This week's featured blogger is Roma from Roma's space. A food blogger, an excellent photographer, owner of the popular food blog aggregator Town Square..she does it all and manages everything excellently..She also blogs her travel experiences, but mainly focuses on food for infants with categories based on age group...Read more about her
EC: Tell us something about yourself
Roma: My blog is going to be two years old this January. My Hobbies include Photography, Gardening and Cooking. I also love to watch plays and have attended a couple of theater workshops in Bangalore. I am basically a Software Engineer. I worked in the IT industry for about 6 years - first 4 years with MindTree Consulting and another 2 years with Kyocera Wireless.
I am now at home taking care of my daughter who is soon going to be three years old. As soon as a working professional is faced with the fact of staying at home an intense nervousness sets in as she wonders what next? Can I spend my time productively? Can I manage to live a life despite being in the house 24X7 ? I decided to spend more time nurturing my interests that I never could due to a hectic work schedule. I got more time to cook, attend theater workshops and do craft work like pot painting, glass painting, etc; It was important to channelize my energy before life drove me around like a wild river.
When I started creating stuff I wanted to share it with others. Every time I made a special dish for my baby I thought of all the other mom's who could benefit from it. My friends supported me whole heartily and my blog was launched. I cook specially for the blog when there is an event being held. Otherwise most of the dishes I make are impromptu and usually to satisfy the sugar cravings of me and my family.
EC: Your photographs of the dishes are attractive..Any tips for improving food photography ( and ur learnings from the photography workshop)
Roma: Most of my knowledge in photography is from The photography workshop conducted by Kalyan Varma. Other than that I learned by experimenting with my camera and analyzing the results. There were also some good sites that helped me pick up food photography tips:
Idea of Lunch Box : This is one of the most popular posts on the Strobist site. It shows you how you can easily take a professional food shot without spending a penny. I made my own lunch box and I think it works well (although I dont really have a lamp, I use it in harsh sun light)
Food Photography Setup by Matt : Here is a tutorial on effective use of scrims and reflectors. The points from this post when applied using the lunch box above gives incredible results
- A scrim or a butter paper screen helps in
Diffusing light, hence reducing harsh shadows
Cutting out reflection of surroundings in crockery
- A reflector (typically a white board) helps in bouncing back some light on the subject hence defining areas of subject that were otherwise dark and overshadowed.
I recently got a Canon 450D camera which I use along with a 50mm lens and a 28-90mm lens. The 50 mm is superb for portfolios and cases where you want a shallow depth of field. A 28-90 mm lens works great for macro food photography - cases where you want to get really close to the food and make everything else look hazy.
Typically here are the steps I follow in taking food snaps (to follow these steps you dont need a D-SLR, a simple point-n-shoot camera also works):
I usually shoot in natural sunlight. Hence, my terrace is my studio almost all of the time.
Its advisable to shoot when the sunlight is at its peak, at this point if you use a butter paper screen (or a scrim) you will get a beautifully diffused light on your food. If you dont like to use a scrim then you can try under-exposing the snap (although the former works better).
Food has more depth and width than height. Hence it looks best when lit from the top-back position. I learned this from the Strobist site and it works well. I usually use a white cloth as a background for my dishes as it serves as a good reflector. Recently I've bought rolls of sheets which are of different colors and textures. A flat, sober base makes the dish stand out.
Finally, I edit my pictures using GIMP (freely available download). Here are the steps to follow while editing pics:
Crop the image so only the necessary / relevant portion lies within the picture. Any extra space needs to be removed unless its meant to be a part of the composition.
The histogram needs to be edited to remove any unnecessary tones. Editing the histogram of a picture can really change the way a picture looks.
Add a copyright label and optionally a title over the picture. Although a copyright label or water marking seldom prevents misuse, it still goes well with an image definition.
Finally, I give the image a white border with a shadow drop. This is what I usually use to get a post card effect.
EC: There is a lot of focus on baby food in your blog..what are ur sources for recipes
Roma: I've always felt the need to write on baby food as its a confusing subject. Everyone is worried about whats best for their baby and the internet doesnt have too much information on off-beat subjects like Indian baby food, food for pregnant ladies, Patients, etc; Although I do find a few sites hosting this information but I still feel there is scope for more.
Sources for my recipes are:
1) Mom and Grandmom - What would we do without them? They are the ones holding treasures of recipes handed down over decades. Most of the baby food recipes are from them.
2) My baby's pediatrician - She was always co-operative and willing to have discussions with me so I could understand the ingredients that a baby can eat.
EC: Town Square is a hot and happening food blog aggregator..Tell us something about it
Roma: Thanks so much for the appreciation. Town Square has been online for 4 months now. In March '09 I started off with an idea of creating a consolidated database which could be easily browsed while searching for specific posts on recipes, photography, travel and more. A site where people could preview posts being published currently and find new blogs in the process. I realized that Google App Engine had come up with a frame work for developers like me. It not only allowed you to create an application but also gave you space on the server to run it free of cost (within quota limits). I started working on the tutorials and created little applications just to understand the framework better. Finally with a few books on HTML-CSS, online tutorials on Python/ Django and much help from my husband the site was ready. I was overwhelmed with the response, as the site registered 100 members in a little over 2 months of launch. I am so grateful to all for joining the endeavor and enriching the database.
I have plans to re-design Town Square to present the categories of recipes better and to make it easily browsable to new visitors as well.
EC: How do you manage ur time between your personal work, blog, and aggregator as each one of them require personal attention.
Roma: I try to cash out on 3 hours in the morning when my baby goes to play school. She naps for two hours in the afternoon, so thats the bonus time I get. Typically I write one blog post a week so the rest of the time I am working on the aggregator. Yes, during the development phase of Town Square that is March - June '09 my blogging had seriously dropped. Thats when personal jobs had also taken a back seat. Now that Town Square is fairly stable I get time for personal work, blogging & photography as well. Managing home and personal interests is mostly a juggling act but now since 5 hours in a day are reserved for my sites, its easier.
EC: Have your recipes been copied anywhere without your permission..How would you deal with plagiarism ??
Roma: Thankfully thats not yet happened so far. If it did, I would write a post followed by a mail to my readers and Town Square members to extend their support to me. Since we have all been in the blogosphere for a while now, we understand each other and can tell right from wrong. If we foodies join together no other site can survive for long.
EC: How much technical knowledge does one need for successful blogging ?
Roma: Since Wordpress and Blogspot have provided us with easy-to-use tools for blogging it currently doesnt require much technical knowledge to create a blog.
However to take the site one step further you might need to know:
Selecting and Positioning of widgets, for the benefit of your readers
A little bit of HTML and CSS to style your pages and provide images pointing to relevant links.
Some knowledge on editing of images can go a long way in making a site attractive
Improving the SEO of your site also helps you find relevant traffic into your blog hence adding to your success in reaching out to people.
Other than that not much is required to become a successful blogger. I guess its eventually the content of your site that will get people back.
EC: Your favourite vegetarian recipe
Roma: Vegetarian Seekh Kabab
Making this is a bit elaborate but it tastes great eventually, try it with a dip of your choice!