Often we get questions from readers for food photography interviews asking “how many photos do you take for one good one” or “how do you plan for your food photos” or something in these lines. In this post, I share experience from my recent photo shoot and specifically the thought process once creative juices start flowing.
How I Started
This photo shoot was not preplanned. At a night on one weekend, I felt inspired and thought of taking some photos. Late at night, all I had was a box full of crackers and some cheese… so that became the subject for this photo shoot.
Before I even started shooting and even picked up the camera, I had some vision of how the final image should look like. The image was in my mind but did not sketch it on the paper.
Depending on the time or subject, I may decide to sketch it or may just try to take photos more organically. This approach, as you will notice, was more organic and I went with the flow.
Taking “Sketch Shots”
Before I started shooting, my camera was set up on a tripod and tethered to the laptop. The first few shots were test shots or “sketch shots” taken with the purpose of trying to understand how the frame looks like and how to adjust/place subjects.
Below is one of the first sketch shot.
The purpose here was not to create a perfect image, but to understand and get comfortable with the setup. As you can see in this shot there is lot of distraction in the background… the green and yellow and red it really not required.
At this point though, I am not worried about the background but rather trying to get a feel of visually what’s going on in the whole frame. I then change few things and add some elements, trying to see how this changes the frame. Here’s the next image..
Now I put some cream cheese on a cracker and grind some black pepper on it. So this changes things, immediately. This is a bit more interesting that just plain cracker on a cutting board. Again, the purpose here is to experiment and understand what subjects should be added/changed to get a strong image.
I now add more crackers to the scene including the hero of the image. As you will notice, the cracker with cream cheese is now moved back (on the right side in the frame). We also have a new cracker in focus. Image is still very weak. Nothing interesting about it. Again, trying to experiment and take some images at the same time.
So as the next change, I bring those crackers at the back more in the frame and try to experiment with changing the focus as well.
Getting the Final Image
After the shot above, my creative juices start flowing with more power. That’s when I decide that really that cracker on the left side is not really working. I need to add some height. So I pick up that cracker and put it on the top of the cracker with cheese slice.
Now I start feeling a bit better. I feel I am going somewhere, things are starting to happen. This photograph is better than the previous photos but still is missing something. So what next? Well I decide to do the dance.
I move and trying to find the best camera angle. I dance around and find the above angle. By changing the angle, I feel the image is a bit stronger. However, still something is missing.
Finding the Missing Ingredient
Part of this creative process has been understanding that something is missing and knowing that “feeling”. Often you may take a picture but just not feel that the photograph is complete.
This feeling of incompleteness and knowing that something is missing but not being able to put your finger on that one thing is often frustrating. As David duChemin has said in his books and ebooks, frustration is part of this creative process.
What I have found is that if you can’t put your finger on one thing, you just need to try more things than you planned for. That’s what I did in the next photo.
So at this point, I changed one thing. Without scrolling back up, can you tell what that one thing is? Well, the background. I switched the background from wooden cutting board to a jute bag. Do you see how background is important in a food photo?
I immediately felt that this image was even more stronger after the background was changed. However, in this process, I made one mistake again. The crackers on the right side are out of the frame.
So I move these crackers back in the frame. This looks much better and a nice strong image. At this point, I am satisfied with it and feel like this is it. So that’s it? You ask. No.
Even Stronger Image
My curious mind wants to see what else can I change here. Is there a possibility of creating an even stronger image? May be.
I change the focal point back to the original cracker and zoom out a little bit to include other stacks as well. Not a good idea. Too many things creating distraction here.
So I remove the cracker from the bottom of the frame and move towards left a bit. And here’s photo below..
The photo above is okay but not as strong as we had before. So, what else can I change? That’s the question in my mind as I go through this. I move the cracker stack to see how that may change things.
As you can see below, the reddish brown edge on the first stack in the photo below are a bit distracting in my mind.
So what are some lesson learned from this photo shoot? Well here they are very briefly:
Keep experimenting and keep trying.
Don’t stop taking photos if you have an image good enough. As you can see here, had we stopped taking the photo few photos ago, we would have had an okay image. Since we kept going and trying new ideas, we were able to get this image above.
What’s Your Photography Process
Photography process is different for almost every person. In my case, it differs from time to time and subject to subject. Is your photography process more organic or do you plan for it and have a structured process?
Do you sketch your photos on paper? Share your thoughts below.