Since stumbling across her account years ago, I've been a massive fan of this incredible food photographer. In fact, I'm still scratching my head as to why her follower count isn't in the millions, but if anyone understands Instagram's mentality behind who's accounts they show off, feel free to drop me some tips on email! Dearna Bond is the curator behind @tohercore. She specialises in teaching others about improving their food photography skills and editing. I wish I had met her at the beginning of my photography journey - it would have made life a whole heap easier. I love that she teaches her squad with informative videos that are easy to follow along, and she's also an awesome example of someone who shares herself and her story with readers as part of her personal brand.
In fact, I loved Dearna so much=, that when I first laid eyes on her I asked her to shoot a recipe for my own brand Fit Mixes, for which a recipe card (including her amazing photography) was made and sent out with each order. I still LOVE the Vanilla + Pistachio cookies she made with my protein balls, and that recipe card is still in circulation today!
I caught up with Dearna to ask her some of my own burning questions, that I know you will find useful too.
Give us the juicy overview of how you came to be a photographer.
It actually kind of happened by chance! I’ve always loved food and cooking, so when I started my food blog I knew I would need to take photos of my food, so purchased a DSLR camera to do this, not having a clue what I was doing! And it showed – my photos when I started were TERRIBLE (click on the ‘Archive’ section of my blog www.tohercore.com and check out my first posts for.a giggle! 😉
But I was determined to learn and I spent ages Googling, YouTubing, reading blogs and eventually did an online course. It obviously paid off as after a while I started to receive a lot more comments about my improving photography and styling skills, and questions about how I achieved certain looks, what tips I had etc. At this stage, there weren’t many food photography sites or courses available, so I put all my knowledge into my online food photography courses and made the courses that I wished were available when I started out to save me the hours upon hours I spent watching YouTube videos and reading blogs.
Where do you look for food styling inspo?
Definitely Instagram and Pinterest! There is such amazing content out there now, but with these two being such visual platforms they’re definitely my go-to resources. I also keep a stash of cookbooks and magazines on hand – I especially love all of the Donna Hay ones.
What does a typical day look like in your world?
I actually work four days a week as a business analyst at a University, so those days are a lot more structured than my other days – I normally get up around 6am and go to a yoga class or otherwise a walk, then head off to work, and home by about 5.30/6pm. I’ll do some housework, eat dinner, and most nights I’ll spend anywhere from one to three hours doing photography-related work, whether it’s spending some time on Instagram, responding to emails, catching up on photo editing or working on my website.
Fridays are my “business” days where I dedicate the whole day to my photography. I usually still get up at 6am and go to yoga, and I also go to a lunchtime HIIT class unless I have a client shoot. The rest of the day will be structured around whatever work I have to do. I always keep a to-do list and try to be as organised as possible, breaking everything into smaller pieces of work so that they are more manageable.
How do you go about dealing with creative block when it comes to styling and photography?
Urgh, this can be so frustrating! If Im really struggling, I’ll actually just avoid doing anything and watch repeats on Netflix! But I actually run free content creation/inspiration challenges on Instagram from time-to-time, so I actually usually run one of these. The idea is quite basic – a different theme each day that you have to use to create content – but it’s actually a really good way to think outside the square and think about how you can approach something a little differently.
I also have a Food Styling Pinterest board, so I might try and use some elements that I really like from there but put my own spin on it.
How do you find photography work? Or how does it find you?
I’ve actually been really lucky in that it’s always found me! One of the perks of living in a smaller place too I think where word-of-mouth is really valuable.
The one thing you wish you had known when you set out on your photography journey:
I think probably to practice more and keep challenging yourself. And to really learn to understand light as it’s such a make-or-break component to a photo.
What do you love most about freelancing life?
Being able to sit on the couch and edit photos while watching reruns of Gossip Girl on Netflix. Haha, just kidding (a little 😉 ) I think I like the challenge of it all and constantly learning new stuff, whether about photography or styling or on the business side of things.
I also love that it’s opened up a whole new world for me where I have met (mostly on Instagram) a bunch of amazing, creative people that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to meet.
I love your moody aesthetic. How and where do you source your dark backgrounds?
Aw, thank you! I have made a few myself, but my favourite place to buy them is an Etsy store called Food Backgrounds. They’re a little pricier than some others I’ve seen available, but from what I’ve found you pay for what you get, and I’ve always been really happy with these ones.
Top tip for aspiring photographers:
Do a course! I know I sound like a hustler as I run photography courses myself, but they are honestly invaluable. You will learn so much in such a short time that there’s no way you would learn just from Googling or YouTubing. You’ll also learn specific advice related to food photography (and hopefully the style of food photography you like, depending on which course you choose) rather than more generic advice you’ll find on blogs or YouTube videos. It doesn’t need to be a course – it could be mentoring or a workshop – but getting that instruction and feedback from a professional can make such a difference!
Send us your favourite image from the last year and tell us why it’s so special to you.
Ooh, tough one! I think this one of chocolate truffles definitely stands out for quite a few reasons. It was styled and shot by myself and Naomi @bluerustimages for an upcoming workshop we are doing. We’ve worked together styling twice before and it’s always so much fun working with someone who has a similar aesthetic and being able to bounce ideas of one another. I really love this shot because I feel it really accurately represents us both – and I can’t wait for the workshop!
Last thing you googled:
A lighthouse tour I want to do on an upcoming holiday to north west Tasmania (I have this thing for lighthouses!)
Current Photography Crush:
New Zealand – I’m really hoping to get there in the next year.
I just asked my partner and he said multitasking! (at the moment I’m typing this while also uploading photos, cuddling the dog, chatting to my partner, texting my Mum and watching a doco, so I guess that’s fairly accurate!)
Favourite Photography Prop:
Soft afternoon light.
Where can we follow you?
Instagram - @tohercore
Do you have any photography secret tricks? Let us know down below.
Follow me: @thefitfoodieblog