Musings of a Fine Art Food Photographer – Episode 1

As a Fine Art Photographer who shoots food, I see a lot of people who think Photography is as easy as picking up a camera and pressing the shutter. It is not. Photography can take years to master. It can also take weeks of planning, to execute 1 final image, and hours, sometimes into the night, to get the shot you want.

My Personal Experience with Photography
Fine Art Food

I’ll give you an example. In my collection of Still Life with Food fine art, Still Life with Figs took me days of first figuring out and planning how I would depict what I wanted to convey. I then had to wait for the figs to ripen to the color I wanted, and the flowers to dry to the texture I needed. Timing is key. I’m also picky about choosing fruits I shoot

If you have ever worked with food, especially fruits, then you know it can take many fruits to find the perfect one for your story.  During this shoot, I was lucky enough to only cut through a handful of figs before I found the perfect one. The perfect one to me was a fig that looked abundant and rich on the inside. Of course, composition also comes into play.

Lighting Fine Art Food 

I am for the most part a studio photographer who uses both natural light and artificial light for my fine art images. Because my style mostly works best while using artificial light, I have had to master my technique over the years.  Even still, getting angles and lighting to work together can be challenging. In my piece, Still Life with Berries, some of the challenges I faced include lighting the berries while still maintaining the correct shadows I wanted.  

If you look at any of my images, you’ll notice my use of lighting is carefully thought out. Getting the correct shadow or close to it, in camera, is important to me. And how about being careful when you want to light one thing, that the light doesn’t spill to things you don’t want to light? Geez!

Never Shoot JPG – Only RAW

Even though I never shoot JPGs because shooting flat images is a big no, white balance can be the encourager of indecision.  There are so many moods you could convey and so many things you could do with the white balance. Because most images I photograph does not require heavy editing, I try to make sure I get 90% of what I need in camera. In my opinion, when the raw image looks great, majority of your work is done.

Other Fun Photography Challenges 
Fine Art Food

Should I get into focus stacking? You don’t want to hear about my focus stacking nightmares. I am sure any photographer reading this can relate. Especially when two important objects in the shot have different depth of fields.

Speaking of challenges, now, imagine this scenario. The initial backdrop of my photo looked good in my head, but the camera didn’t love it. For this reason, we had to break it down. The sunflower used in the image wouldn’t stay still, and I couldn’t tape it because of the clear glass. I needed this image to be as pure as possible in camera, so I had to make it work.  The original vase just wasn’t working for me so I had to go search for one that would. 

Also, if you know lighting then you know that once you move something, repositioning the light starts over. One thing I’ve learned about artists, we are picky as hell and are our own worst critic. I’m sure some photographers can relate to having 100+ shots of the same thing with minor differences in their card.

Let me not even go on about editing fine art in post-production. My friends are probably tired of me, so when they know I’m shooting, they prepare for my bombardment. I enjoy second opinions, they are helpful, even though I mostly choose the image my heart feels most.

Photography is Art

As a Fine Art Photographer, we put our heart and soul into our work. So, when I see Photography being spoken of like it’s effortless, it makes no sense to me. I know everyone can’t appreciate or understand it but don’t devalue it.

Yes, I can go to Santa Monica right now and capture a beautiful sunrise in minutes. This doesn’t mean every photo in my hard drive was taken that easily. It also doesn’t mean there was no rhyme or reason behind it. Some of the most iconic images in the world are from Documentary Photographers. 

Every Photographer has a story 

Every professional photographer in different genres has a story. Some take hours or days of watching an animal to get that amazing shot. Some must revisit the location to get the right lighting. While some must deal with working with other humans and cancellations on set. There can be so many factors that go into getting that 1 photo. Some even risk their lives for their work. 

When I decided to travel to Nigeria and Kenya to shoot Everyday Africa, it took careful planning. It also took taking risks and doing certain things I hadn’t done before. While shooting, being careful was a necessity. This was because hoodlums could harass me because of my camera. This did not deter me though. To get the shot I wanted, I sometimes had to wait in one spot for a while. 

One of the images in my Everyday Africa, Everyday Africa 18, took me hours of watching her interactions before I got that perfect shot. It was hot, I was sweaty but felt great that I was patient enough to capture what I wanted. 

Photography may not be one of the original 7 types of art, but it sure as heck has earned its spot as the 8th one.