Joan Ransley

Food | Last Updated: August 27, 2021

Hi my name is Joan Ransley and I am based in the beautiful county of Yorkshire, right in the centre of the UK.

I work as a food photographer, stylist and feature writer for newspapers and magazines, food companies and online sites. I also run bespoke workshops.

I have a deep understanding and love of food. I trained in nutrition and food science and I also love cooking and styling food.

To photograph food well you need to understand it and know how it behaves over time. It is a fragile material to photograph – just think of that ice-cream melting on a hot day, the fat in a rich curry solidifying as it cools or those herbs wilting as they dry out.

You also need to be an artist who knows which food goes with what and how to serve it. I often say to my students, dressing a plate is a bit like dressing a model – you think of the style, the colours and textures. You aim to make it look glamorous with jewels of colour pops and adornments of delicate herbs.

My journey into photography came ten years ago through writing and needing beautiful images to include in my feature articles.

My first DSLR camera, back in the day, was a Canon EOS 450D and I loved it. I upgraded to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II when it came out and used it with a Canon 24–105mm f/4 IS lens which was so versatile. I also bought a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro lens. These lenses created a great range of close ups of food as well as documentary style images.

A breakthrough in my career came in 2014 when I won a third place in the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. This was followed with a second place the year after and another third place the year after that.

I started working for magazines, food brands, hotels and restaurants doing editorial shoots, social media and online feature writing and photography, food styling and creating stock photography as a profession.

I continue to learn from my fellow photographers, and I try to challenge myself with new personal work and commissions.

My kit is:

Canon 5D Mark IV
There are some things I love about this camera, namely, the ability to tether wirelessly. This is great when working with clients who can see the shots coming together in real time.

I also love the hugely improved focussing system. It is so accurate and easy to use. The image quality is awesome.

My favourite lenses are:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
This is a great lens for food photography (guide), and I use this for most of my commercial shoots. The depth of field is really controllable, and the lens performs well throughout the focal range.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
This is a great lens for close-up food shots and portraits.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
I use this lens for shooting ‘flat lays’ when I have to get above a table scene. I attach the camera and lens to the boom arm of my tripod and can manoeuvre them easily above a table. This lens also creates a wonderful shallow depth of field.

Fuji XT1
This is my travel camera and I use it a lot for food photography. Combined with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens it is light and performs well in a variety of lighting conditions.

The image quality is wonderful and it is great for shooting hand held flat lays. I also use this camera with the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR which is great for taking photos of food as the minimum working distance is only 15cm.

I use a Manfrotto ProT with a grip action head. It has a boom arm that can be extended for shooting overhead. I use a tripod a lot as it leaves my hands free for styling and composing a shot.

Diffusers and reflectors
I use a range of diffusers and reflectors to direct and modify the light. I use mostly daylight for shooting food.

Props and Backgrounds
I have an extensive range of props including tableware, cutlery, linen and ‘hero’ vintage kitchenware that can add character and interest to a scene.

I also collect old doors, pieces of wood, old floorboards, well-used baking trays, etc. I paint some of my backgrounds and knit, sew and make props. I need to turn my hand to anything to get the look I want.

Food Stylists Toolkit (not shown)
I also have a toolbox of equipment I need when styling food for a shoot.

It includes: long arm tweezers (shown) for rearranging food on a plate, dropper bottle full of oil, a spray bottle full of fresh water for perking up herbs, fruit and vegetables; Blu Tack for holding things in position, cotton wool buds for wiping smears, wipes for cleaning spills, a small iron for ironing creases out of fabrics etc. | @joanransley

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  1. Jackson Bird on March 20, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks so much I always learn something new from these tutorials . As i budding Photographer

  2. Mike Cassidy on March 15, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Beautiful shots!

  3. David on March 12, 2019 at 5:56 am

    I would be just as interested to see what’s in your food styling tool kit?

  4. Joan Ransley on March 11, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Everyone,
    If you have any questions or comments about my article on food photography do get in touch.

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