can get some inspiration or help out of my recipes.
Who is behind healthylaura.com? Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background. How did you get started with food photography?
I´m Laura Kuklase, a dreamer from a small country called Estonia which is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe with a cold climate and a population around 1.3 million. I also need to apologize for not being word-perfect in English. It’s not my first language.
You can usually find me in the kitchen covered with cocoa powder or almond flour. No, I didn’t graduate from culinary school. Instead, I studied law for 5 years and graduated it this year. However, the kitchen has always been my happy place where I have been since childhood. I just love food and spending time in the kitchen.
How a lawyer became a food blogger? I have no idea. These two don’t go together very well. Probably it happened because I’m in love with cooking since childhood. I started to live alone when I was 15 years old and as a young teenager who spends long hours training and studying, you need to eat. A lot. So, I started to spend time in the kitchen more and more. Cooking and baking became my meditation. In my free time, I hide in the kitchen, where I started to bake and cook something for myself and others. At first, I read tons of recipes and tried to create all the dishes I could think of. After some time I started to experiment and be creative to develop new recipes. In most cases, I already knew the basics and wanted to try different flavour combinations.
Photography is another part of me. I have learned everything about photography by myself, mostly by watching tutorials on the Internet. I can spend endless hours talking about photography or looking at amazing images on Pinterest or Instagram to gather some inspiration.
My interest in photography began seven years ago when I got my first DSLR camera. It was a Nikon D90 which I got as a gift from my lovely father. I’m a very lucky girl. It was a fantastic gift, but the only condition was that I had to take 200 different images every month. We are still laughing that I only have the blog because I have to shoot 200 pictures every month.
My first images were not good so you can say that there has been progress! I’m usually not good with technology. At the beginning, I was excited but soon realized that I’m not able to shoot any images that are amazing. It’s no wonder why when I almost always shot using the auto mode and wasn’t eager to learn more about camera technicalities. So, for some time I sent my father the 200 images a month that we agreed on, but after a little while, the camera sat in my room unused for many years.
I started to shoot images when I started my food blog. At the beginning, the images were just awful! After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in law two years ago, I got accepted to a Master’s programme and decided to carry on with my studies. But then came summer and I had a spontaneous idea to go backpacking. At first, I thought about all the different opportunities, but then I figured that Australia is the most reasonable destination.
In one month I rented out my apartment, took a gap year from the programme and I was on the plane to Australia only with my hand luggage and the D90. I thought that if I’m not going to go now, then I will never go. So I went just to explore Australia and Asia. I worked in a vineyard and later in a kitchen as a chef in the beautiful Kimberley region for some time. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I had a chance to explore a fantastic country and learn more about photography.
When I was in Kimberly (Western Australia) which is one of the most remote areas in Australia, I saw the best night skies that I have ever seen. The only reason I could see that was because it’s one of the darkest places in the word and the light pollution is minimal. The milky way was so bright, and you can see it with your own eyes. I was speechless. I had to capture that with my DSLR. I managed to get a photo of the milky way, but of course, the technical part wasn’t the best. But it was close enough. After that, I promised myself that I had to learn more about photography.
Since then I started to learn all the technical things that I wasn’t fond of before. The result was that my photography skills improved little by little every day. Don’t get me wrong. I still have so much to learn! It’s a journey. About a year ago I got back to Estonia and went back to university to get my master’s degree and started to shoot more pictures related to the blog. Food photography became a natural part of my day.
Now, most of my life is about food. When I’m not sleeping, I’m daydreaming about recipes and photography. Just thinking about different taste combinations or the photography scenes to tell the story. I’m just obsessed. When I’m not cooking or photographing, then I try to stay active. Oh yes, there’s also the studying part for the degree as well, but staying active keeps my mind clear. I usually go for a run, do some yoga or play tennis. In the winter time, I might go skiing or snowboarding. I also love traveling and hiking surrounded by nature! It inspires me!
How would you describe your aesthetics
Like every food photographer, I try to make the food as tasty as I can. Usually, everything depends on the lighting conditions. You might have a great dish, but when the lighting is bad, it won’t work. My favorite style is clean and elegant with some twist from real life (such as rumpled linen and a little bit of mess). My photography goal is to tell a story about my adventures in the kitchen.
Could you share a little bit about your work process, what goes into one photoshoot?
Everything starts with preparation. I have to have at least some kind of storyline in my head to be able to shoot. I always need a plan. Sometimes it is just the process of making cakes and then trying to capture the moment of making the pastry or shaking powdered sugar on top of the pancakes. When I have a clear idea, then I go shopping for the ingredients. Usually, I make a plan for the whole week and try to get all the ingredients at once. However, the plan might always change, and I often have other crazy ideas that I most definitely need to do right away.
