My free checklist will help you get organized so you can finally run a smooth food photography shoot!
Deciding to shift from graphic designer to pursue a career as a professional photographer full time was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was an easy decision, but the process of getting there wasn’t easy. Photography requires a lot of passion to keep at it — you have to show up everyday and practice your craft. As a self-taught photographer, I want to share 5 tips that have helped me along the way, and continue to help me today.
I love natural light and will go to great lengths to use it whenever I can, especially when shooting food. However, as you develop your career as a professional photographer, you will need to know how to shoot different subjects (like products on white background for example) or shooting in low light conditions. It is essential to be able to use artificial lighting to shoot products or to compensate for winters’ few daylight hours and to neutralize ambient light, often very yellow on a shoot at a restaurant. For this reason, I recommend learning about off-camera speedlights and investing in one for your shoots. There are plenty of online courses to get you started, and learning about off camera speedlights has been instrumental in the growth of my photography. Check out my favorite course about light: beginners and seasoned photographers will for sure learn something here (affiliate link).
For any professional photographer, it’s essential to know your subject. For food photography, it means having some fun and getting your hands dirty in the kitchen. Not all food photographers have a food stylist available to them 24/7, especially in the beginning. It can take a long time to build such a specialized team. For this blog, I wear all the hats from the cooking, styling, props, and photography. I’m not a food stylist by any means, but this has helped me develop a knowledge of how food cooks, sits, wilts, crumbles, and drips. In turn, I can bring more ideas to my shoots. The better you know your subject, the more successful you’ll be at showcasing how beautiful it is.
Much like lighting, composition can make or break an image. Knowing how you are going to shoot your image beforehand is key. When I know the recipe, I do some research, gather inspiration, and sometimes do a little prop shopping. Then I draw a sketch with the camera angle, the lighting, the props, so I can set the scene up before preparing the food, which is especially useful if I’m shooting alone. This allows me time to think through where the light is coming from and where I’ll place the props in relation to the food. Planning ahead simply makes the actual shoot much more organized and eases the scramble of shooting those time-sensitive recipes. Check my previous post about how to plan your shots here.
Food isn’t perfect. It’s messy, gooey, and crumbly, which are all realities I like to show off. Rip bread apart with your hands instead of slicing it with a knife. Take a bite out of the popsicle to create that desire for another bite. The trend today, especially in food photography, is to move away from perfectly staged shots and to shoot authenticity. There’s so much beauty within the imperfections — embrace them. Make sure you stay up to date on the latest trends by ready magazines, keeping an eye of new cookbooks, and following a few food blogs. Check what 2018 has in store for us here.
Photography is a constant learning game and you have to practice…a lot. If you don’t have time to cook every time you pull out your camera, play around with raw ingredients. Whatever it takes, keep taking pictures. No matter what your photography focus is, find the inspiration that fuels you. The more inspired you are, the more you’ll practice, and the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
“Which photograph is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” –Imogen Cunningham