I ran across Lucia’s Instagram feed a few years ago, and I was drawn to her work. Her imagery was light and bright at the time, and she was bringing some very interesting food to the table. White beans chocolate cakes, gluten free recipes, cakes and bakes with legumes… That is her thing. I loved following her work and her vibe, and watching her skyrocket on Instagram was such a personal pleasure for me. Lucia brings a story of dedication and moving forward towards your dreams while learning on the go, and shares how she has become a food photographer and food photography educator. She is an inspiration for making your dreams happen and adapting as you roll. Meet this interesting woman, Lucia Marecak, who didn’t fear going for her dreams. Grab yourself a cup of warm drink and dive into this interview.
Meet Lucia Marecak
Lucia, first and foremost I am so happy to have you here. I ran across your Instagram profile quite some time ago, and have been around since. I loved your photographs the first moment I lay my eyes on them and your ‘free of everything recipes’ that you were posting on your blog at the time, and watching you grow since then has been an absolute pleasure. But, before I continue (my mind is already bursting with questions), let us know who you are. Where are you from, where do you live, what is it that you do…? Tell us a little bit about your history up to who you are now. Can’t wait to hear all this and demystify your European background. 🙂
Thank you so much Marina for the invitation and your kind words. We got in touch at the beginning of my Instagram journey and I am happy we are still in touch now. It’s also very inspiring to see your journey and how you grow and develop too.
So, my name is Lucia Marecak, and I come from Slovakia, but I am currently based in Turin. I have been living in Italy since 2015. I studied in my country, Slovakia, economics, and management and I started working in Bratislava in one start-up, specialising in executive search. We started opening new offices across Europe and I came to Milan to open and establish our new Italian office. This is how and why I moved to Italy. After that, I started working in human resources of a multinational corporation, but it was not as fulfilling as I expected. So, to relax after work, I started my food blog because I always loved cooking, then I came in contact with food photography. I had no idea something like this even existed 🙂 I remember the turning point for me was when I got shortlisted in Pink Lady Food Photographer of the year. Since then I started blogging only about food photography and in December 2020 I opened my Members’ Club, where I teach my members about food photography, how to find their style and achieve their creative goals.
Started as a food blogger
How and why did you start blogging? As I mentioned before, your recipes were mostly gluten-free, dairy-free, flour-free… Since I’m all about food, always, I loved your combinations and got really crazy about your farinata. Once you got the recipes off of your blog I was devastated. 😀
When I started blogging, I realised I needed to find my niche if I want to succeed. Because I changed my own food habits and started eating very healthy, this was also the way I wanted to blog about. My recipes were made from legumes, sweet or salty, and they were also gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, flour-free sometimes too. The more recipes I was creating, the more I was interested in food photography. At that time, my dream was to teach food photography in the future, I didn’t see myself as a food blogger. As I was practicing my photography, I was becoming better at it, people started asking me the behind the scenes. After that, I felt that food photography was the right way so I stopped creating recipes.
Becoming a food photographer
How did you start your photography journey? Was it always about food or did you have other interests before? Or to be more precise, what came first, blogging or photography?
😀 First was blogging, then it was about photography. At first, when I started my blog, I was taking images with my mobile. I was more and more interested in this, I bought a second-hand camera for beginners. I have been interested in various photography also before that, but I never really dived into it. Thanks to all I learned about food photography, such as lighting or composition, I am applying in other photography genres too, for example when traveling or when taking photos of a car.
I really admire your photography skills and your style. I have seen you change your styles, your techniques, and I watched you grow your photography skills within a short period of time. Seeing you made me think of how dedicated (or not) I was in improving my photography, and you influenced me in many ways. So, where did you learn about photography? Did you take any courses or are you self-taught?
Thank you very much. Yes, it was a short but very intense period. I bought my first camera in September 2018, and I tried to learn food photography by myself. There are many free resources but it was very confusing for me. So, I thought that joining a course would speed up my progress. I joined Food Photography School – the basic course in April 2019. It helped me to connect the dots and develop my bright style. But I didn’t feel I got all my doubts and questions answered, and I was still missing something. For that reason, I joined Christina Greve, the Lifestyle Photography academy of 6 months. It was excellent and I learned so much. This is when I developed my dark and moody style. Then, I also did the Composition Essentials from Two Loves Studio, and Food Composed from Lauren Carris. Each of these courses gave me something, and all of them together gave me a great base to build on.
