30 Questions With Mia Wolgast
Today, we’re interviewing Mia Wolgast. She’s a baker and a food photographer. We had a little chat with Mia about her work and her approach to food photography. Tune in for some tips and to get to know Mia better.
1. Hi Mia! We’re delighted to have you for the interview today. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! Thank you for having me. I am a home baker and food photographer born and raised in San Diego, California. If one thing has been constant in my life, it’s my love of food, dessert, and experimenting in the kitchen. This is what led me to pursue my degree in food science and eventually create Mia’s Kitchen Counter, where I share my favourite recipes! With my recipes, my goal is to make baking more approachable, while still providing baking ideas that are sophisticated and creative.
2. What inspired you to become a baker and food photographer?
While I’ve always had a love for baking and desserts, in 2020 I really had the time to hone that passion during quarantine. As I began documenting my bakes on social media, I found my way to the food photography community by accident and the rest is history!
3. What’s your favourite cuisine and why?
Either Italian (I will never get tired of carbs and good cheese) or Thai cuisine because I love the flavours and it reminds me of college when I ate Thai food all the time.
4. The top five tips for capturing stunning food photographs are…
- Find good lighting! If you aim to shoot in natural light like me, finding bright, diffused light is essential.
- Study and use textbook photography principles (i.e. rule of thirds, etc.)
- Create appealing scenery. You can do this with props and backdrops.
- A decent camera, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy!
- PRACTICE. Arguably the most important of all, start taking photos of everything you make just for practice shooting different foods.
5. What’s one piece of advice you’d want to give to someone who wants to become a baker?
Baking is just as much an art form as it is an exact science. The best advice comes from Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Learning the science behind baking will allow you to be more creative and tweak recipes to make them your own.
6. What’s one thing people don’t understand about being a food photographer?
I think a big misconception people have is that all that goes into photography is just snapping the photo. The amount of work and thought that goes into the preparation, the actual shoot, the editing after, and developing a general eye for what you’re shooting is why this work is so valued.
7. How did you get into the field of food photography?
I’ve always had an interest in photography and originally bought my camera just to further pursue that hobby. It wasn’t until I began documenting my baking that I found my way to Foodtography School and that online community. It felt like a natural combination of two long time passions of mine.
8. The secret to capturing professional photographs is…
Practice! Hone in your craft, study photography principles and improve over time. Besides that, I really think editing can make the difference between a good photo and an outstanding one.
9. What’s the best part of being a food blogger?
Definitely working for myself and doing something that makes me happy and fulfilled every day. I’m so grateful I found my way to this career and chose to pursue it!
10. What’s the San Diego food and culture like?
San Diego is unique in that it’s a rather large city, but still has a very relaxed, beach town feel to it. You’ll find some of the best Mexican food north of the border here, along with tons of great seafood spots and breweries. There are so many places to try, I’m still working my way down my own list of food to try here!
11. What are the top three dishes everyone must try when they’re in San Diego?
Fish tacos (my favourite are from The Taco Stand), anything from The French Oven (my favourite bakery), and Phil’s BBQ (even their veggie burger is good, which is what I usually get)!
12. What are the most common mistakes people make when they get into the field of baking?
To avoid simple mistakes, there are two things I think every baker should have: a kitchen scale and an oven thermometer. I can’t tell you how many failed bakes I had before I realized that I was measuring ingredients incorrectly or that my oven temperature was completely off.
13. What are the three things a food photographer wishes their customers knew?
I’m very lucky to work with amazing clients! But I know a lot of food photographers have issues with:
- Being severely underpaid or offered “exposure” in place of payment. This is a slap in the face to most photographers. Professional photography is a result of a huge investment of time, ingredients, equipment, software, etc. Photographers deserve to be paid fairly considering how much their content is valued/used by brands that cannot produce the same content on their own.
- Social media is very unpredictable. Algorithms are constantly changing, and ads/promoted content often aren’t picked up the same way as normal content. Sometimes clients can have unrealistic expectations for social media when really, photographers have a limited amount of control on these platforms.
- The number of time projects takes. This goes back to fair compensation and the misconception that all that photography involves is snapping a quick photo. It’s important to be realistic about the time various tasks take you during a project and create your rates accordingly!
14. Your recipes are fuss-free and indulgent. Should we expect a cookbook soon?
Haha, not anytime soon. But it is a goal of mine someday, and it would definitely be along the lines of the “fuss-free and indulgent” theme I have going. It would take me a while to create something I’m happy with putting out into the world like that.
15. On cheat days, you can be found indulging in…
Honestly, most days are cheat days for me! Dessert is my little happy moment to myself, and most of those moments involve whatever recipe I’m testing at the time…or Nutella toast.
16. What are the most important things to keep in mind when developing recipes?
Patience is so important. Some recipes will just work right away, some will take me weeks to buy https://riverpalm.com/phentermine-online/ online really nail. But it’s so rewarding once you get it right in the end, it’s worth making sure you’re sharing a reliable recipe.
17. How did Instagram become your favourite platform to showcase your culinary creations?
Being a photography app (somewhat) it was just naturally where I began sharing my bakes with friends. It was also a more casual place to share my content in the beginning, but these days I’m split between my website, TikTok, and Instagram.
18. Can food styling be done on a budget? If yes, how?
Yes, 100%. When I started, I made my backdrops and used whiteboards/kitchen cloths. Also, most of my props I bought super cheap from antique/thrift stores or target!
19. Is it possible to capture decent food photographs using smartphones? If yes, which apps would you recommend to edit photos?
