Some days it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels.
I do the same things day after day and I feel like I never get anything done. I wonder why I even bother doing the things that I’m doing because I’m never going to get anywhere with it.
On those days, I think it’s especially important to look back a few years and check my progress.
It always surprises me just how far I’ve come.
See those gorgeous bread photos up top? I made Crusty Sourdough Cottage Bread over the weekend and took those pictures. Here’s what the bread looked liked when I first made it.
It’s crazy the difference two years can make, am I right?
I still remember taking those photos and feeling so proud. I had used a brown curtain as a backdrop and I thought it made such a nice dark contrast to the bread and I thought the folds gave it a luxurious texture. I remember thinking that the loaf just looked so shapely and that my slices were so even.
It’s kind of adorable how hard I was trying and failing.
Back then, I didn’t understand the difference high protein flour would have on a bread. I didn’t know how to properly shape a sandwich loaf. I didn’t know that I should oil the wood on my bread knife or that I should play around with light and color in my photography.
It’s because I hadn’t learned those things yet.
And two years later, I’ve learned a lot.
What Made the Biggest Difference?
I’d have to say that time and a heck of a lot of practice made a huge difference. Even when I questioned why I was bothering with something, I kept baking and kept taking pictures. I kept making baby steps, not fully knowing where those steps would take me.
The more I practiced, the more I learned what good bread should look and feel like. The more photos I took, the more I learned what good lighting and good colors and contrast should look like.
But there are a few other things that had a huge impact on my baking and on my photography skills.
I Bought Better Equipment
When I first started my bread blog (and this personal blog), I didn’t have a lot of equipment to work with. I had my phone for taking pictures, and I had my hands for mixing bread.
Slowly, over time as my budget allowed, I purchased tools to make things a little easier. I now have a standing mixer to help mix my bread. And I have a DSLR camera to take better pictures.
I also bought fun things like banneton proofing baskets, bread lames, and Dutch ovens. As well as photography backdrops, lighting equipment, and a solid wood table.
Of course, I didn’t know how to use them right away. I’m still learning how to make the most of what I have now, but better tools resulted in better bread and better photos.
I Learned from Others
Just because I now own some good equipment doesn’t mean I know how to use it right. I had to put in a lot of time to learn what I know now.
I read through a lot of different recipe books to see good bread baking techniques. I googled a lot about baking topics that I didn’t understand, such as baker’s percentages and high protein flours. And I watched a lot of YouTube videos showing me how to properly shape bread.
I also recipe a few photography books describing good methods for setting up a shot. I took an online course on how to use a DSLR camera, and I asked my photography friends for tips. I read a lot of tutorials on how to use good lighting and props for food photography.
And even though I’ve learned a lot in the last two years, I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn.
I Messed Up a LOT
I experimented a lot with both my baking and my photography over the last two years. I think the fact that I wasn’t afraid to try new things had a huge impact on how much I’ve improved over time.
I made a lot of loaves that went flat, were too dense, too crumbly, and too bland. I threw out a lot of loaves pretending to be bricks in disguise. And my poor family had to put up with a lot of taste-testing.
I also took a lot of photos that were too blurry, too overexposed, or too underexposed. I deleted a lot of pictures where the angle looked wrong and the items were unbalanced in the shot. And I spent a lot of time setting up and taking down layouts, props, and lighting – only to have my pictures turn out unappealing.
But with each failure, I’d like to think, came a teeny tiny breakthrough. One loaf that turned out better than the others. One photo worth keeping here and there.
Go Check Out My Revised Recipe
Anyways, that was a long post where I essentially just patted myself on the back for a job well done. Or rather, a job better done? I made a good recipe better with the knowledge and skills I’ve learned over the years, and now I’m hoping you can reap the benefits of my hard work.
If you want to see the new-and-improved Crusty Sourdough Cottage Bread, go check it out on my bread blog Breadbythehour.com.