Archive for April, 2013

From my research of Wildfowel and Wetlands Trust, I discovered a membership exclusive, quarterly publication, Waterlife.

Issue 184: April – June 2013

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013


Cover Page – Image acts a representation of seasonal behaviour and/or events.


Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- Waterways-News


News section of the magazine

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- Waterways-human and animal interaction


Main feature – report on a recent event.

Environmental portrait of the chief executive of WWT.

What I found appealing about this image, is its ability to create a strong representation of the environment whilst maintaining this sense of interaction, between the main subject and the surrounding animals. I did notice a minor flaw in the cropping of the subjects foot, but this could easily be the result of the limitations involved with strict deadlines.

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- Feature-worldwide


Worldwide photo story – two page feature image.

It is also useful to know that this magazine shows an interest in images based in a worldwide context.

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- promotional+advertising


Promotional/advertising – the magazine also requires images within the park for promotional purposes, which serves as another potential submission.

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- martin mere


Specific news and events relating to the site most locally available to me, Martin Mere.

Waterlife-Issue 184- April - June 2013- centre events


Centre events pages – there are also images required for specific weekly events on each site. Therefore, if I were arrange permission prior to my visit, I could potentially be able to photograph wildlife, document the park, follow the days events and experiment with interesting human and animal interaction shots. This could possibly engage interest from the WWT for use in Waterlife or just build my photographic portfolio for commercial and editorial use elsewhere (providing sufficient permission).


For my general research of editorial markets, I decided to concentrate upon editorial publications relating to wildlife.

A magazine I have a great admiration for is BBC Wildlife, publishing some of the world’s finest academic research and wildlife photography.

I concentrated upon their submission policy and editorial team, to gain a greater understanding upon how I could begin to expand my wildlife portfolio and appeal to the existing wildlife market.

General photography

BBC Wildlife welcomes photographic submissions, but please bear in mind that we do work with a large number of photographic agencies, as well as more than 100 professional wildlife photographers worldwide.

To illustrate regular sections of the magazine, such as Wild, Agenda, Q&A, etc, we contact the most appropriate agencies and professionals. This allows us to view a vast selection of pictures with great efficiency and minimal administration.

  • If you would like to submit your images for our consideration, please make sure that you have first familiarised yourself with the magazine and the quality and type of photography we use.
  • If yours are of a comparable standard then email your 10 best shots as low res jpgs (under 1MB) to BBC Wildlife’s picture researcher Wanda Sowry along with your full contact details.
  • Please title the jpgs with the species common name first, then the Latin name for insects and rare species, and then your name last.
  • Unfortunately, due to the volume of correspondence she receives, Wanda will not be able to acknowledge your submission, but she will view your images, assess their appropriateness for publication and keep them on file.
  • Then, if an opportunity to publish them arises, she will contact you to request the high res and discuss terms of usage.
  • I’m sorry but we only send out our regular ‘wants’ list to a limited number of professional photographers.

If you have any further enquiries about use of images in BBC Wildlife, please email Wanda Sowry (10am–6pm, Monday–Wednesday) or call 0117 314 8371.

Q&A photos

If you have one or two pictures that show really interesting or unusual behaviour (even if the quality is not faultless), why not think of a question to go with your picture and send it in to the Q&A editor?

Q&A is one of the main sections of the magazine to which we encourage readers to send their own shots.

Simply email details about when and where you observed the behaviour, what you saw, what happened next and your question to Sarah McPherson and attach your image as a medium res jpg (about 3MB).

Exposure photos

The Exposure section is always looking for extraordinary shots that are both beautiful and show unusual, extreme or unique behaviour. Please look back through some past issues to see the sort of image we are looking for.

The Exposure section covers a double page spread, so the image must be high quality.

If you are successful, you will also be asked to write 150 words about your experience.

If you have any one-off images that are totally amazing and show exciting, rare or striking animal behaviour, please email a maximum of 10 low res jpgs to BBC Wildlife’s picture researcher Wanda Sowry along with your full contact details and an outline of the story.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of correspondence she receives, Wanda will only be able to respond to successful pitches.

Photo stories

If you have considered all of the above, and have not just individual photos, but a large body of work making up a photo story that you would like to pitch, then here is some useful advice.

  • Before you submit your idea, read BBC Wildlife and familiarise yourself with our usual photographic content and type of feature.
  • Make sure your idea has not been covered recently by browsing our back issues.
  • Ask yourself – which section of the magazine would your idea be most suitable for? What would the angle be? How would it surprise and delight our readers? When should we run it and why? If you can answer these questions, then your pitch has a greater chance of success.
  • Then ask yourself – who would write the copy to go with your images? Remember that BBC Wildlife requires not just stunning photography, but a compelling story, written by a skilled writer or expert in the field, who can share exciting new insights into the subject. Though you may know a lot about your chosen subject, are you really the best possible writer? Have you written for our kind of audience before?
  • If you have worked with a scientist, researcher or charity on your photo story, could they write the copy? If so, simply provide their contact details with your pitch. If not, you can provide just the photos and leave it to us to find a suitable author, though – if we accept your images – this will delay their publication significantly.
  • Then send an email, outlining your story idea in no more than one or two paragraphs (150 words), and covering the points above, to features editor Ben Hoare and cc Wanda Sowry
  • Attach 15-20 of your best shots that illustrate your story to the email as low res jpgs (no more than 1MB).
  • Do not send high res images unless requested as these take too long to load and as a result may not be viewed.
  • We do accept CDs of images, but email is preferred.
  • Unfortunately, due to the volume of correspondence he receives, Ben is not able to acknowledge or give feedback on unsolicited photo story pitches unless they are successful.
  • If they are successful, you will be contacted to discuss the development of your idea and asked to send more photos.


BBC Wildlife is always looking for spectacular photography and groundbreaking new ways of seeing the natural world to showcase in its prestigious Portfolio section.

Do you have images that show a species as its never been seen before, new behaviour, unprecedented intimacy, or showcase a new photographic technique? It goes without saying that images should be technically perfect as well as taking the art of photography to the next level.

If you have a unique body of work, then email 15-20 of your best shots to editor Sophie Stafford.

Unfortunately, due to the volume of photos she receives, Sophie is not able to acknowledge or give feedback on unsolicited portfolio pitches unless they are successful.

However, she will view all the images she received, assess their appropriateness and, if possible, redirect them to another section of the magazine, such as the photo story section or Exposure.

Online gallery

BBC Wildlife‘s website receives some of the highest traffic for ‘wildlife photography’ searches in the UK.

Therefore, an online gallery is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your photography (or art), drive traffic to your website, sell tours, books and pictures – or just raise your profile as a photographer.

Galleries should have a popular ‘theme’ and contain 16 very different images.

To pitch an online gallery, please send 16 low-res jpgs to Sophie Stafford and Jo Price.

If your gallery is selected, it will appear in the carousel on the home page and in a glorious gallery. It may even be chosen to headline our next fortnightly e-newsletter.

There is no fee for online galleries and we are not able to acknowledge or give feedback on unsolicited gallery pitches unless they are successful.

This emphasised the various magazine divisions and what standard is expected from successful submissions. Ranging from basic wildlife images submissions of 10 images to full photo stories and potential collaborating with specialist writers or scientists. In the long run, I would like to achieve enough knowledge and experience to produce photography to this standard.

This would be complemented by hands-on experience with animals.

Meet the BBC Wildlife editorial team

Picture of Sophie Stafford Sophie Stafford


I have been editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine for the past eight years. I am passionate about wildlife – with a soft spot for the furry variety.

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty: I have been known to give badgers enemas in the UK, dart white rhinos in South Africa, wash giant otter poo in the Pantanal, rescue elephants from snares in Zimbabwe, and help buffaloes give birth in Botswana.
Wildlife photography is a huge passion of mine and I really enjoy working with our photographers to find the world’s best images for the magazine.
I have been a judge on our Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (which we co-own with the Natural History Museum) for the past six years.
In 2011 and 2012, I was honoured to be ask to join the jury on the nature section of the World Press Photo contest in Amsterdam. This December, I will judge the Golden Turtle photo competition in Moscow.
Contact Sophie about photographic portfolios, photo-stories, Exposures and Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Ben Hoare

Features editor 

I commission the magazine’s features, as well as the Wild section, book reviews and the TV and radio section. I wrote and edited natural history books for 12 years before joining BBC Wildlife in 2008.

I’m a well-travelled birder and have finally achieved my ambition to see the world’s smallest bird, the delightful bee hummingbird. I am happiest exploring the hills and woods around my home with my wife Louise and dog Lola.

Contact Ben about Wild, features, TV and book reviews.

James Fair

Environment editor 

I have worked as a magazine journalist for most of the past 20 years, with a several interruptions during the 1990s to travel and become the mother of an orphaned Andean bear.

These days, my horizons are slightly more limited, my chief concern being how to protect my bantams from foxes and grass snakes.

Contact James about Agenda (News), travel features and Tales from the Bush.

Sarah McPherson
Section editor (part-time)
I commission and edit the Q&A section, and write previews and behind-the-scenes articles about natural-history TV and radio. When not at work I can usually be found on a slide or in a ball pool with my young sons.
Seth Burgess
Production editor 
Seth Burgess is the production editor of BBC Wildlife, polishing the text to a bright sheen. When not at work, he enjoys books, films and obsessing over spelling and grammar. His favourite animal is the dimetrodon, followed closely by the domestic cat.
Contact Seth to enquire about freelance sub-editing opportunities.
Richard Eccleston
Art editor
I’m responsible for the look of the magazine. I design the cover and features, commission all photography and art work and oversee the layout of the other editorial pages.
Contact Richard to enquire about illustrations commissions or freelance design opportunities.
Gaz Nickolls
I specialise in colouring in and precise dotted line placement. My favourite animals at the moment are the giant squirrel and the tarsier. I also love making and drinking copious amounts of tea.
Wanda Sowry
Picture researcher
I’ve been working for BBC Wildlife Magazine part-time since 1999. I deal with most of the picture research, image rights, credits and payments. I also make wooden automata.
 At the weekends I can sometimes be found photographing insects, flowers and landscapes. Purely amateur photography, but well-keyworded.
Please read our advice on submitting photos to BBC Wildlife here before contacting Wanda.
This offered very concise information of the various roles and positions required within the editorial industry and the various people to contact to find out more precise portfolio/submission information. In addition, the experience associated with such positions.
Whilst exploring the site, I noticed a photo story relating to a very interesting concept, the ethics of wildlife photography. It outlines the numerous disputes in the wildlife photography world.
 Ethics in wildlife photography article spread

As the digital revolution opens up a new world of possibilities, Mark Carwardine considers the rights and wrongs of wildlife photography.