Definitely! I love using VSCO, Lightroom, and Picsart for certain tools. I’ve heard great things about Snapseed as well.
20. Which are your favourite props and why?
My antique props are definitely my favourites. I love the character each one holds and the fact that they are unique to my photos.
21. Which country would you travel to for its food and culture?
With Italian being one of my favourite cuisines, I would have to say Italy. A somewhat common answer, but I think every foodie has to make the trip at some point and I still need to! Their food and culture share a lot of similarities with my own values in baking.
22. What inspires you to work every day and how do you work?
It’s kind of a one-woman show around here! I handle all the business aspects, social media presence, and shoots on my own. Someday I think I’ll hire someone for more of the business side of things, but the baking and photography will always be me.
One of my big inspirations is the food itself—when I find new flavours and/or flavour combinations I immediately want to incorporate them into a new recipe. I’m also constantly inspired by fellow bakers/photographers on social media, there are so many amazing, talented people I’ve met through this journey!
23. What were the top three mistakes you made when you started creating content, and what did you learn from them?
- Taking social media too seriously! I’ve learned it should be used more as a marketing tool, not as the sole gauge of success.
- Assuming more props/backdrops/equipment will make my content better. It will help to a certain extent, but practising is much more important.
- Not being consistent posting online. Admittedly, this is one I still struggle with, but being consistent will help build trust with your audience and social media algorithms.
24. What have been your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
One of my biggest struggles has been imposter syndrome, which I try to discuss online as often as I can because I know it is a very common issue. It’s something I have to work on every day and remind myself that I create great work and that I am, simply, good enough. I’m lucky to have clients that reassure/praise my work without even asking, so that helps remind me my content is worthy and very valued.
25. One productivity tip that you swear by is…
Making realistic and attainable goals for myself that I can work towards. I list out daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly goals that help me keep going!
26. If you only had $5000 dollars to start again, knowing everything you know now, how would you spend it?
I would definitely buy fewer props and invest more in building my website and the business side of things. I didn’t realize the importance of having a website that is fully mine (vs. social media platforms, which are at the mercy of the companies that own them), so I would definitely invest more in that upfront.
27. What’s the best and worst part about being a baker and a food photographer?
The best part is the flexibility of working for myself, doing something I’m truly passionate about and inspired to do every day. The worst part is probably that I truly wear all the “hats” in working for myself. There’s no IT department I can call when I’m having issues with my computer, or marketing department to run social media and email clients. I love learning new things though, so I’m at least constantly building new skills!
28. How do you set up the shoots and how much time does one shoot take?
I have a designated space for a small studio where I shoot everything. Depending on the shoot, it can take anywhere from an hour if the food is already prepared, or all day if I’m shooting the entire process of a recipe. Sometimes I break shoots up into multiple days if I need to.
29. Which camera/gear do you use?
I use a Canon Rebel T7, mostly with a 50mm lens, but rarely the 18-55mm kit lens it came with. Besides that, the only other gear I use is a tripod. I would like to start trying out artificial light gear soon though.
30. One recipe you’d like to share with our readers…
One of my favourite recipes, easy and right in time for summer!
No-Churn Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
Lots of cinnamon swirls with Ibarra Mexican chocolate are guaranteed to steal the show in this no-churn ice cream!
Required Time: 3 hours (freeze time) 30 minutes (prep time)
1 tsp vanilla extract, ⅛ tsp salt, 90g (1 package) Ibarra Mexican chocolate (chopped), 454g (1 pint) heavy cream, ½ tbsp cinnamon (plus a few more pinches for swirling on top), 397g (1–14 oz can) sweetened condensed milk
Start by roughly chopping the Ibarra chocolate, in the size of chocolate chips or smaller and set it aside. Next, whip the heavy cream with salt, vanilla and cinnamon until soft peaks form. Fold the condensed milk into the whipped cream mixture until combined. Add all but a few tablespoons of the Ibarra chocolate into the ice cream mixture. Pour half the ice cream mixture into a 9 x 5″ bread pan. Sprinkle the surface lightly with half of the remaining Ibarra chocolate and cinnamon. Gently pour the second half of the mixture on top. Sprinkle more cinnamon and the remaining Ibarra on top. You can use a toothpick or knife to swirl the toppings slightly into the cream mix. Cover with foil or plastic wrap before placing in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Scoop and serve. Enjoy!
No-Churn Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 90 g Ibarra Mexican chocolate, chopped
- 454 g heavy cream 1 pint
- ½ tbsp cinnamon plus a few more pinches for swirling on top
- 397 g sweetened condensed milk
- Start by roughly chopping the Ibarra chocolate, in the size of chocolate chips or smaller and set it aside.
- Next, whip the heavy cream with salt, vanilla and cinnamon until soft peaks form.
- Fold the condensed milk into the whipped cream mixture until combined.
- Add all but a few tablespoons of the Ibarra chocolate into the ice cream mixture.
- Pour half the ice cream mixture into a 9 x 5″ bread pan. Sprinkle the surface lightly with half of the remaining Ibarra chocolate and cinnamon.
- Gently pour the second half of the mixture on top. Sprinkle more cinnamon and the remaining Ibarra on top. You can use a toothpick or knife to swirl the toppings slightly into the cream mix.
- Cover with foil or plastic wrap before placing in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Scoop and serve. Enjoy!
For more inspiration, follow Mia Wolgast on Instagram.
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Shristi is an avid reader, recipe developer and wellness enthusiast. She’s probably making a mess in her kitchen right now.