In our second article of the new series: "Where Are They Now", Diane Galambos interviewed Julia Konovalova, a blogger since 2008, food photographer, and cookbook author. Julia has two books published: The Ultimate One-Pan Oven Cookbook and The Ultimate Guide to Food Styling.
Kefir. That “cultured/fermented dairy product that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region” (Wikipedia) always makes me think of Julia Konovalova. We met at FBC 2015 in Montreal. A conference tradition was a forced seating plan for the Friday dinner ensuring that participants made new connections. Julia was delightful, often speaking about kefir - she was having a hard time tracking some down. (Not so anymore…)
Julia said she began her blog – Imagelicious - in 2008 and joined FBC in its early days. Montreal was her first conference and she went to them all after that – sometimes with her baby daughter in tow.
I neglected to ask her about her blog’s name, but even in Montreal - toting her lovely camera – she clearly had a passion for images, as evidenced by her soon-to-be-released book (in mid-April) – The Ultimate Guide to Food Styling. In 88,000 words she generously shares not just what to do and how, but why. Says Julia, “I don’t think there is anything like this on the market right now…. the most comprehensive guide to food styling.”
In the mid-2000s, Julia was following discussions in online forums on food. While studying at Waterloo University, she was at first a “lurker” and finally began to post. She became unsatisfied with the quality of her photos and worked on improving that, including taking courses at George Brown College. Her first blog was on Live Journal. She laughs at the memory that she was so proud of her early photos, that she now finds wanting. Nonetheless, she began to market herself as a food photographer.
She hired a friend to build/host her website. When she required more functionality she moved to SquareSpace for about 5 years, then moved to WordPress in 2017. Her blog is monetized by Mediavine – but, she says before they increased their eligibility numbers.
Her website – which she admits needs some updating – lists services she has provided, though some less frequently of late. Her food focus has been simple, easy, healthy eats, to which was added a mom focus once she began her family. Her creative focus has now become photography and every ounce of that passion is now being shared in her food styling book.
The pandemic had an impact on her focus. In the “Before Times” she worked a lot on recipe development, testing recipes at least three times and then possibly making them again for the photography sessions. That translated to a lot of visits to grocery stores. In the early days of severe and frequent lockdowns, shopping frequently ground to a halt. Despite her success with her first (2018) book - Ultimate One-Pan Oven Cookbook - her main focus shifted somewhat away from recipe development.
This may be as good a moment as any to share some of Julia’s advice. “Decide for yourself what you want from your blog. Is it just an outlet for your recipes and that’s all you want? Or do you want to monetize?” The latter, she stresses, is a different game, adding that in most cases you can’t do both. You have to choose. “Is it a food diary and creative outlet or your job?”
In Julia’s case, it is her job – with hours and a workload compatible with work/family balance. When it’s a job one has to apply best practices, and in her case that applies to her use of Instagram (IG) - her main social media platform (with IG posts copied to FB). She has made it her business to know when and how and how often to post, and pays attention to what’s trending. IG is where she gets her clients and expertly displays her brand and skills.
When it comes to social media, it is Instagram only. She says she used to be obsessed with Pinterest, but doesn’t use it anymore. She’s been interviewed on a few podcasts and hung out in Clubhouse.
Julia’s Instagram photos are magical. They are often time-lapse glimpses of her method and her brand often includes levitation photography – like a frozen action shot. Mesmerizing! While visiting her on IG check out her Story Highlights which have instructive elements. No surprise she wrote a book on all of this. What may be a surprise is that she has not run any classes – yet. She reports that she has engaged in researching how to launch an online course in food photography. She loves the idea but the “doing” is daunting and time-consuming. She says with a laugh “I wouldn’t mind if someone just told me how to do it.”
Julia’s journey has taken some side roads but is now focused on photography – and running a business. She is promoting and selling her new book, maximizing client intake, continuing to use IG optimally and exploring options for a digital course.
Blogging advice? She was reluctant to offer advice since she has not been giving her blog much attention of late. Even when she was, she said she didn’t follow a lot of the “rules.” For her passion – photography – she is now writing the rules – er, “essential lessons.” And for that, her readers and fans are grateful.
Follow Julia Konovalova
The Ultimate One-Pan Oven Cookbook: Complete meals using just your sheet pan, Dutch oven, roasting pan and more. (2018) by Page Street Publishing
The Ultimate Guide to Food Styling: Essential Lessons for Creating Picture-Perfect Dishes. (2023) by Page Street Publishing
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