You might have thought that wildlife photography would be a pleasant, harmless and harmonious activity. And, in many ways, it is. It certainly gives a great deal of pleasure to millions of people.
But it’s also a hotbed of controversy, arousing some very strong and opposing views about how it should be done. Is digital manipulation acceptable? Is it OK to photograph animals in zoos? What about hiring an animal model that has been trained to pose for photographers? Is camera trapping a viable technique? There are no easy answers, but hopefully this article will provide some food for thought.
Digital manipulation
Photographers have been manipulating their images since the earliest days of their art. The iconic portrait of US President Abraham Lincoln, taken in 1860, is one of the first cases of serious fakery – it’s actually a composite of Lincoln’s head grafted onto someone else’s body.
Even the great landscape photographer Ansel Adams used to work more than a little magic in his traditional darkroom. He was quite open about it and happy for people to compare a straight print of his famous 1941 photo Moonrise, Hernandez with the heavily ‘dodged’ and ‘burned’, high-contrast prints that he exhibited. He wasn’t trying to trick anyone, of course, but the difference between the two was quite extraordinary.
In those days, there was an assumed truth in photography. People genuinely believed that “the camera never lies” and that what they were seeing was an accurate record.
But then, in 1982, National Geographic catapulted photographic manipulation into the headlines. Its designers famously squeezed together two Egyptian pyramids to make the image suitable for the cover.
The ‘squeeze’ caused an uproar but, far from stopping photographic forgeries, it heralded a new era in which manipulating photographs has become almost routine. What’s changed is the advent of digital photography. The technology is so good these days that it’s easier than ever for photographers and art editors to make significant changes to pictures without most people ever knowing. Indeed, it is actively encouraged by the adverts for some digital manipulation software: one memorable slogan tells us to “Spread Lies”.
Does any of this really matter? After all, most of us assume that fashion, advertising and even paparazzi photos are likely to have been doctored in some way. We live in a world where airbrushed celebrities rule.
Well, many of us in the wildlife photography business do care. We believe that there should be a tacit understanding between photographer and viewer that what you see in a picture represents the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Some professional photographers will add or remove anything that makes an image more commercial. If they think that a polar bear would look better in a snowstorm, they use computer wizardry to include some falling snow. If two baby gorillas would be better than one, they simply add a second.
What really raises the hackles of most nature photographers is the attempt to pass off heavily manipulated images as genuine. At the very least these photographers could admit that their pictures have been faked by disclosing in the captions that they are digital art and not authentic photographs. But they don’t. The camera itself may never lie but, sadly, some photographers do.
Decency and deception
At this point I ought to stress that creative computer (as opposed to photographic) skills can produce quite beautiful results. And one might also argue that photography is an art, after all, so its aim should be to make pictures as appealing and eye-catching as possible. Nevertheless, lying about images has two serious repercussions.
First, deceitful photographers steal the trust that should be inherent in wildlife images. Once a few cheated photographs have shaken your confidence, you begin to doubt everything you see. In this respect, the culprits do themselves a disservice, too – as far as I’m concerned, all of their images become suspect.
Second, digitally manipulated images raise the bar in wildlife photography to an unnaturally high level. Everyone begins to demand better and better shots based on the artificial ones they’ve seen before. This puts enormous pressure on other photographers to compete, either by slipping into the world of digital manipulation themselves or by pushing their subjects to the limit in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible.
Many experts believe that the answer lies in honest captioning. I agree – but only up to a point. What is the likelihood of mainstream publications telling their readers that a picture isn’t real? It’s certainly something they should be striving for, but they worry that their readers might feel disappointed if they were told that a beautiful image was created largely on the computer rather than in the wild.

So confessing sins in the caption may ease a photographer’s conscience, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.

As nature photographers, we should strive to represent our subjects as faithfully as possible. This means minimal tampering and never trying to misrepresent what we are doing. My own view is that it’s OK to straighten a lopsided horizon or brighten the sky, for example. Just occasionally it might be acceptable to remove a distracting branch or blade of grass – though this does feel like straying into dangerous territory.
How about removing a ring from a bird’s leg? Many photographers believe this to be acceptable, especially professionals who know that images of tagged animals rarely sell. A lot of British red kites have wing tags, for instance, but how often do you see them in photos?
Have all the tags been digitally removed or do people photograph only the kites without tags? I know honest professionals who really do wait until the untagged kites come along, but there are many others who just clone them out in Photoshop. Is it important who does what?
So it’s largely a matter of degree. Most photographers use image-editing software to enhance their photos. I do myself. The point is that we all have to decide which lines we are prepared to cross. And, in making those decisions, we have a responsibility to all of our nature photography colleagues and to everyone who sees our pictures.
Captive subjects
Whether it is right to photograph animals in captivity is another subject that’s guaranteed to ignite heated debate. Even well-travelled pros sometimes work in zoos, because it provides an opportunity to take intimate portraits of shy or endangered animals that are seldom seen in the wild. Surely there’s no harm in it? Well, yes and no.
Some people couldn’t give two hoots how a photograph was taken. They’re not bothered if the photographer spent weeks sleeping rough in a mosquito-infested swamp to get the shot, or merely an afternoon at the local safari park. They’re just interested in the end result: is it a great photo? Many others, meanwhile, still want to believe in the romance of the intrepid photographer.
Either way, I think you can often recognise a zoo animal in a photograph – it’s too fat or out of condition or simply doesn’t display the right ‘jizz’ (the characteristic behaviour of the species). Many captive mammals have facial expressions that just don’t look like those of wild individuals.
Some people choose never to photograph animals unless they are completely wild and free. Partly, this is because they believe that working in a zoo takes the ‘wild’ out of ‘wildlife photography’ – they want nothing less than to photograph a genuinely wild animal in its natural surroundings. But it’s also because they don’t like to support the keeping of animals in captivity.
A much more controversial aspect of photographing captive animals is the use of trained individuals, or models. A tame mountain lion, for example, can be hired for anything from a few hours to several days and moved to a suitable location by truck or helicopter. The photographer takes pictures from a few metres away while the animal is made to run through the snow, jump over a gate or drink from a pool. To all intents and purposes, it will look wild and free – but, of course, it is not.
Advocates of this popular form of nature photography often argue that the animal models are well looked after, if for no other reason than photographers demand healthy and happy-looking subjects. However, I have heard lots of horror stories suggesting that many of the animals are badly mistreated and kept in tiny cages.
Some photographers also maintain that, if it weren’t for animal models, certain rare or elusive species would hardly ever be photographed, and therefore would never be brought to public attention. Siberian tigers are a classic example – there are very few images of them in the wild. The vast majority of Siberian tiger photos feature models or animals that live permanently in captivity.
One could argue that, given enough time and effort, any animal could be photographed in the wild. That’s true to a certain extent, and taking pictures exclusively in the wild is without doubt a noble goal. But do we really want hordes of photographers out there, causing untold disruption and disturbance while they try to get that elusive shot?
Opponents of the use of animal models claim that it’s a lazy form of wildlife photography. Personally, I am against it because the underlying pretence – that the animals are wild and free – is entirely wrong. I also believe that keeping an animal in captivity purely for the benefit of paying photographers is totally unethical.
What’s worse, photographers may hire animal models, pass them off as wild and even concoct elaborate stories about how they spent weeks or months in the field to get their shots. This is unforgivable. Moreover, pretending that captive or restrained animals are wild can have serious credibility consequences for the organisations that publish the images without knowing the truth about how they were made.
There are few straightforward, black-and-white answers to any of these issues. There are no absolute rights and wrongs. But there’s one rule on which most serious wildlife photographers agree – the audience has a right to know whether a picture was taken under controlled conditions or in the wild. Again, it comes down to honesty and truthful captioning (a categorical ‘captive’ should be used to avoid any confusion).

Camera trap photography

A more recent controversy is the use of remotely controlled cameras, or camera traps. The basic concept is quite simple: a camera is set up where an animal is likely to visit and, when it trips a pressure plate or infrared sensor, it takes its own picture.
One of the main concerns about camera trapping is a feeling that if the photographer isn’t there to press the button, it’s cheating. It certainly makes a mockery of the old adage that the only camera setting you need is “f8 and be there”. But ‘being there’ is an impossible dream, or at least a luxury, when it comes to many rare and shy species. And just because the photographer was sipping coffee in his or her tent when the picture was taken doesn’t make it any less ‘real’.
Great camera-trap photos are definitely not the result of simple blind chance. The success rate is amazingly low. The photographer needs to have enough field skills to be able to predict where and when an animal is likely to pass, and how it might trigger the camera shutter, as well as advanced technical knowhow to make it all happen. Creativity is important, too – the best camera-trap shots are all envisioned in advance and then carefully planned.
True, many of the best camera-trap images have been taken with the considerable financial and technical support of National Geographic, but bear in mind that you have to be a top-notch photographer anyway to get this kind of backing.
Besides, simple camera trap set-ups are on sale for less than the price of a new lens – and their potential is huge. There’s also no doubt that camera trapping can produce some exciting results. It offers a privileged glimpse into the natural world that would otherwise be almost impossible to achieve with traditional photographic techniques, while causing little disturbance to the animals and their habitats.
Individual integrity
In the end, ethical wildlife photography is largely a matter of individual integrity. We should be free to do whatever inspires us creatively, so long as it causes no harm to the animals or plants we are photographing, to other people or to nature photography as a whole.
But it’s more than that. It’s also about a responsibility to the audience – and honesty. Unattributed digital manipulation or passing captive animals off as wild is lying, plain and simple.
Once the honesty has gone – and some days I don’t think we’re all that far from losing it – the power of nature photography has been lost forever.
Using bait to photograph wildlife
Almost everyone has baited wildlife at one time or another – even if it’s merely putting out food on a bird table. But doing so for photography comes with great responsibility, because animals can become habituated to humans and may end up dependent on your artificial food source.
By following these rules, you will reduce your impact on your wild subjects:
  • Provide only organic food that is part of the animals’ natural diet.
  • Be wary of live bait. It is probably OK to offer mealworms to songbirds, but providing mice for birds of prey is a step too far.
  • Try not to leave the bait out too long.
  • Don’t feed large species that are potentially dangerous.
  • Don’t use sounds as bait if they are likely to cause unnecessary stress.
  • Use the waterholes and feeding stations already provided in nature reserves.
  • Stress in the caption that you used bait.
Wildlife photography code of conduct
Some photographers are prepared to do almost anything to get the shot they want, so conservation groups and photography associations have published a number of codes of conduct for wildlife photography. Most of the recommendations are common sense – the welfare of the subject is more important than getting the photo. Here are a few key points to remember:
  • Always photograph animals from a safe and respectful distance.
  • If an animal shows any sign of stress, move further back or leave altogether.
  • Be patient and never try to force an animal to do something. Remember that the impact of many people is cumulative: you might be the 100th person that day to yell “Hey moose” while the poor creature is trying to feed or care for its young.
  • Never encroach on nests or dens during the breeding season.
  • Treat the habitat with the same regard that you have for the animals themselves.
  • Respect local cultures and customs when you are working abroad.
  • Check published recommendations, such as the excellent code produced by the Nature Group of The Royal Photographic Society
  • Finally, always be honest and truthful when captioning your photos.

This article outlined a great deal of constructive advice when approaching wildlife and how to do so responsibly and ethically. To a large extent, I respect and agree with many of the points outlined throughout this. Observation and objectivity should always take priority in professional wildlife photography over the self-gain of the photographer.

Several issues within these debates were first raised in response to controversy during the wildlife photographer of year award in 2009.

Wildlife photographer of the year stripped of his award

Judges say they are convinced José Luis Rodriguez staged prizewinning picture of wolf

wolf pictureView larger picture

Storybook Wolf, which won the £10,000 prize. Photograph: José Luis Rodriguez

The Natural History Museum’s wildlife photographer of the year has been stripped of his £10,000 prize, after judges found he was likely to have hired a tame Iberian wolf to stage the image of a species seen rarely in the wild.