Creator by heart
What does photography mean to you? Do you see yourself as an artist, a creative, an entrepreneur, a business owner?
Photography, especially food photography, means the world to me. I see myself as a business owner, as an educator, and as a creative. Before I dived into food photography, I tried to develop business together with my friend. Because we both have experience in recruiting and human resources, we wanted to create online courses for people who want to develop their careers. Then, we both got busy at corporate jobs, so we never had time to get properly into building it. Short after, I discovered food photography. I felt a strong connection to it, so I started my food blog and learning how to make photos.
How to become a better food photographer
From your perspective, what is the main key ingredient to becoming a better food photographer?
Practice, learn something new, apply into practice and learn something new again. And repeat over and over. There are so many little things put together, but the only way to really understand what you are doing, is to learn those little things step by step. I always say learning and becoming fluent in food photography is like learning a new language. You need to go step by step, rule after another rule, grammar, vocabulary. You don’t speak fluently after 2 months of learning it. It takes years, the same in food photography. Becoming a better food photographer is all about patience, details and never giving up.
Okay, let’s talk about Instagram. When I first ran across your page, you had only a couple of hundred followers. I thought there was something very wrong with it since your photos and your recipes where really, really amazing. A very high-level quality photography, very niched down with ‘free of everything’ recipes, but yet you remained small in numbers for a pretty long time. I was cheering you on from the depths of my heart, and I was just waiting for you to skyrocket. And then, last year, you went from less than 1000 followers to over 12 thousand.
Yes, indeed, I opened my Instagram account in 2018 when I started blogging as a hobby, and in March 2020 it still had 800 followers. At that time, I was not able to dedicate the necessary time to the blog because of my full-time corporate job. This got changed with the pandemic in 2020. I was at home and had lots of time to dedicate to my blog and think about my future. So I took that opportunity and dived fully into building my Instagram account, as I knew it is crucial for my business in the future. And I didn’t have any idea about the business I want to create and what exactly I want to do, but I felt food photography is definitely something I want to focus on.
How to grow your Instagram
So, how actually did you grow your Instagram following in such a short time? I know, I know, it takes years to succeed overnight, right? But, from this perspective looking back, what could you share that helped the most? If you could prioritise 3 or 5 things, what would those be?
It was very strongly connected to the pandemic. I had time to develop different initiatives, but also many people got stuck at home so they were much more present online too. It all started with food photography challenges. After I started hosting them, I saw a growth of followers. The challenges became quite popular in a few months and this was how I managed to grow so quickly. Then, I started writing my food photography newsletters. I stopped blogging about recipes, but I started focusing a lot on my weekly food photography newsletters. I shared the behind-the-scenes of my images, and other insights and tips from food photography. Another crucial thing was to focus on adding value to my audience. And the third thing, it was being consistent and in everything I do. Deliver what you promise and just be yourself and enjoy engaging with others.
Having a small Instagram audience can benefit your work
Now that you have reached the 10k milestone, what is different than you were expecting? What are the downsides of having a bigger audience? I know many have a painful relationship with Instagram, and for me personally it was the greatest shift ever when I realised that numbers don’t equal worth or quality, and also, that I can make a great living with even a small audience, even below 1000 Instagram followers. What are your thoughts on this?
I totally agree with you on providing quality than quantity. I see Instagram differently than 1 year ago. At that time, my focus was to grow it, which is still what I am focusing on, but my priority now is to serve my audience and provide value. Thanks to this, I was able to open my Members’ Club. If you have the right audience and you provide quality and value to them, no matter small or big, you are able to make a great living. Of course, having more followers might make it easier or faster. But, when you have a smaller audience, you have a great benefit to serve better more people. As soon as the audience grows, it’s difficult to keep that personal contact with them, simply because of how many people contact you. At least, in my case, I try to be in touch with my audience, but sometimes it’s impossible for me to do it, due to other activities that I have to do.
