How did you come to be a food photographer? I used to be a picture editor for magazines, and after I packed that in, I decided to become a nutritional therapist and did a three-year course. I had a car accident, and taught myself how to use a new camera while I was recovering. So food was a natural subject for me. It’s not the only thing I do – I take a lot of portraits, for example – but a lot of my work is food-focused editorial.
Can you sum up your philosophy? I like to see a natural scene in a frame. Some people shoot very conceptual food shots, and it looks nice, but it doesn’t happen in real life. I like all the asides: close-ups, individual ingredients, prep shots, someone putting a record on, empty plates at the end of the meal, that sort of thing.
Is a good food photo more about the photographer’s eye, or the equipment they use? It’s two-thirds the photographer’s eye, I’d say. You can take a good food shot with an iPhone if you know what you’re doing. A lot of the shot is about the styling, and framing.
Everyone’s a food photographer nowadays… It’s great that food is encouraging people to get creative. And it helps me that everyone puts their dinner on social media. My clients want pictures that are better than they see on Instagram: as long as I keep upping my game, I can provide that.
What camera do you generally use? I use a Canon Mk 4, with a 50mm lens. It hits the sweet spot – you can go as wide or as tight as you like. I always shoot on manual: for close-up shots I’ll shoot on an f5.6 aperture and adjust the shutter speed accordingly.
Does the food generally get cold while you’re at work? Do you get to eat it? Some foods, like soup, or freshly cooked meat, need to be shot while they’re hot. Most other dishes go cold during the shoot, and you’d never know. You can get to eat them afterwards if you want, but usually they’ve been prodded around with so long, you don’t want to.
Are you a cook yourself? By no means a chef, but a home-cook, yes. I love cooking in the evening, with my partner or for dinner parties. Big spreads with lots of different dishes. My favourite chefs are Yotam Ottolenghi – I love his Simple cookbook, and the Persian cooking of Sabrina Ghayour. Luckily, we have Taj, so the ingredients are easy to find!
Do you ever meet food producers? I often go out and shoot them at work. It’s a real pleasure working with such passionate people, and an education seeing the source of the food that ends up on our plate.
Give us a top tip… You’ve got to know what you want to communicate with the image before you even pick up the camera.