The judges of the award, which attracted more than 43,000 entries from 94 countries, said they were convinced José Luis Rodriguez hired the wolf called Ossian from a Madrid wildlife park, contradicting his claim the image was taken in the wild after months of patient tracking of the dwindling species.

Competition rules prohibit the use of animal models and this morning organisers took down Rodriguez’s image from the exhibition at the museum in London, banned him from entering the contest again and announced they were “saddened” by the disqualification. Apparently without irony, he had titled his image The Storybook Wolf, but headline writers have since dubbed it the “loan wolf”.

Rodriguez could not be contacted, but the competition organisers said he continued to strongly deny the wolf was tame.

“I remember thinking, my God, this really is a wild wolf, what an achievement,” said Mark Carwardine, chairman of the judging panel. “I don’t understand the mentality at all. People feel very disappointed with the photographer.”

The organisers said they were planning to erect a notice at the Natural History Museum explaining to visitors their belief that the photo was staged, although it is too late to remove the image from the thousands of books that have been published by BBC Worldwide.

The controversy is thought to be the first time the competition’s expert judging panel have allowed an animal model to win a prize and there was concern the revelation could damage a contest which has a reputation as the most prestigious of its kind in the world.

“The wildlife photographer of the year is the one institution that has pushed us [animal photographers] to be more creative, so it is very sad it has happened to this competition,” said Chris Gomersall, a wildlife photographer who was involved in judging.

“In wildlife photography there are ethical guidelines and there has always been an explicit understanding that if you take pictures of a captive subject, you declare it on your caption.”

Rodriguez had told the judges he had sketched the shot he wanted to get on paper, but “couldn’t quite believe it when he got the shot of his dreams”. He said his main fear had been that the wolves “would be too wary”.

Jim Brandenburg, a judge and a wildlife photographer with 45 years experience of taking pictures of wolves, marvelled at the image of the animal, captured so clearly and apparently hunting a farmer’s livestock. He declared it “a masterfully executed moment”, but having studied pictures of Ossian and Rodriguez’s image, he is now “99.9%” sure it is a tame wolf, according to Carwardine.

The organisers were alerted to suspicions about the image by Spanish photographers who recognised the wolf and the location as the Cañada Real wildlife park. Wolf experts also questioned why the wolf would jump the gate when a wild animal was more likely to squeeze between the bars.

The judges said they asked Rodriguez for corroboration of his story and if there was anyone who could act as a witness to back him up, but his answers were inadequate.

It is important to consider the line between creativity and deception when documenting animals both in captivity and in the wild. Personally, I think the potential to find strong wildlife images in zoos or animal sanctuaries is very subjective to the individual parks themselves and how they organize themselves and consider animal welfare.

This was an important aspect when initially considering my editorial project earlier this year. Initially, I had wanted to produce a potentially negative photo story, expressing the minimal conditions of animal shelters in zoo’s and how the affected the animals physically and psychologically. I learnt that there were numerous practical and moral issues with a story of this kind. The negative exposure and the damage it could do the zoo(s) and the staff, limitations in access and availability as well as the potential to judge or misrepresent the true nature of the situation.

To avoid this, I focused upon an animal park whose first priority was animal conservation, South Lakes Wild Animal Park. I produced a series of documentary images discussing the visual relationship of people and animals. Since then, I have intended to contact the park and gain a greater understanding of what standard of editorial photography they aim to produce. Does this involve hiring a professional photographer or in-house standard promotional photographs?

I will consider my approach and aim to contact South Lakes Wild Animal Park, as a means of gaining insight of how they promote themselves, what standard of photography they expect and whether this is a potential market for editorial work.

In taking steps towards becoming more involved in animal observation and conservation, I recently became a member of the wildfowl and wetland trust. I felt this was good place to start in expanding my wildlife portfolio and gaining further access WWT nature reserves and refining my knowledge of wildlife conservation.

I also wanted to gain an idea of the conservation work that WWT is involved with and any potential contacts in relation promotion or advertising.

Marketing Department

Name: Leanne McCormella

Job title: Marketing manager

Location: WWT Washington

Describe your day-to-day responsibilities?

My job is extremely varied and no two days are ever the same.  My main role is to shout about WWT Washington, the amazing work that we do and the fantastic visitor experience that we offer, through regional advertising, PR, events, the media and other promotional activities.  However, if I had to sum up my most regular, daily tasks they would be: updating our website (news, events, wildlife sightings) and our presence on other websites (e.g. event listings sites, Twitter); writing press releases and copy for other publications; recording voucher redemptions/membership figures/comment card data/media coverage etc; designing local centre flyers/posters; keeping the centre leaflets, posters, event flyers etc stocked up around the visitor centre, grounds and hides; engaging with visitors in person and answering queries by phone/email; helping to organise and run events, and carrying out additional tasks as duty manager (administering First Aid, opening up and locking up, etc).

What do you enjoy the most about working for WWT or your role?

At the risk of sounding a bit ‘worthy’, I love the fact that my coming to work every day, to do a job that I genuinely enjoy, is helping to save and protect wetland species and the beautiful habitats that they rely on for survival.  As a former journalist, the best part of my job is being able to use my passion for writing to help tell the story of WWT Washington.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The juggling.  Not in the literal, circus sense of course (I’m rubbish at that), but rather the art of getting the essential parts of your job done in a sometimes hectic environment that invariably pulls you away from those key tasks at least five times a day (I like to think I’m kind of okay at managing that).  In fact, while writing this very paragraph, I was needed to help clear some dishes in the cafe!  Working at the ‘coal face’ of WWT so to speak, in the heart of one of our nine brilliant visitor centres, can at times be challenging in the extreme, but ultimately it is always rewarding and (for the most part!) fun.

What attracted you to apply for a WWT role?

My parents have been WWT members for years and I worked at WWT Washington as a guide one summer when I was home from university, so I already knew and liked the centre (and have since grown to love it).  The fact that there was a position available for someone with my skills to become part of such a unique team was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Mark Simpson - National PR ManagerName: Mark Simpson

Job title: National PR Manager

Location: Slimbridge

Describe your day-to-day responsibilities?

My time is split between finding out about the fascinating and important conservation work done by my colleagues, and telling journalists and tv producers about it. A typical day might start with a meeting or telephone call with folk working on a research project, or managing one of our reserves. It would usually involve a fair amount of writing or editing – either press releases or blog entries or pitches to tv companies. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to go out on site to accompany a tv crew or to show a journalist around.

What do you enjoy the most about working for WWT or your role?

Coming up with campaign ideas is my favourite thing. The challenge is to find new and exciting ways to interest people in WWT’s work, so it’s an opportunity to get creative.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

By nature, TV, newspapers and the rest of the media present information in a different way to scientists. As a PR person, part of my role is managing expectations on both sides. Sometimes it goes wrong and a colleague is misrepresented or a journalist finds they can’t write the story they thought they could. That’s what I work to avoid.

What attracted you to apply for a WWT role?

WWT has an enviable reputation for science and conservation. But because it has always been about bringing nature to people, WWT also has a long history of making its work accessible to a very wide audience. For anyone interested in communicating science, it is a top-class place to work.

Exploring their site further lead me to the publications associated with the WWT.

WWT produces several publications on a regular basis which go out to our supporters.

Our award-winning magazine Waterlife is sent to all of our members quarterly. Every issue includes news on WWT’s conservation work which lets our supporters see how their money is benefitting nature, and the latest from all nine of our wetland centres, including a what’s on guide.

It’s also packed with fascinating facts about birds and other wildlife, interviews with celebrities and discussions of the big issues happening in the conservation world.

To have Waterlife sent to you quarterly, visit our membership page. As well as your magazine subscription, becoming a member also gets you unlimited free entry to all nine of our centres and discount vouchers for your friends and family too.

Wildfowl Journal

For the scientific community, or anyone wanting to read the science behind many of our conservation projects, our yearly Wildfowl journal incorporates a selection of scientific papers on subjects including wetland habitats, species populations, distribution and behaviour.

The journal can be received as part of a membership package, or you can contact the Wildfowl editorial office to request copies are sent to you. You can also read many of the back issues of Wildfowl on our website.

It now disseminates original material on the ecology, biology and conservation of wildfowl (Anseriformes) and ecologically-associated birds (such as waders, rails and flamingos), and on their wetland habitats.

I then decided to concentrate upon the most locally available site, Martin Mere.

About Martin Mere:

Martin Mere, near Ormskirk, in Lancashire is where wilderness and family-friendliness combine.

Its year-round attractions include a beaver lodge, otter enclosure, pond dipping zone, an inspirational eco-garden and the opportunity to enjoy close-up encounters with around 100 species of international water-birds as they swim, feed and wander in wetlands custom-designed to mimic their natural homes.

To this, nature adds many other treats. A survey in 2002 recorded well over 2,000 different species of birds, mammals,  insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mini-beasts living in and around the mere which gives the site its name. In addition, the site is a haven for many traditional Lancashire plants, such as the endangered whorled caraway, golden dock, tubular water dropwort, early marsh orchids, the large-flowered hemp nettle and purple ramping fumitory.

But what makes Martin Mere truly world class are the many thousands of migrant wild ducks, geese, waders and swans which over-winter at this Ramsar-rated marshland and especially the spectacular displays of feather and flight provided by huge migrant flocks of pink-footed geese, wigeon and whooper swans.

Don’t miss

  • Bats

  • Brown hare

  • Ducks (including large migration flocks of wigeon)

  • Geese (especially, the many thousands of ‘pink-foots’ which come in each winter)

  • Hawks (hen harriers, hobby, merlins and peregrine falcons all hunt the marshes)

  • Lapwing

  • Redshanks

  • Swans (especially, thousands of wintering whooper swans)

  • Wild flowers

  • Dragonflies & Damselflies

I was quite pleased at the variation of wildlife that resides upon the site.

I then started to extract any useful contact information, the site’s policy on visitor approach and photography, both in terms of approach and commercial use.

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre

Fish Lane, Burscough
L40 0TA

T: 01704 895181
F: 01704 892343

Opening times

Open 7 days a week, except 25 December

Winter (27 October to February)
9.30am to 5.00pm

Early Closing on 24 December (last admission 2pm)

Summer (March to 27 October)
9.30am to 5.30pm

Terms of entry

Visitors are asked to respect the habitats and wildlife of Martin Mere Wetland Centre by keeping to the paths at all times and not causing undue noise. It is especially important to remain quiet in the bird viewing hides.

Photography is permitted on site providing it is for personal use only. All commercial/stock library photography must be agreed in advance with the centre and a photography permission form must be completed prior to the visit. to request the form.

It is important to consider that any images I might intend to use for anything other than personal use, must be arranged and agreed upon in advance.

Therefore, if I have any intentions to build my wildlife portfolio for editorial submissions, I will need to email and request a permission form and contact the park and discuss my intentions.

I feel this research has been very constructive in highlighting various aspects to consider when preparing to visit environmental or wildlife conservation sites.

This is something I intend to expand upon throughout summer.

