I live in a small village in the North East of England surrounded by beautiful countryside and more pet chickens than you would care to credit.
I’m a food photographer, and I also photograph weddings. I shoot primarily for brands, restaurants, and cafés, although if it’s food, I’m happy to work on most projects. I would love the opportunity to work on a cookbook, that’s the dream.
Looking back on it, being a food photographer was always somewhat inevitable as cooking and photography have been passions of mine from childhood, although it didn’t occur to me to bring the two disciplines together until quite recently.
For me, food photography is about more than just the end product. Even something as simple as a handful of berries is a labour of love. The way I see it, it’s my job to tell the story, to honour the produce, and the dishes, the farmers and the chefs. It’s all one big collaboration that results in a picture of something that people want to eat.
Food changes very quickly as it moves to room temperature, whether that’s ice cream melting in the heat or hot sauces drying as they cool, so you have to work fast. Knowing your kit inside and out is important when it comes to working swiftly.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – I loved my Mark II into the ground, and the same thing is going to happen with the Mark IV.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM – I use this lens more than any other. It shines when it comes to flatlay food photography in particular. The wide angle means I don’t have to set the camera too high to get everything I want in shot, and the quality of the lens means I don’t have to worry about vignetting or distortion. It’s wonderfully versatile and pin sharp.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM – This is a beautiful, crystal clear macro lens which is what you expect from anything in the Canon L series. I love this lens for close ups and detail work. It’s good for portraits too.
Canon Speedlite 580EX II – Natural light is my preferred light source, but that’s only ideal if I’m working on a single photograph. I frequently do big restaurant re-brands and that means my clients want lots of shots which therefore all need to be lit consistently. The best way to do this is by controlling the lighting, and I use an 18% grey card to white balance each picture.
Natural light would be nice, but living and working in the North East of England means the weather is changeable and unpredictable, and there’s a lot of night during the winter.
The 580EX II is a great flash gun, it’s powerful, and at 1/8th power it’s fast enough that I can capture droplets and splashes. I can use it to slave other flash units, and pair it with a reflector for soft shadows.
Sometimes I like to use my Neewer S-400 strobes, but they’re big and heavy and take up a lot of space that clients don’t always have available.
PhotoSEL 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector – Translucent, white, gold, silver, and black. It’s handy and compact.
These vinyl backdrops are such good quality, and the range of colours and textures means there’s something to suit most any shoot. You can’t always guarantee there will be ideal surfaces to shoot on so having my own is invaluable to me. The fact they’re plastic instead of paper means they don’t get stained by oil which is a big hazard in food photography, and a definite plus.
I find myself using the dark and painted wood options, as well as the marble textures the most. Natural looking backdrops tend to be the best suited for food, but as someone who is part photographer and part magpie, I’m going to have to buy more of their range, even if I have to justify it with personal shoots.
I carry lots of small items with me – clamps to hold backdrops, and spare batteries are always a must. I have amassed a vast array of vintage cutlery, strange props, and peculiar crockery over the years, and I bring pieces to the shoot that I think will contribute.
I always have lots of snacks with me too, because eating the food before you’ve even shot it is generally considered a bad thing.