Balance and Food Photography


As we've grown as a school - both in terms of the number of courses and what they offer but also with regards to the community that we've somewhat managed to create - we've had to reflect on what sort of work we'd like to associate ourselves with. We've identified four areas that we'd like to concentrate on which are portraiture, landscape, documentary and food photography. Whilst each of these are so different from one another - would it not be interesting to see how photographers develop a consistent style that transcends genres of photography? Perhaps it's less about a particular style and more about always enjoying the process and the journey of becoming a creative - because why would you want to restrict your vision to the consistency and style when there is so much to discover? Can we really take black and white photos of food that would be as appetizing as their color compatriots?

These thoughts and more were in my mind when I decided, one morning, to take some picture of my obsession breakfast. While the plate might look quite simple and innocent, it was the product of many months of iteration - so much to the point that I don't even remember where I got the original idea. All I know is that this breakfast had changed me. I had gone from someone that was rather confused about what to start my day with to someone that just knew. Making the breakfast had gone into auto-pilot where I wake up and head for the kitchen - where on the table lies an avocado that had been ripened for days until it was just right. Not too hard or soft but just the right amount to give the right mix of taste and texture.

It was the first time, though, where I had put the plate under strobes and the focus shifted to the aesthetics and here I was doing something so strikingly similar to the actual process of creating this recipe (please don't send me an email saying this had already been done). As our tongues judge the palatability of the ingredients from a taste standpoint, our eyes do the same with the positioning an aesthetic details  of the ingredients. Ultimately, the process of telling this story from a visual standpoint is not entirely different from the creation of a dish that deeply enFor example, what you think is a good idea might not be so - until you test it. Saffron (as great and Godly as it may be) does not go well with the goat cheese or avocado. It looks pretty (saffron always looks pretty) but the marriage is a sour one as the two fight in your mouth (eeks). Likewise, Raspberry jam is far too sweet (as are most other berries) and Halloumi cheese too salty and takes far too much attention in ones mouth whilst being chewed (though sandwich enthusiasts would disagree with me). Apricot jam is the perfect balance - of texture, sweetness and support to the other players in our team. As with the study of composition the concept of balance becomes central to creating a recipe that people can emotionally connect with.

Balance takes another turn in the form of food styling. As I look through several recipe books, I often pay attention to the lighting but this isn’t particularly complicated. Most photos are quite easy to set up with strobes and softened light but for food photography – it’s comes down to styling but styling of a particular kind.

·       Is the avocado the right type of green?

·       Is it better to have cashew nuts upfront or in the background?

·       Should goat cheese be chunks or little sprinkles?

·       Should the plate be white or ornate and if so, how ornate should it be?

Ultimately, I think photographers – as people that pay attention to aesthetics, should be good at toying with such ideas. We should be able to think about these subtleties and aesthetics shouldn’t be limited to our photographs but, indeed, to everything that we do.

While I may not be entirely sure about the general direction of the programs in question, I think its safe to say that central to everything is one’s ability to observe, analyze and iterate – all the while gaining a greater intuition on how to create balance in our environment. What this little experience has also taught me, however, is that perhaps the idea of balance is the very essence of creativity. Could I make such a generalization?