Ideas for Shoot:

  1. Using either strawberries or rhubarb, or perhaps both.
  2. The absence of colour; white dishes, placemat and background sheet.
  3. The introduction of a complementary colour; blue dish and tablecloth.
  4. Clean, consistent lighting – two main lights, backlight and reflector that be moved around when appropriate.
  5. Overhead shots, featuring ingredients.
  6. Straight on shots, with selective placement/representation of fruit(s).

Equipment list:

  • Sigma 50mm F2.8 Macro – Canon Fit
  • Trilite Kit (2 lights) + 2 x Bowens Gemini 750w or 4 x Bowens Gemini 750w
  • 1 x Softbox or 3 x Softboxes
  • 1 x Beauty Dish + grid
  • Portable shooting table
  • 1 x Manfrotto or Giotto Tripod
  • 3 x C stands + 1 x backlight stand
  • 4 x Sandbags
  • 1 x Flash trigger

As I mentioned in my previous post, the final stage before I begin my test shots is to research any useful tips or advice on how to approach food photography, in particular if it relates to photographing raw ingredients.

I was able to find a great deal of constructive information, highlighting key elements to consider when approaching food photography. This ranges from the purpose for food images, the options available for compositions and how they effect the communication of the image and how to avoid distracting elements that could distract the viewers attention. As I had noticed in my previous research and knowledge, red is complemented by green or blue-green. I would favour the latter, as it is general knowledge that green is a de-appetizer.

Professional Food Photographer’s Tips on How to Shoot Raw Food – with Clare Barboza

They say every photo tells a story. But what is story telling? How do you tell a story? This professional food photographer will share how to do just that. How to shoot raw food? You love photography gear don’t you? This professional photographer tells us about her photography gear.

Basic Elements of a Great Food Photo

The Basic elements of a great photo are great light and great composition. These two elements are the core of any photograph. Other things include color and sharp photo or proper focusing.

Steps for Shooting Raw Food

  1. Find what fruit or vegetable are you drawn into.
  2. Pick up a feature that you like. Is it the texture or the color or the shape? Or something else?
  3. Start playing with prop styling. Try different dishes and props.


One Extremely Important Question That Is Ignored By Aspiring Food Photographers (and Why You Need to Address it Now)

Pasta Raw

What does this photo tell you? Think about it. Think hard. What is this photo communicating? Do you have the answer for this? NO? Stop reading any further and observe the photo. Answer the questions. Got it? Now look at the next photo.


What does this photo tell you? How is this different from the first photo? I know what you are thinking. Both are photographs of pasta. This is cooked, first one is not. What more? What does this “feel” like? What does the above photo “feel” like? Do you know why the first photo is different than second one?

Let’s look at some other examples

Photo 1 – Shaved Ice by roboppy


Photo 2 – Shaved Ice by evilmidori


Photo 3 – Shaved Ice by isteeve


Here are three different photos of shaved ice. Same subject. But all these three photos are communicating something different. Look at all of them and answer the same questions and then read on.

Photo 1 is a photograph of shaved ice. Does that communicate anything to you other than the fact that it is shaved ice? Look at second photo now. Here we have the same subject as in the photo 1. But what else? In this photo, subject is outdoor. What else do you think is happening here? This photo is open for interpretation. Let’s look at photo 3. Almost same as photo 1. Subject is placed in a tight frame and almost a very similar setting as photo 1. Here’s the difference – this photo shows that someone ate/is eating shaved ice. Again open for interpretation.

Do you see how a subject with same styling and presentation, when placed in a different settings can communicate differently? The message here is less about reading a photograph and more about taking it and putting some thoughts before clicking that button.

The point here is that to communicate with our audience using this visual medium, we need to carefully understand what we want to photograph and why are we taking a photo in the first place. If you want to take a photograph of shaved ice to show what is shaved ice, what it looks like, then it may be better to just take a photo similar to photo 1. You may be shooting for a client who wants to put a photo of shaved ice on a packaging and the objective may be just to take a shaved ice photo, in that case, photo 1 is useful.

If an open-air restaurant wants to show their shaved ice in their outdoor seating, photo 2 could work (although, I would add some other elements to it, but you get the point). And same goes for photo 3.

Before taking the next photo for your dessert recipe, ask yourself before you pick the camera – are you taking a photograph “of that dessert”? Or are you making a photo “about that dessert”? There is a difference. And it is very subtle. However it changes the whole process of going about photographing your dessert.

My hero David duChemin illustrates a similar point by comparing photographing models versus taking portraits. Picture of a model is a photo of a person. Portrait, on the other hand, is a photo about a person.

As food photographers, we need to know how to differentiate between the “photo of” and “photo about” and also learn how to take these two photos. If you are shooting a photo ofsomething, make sure the subject stands out and your photo communicates that. If your aim is to take a photo about shaved ice and the feeling of eating it in outdoors, make sure you place yourself and the subject such that photograph communicates what you want to show.

So as a photographer do you want a photo of the dish or about the dish? Well before you can answer that,  you need to know why you are shooting that dish. Are you shooting it to instigate feelings in someone? Or is your aim to show what is pasta? Before getting all geeked-up about gear, camera, lenses and all that equipment, and before you start drooling seeing that awesome camera and that f 1.2 lens, answer this question – Why are you taking that picture?

Once you know the why then and only then start thinking about the how. As David duChemin says Why defines the How. Without defining Why there is no point in talking about How. Buy all the fancy cameras in the world and all those lenses with VR and image stabilization but if you don’t define why you want to shoot the food and what you are planning to shoot, its waste of lot of money.

Without address “Why am I shooting this”  you can take thousands of pictures and still get nowhere. You can wander aimlessly in the woods of photographic jungle and never reach anywhere. Or you can address this question before you take your next shot and take a step in the right direction.

Before you click that button and snap a photo for that recipe, ask yourself why are you shooting this? This will answer the question on how to shoot this recipe and what actions to take to make this photo better.

11 Food Photography Tips from Top Food Photographers

1. Understand Light for Better Food Photos

Liz Vidyarthi mentioned in her interview how she uses light and her process for food photography. For any photographer, it is important to understand light. If you are food photographer, you simply cannot improve if you don’t know how to manipulate light. Listen to this food photography interview with Liz Vidyarthi to learn more about lighting, lighting equipment and her workflow.

2. Don’t Ignore Prop Styling

Prop styling is the most ignored element by most new food photographers. Ilva Beretta fabulously explained the basics of prop styling and shared with us, how she uses props in her own photographs. She also mentioned some simple and easy ways to use props in food photograph. In part one of this interview she talks about basics of prop styling and in part 2 she explains her method of using props in food photos.

3. Choose Your Background Carefully

Strong food photos have well thought background. Meeta Khurana has a knack for choosing some great backgrounds for her food photos. In a two part interview with Meeta, she shared how you can learn food photography on your own and her tips onchoosing background for food photos.

4. Start Shooting Raw Food

Raw food is most convenient to shoot. You don’t have to worry about a asparagus melting because you couldn’t take photos in time. You don’t even have to worry about tomato not being hot enough. All you have to think is the veggies are fresh. Bring some fresh veggie and get started. When you are learning culinary photography, raw food is a very convenient way to experiment and learn this skill. Clare Barboza explained how to take raw food photos in a previous interview.

5. Learn Food Styling and Food Plating

A photograph can only be as beautiful as the subject is. Food styling and plating are two very important elements of a beautiful photograph. French Culinary Institute graduate chef and food photographer Adriana Mullen shared some tips to better food styling and plating in an interview with us. Read Adriana’s food styling tips.

6. Become a Great Storyteller

We all love stories. Great stories win hearts. Storytelling in one frame is an advanced photography skill that can be improved only by practicing. Listen to Matt Wright’s interview on food photography and how to tell a story with food photos.

7.  Keep Experimenting

Mowie Kay’s good looking dessert blog is no secret to most LFP readers. He has won a lot of praise and recognition for his food photography. His advice to new food photographers is to keep experimenting. Framing and lighting and positioning, change it all and take that photo again. Read Mowie’s food photography tips.

8. Regularly Charge Your Creative Batteries

When you are starting to learn a new skill, it is important to be inspired and keep the wheels of creativity running and working. Aran Goyoaga mentioned some very fabulous food photographers, stylists in her interview. Look at their work and study their portfolios. ReadAran’s food photography interview..

9. Develop Your Vision

You may remember that we had a great interview with Matt Armendariz. We discussed a lot about vision and keeping the goal in mind. The secret to a great photographer begins with vision and understanding your vision. Understand how you can develop your vision and listen to Matt’s interview and start answering that one extremely important photography question.

10. Learn the Basics of Photography

Liz mentioned the importance of learning photography in general. Food photography is a special type of photography. Every aspiring photographer needs to know the basics of photography. Listen to Liz Vidyarthi’s food photography interview and learn how she improves her photography by analyzing wide variety of photographers.

 11. Stay Inspired and Learn From Experts

Above all, continue your journey to excellence not just by taking food photos regularly but also by listening to interviews of these experts on a regular basis. Get ready for our next few interviews that we will be doing with some exceptional food photographers. Get future interviews with food photographers.

How to Make a Strong Food Photo – 5 Food Photography Tips for Strong Photos

Red CherriesAs a visual artist, a great photographer has a knack of summarizing her vision of the scene into one frame. She does this by understanding her vision and taking action to translate that vision into a frame. She decides what information to include and what to exclude. She thinks about where to put the subject and where the light should be. She knows how to manage her viewers’ attention.

We have talked about managing your viewers’ attention previously. In this post we talk about creating a strong photo and attention management in more detail.

Making a Strong Food Photograph

A strong image is a piece of art you can look at and look into for long time and something that is very engaging. A strong photograph has a clear subject and all the elements in the photo gel together to create a masterpiece. A strong photograph attracts viewers’ attention and continues to interest the viewer.

Strong photographs have one more important quality. These images send a clear message – message  that is coherent and is supported by all the different elements in the photo. Strong photographs don’t have any distracting elements.

Distracting Elements in Your Food Photos

As we have previously discussed, for making a great photo you have to direct your viewers’ attention to those areas of the frame and to those elements in the frame that are important for your vision and your visual communication.

If all the different elements in a photo are not supporting the common theme or common message, the photograph becomes weak. This element can be a cluttered background or an object that doesn’t belong in the scene. These distracting elements confuse your viewers and create chaos.

There are some common ways these distracting elements can sneak in the frame quietly if you don’t pay attention before pressing that button. Here are 5 ways distractions sneak in a photo.

5 Ways Distractions Sneak in a Photograph

Distractions come in all sizes and shapes. Take your eye of that part of the frame and there… your frame now includes an uninvited element. Below are 5 ways your food photo can be encroached by distractions.

Watch The Background

In my opinion, background of an image is most influential part of the entire photograph. It should be as pure and simple as possible. A background that is cluttered and has lot of unrelated information, tells lot of stories that no one wants to hear. A clear and supportive background accentuates the main subject of photo.

Lets look at the two slightly underexposed photos below and see how background affects the subject. The first photograph of raw ingredients of a salad is placed on a mat.


Compare this photo with one below. Same subject, a different background. In the photo above the vertical lines of the mat and horizontal black lines on the mat divert from the main subject. In the photo below, the background has no information. It is black. Where do your eyes go now?


