Interview: 5 food photography tips with Donna Crous
This week I speak with pro food photographer Donna Crous who gives her top tips for food photography
1. How do you ensure your food is ready for shooting if you haven't made it before?
My main clients are a USA-based publishing house, so the process is: I'll receive the manuscript via email and from there I begin shopping for ingredients, cooking, styling, photographing and then undergo post-production. Many times I have no idea what the end dish is going to look like. Sometimes I’ve never tasted, seen or even heard of the ingredients because Mexican and Asian feature hugely in American cuisine. I'll have to google the dish and study YouTube videos on how to make them in great depth to have a really good idea of exactly what the end result should look like. With my own recipes, sometimes it is either a much loved family favourite, or a recipe I've designed to entirely to create an image with, or perhaps a recipe for my own recipe book that I'm currently writing.
2. Do you seek any particular quality of light/time of day?
Yes, as I'm a natural light photographer I tend to chase the light around the house during the day. I have my morning shooting spot and then my afternoon set up. The light colour also changes during the day, the mornings being softer and a warmer yellow and afternoon will give me a blue tone. Summer is obviously a better time of the year as I can shoot for longer and later, but seeing as I prefer the moody look for my own pictures, the winter can be a beautiful time to shoot. My favourite is actually a cold rainy day because the light can be absolutely stunning, plus I get to work in my tracky bottoms and slippers!
3. What's your go-to camera body for shooting food?
I have two camera bodies, my main one is a Nikon D850 and my standby is a D750. I'm hoping Santa will bring me a Z6/Z7 for Christmas as I love the size and weight of the mirrorless cameras without compromising on image size and quality, making it way easier for location, restaurant and travel shoots.
4. Which lenses do you always have in your camera bag and why?
I have a number, not to be fancy but they all have different purposes. 50mm f/1.8 for overhead shots, 85mm f/1.8 for front on, 105mm macro f/2.8 both for close ups and even to use from a further distance to achieve a beautiful bokeh and compression in the composition. I also have a 24-70mm f/2.8 VR for location shoots or when I’m out-and-about.
5. In your opinion, what's the most important thing about food photography?
Keep it real! Food should be real and 100% edible. I think food photography has such a bad rep because in the old days the food was not real and genuine. Yes there are still many tricks that photographers use today to create a good image, like shaving cream for whipped cream, fake ice-cream made from hair conditioner and cornstarch, plastic ice-cubes in drinks etc. However, I'm in the business of creating images to sell recipes so I can't and won't fake ingredients to create the perfect image. I have shot ice-cream and granita in a heatwave, and there are ways and means to ensure that the dish looks amazing whilst still being the real deal. I also make sure the colour of the food looks real in post-production. I find adding too many filters and bumping up the clarity can create an end result that looks unappetising and a far cry from the original dish.