Showing on social media
You don’t show your beautiful face too much out there. How is so? People get connected to you more easily when they see a real person more often on social media. What do you say? 🙂
I am an introverted person, so I am quite shy to show my face 😀 I know that in order to grow my business I should show myself more and this is what I am working on. The second thing which holds me back is the language. I am not native English and make lots of mistakes when I speak. It’s funny but in our Club, we are doing most of our activities live. So, my members talk to me personally, see me regularly and we spend hours on the live calls. I feel it’s more private. Maybe this is the reason why Instagram makes me a bit more nervous to be in front of the camera. But, in the last period, I started doing more stories, where I speak and I start getting comfortable with that too. I know it makes lots of difference and I would love to develop this way of content delivery more in the future.
Have you have any negative experiences on Instagram, like haters and spammers?
Not really, I am very lucky as I haven’t had any experience with something like that. I do receive many spam messages, which arrive in the message requests, but no nothing more than that.
Becoming food photography educator
Let’s move to something that made me very excited, and I know it did the same to you. You recently created a new service for your audience. It is a membership community for food photographers and I want to know everything about it. What is it, what does it do, what do you do around it? Why this kind of service? Who is this for? How does it work? Was this something you had in mind before or did it come spontaneously? Did you have any other ideas before that didn’t come alive? Tell us everything, I’m very curious.
Yes, It’s very exciting and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to open my Members’ Club in December 2020. It’s an ongoing program and a community for food photographers, who are looking for constant support, guidance and mentorship, while they are learning new skills and building their food photography business. We have food photography resources, such as courses, masterclasses, and many live calls, where we all meet, chat, discuss certain topics, and exchange feedback for the images. The club is very interactive, everybody has a space to talk, ask questions, discuss the challenges they face. On top of that, we have so many opportunities to receive constructive feedback for their work, such as image critique videos, group feedback sessions, our community space, or even private feedback on the images. You can check the Member’s Club here.
Is this the first business you ever started or do you have an entrepreneurial history?
With me, it’s a bit more complicated 😀 I have always been proactive, sometimes too much 😀 in the past, during high school and university, I took part in a few nonprofit organisations, where I was managing the local operations. I even opened (still during university) my own company with 3 other friends, but it ended soon after. I finished University, moved to the capital city, and started working for a start-up. Got the responsibility to manage Slovak operations, then moved to Italy to open our office in Milan. 4 years ago, I moved to Turin and started working for a large multinational corporation. My past is a kind of mix of entrepreneurship and corporation. I am thankful for all my mistakes (and I did so many of them) and all the experiences I have been through in non-profit or corporate organisations. It all helped me a lot to be able to develop and run my business now.
Clear decision brings you where you want to go
Now as a businesswoman, a food photographer and food photography educator, what would you say were the most important habits you needed to develop in order to start seeing results?
I believe it’s making decisions (or we can say a goal setting), organising yourself, and simply doing it. If we don’t make a clear decision about what we want to do, we procrastinate, do it tomorrow, or later and try to keep ourselves busy but we don’t know exactly where it would lead us. We have to decide what we want, make it clear for ourselves. This is the goal setting, but it doesn’t end with a yearly goal. It’s so important to split it into months, weeks, days – and decide your goals and priorities for every single day.
Organisation – so important and challenging at the same time. It is also my biggest challenge honestly, there are so many things we have to manage, it’s so easy to get distracted or overwhelmed. Running a business (especially at the beginning) is extremely difficult and I have done it along with my full-time job for a long time. I am still looking for better processes, how to get more productive and organised.
And simply doing all those things we planned and scheduled – it happens to me, and to everybody else, we decide, plan our week, days, and then we don’t do those things, something comes up, other priorities we didn’t expect, distributions from social media, procrastination. Focus on one thing at a time and make sure to get it done.
A question just crossed my mind. Have you ever thought about investing in your own brand photography? I was just wondering what is it like for other photographers, since we are the ones usually making photos. 🙂
Yes, and I would love to. I did some photos for myself, but I would love someone professional who can help me with that too. To have beautiful images I can use for my business is so crucial. I hope I can find someone locally who can help me with that in the near future.
Approaching creativity from a new perspective
What do you think what beliefs you had to replace with better serving ones on your path recently? What did you have to change about yourself to level up?