Read more on how to choose a background for your food photos.

Decide the Frame

Another common way an unwanted element can enter a photograph is by peeking through the frame. Remember that corner of the table or that wooden board you weren’t planning to include in your photo? Well crop it. Or that edge of that spoon lying on the table? You know what to do. Crop that thing.

Blurred Foreground

In landscape photography, foregrounds play an important role. In food photography, blurred foreground don’t do anything other than creating a distraction. When using shallow depth of field, anything in foreground will be blurred (of course depending on how shallow dof is) if you focus for the subject. So place the props in a way that they support the photograph and the subject.

Too Many Colors

Color is an important element of art. When the colors in a frame support each other, the output is one congruent message. In a food photograph, the color of food governs what colored background, plates and props to use. Use colors that support the color of food and you have a strong photo. Use too many colors and you got a noisy photo with lot of chaos. Below is a 12-color color wheel.

This tool helps to pick supporting colors and complementary colors. If you would like to use a complementary color scheme, simply locate the color (or one that is closest to it) of food and the color exactly opposite to it, is a complementary color. For example, yellow is complemented by violet.

What’s Your Subject

Photography starts with a subject. Sometimes a subject is a food dish, sometimes it is an emotion. The important photography question helps you identify the subject of your next photo. Unless you have a clear idea about your subject, you can fall into trap of including too many subjects. And too many subjects = distraction.

Food Photography and Styling Tips and Links

food plating tips

In last few days, I found some wonderful articles on several topics related to food photography and food styling. These articles are very different. There are posts on how to read histogram on your camera and how to improve your photography using that, then there are articles on how to fold dinner napkins. One talks about things you need to know about memory cards and another one writes about buying plates and props for better food photos. In this post, I am sharing what I have found interesting.


Food Photography and Food Styling Resources

Let’s get started…

  1. Dinner Napkins can be a great props for food photography and styling. Found a wonderful guide to folding napkins. The site has 27 different very visual how-to-fold instructions for dinner napkins.
  2. Reading Your Histograms Histograms are scary. Make Use Of explains what are camera histograms and how to use them in a simple language.
  3. Brief Guide To Taking Food Photographs This is one that briefly describes the process of food photography in about 1500 words. This is a brief post but covers almost all important things to keep in mind.
  4. Plates and Props for Food Photography Donna Ruhlman talks about using plates, props and surfaces for food photography. This is a short post with lot of wonderful advice on how to find plates and props and where to buy them from.
  5. Use Depth of Field for Better Food Photos We have talked about depth of field andhow to control depth of field. This post at MacWorld talks about using depth of field for taking better pictures.
  6. Memory Cards for Food Photographers This post talks about memory cards. What are the different types of memory cards? What are the good ones? Which one should you use? Get these questions answered in that post.

FoodPhoto by Lariffic


Interested in learning about Food Photography? Read on for some introductory tips.

Visit any bookshop and head for the cook book section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of books filled with scrumptious recipes accompanied by wonderful photography of the meals being written about.

Colorful stacks of vegetables drizzled with rich sauces on a clean white plate with glistening table settings – you know the shots. Sometimes the photography is almost the true focus of the book with the recipes taking a secondary role.

But how do you photograph food and get such great results?

1. Lighting

Treat the food you’re photographing as you would any other still life subject and ensure that it is well lit. Many of the poor examples of food photography that I’ve come across in the research for this article could have been drastically improved with adequate lighting. One of the best places to photograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – perhaps supported with flash bounced off a ceiling or wall to give more balanced lighting that cuts out the shadows. This daylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural.

2. Props

Pay attention not only to the arrangement of the food itself but to the context that you put it in including the plate or bowl and any table settings around it. Don’t clutter the photo with a full table setting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. These elements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot.

3. Be Quick

Food doesn’t keep it’s appetizing looks for long so as a photographer you’ll need to be well prepared and able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changes color. This means being prepared and knowing what you want to achieve before the food arrives. One strategy that some use is to have the shot completely set up with props before the food is ready and then to substitute a stand-in plate to get your exposure right. Then when the food is ready you just switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting.

4. Style it

The way food is set out on the plate is as important as the way you photograph it. Pay attention to the balance of food in a shot (color, shapes etc) and leave a way into the shot (using leading lines and the rule of thirds to help guide your viewer’s eye into the dish). One of the best ways to learn is to get some cook books to see how the pros do it.


5. Enhance it

One tip that a photographer gave me last week when I said I was writing this was to have some vegetable oil on hand and to brush it over food to make it glisten in your shots.

6. Get Down Low

A mistake that many beginner food photographers make is taking shots that look down on a plate from directly above. While this can work in some circumstances – in most cases you’ll get a more better shot by shooting from down close to plate level (or slightly above it).

7. Macro

Really focusing in upon just one part of the dish can be an effective way of highlighting the different elements of it.

8. Steam

Having steam rising off your food can give it a ‘just cooked’ feel which some food photographers like. Of course this can be difficult to achieve naturally. I spoke with one food stylist a few years back who told me that they added steam with a number of artificial strategies including microwaving water soaked cotton balls and placing them behind food. This is probably a little advance for most of us – however it was an interesting trick so I thought I’d include it.

I then decided to look more specifically at potential lighting setups for food photography, especially if it followed the overall approach used to create images for health food magazines.

This gave me some very concise ideas of how I may aim to compose (appropriate angles, use of props) and light (general – two main fill lights e.g softbox, beauty dish, soft backlight) my strawberries and/or rhubarb.

Last week I had a great opportunity to work on a very interesting project: a food photoshoot for Jante Glen and his Wing City2City Take-Out Restaurant.
Jante  has this great idea of very simple and inexpensive Take-Out restaurant with more money spent on the quality of the food instead of workers, the building and silverware. Therefore the photography should be the same: simple, but showing the best of the product for each menu item.

We were lucky to find a great food stylist, Nan McCulloch (, she helped us a lot with the whole concept of the shoot, along with the styling for each dish.

restaurant menu photography

Photography for a restaurant menu


food photographer atlanta ga

Food photography for a WingCity2City restaurant

Now, the lighting:

Lighting setup was relatively simple: I used, as usual, as many lights as I can fit around the product:-)  Always prefer to have  maximum flexibility and control in that area.

The lighting setup for this food photoshoot:

lighting setup for food photography in atlanta ga

Lighting setup diagram

Lights 1 and 2 (both WL X1600) worked as main and filler lights, switched by the changing power ration between them. The most important lights were numbers 4 and 5AB B400) with a little “filler” help from a Beauty Dish (number 3AB B800) from top-behind: They were giving this tasty glare for the wings I was looking for.
Number 6 (WL UltraZap 800, one of the oldest units in the studio) was to highlight the background.

In general, I’ve used a combination of very intense directional lights (all lights except 12 and 6 had 10 or 20 degree honeycomb grids) with soft (through soft-boxes) fill lights. This way I’ve got contrast and full of details photos, but still bright and simple  (remember the idea of the shoot).

Few more real images of the lighting setup:

atlanta food photograper chinken wings lighting setup

Lighting setup, front view

The same thing, left side view:

atlanta food photograper chinken wings lighting setup from left

Now I start to use X-Rite ColorChecker Passport tool: was very easy to create a custom color profile for a studio lights, now I do not need to use that white balance picker for each my studio set.
Highly recommend this to all who care about correct colors:-)

The composition:

For a food shots, blurred background (usually) is a good thing: it helps to focus on a main piece of dish (chicken wings), while showing some other “appropriate” stuff on a background: still visible, but not distracting.

Must to say I do not like that type of  food shots where only tiny line of the dish in a focus: it may look nice first, but not sure if you ant to see something like this in a restaurant menu. We want to see what we’ll eat more clearly:-)

So, to make background blurred, I’ve used long focus lens, 180m f3.5 macro  from Canon. However, DOF should be deep enough, therefore F11 aperture was set.

food and drink photographer in atlanta

For this one (above) I’ve added one more spot light, only to highlight through the glass with intense directional light ( 10 snoot was used)

Many thanks for a great stylist, Nan McCulloch: she had great taste and professional feeling of how to arrange everything the best possible way, as well as exceptional coordinator’s skills.

Just recently I have got a few emails from people asking about the food photography setup that I use. I honestly find those some of the most flattering emails I have ever received, because honestly, I am a big time hack. BIG TIME. I don’t do photography as a job, and really have very little time to shoot the food I cook, before I eat it.

I don’t like eating hot food cold.. even if it means a good photo, and I generally (there are exceptions..) don’t like to piss guests off either by making them wait for theirs..

Because of this, I have my little system which really limits the time it takes to shoot after the food has been cooked and plated. I think most food photographers have their own methods for this too. A lot of food can start looking pretty dodgy if it has been sitting out for even just a few minutes, especially what I cook a lot of – seafood.

To make all this digestible and manageable I am going to split the topic of food photography into two posts. This first post will concentrate on more physical elements – cameras, lighting, bounces, scrims and plating. The second post in a few weeks will deal with what happens after you get the image onto your computer – so post-production editing: exposure adjustment, levels, tone, cropping, color adjustment and so on.


Cameras, lenses and tripods


Shooting Tethered

Lighting, Bounces and scrims

White Balance

Controlling Reflections and highlights

My approach to composition and styling

My approach to getting a shot fast



You have two options here really. No, I don’t mean Nikon or Canon.. Rather a compact (point and shoot) camera, or a digital SLR. The compact camera’s main positive is price. A decent one is almost half the price of a base/mid level digitalSLR, and it comes with a lens built in. The downsides here are somewhat many though. The lens is small, so too is the image sensor. This is going to limit image quality somewhat, and also the camera’s ability to pick up subtle light and textures. Typically most point and shoot cameras don’t have a lot of photographic control either. It is rather useful to be able to manually adjust more technical camera settings like F-Stop (aperature size), ISO, shutter speed and so forth. Especially F-Stop since this controls the range of what is going to be in focus in your shot. Some compact cameras have the option to adjust some of these settings – they are more expensive however. I have noticed that with my compact camera (which has a full manual mode to adjust most photographic settings) it still really lacks the exposure range of a digitalSLR, but you can still certainly take good pictures with it, you just have to be rather careful with lighting setup (which isn’t a bad thing)

DigitalSLRs are sexy. There is no doubt about that. A big pro looking camera.. megapixels up the wazoo… They can be expensive though, especially when you start talking about getting a good lens as well. The bonus of the digitalSLR however is great. You are able to take complete control over exposure, white balance, F-stop, shutter speed, ISO – and all that good stuff. This obviously gives you much more creative control. You are able to get some extremely good quality lenses, that really have a huge impact on the quality of your shot. DigitalSLRs also are able to shoot in RAW format – which is a wonderful uncompressed image format that allows for a lot of control once you get the image off your camera and onto your computer.

I started shooting using a compact camera, and quickly outgrew it. I got my first entry level digitalSLR maybe 6 years ago now, and bought a cheap lens for it. Since then I have upgraded the lens, and just also upgraded the camera to a newer digitalSLR.

My suggestion here is to buy the best camera you can afford (well duh..). A decent compact camera is going to be fine for some blog photography. If you think you are going to be doing this for a long time, get an entry level digitalSLR, and a decent quality lens for it and you will be very happy.


