I suppose I’m best known around here for my food photography. But to be fair, food photography wasn’t always easy for me.
Read more: 3 Easy Ways to Improve your Food Photography
I’ve talked a lot about how I assumed it would be a… piece of cake (sorry, I had to!) when I wrote my ebook, Eat Pretty Things.
I assumed if I knew how to use my camera properly (I did) then food photography would be a breeze (it wasn’t). Unfortunately, I realized that camera settings were only one tiny piece of the… pie (OK, last one I promise!). There was a whole other world to food photography that involved staging, styling & sometimes even dealing with temperamental food.
It was my love for food photography that pushed me forward, even when I wasn’t loving all my shots, to keep working & get better & it while building my confidence. But something else happened that I wasn’t expecting. Learning how to be a confident food photographer somehow made my other photography blossom as well.
No.01I knew the technical side.
There was nothing worse (for me) than learning manual mode while trying to shoot a toddler. Throw in white balance & composition at the same time? Forget it. When I tried to photograph my kids while learning manual mode, I ended up more frustrated than anything. I ended up with more missed shots than anything!
Learning manual mode, composition & white balance on still life subjects was probably the best thing I ever did. I didn’t get frustrated at food because I could manipulate it & take my time. I was able to get comfortable & activate both my muscle & mental memory. Underexposed, quick fix. White balance off, no problem. I wasn’t worried about missing shots while I fumbled around because there wasn’t anything to miss.
It wasn’t until I took my skills outside of my house & tried out street & portrait photography that I realized that camera settings didn’t require tons of extra brain power. They were second nature.
No.02I understood light
I can easily say that understanding light is the single most important thing I did to improve my photography all around. But it was specifically my understand of dramatic light or low light that taught me this the best.
When I realized I could create exciting images in my own home, simply by finding the best possible light, I realized I could do this outside of my home as well. Before food photography, I wouldn’t have thought to bring my son into a dim room & have him stand in the doorway so the light could spill across his face.
Training my eyes to see light in a new way opened up a world of photography opportunities. I could direct my kids to play in a stream of light. I could see reflections in pools of water. I could see shadows in subways. This ability (kinda like a super power, if ya ask me) has been one of my favorite aspects of photography.
I’m always looking for light & finding it much more often now that my eye is actually trained to see it.
No.03I gained confidence
There’s something about having confidence that completely changes your photography game. Think about when you’re feeling frustrated. You miss shots. Your composition feels off. You feel like you’re wasting your time & easily become irritated with your subjects (maybe that’s just me).
I remember dreading having to take pictures of my kids. I just didn’t have the patience for it. Now I have complete confidence that I can create a great image. I sit & wait. I’m patient & observing. I let them play & document either a smile or them just being themselves in their own world.
I love that I don’t feel rushed to give them direction or keep saying – LOOK HERE, RIGHT HERE, JUST SMILE, OVER HERE!!!! Being comfortable & confident as a food photographer has allowed me to focus on letting my subject to be part of the composition. Previously, my subject WAS the composition. Now I’m just taking a lovely image & sometimes, my kids are apart of it.
No.04I knew my editing style
We’re all striving for that consistent editing style right? I know having a cohesive style is something that I’ve found to be my biggest struggle. After years of editing food photography images & finding a cozy spot in my editing style, I was able to take that into my street & portrait photography.
I’m comfortable using deep shadows. I enjoy dark colors & lots of contrast. I’m glad I was able to find an editing style that I enjoyed using with food photography & now I can apply that to other images I take!
Admittedly, I’m still working on skin tones!
I’ve always said the best way to improve your photography is simply through practice but I can’t help but mention that feeling inspired & pushing your creativity is a great addition to that.
If you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut, I’d definitely encourage you to step outside of your norm & surprise yourself! Maybe one style of photography has prepared you or paved a way for another style!