I think the way how I approach creativity. It is the most important pillar for my business and growth, and the more creative I am, the better content I create for my members and subscribers. It’s important to mention that this is something very different from my previous full-time corporate job. I didn’t need to be creative, on contrary, my work was very operative, emails, databases, updates… over and over again. I never had to be really creative to do my job. So, I had to change many things in order to make the creativity flow. Such as better planning and organisation of myself, so I have a feeling of being in control of my schedule and all activities and having some day completely off dedicated to creating. Whether it’s writing some piece of content for the lessons, photo shooting or painting backdrops. On that day, I just do what I feel for. I love thinking and I get lot’s of ideas while being outside or walking, which for a few months now it’s difficult due to the lockdown.
Spirituality meets creativity
How does your spirit meet your creative life?
I feel I am a spiritual person, I do like to take time to think about things. Often I go for a walk, by myself, I go to a place that inspires me, whether it’s a nice place with a view or some park. I like to think about my visions, plans, and simply visualise what I want to achieve. Make my dreams appear in front of me, imagine them as a reality, so I can really feel them. It helps me to really get ready for making all this happen, it motivates me and charges me with the energy and ideas. I often keep some paper and pen with me, to write down all the ideas and notes in my head. It’s funny but most of the things I have done were created this way.
Plans for the future
Where do you see yourself in 5, and 10 years from now? What does your life look like? What do you do, how do you do it, what is your lifestyle, what are your habits and virtues? How have you changed for the better?
The older I am, the more I feel the need to have my personal time, be flexible and grow my business and help others. I am living in a foreign country, having a partner who is also from another country, and we both would like to move abroad one day. So the personal situation made me really think about my future and this is the main reason why I started blogging and developing a food photography business in the first place.
I want to develop a business that represents my personality, allows me to be free, have personal time when I decide, work from wherever I want and that brings me financial and creative abundance. And I want to help others to create a dream life too. Whether it is in food photography, or something else, you never know how your journey will change in such a long time.
This is what I want to achieve. It looks quite different from how I live my life now. I have sacrificed my personal time and I don’t remember when I took a day off. I literally work from morning to night every day. But I accept it all because this is what I have to go through. But I see small steps, little wins that are coming as the result of my actions now, and I am very sure, my dream life will come to me soon.
Manifesting creative abundance
What is the ultimate dream? What do you want to achieve in your life?
I want to create a life where I feel happy, free, and satisfied. Also I want to bring in the financial and creative abundance. As I come from a family where we lived from month to month most of the time, I want to create a different life for myself and my family. And lastly, I want to help others in achieving their dream life too.
Who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration is Christina Greve. She is an amazing woman, successful, very creative, supportive, inspiring, and such a lovely person! I love everything she does, what type of person she is. I did a few courses with her, and it has been always game-changing for me. What I have done so far is thanks to her support and motivation.
Now, for fun and to speed up the energy at the end, some brainstormers. Here you go. 🙂
3 favorite Instagram accounts?
I do have many accounts I love following, but recently I get inspired a lot from Rachel Korinek, Bea Lubas and Fanette from Frenchly.
Cats or dogs?
Spaghetti or risotto?
Avocado or mango?
Aceto balsamico or apple vinegar?
Olive oil or pumpkin seed oil?
Now to the nonfood stuff…
Natural light or studio lighting?
Minimalistic or not?
In between 🙂
Moody or dreamy?
Organic or conventional?
Wine or gin? Wine
Italy or Poland?
Canon or Nikon?
50mm or 85mm?
F1.4 or F3.5?
Winter or Summer?
Teaching or learning?
Recommend a book, or three, or five. 🙂
Aaah this is hard 😀 I don’t have much time reading, the last books I have got were about food photography – from Kimberly Espinel, Bea Lubas and my dear friend Lucia Carniel – a cook book.
Last but not least
And last, give us a song that resonates with you lately. What is it that you put on the most? I’ll share the link below.
Bakermat – Baby. It gives me lots of energy and when I listen these lyrics, I just imagine how much I want to live my dream life 😀
Lucia, thank you for being a part of my journey. It has been a pleasure watching you do your thing, overcome your challenges, and land a dream work for yourself, by yourself. You are very inspiring.
Thank you too Marina for this opportunity. It is such a pleasure to be connected with you, oh and I love your reels they are really great and funny and I love watching them. You are also such an inspiration for me, thank you so much for that too!
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