It is possible to prattle on about lenses all day. Here is some bullet points that might come in handy:

* Professional photographers agree: “it is all about the glass” – the camera is somewhat secondary. You want to make sure if you are using a dSLR that you are using a good quality lens, otherwise that sexy camera is somewhat pointless
* Good quality doesn’t have to mean really expensive. Canon has a great lens (50mm 1.4F) for $350. That is pretty cheap for a good quality lens. They also have a nearly as good lens (50mm 1.8F, but plastic construction) for just under $100
On a crop frame digital SLR (most entry to mid level DigitalSLRs) I find 50mm to be a great focal length
* I prefer to shoot with prime (no zoom) lenses over zoom when shooting plates of food. Unless you are spending a lot of cash on a lens, you will typically get better image quality from a prime lens (mainly sharper). Sure you can’t zoom, but that can acutally help you with composition a bit. If you are out and about, shooting market food or restaurants, a zoom can certainly be handy
* I use Canon cameras, and shoot almost all my photography on this blog with a 5omm F1.4 lens. I can’t afford to spend a bunch of cash on different lenses, and I find this is a great lens for what I do. My next lens? Most likely a 100mm macro


Not much to say here, apart from use one, and make it a good one! Even if you think the light is fine for handheld shooting, it is always best to pop your camera on a tripod. You want to make sure it is a sturdy, well built solid tripod, even if you are using a compact camera.

My personal preference is for the brand Manfrotto, which I have always found to be well built. I like a 3axis head (the head is the bit the camera sits onto). The 3 axis head lets you adjust each rotation independently, which gives great control. Some tripods for only a few extra bucks offer a “quick release” head. This means that with just the swish of a lever your camera is either locked or released from the tripod. In my book this in money well spent, since I am always taking my camera on and off.

If you are using a compact camera for your shots, you should absolutely always shoot with a tripod no matter what.


JPEG and RAW are the two main image formats that cameras shoot in. Compact cameras shoot in JPEG (I don’t know of any that shoot RAW, but could be mistaken). Most digitalSLRs have the option of shooting either RAW or JPEG.

JPEG is a very common format of image. Most images you see on the web are JPEG. JPEG is great because it gives pretty decent image quality, with low file sizes. The problem however is that the image is compressed in a way that image data is lost. You may have seen an image online that looks blocky, especially in areas of low contrast. This is caused by JPEG artifacts – to make the image small, JPEG removes some data from an image, which leads to slightly lower image quality. When used properly these effects are barely noticable however.

The problem comes when trying to do a lot of post production on a JPEG image. The more you work the colors/contrast and so on, the more these effects can be noticable.

RAW format however is different. This format isn’t compressed, and is in fact the raw data from the camera. Since it isn’t compressed you don’t get any artifacts at all, which makes for much cleaner images – especially if they are being used for print. The biggest bonus of RAW is that when the shot is taken, extra information to do with the exposure, white balance and tone is saved with the image. Inside your photo editing software you are then able to very accurately adjust the exposure, white balance and so forth after the image is taken!

This gives much more control to developing your digital images, and is fantastic for fixing any exposure problems an image might have. RAW files are big however, and love to fill up hard drives very fast. I tend to delete ones that I know I am never going to want (out of focus, over exposed etc).


Most digitalSLRs have the option to hook up your camera via USB to your computer. Through this hookup you can control the camera via computer, take a shoot, and almost instantly see it on your computer screen. Some cameras even have a “live view” mode, where what you see on the laptop is updated realtime, as you adjust exposure, F-stop, and move the composition and lighting.

Whilst this takes a couple of extra minutes to setup, it is something well worth doing. Just being able to see your image composition on a big screen is huge, and really helps you work the look of your image andfix any lighting or composition problems.

Do I shoot tethered all the time? NO. Sometimes I just don’t have time to pull my laptop out, get it all setup and so forth. I should, it can make a big difference to a shot.  All too often when I don’t, I get the image onto my computer after shooting, and have a “OH BUGGER” moment, as I see something I would really want to fix, that wasn’t noticeable through the camera viewfinder or LCD screen.


Lighting has the biggest impact on your shot. No doubt. You can have the best camera, the best plates/food/props/styling, but if your lighting is bad than your picture is going to be bad. Thankfully it isn’t crazy hard to get a lighting setup that is going to work pretty well for most food shots.

NATURAL LIGHT: I think most modern food photographers agree – natural light really is the best to photograph food in. It is also one of the faster to setup and get going with. Here are my tips for working with natural light:

* Shoot in the middle of the day, or early afternoon when the light is at its best
* Position your food close to a window or large opening, one that is preferably south or west facing. Some people shoot in a garage, and just roll up the garage door to shoot – my garage in Seattle is far to dingy for that however!
* Pay close attention to the strength of your light. Bright early afternoon sun is lovely, but it can also be extremely strong – and lead to very large strong highlights, and very harsh shadows.

Not all of us however have the ability to shoot in natural light all the time. I know I don’t. Here in Seattle through the winter I am certainly unable to shoot in natural light, since I do a lot of my photography late afternoon when I get back from work. This is when we have to start looking into artificial light setups.

TIP: Identify areas in your house that would work for food photography at different times of the day. For instance – my dining room works well around lunchtime, my kids playroom works great in the afternoon.

ARTIFICIAL LIGHT: For a little bit of cash (or hardly any cash and some handy DIY skills) you can put together an artifical light setup that is controllable, and give decent quality results. In fact, some of the shots on this blog that I have been most happy with have been shot under artifical light conditions: Beef/Noodle Salad, Eccles Cakes, YellowFin Tuna, Bresaola.

What you want is a light that is as white as possible (halogen is good here), and also as diffuse (soft) as possible. Just using an incandesant bare lightbulb would be a really bad idea! You get strong shadows, overblown highlights, and a bad yellow cast to your light – not to mention making your food look rather greasy.

For my artificial light shots I use a Lowel Tota Umbrella light. This is a bright halogen light that is on a stand. In front of this is an umbrella which softens light right off, and bounces it around a room. This makes for much softer highlights and shadows, and far sexier looking food than when shot with a basic lightbulb.

Another option is to use a “soft box”. This is a light that is surrounded by a box. One end of the box is open, and has a sheet of translucent vellum over it. This vellum does the same thing as the umbrella – softens the light right off, giving smoother highlights and soft, diffuse shadows. The Lowel EGO light is a great option for food photography. My good friend Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen has a great article on using them.

NEVER use an on camera flash.


Food Photography Setup

Here comes one of the cheapest impacts you can have on your shots. A big ole piece of white card. Or foam board if you want to get extra fancy.

You can use this card to “bounce” light back into your scene, helping to gently illuminate the darker areas of your scene. As a rough starting point, it is a good idea to position this board on the other side of the food to which the light is – so: if you are lighting from behind, put the board in front (just under the camera). Main light from the left? But the card on the right of your food.

Now all that is needed is a little fine tuning of placement to get the fill light exactly where you want it.

All I normally do is hold this card with one hand, and hit the shutter release button with the other. This can be tricky with some shots, so I might use a chair, or one of Drake’s toys to prop up the card just so. Taking a toy away from Drake for too long however is sure to lead to a toddler fit…

Here is an example of before and after with a bounce card. The shot is lit by natural light on the left of the food. In the first shot there is no bounce card, in the second the bounce is on the right of the food.

Food Photography Setup

Food Photography Setup

As you can see, the second image has some light now in its most dark areas. You could even knock this back a little bit just by moving the board a little further away from the food.

TIP: Most art supply stores will have a range of sizes of white card or foam board. My preference is for the later – it is thicker, and a little more sturdy. I am a complete clutz, so sturdy is better for me. I have two large sheets (5ftx3ft), and a smaller one (3ft x 3ft). The larger ones are great to use since they have a large impact. The small one is good for just bouncing light into a smaller area.


A scrim is just a sheet of something that will soften and diffuse any light passing through it. Scrims are extremely useful in both natural and artifical light setups. You want to place the scrim between your light source and your scene. This will soften and harsh strong light. It also has the added bonus of making highlights smoother, making objects look more rounded, making your food not look greasy, and also making reflections look cleaner.

A scrim can really be anything that is translucent. I personally use artists vellum, which can be picked up in rolls at just about any art supply store. If I am shooting next to a window, I just tape up a sheet of it onto the window, and voila, the light through the window is instantly softened.

I also built a large frame (much like a frame for an artists canvas), which I have taped some vellum to as well. This gives me a large moveable scrim, which is pretty handy for when I shoot a little way away from a window, or when shooting something outdoors. You can see the frame in the back of the picture at the start of the blog post.

TIP: If you have direct sunlight coming onto your scene, use a scrim to soften it. If the light isn’t to harsh, try a shoot with and without the scrim, and see which you prefer. If you have really strong light coming in you can even use a relatively thin bed sheet as a scrim.

Below are two shots that demonstrate a scrim. Both shots are in the same location – a light filled area that is strongly lit by direct sunlight. The first shot is without the scrim, the second is with.

Food Photography Setup

Food Photography Setup

As you can see, the lighting is much softer. The really harsh shadows are removed, as too are those strong highlights that were washing the image out.


As we look around, we are able to tell what color is white, white is cream, and what is light blue, even under different lighting conditions. Things get more complicated as all lights have different colors to them – the sun is yellow, daylight is a wee blue, lightbulbs are pretty darn yellow, hallogen bulbs are more neutral.

In order to get the correct color, and whites be white on a camera, we have to tell it what color is actually white. Most cameras have controls for adjusting this – and its called “white balance”. All cameras have the option to go auto with it. The camera will take a stab at guessing what lighting conditions are, and what color is actually white. Some cameras also let you set the white balance by telling it what type of lighting you are taking the shot in.

You can also get extra fancy by even specifying the Kelvin (light temperature, and thus color) of the lighting conditions you are in. If that doesn’t make you feel like a geek, I don’t know what would.

On most digitalSLRs it is also possible to take a picture of something white (or even more preferably light neutral gray), and tell the camera that this shot color should be neutral – or white. To do this, just place a white board or something in your shot, take the shot, and set your camera to use that shot as the white balance.

White balance can also be adjusted inside most of the common photo editing packages – more on that in the second post on food photography. It is however best to try and get the white balance as close as possible on the camera. Post production editing is fine, but getting it right when you take the shot is certainly the best approach.

So why do we need to set this? Well, we want to make sure that in our food shots white plates show up as white, and the colors of the food you are shooting are shown accurately. Back when I did that post on the beet salad a few weeks ago I didn’t set the white balance correctly, and when I viewed the shot inside Lightroom (my photo editing package of choice) the beets were a rather shocking purple color, instead of that intense red/purple color they should be. If I left the shot as is, the colors would be off and the food wouldn’t look right, or even appetizing.

Below are two shots of the same scene. The first shot has no white balance correction. It was shot in artifical light, and you can see there is a strong yellow cast to the image. The second image shows the same picture but with the correct white balance set.

Food Photography setup

Food Photography setup


One thing that I try and pay attention to when shooting is the quality of any reflections or highlights. It is a good idea to look at other objects (especially those either light, or brightly colored) in your room, and make sure they aren’t showing up in any reflections you might have.