Sometimes I just run to the store and buy some extra berries or flowers. After that is the obvious cooking or baking part and preparing the scene. Sometimes it doesn’t take long because it’s only a short preparation but other times its just many long hours of cooking and photo shooting at the same time. Finding the light and trying to shoot different angles to get the image I need.
Finally, it’s the cleaning part. I always manage to make a big mess in the kitchen when I get too excited. Especially, when I have to shoot quickly because (for example) the ice cream starts to melt. The final part is just the editing. I usually use only Adobe Lightroom to have the last touch to the images, and I try to make sure that the images in the camera already look nice so that I don’t have to spend endless hours fixing my mistakes.
What would you say is an essential factor in food photography?
I like to think that I’m at the beginning of my food photography journey. Because of that, it’s hard for me to tell you how to succeed in food photography. I can tell you only the things that have worked for me for getting better every day and have the motivation to keep shooting. So, here are my tips:
- Practice! It’s all about practice and working long hours by yourself. I usually like to try different angles with every dish. Some dishes look better with overhead shots (like smoothie bowls), some look better from the side. You just have to find the angle, and you will get there!
- Never stop learning. There are so many ways to learn about food photography even for free. YouTube is full of photography tutorials with shooting tips and Adobe Lightroom editing tips. Some of my favorites channels are B&H, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Mango Street. You just have to watch the videos or read about it, and you will learn so much about photography. Get to know your camera, and you will make amazing images. If you already aren’t shooting in manual mode and RAW format, then you just have to learn how to do it. When I learned how to shoot in manual mode and changed my file format to RAW, then I started to see some progress.
3. Love food! This one is obvious. If you would like to shoot food, then you obviously have to love it. Right now I work alone, so I don’t have anyone who cooks or styles the food. I have to do everything by myself, and later I also have to eat it! When you love food, then it’s always easier to tell the story and not give up.
4. Have a digital detox and boost your creative side. We live in a time when it’s easy to get overwhelmed with information. Especially when your work is online, and you almost always look at your screen. It might be hard to concentrate or get new creative ideas. You might start comparing yourself to others and feel bad. Sometimes you might feel that everything has already been photographed and there isn’t a point for you to do that. However, there’s always something. You just have to find it even when it takes time. When I feel uninspired and overwhelmed I like to put all the electronics away and just relax. I usually do something active. I go for a run, do some yoga or play some tennis. Sometimes I just like to read something inspiring or go to the nature to clear my mind. Spending some quality time with my family and friends is an important part. No phones and other electronics. Quite often when I’m in the ‘relax mode’ without electronics, I have so many ideas about what I should cook or shoot next. After this digital detox, I’m usually so productive, and I have more creative ideas.
5. Find the light. Photography depends so much on lighting. You have to find it to make sure that your food looks delicious. Usually, you don’t need studio lighting, and you can manage to get great images with natural light as well. You just have to find a good window without direct sunlight (or use a diffuser) and that works perfectly.
6. Don’t shoot hungry. There have been so many times when I have missed the shot because I’m so eager to eat all the food. Sometimes I think that I’ve got the shot, but actually, my hunger is speaking to me. I can’t shoot food when I’m too hungry. I’m just a little be too impatient to shoot images that I like.
What kind of camera do you use? I used that Nikon D90 that I got 2010 until August 2017. It was a good camera, and in the end, it almost fell apart. I can still use it to shoot images, but some parts just came off after shooting with that for endless hours. In 2017 I upgraded my gear to full-frame Nikon D750, and I mostly use Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G or wide-angle lens AF-S FX Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED.
How do you edit your images? I edit all my images in Adobe Lightroom, and I shoot only in RAW format. Probably all the photographers use Lightroom and Creative Cloud. Lightroom is the best thing you can have! It might take time to get used to it but once you do you realize that it’s the best thing you can have. You can catalog all your images and edit the images. There are so many features that you can explore.
What is your food philosophy?
I am obsessed with healthy foods. For me, all the ingredients should be as less processed as possible. I always look for natural ingredients or grow the ingredients by myself. I love to eat loads of healthy fats. In my recipes, I use as many superfoods as possible. I describe there most of my eating habits.
I don´t count calories. Instead of that, I look how my body reacts to food, and I just try to listen to my body. In my menu, I usually look how the body digests the food I eat and the amounts I eat. I’ m obsessed with healthy fats because my body uses it as an energy source. I´m not a vegetarian or vegan. Also, I´m not on a raw or paleo diet or any diet. However, many of my recipes are just like that.
Even though I like to think that I’m at the beginning of my journey my photography and recipes have been featured in a range of publications all over the world such as Thrive Magazine, PureWow, SheKnows, and Greatist.