If you shoot next to a window, your are most likely going to see anything outside the window in a reflection in your plate or bowl, since the light outside is so bright. The good thing here is that a scrim cuts this out! The scrim not only softens light, but because it is generally placed between the window and your food, those nasty outside reflections are cut out, and you get a wonderful, white smooth reflection going on.

The white bounce boards help grately too. I will often place one in front of a bright object I cannot move too easily (a bright red picture, or one of Drakes heavy toys).. again this cuts out unwanted brightly colored reflections.

This is a small detail, but one I think that really helps keep images clean and simple.


  • * I like to keep images very simple, and often without too many props. Keep food the star.
  • *To me, white plates and dishes always show food very well, and I tend to like white-on-white presentations, when I can get good enough lighting to differentiate the white objects in the scene.
  • *To add a splash of color when needed, I often through in a richly colored napkin or coaster.
  • *To pick a plate of food out from the background (if it is blending too much), I might just put a prop behind a corner of the food, to break up the blend a bit (does that make sense?)
  • *I like a rustic style to my shots, but with somewhat more elegantly plated food.
  • *Always plate WAY less food than you actually eat. Sure I am skinny, but I do eat a lot more than you might see plated in a shot on my blog. Typically I cut it back by 2/3rds.  I find it easier to make a small amount of food look pretty, and visually it doesn’t fill a plate, which is a far nicer composition than a big plate of food.
  • *I typically back light my shot – so behind the food is the main light source. Side lighting is also great. Avoid having the main light in the same direction as the camera – you are going to get very flat lighting (like on camera flash lighting) and bad looking food.
  • *Never use an on camera flash


I don’t have a lot of time to shoot food photography. I wish I did. I have come up with a little method that really helps me get a shot as fast as possible, without letting food get cold, pissing off a 2 year old waiting for his dinner, or making guests wait..

  • *Identify areas in your house that have good lighting at the times of day you are most likely to shoot a picture. When it comes time to setup, you know exactly where has good light.
  • *Have all your photography tools together – keep your scrim and bounces together, and drag em out together. You are most likely going to use them together.
  • *Before you cook, think up a setup you might want to use with your dish. Work through plating and prop ideas in your head, thinking what would work with your dish.
  • *Get a couple of large sheets of MDF or particle board. Use these as a stage for your shot. Even earlier that day setup the board with a tablecloth or covering, arrange plates and so forth on it to get a decent setup. When it comes time to shoot, drag the board out (with dishes still on it!), position in the light, and get ready to shoot.
  • *Have the set ready to go before you plate your food. The visual appeal of hot food starts to decline rather quickly as it gets cold. Have the setup ready (props, scrims, bounces, camera on tripod and setup to shoot tethered if are going to do that). Then just pop the plate of food down, make final adjustments and shoot
  • *If you aren’t shooting tethered, take a few shots from different angles. Also take a few shots with different F-Stop (aperture size) values. F-Stop controls the size of the lens aperture, which in turn controls how much of your shot is in focus. Make sure the focus point is on the food, but take some with varying F stops. Later when you look at your images on your computer, pick one that has the food in focus, but the background slightly blurred out – this pulls focus to the food, and adds depth and visual interest to your shot.

I guess the final thing to say is just have fun with it. Experiment, do things differently every time until you find a setup and style that works for you. Screw up a lot, and don’t worry about it. I screw up a ton, and post the screw ups on my blog!!

Q&A: Food Photography Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Great Food Photos

Food Photography is hard because it requires skills with close-ups, lighting, focus, depth of field and the subtle use of shadows. Add to this how quickly fresh food can change, dry-out or wither right before your eyes, especially under lights and to have a nightmare waiting to become a reality.

There are also sorts of stories about what food photographers do to make food look good including spraying food with varnish or hairspray, but mostly it is just experience and knowing what to do.

There is lots of advice about this topic. This article reviews the best of the best tips, tricks and techniques for taking great photographs of food.


When photographing food you want to ensure that the viewer really wants to taste and eat the food in your image by making their mouth water. To do this you have to use superior presentation, composition, settings, focus and lighting. However you also need to study and understand the features of the food you are photographing.

Visualise the picture you want to take with the food item in your mind. You will then have to work out how to develop this look step by step. Think about cutting the cake or other item to highlight how it is eaten and to give the impression that its ready to eat. Some food items look good all by themselves on a suitable background – such as burgers, fruit and desserts on a plate. Other foods need something else as context and need to be presented as a serving – for example soup, cakes, bread cheesecake, ice cream and many meat dishes an this makes them difficult to shoot.

Many foods do not have contrasting texture and any thing to provide depth of field. For soup, add some garnishing, capture the steam rising on a fresh dish, add some water droplets to fresh fruit and vegetables and use a beautiful plate or setting. For other foods show a serving on a spoon or display a slice or serving. So take care with you planning and preparation – it can be very creative and a lot of fun.


You should spend time deciding what is the best way to present the food item and to highlight it by choosing an apt background. In many the photographs the background may be out of focus and you should be aware of this and select a background that will work in this way.

  • Choose simple and non-distracting table wear that complements the food item and showcases its key features. White bowls and a plain white or light colored table clothes are ideal for most photographs but they are highly reflective.
  • Add a garnish or other highlight to add some contrast to your food items and can provide shadow and contrast to develop depth and a 3D look. You can often use some of the raw ingredients. For example, you could surround an image or a strawberry dessert by adding several fresh strawberries. Try to highlight the detailed features of the food and its unique characteristics. There features could be the texture of a vegetable, the color of ripe fruit or the steam wafting up from hot food.
  • Use props when appropriate– Don’t be reluctant to jazz up the setting to increase its appeal. Maybe you could add a glass of orange juice next to a pile of pancakes? A glace of wine can add a nice touch to a plate of steak and vegetables? Perhaps you could sprinkle some hundreds and thousands or icing sugar to surround your cupcakes? But remember that to many or props that are too interesting may detract from the food.
  • But keep things stylish and simple – Remember to always keep in mind the feature of the food and the story you want to tell about it. You may be better taking close-up macro photograph of the food item rather than worrying about props
  • If the meal on the plate has several items it could become confusing and distracting, and it may be better to focus on fewer food items and take several shots.

Perspective, Orientation and Camera Angle

What is the best camera angle for food photography? The options are shown below

A. Top View – 90 degrees

This perspective, or at an angle of 75 degrees (15 degree from vertical) can creates a wonderful view of some foods. It is the way you see the food when it is served to you by the waiter.

B. Slanted View – 45 degrees

This is the angle you usually see food on a table for a buffet or at dinner for foods presented for you to choose. This is probably the most misused position by food photographers and can be very boring as it is overused and boring. Try other angles as well. Watch your focus and depth of field for 45 degree shots

C . Angle of 10-20 degrees (15 degrees)

Many experienced photographers claim that angles around 15 degree is the ‘magic angle’ to take food photos because it provides depth and interest. As in the case A above, take care with the background if you use this angle.

D. Horizontal to Table

If you decide to take the shot horizontally, make sure your background is free of distractions as at this angle it will often be more visible and can create distractions create noise in your photograph.

So how do you decide what is the best angle? There is no magic formula and it depends on the following:

  • Type of Food
  • Quantity of Light and how you can control it
  • The best angle to display the highlights such as reflections and shadows
  • How to get the best depth of field and 3D look to the image
  • The Horizontal Surface and the background for the food.

Food Structure is often the key –How is the food styled or presented? What does you food look like in 3D? What is the shape of your dish? Does the food item of dish have a height? These are the things you should consider when deciding on the angle. A food item or serving that is relatively high is generally best shot at the 0-20 angle, which allows you to use the height. If the dish is flat or has no vertical interest it may be better to take the shot vertically.

Compromises – It is well known that in photography there are factors that you can control and some that you cannot. For example, sometimes you will have flexibility in the distance away from the food that you can shoot, other times this may be very restricted. Sometimes you can control the direction and strength of the light, other times you cannot. Always remember the rule of thirds when you are composing the shot. Place the key feature of the shot at a third of the distance from two adjoining edges. Many cameras can display grid lines that will help you to apply the rule of thirds.

How to Get the Lighting Right

Lighting is probably the most important and difficult requirement. Professional food photographers use highly sophisticated studio lighting and proper sets when taking photographs, but for most people these facilities will be unavailable. But natural lighting is more than adequate for most food photos and there are various ways to change things to control the light and innovate to get the lighting you need.

You may not have this setup but there are many ways of achieving something similar if you know the principles.

  • Use Natural Light with Diffusers and Reflections –Whenever and wherever possible make good use of natural light as it is the best option. The best place to put your set-up is beside a large bright window, with a white curtain to diffuse the light and avoid harsh shadows. This applies if the light shines directly though the window.
  • Only Use Flash as a last resort and use a flash diffuser – Flash photography is generally too harsh for food. It flattens everything in the image, blasts away the colours and can produce unwanted reflections and shiny spots. Even when you shoot at night, always employ a diffuser for the flash or bounce the flash off a ceiling or a wall, rather than directly onto the subject.
  • Make your own light Box – A good way to light the food is to make use of a light box that you have made yourself. Grab a cardboard carton and cut out three side and cover them with translucent paper. Leave the other side open for setting up the photo. For lighting shine a desk lamp or something similar through the translucent material to diffuse and soften it. Such a simple device can be used to take excellent photographs.
  • Ideas for Do it Yourself Tiny Spotlights – Book reading lights, optic cable lights, tiny LED torches, home made spot lights fashioned from house and car lamps and lights. You could also make use of a highlight pen lights (with a diffuser) or bed side reading lamps that are designed to be attached to book. Use your imagination.
  • How To Get Food Looking At Their Best? – Try to position the food so that it has a sheen and appears translucent for that mouth watering appeal. To achieve thing place a spot light at a 1000 or 1400 clock position. Check in the viewfinder to get it right. Shadows will also appear that will provide highlights and give the food a 3D look.
  • White Cards and Fill Lights –Use a white card positioned at the front of item being photographed so that light can be reflected back on the onto the food to provide fill light. White card can also be used to soften or remove harsh shadows that may appear in front of the food. Placing the food on a piece of aluminium foil (that will be outside the frame) is a great idea because you can use it as a backfill reflector and you can bend it to get just what you want.

Adjust the white balance (Color Balance)

Remember to adjust the white balance on your camera for the items you are photographing. For example meat dishes require warm tones – to avoid the blueish tinge that appears under some fluorescent light makes meat look horrid.

Use a Tripod or other means to keep the Camera Still

In low-light situations such as photographing in restaurants and kitchens, you will need long exposures and even the slightest camera movements will blur the image. Use a tripod whenever you can. Otherwise rest your camera on the back of a chair or a glass or some other object, or prop your hands against something.

Depth of Field and Focus

A large depth of field allows objects positioned at wide range of distances behind and in front of the focal point to be displayed in focus simultaneously. A shallow depth of field means only a small range of the image will be sharp and properly focused and this may make the image unappealing (though it can be ‘arty’). Everything in front or behind the central area will be blurry and unattractive. The depth of field is controlled by many things including the by the aperture of your lens, which is measured in f-stops.

Online Calculator for Depth of Field
Online Calculator for Depth of Field

There are various online calculatorswhich show the principles.

  • Depth of Field – Modern cameras can help with depth of field – Use aperture priority mode, select an f-stop and the camera will adjust the other settings to provide the correct exposure. A setting such as f/32 will generally mean the features in the background and foreground will be in focus. On the other hand a tiny f-setting such as f/1.4 will usually mean the background will be blurred
  • Most modern SLR cameras have a preview button for displaying depth of field, which adjusts the lens to the aperture you have chosen and allows you to preview the image and depth of field that will be provided by the setting.
  • Getting closer to the food will generally make it harder to control the depth of field. The closer you get, the exact and careful you will need to be with the focus. Moving further away will always be better than blurry.

Tips for Improving Focus and Sharpness

  • Hold your camera steady or better still use a tripod
  • Shutter Speed is the obvious way to get a sharper image as it avoid vibration effects. But keep in mind that faster shutter speed mean wider apertures and loss of depth of field.
  • Reducing the aperture (increasing to say f/20) will improve the depth of field but will require longer your shutter speeds, which risk more burring through movement. It is always going to be a compromise.
  • Choose a film with a larger ISO and you can use smaller apertures and use faster shutter speeds, which improves sharpness. It is a compromise because this faster film will increasing the noise of your shots and loss of detail.
  • Use good quality lenses and make sure that they are clean
  • Use the Sweet Spot for the lens – All lenses have certain parts of their aperture ranges that are sharper than others. In most cases this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture.

Shoot A Lot

Always take a large number of photographs from various angles and choose the best. Photography is something that can only be learned by doing, after you have been taught the principles.

Be Quick

You have to learn to work quickly while the food remains fresh. This means preparing well before hand by even using an empty plate to help you set up your shot before the food is ready.

Whilst looking for magazines featuring editorial food images, I noticed that another fairly significant area to consider could be health food magazines. They often featured the use of raw fruit, simple and minimal but aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes the photographer chose to use only a few fruits and get close to subject, some used colourful backgrounds to contrast and complement the fruit, others featured a simple white bowl filled with fruit and used other foreground elements to draw the viewers attention.

After noting a few examples, I returned home to research health food magazines more specifically.

Eating Well

EatingWell Media Group is a fast-growing communications company, now part of the Meredith Corporation family of publications, producing an award-winning national consumer magazine, high-quality food and nutrition-related books, a content-rich website, e-mail newsletters, and serving content to strategic partners with other electronic media.


Magazine: Our flagship publication EatingWell, Where Good Taste Meets Good Health, has a paid circulation of 500,000 (going to 750,000 with the July/August 2013 issue) and an estimated audience of 1.8+ million North American readers per issue. (Member, Audit Bureau of Circulations.) It is published bimonthly (six times per year).

EatingWell Magazine is a tool designed to guide people passionate about eating more healthfully and joyfully in times when nutrition guidelines are ever-changing and when food is at the center of society-wide controversy and health concerns.

Web: Our content-rich website ( delivers the largest concentration of healthful recipes and award-winning food and nutrition content on the Web. Through our alliance with the Nutrition Department at the University of Vermont, all EatingWell recipes and nutrition content are reviewed by a team of experienced Registered Dietitians and experienced science editors.

EatingWell has a 20-year reputation for delivering cutting-edge, authoritative, science-based nutrition articles and delicious recipes that represent a fusion of good taste and good health.

Books: EatingWell has a growing list of high-quality cookbooks published with W.W. Norton through its Vermont division, The Countryman Press. (To order, go here


EatingWell Media Group is positioned to be a leading North American source of nutrition advice and immediately useful information tools, delivered via consumer magazine print, trade books, web, newsletters and electronic media.


The EatingWell management and editorial team includes former editors, recipe developers, nutrition advisors, circulation and production staff who helped launch the original Eating Well Magazine in 1990.

Previous Issues:

Eating Well_12_FINAL_COVER_0






I found these images quite appealing and visually interesting. In many ways, this felt more appropriate than other food publications I have found during my research, especially in regards to the keywords highlighting in this brief; light, healthy and fresh.

This also reassured me that strawberries would be an appropriate subject for a June issue. Observing certain patterns between June issues alternated between cherries, raspberries and strawberries. I would estimate that strawberries could be the feature of the June 2013 issue.

I decided to research the June 2008 issue, to see what story the main image related to.

Can Vitamin C Save Your Skin?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.March/April 2008



Bottom line: Eating more vitamin-C rich foods, such as oranges, tomatoes, strawberries and broccoli, may be a secret to smoother skin.

Therefore, strawberries can certainly be considered as a healthy fruit. It is useful to know that either a crop or possibly a detail shot could also be relevant for publication.

Healthy Food Guide

Healthy Food Guide

Healthy Food Guide brings together a mix of delicious and nutritious recipes, tried and tested in our kitchen, informative health features and fitness plans in one glossy compact magazine. Our mission is to help you make positive yet realistic changes that will reap long-term benefits – we’re not about fad diets or false promises. Each issue is like having your own personal dietitian in your bag.


Eye to Eye Media was formed in November 2009 following a management buy-out of the consumer publishing arm of Seven Publishing Group. The move was masterminded and led by Seamus Geoghegan, founder and former managing director of Seven Publishing, a company he began in 2003 with Michael Potter and Jo Sandilands.

Eye to Eye Media’s publications include delicious. magazine, currently number two in the food magazine sector, and Eye to Eye Media Puzzles, which produces 27 titles and is Britain’s fastest-growing puzzle portfolio. delicious. magazine also has an online platform,, which has over 400,000 unique users and just under two million page impressions every month. Also part of Eye to Eye Media’s portfolio is health and wellbeing title Healthy Food Guide, which has an average readership of 27,000.

Healthy Food Guide UK





In many ways, the images featured within this publications were even more minimal than those in Eating Well. Light and clean, composed with a large amount of space due to the dominance of text on the covers. Again, this fulfilled the association of light, healthy and fresh. There were no props or additional features with the exception of a simple, white bowl or dish.


I also found it interesting to note that healthy food guide and delicious magazine are published by the same publishing group, eye to eye media.

Delicious Living

Established in 1985 as Delicious magazine, Delicious Living is the leading consumer magazine in the natural products industry. It is carried by more than 1,300 top natural products stores and is read by more than one million readers each month. Delicious Living was the first magazine of its kind, and it remains ahead of its time—a lifestyle magazine that meets new millennium needs with centuries-old health solutions, combined with contemporary natural health care methods and modalities.

Annabelle Blakey-delicious living

delicious living 2

delicious living





The images featured in delicious living require a much specialised towards particular varieties of health foods. In some ways, the images are composed in a similar way to eating well. Often the use of props and background features were subtle and well balanced to the overall aesthetic of the image.

This also has a connection to delicious as this publication started out as the original delicious magazine.

I feel as though I am beginning to refine my ideas further, this area of editorial photography appears more relevant to the brief and also more appealing to me as photographer.

To resolve my research, I will start to consider more practical aspects. I intend to look for general tips, advice and any potential light setups.

For this, I decided to see how rhubarb and strawberries are represented; are they fairly popular subjects for editorial work? How are they composed – as ingredients or as individual fruits? Is there an interest in recipes relating to them? 

To begin this, I started with a general search for strawberries and/or rhubarb to see how others had approached this photographically.

With this, I found that there was a variety of contexts (editorial, food blogs) and compositional features (props, macro) when considering rhubarb and strawberries as subjects. Of the two, I found that strawberries were a more frequently used subject overall, but could be paired with rhubarb quite often. Strawberries were also more flexible as they could act both as an ingredient or as a meal in their natural form. However, rhubarb was often represented as an ingredient, unless chopped, cooked and sweetened which would be difficult to arrange prior to the shoot and maintained through photographing in the studio.

I then started to look at recipes to see how popular recipes relating to or featuring strawberries and rhubarb were.

Recipes featuring both strawberries & rhubarb

Strawberries and Rhubarb: Perfect Together

Last year about this time, we were so excited about putting in a new garden at the side of the house. We’d even done our homework! Or most of it. We had the whole thing laid out, including the three rhubarb plants at the back, a boon to any gardener both ­because they provide a nice backdrop and because, well, the stems cook up so darn delicious. Strawberry-rhubarb pie has always been one of our favorite indulgences.

Proud of our plans to plant, we brought it up in passing to a friend. Well, specifically, to Jessie Price, the food editor at EatingWell.

Expecting gushing approval for our self-sustaining rhubarb habit, we were instead met with gasps and guffaws. “You’re not actually planting that stuff, are you?” she laughed. “It’s a weed in New England.” Undaunted, we plugged on.

Yes, those three plants did grow very well, but that turned out to be the least of it. As the weather warmed we started to notice the woods around our house were infested with the stuff. Hundreds of rhubarb plants sprang up among the ferns, under the trees, along the creek bed. Over the years, people had planted them everywhere. Our town is precolonial, you know. So we’re dealing with the detritus of centuries of big-eyed gardeners. We were surrounded by some sort of nightmarish rhubarb jungle.

By June, we’d canned, cooked, baked and braised our way through the underbrush. Then we started mowing it down.

Even though nothing tames the stuff in the wilds of Connecticut, the same can’t be said in the kitchen. Strawberries are the natural, classic mellow-inducer. They tone down that prized sourness—especially in these recipes for a summer salad and a strudel, each just for two.

Strawberries and rhubarb: it’s still a match made in heaven. That’s why we’re planting strawberries this season. Lots of strawberries. And we defy Jessie to tell us they grow wild in the woods. Because if they do, we’re never leaving New England.

Rhubarb & strawberry crumble with custard

Strawberry & rhubarb recipe_bbc good food

Meringue-Topped Strawberries & Rhubarb

meringue topped strawberries_rhubarb_eating well

Rhubarb-Strawberry Lattice Pie


Rhubarb Strawberry Compote

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Rhubarb & Recipes

May’s best: Rhubarb

Long, thin and proudly pink, rhubarb is a great British favourite, versatile enough to both form classic ‘comfort food’ puddings and work extremely well with meat.

Our quick and tasty tips:

  • Try making a crumble with a few balls of chopped up stem ginger. The flavours work brilliantly together.
  • Poach rhubarb in orange juice and zest, cinnamon and a sprinkling of sugar and serve in a magnificent pavlova.
  • Mix poached rhubarb with double cream and spread inside a Victoria sponge.

French rhubarb tart


Roasted rhubarb with mascarpone



Strawberry & recipes

June’s best: Strawberries

Picnics, vanilla ice cream… Strawberries are the ultimate summer fruit. A happy heart-shaped sight, they’re abundant now and tastier than ever.

Our quick and tasty tips:

  • Try marinating them in the zest and juice of an orange and a lemon and a sprinkle of caster sugar.
  • Chill for an hour or so and serve with cream and meringues and a little chopped mint on top, if you like.

Strawberry ice cream shake


Strawberry marshmallow mousse


Strawberry & mascarpone cheesecake tart


Frozen strawberry yogurt



Through this, I learnt:

  • The overall use and application of strawberries and rhubarb in editorial food photography.
  • The significance of colour and texture in communicating different aesthetic and contextual concepts – often white and/or blue.
  • Consistent compositional features varying between minimal, clean images and organised and constructed images with use of props.
  • Seasonal significance – rhubarb is at its best in May and strawberries are at their best in June.