The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

pears on a cutting board The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

At the core of all photography lies subject, composition and lighting. If those three things are poor, no amount of post-processing work will fix it. It won’t matter what your aperture, f/stop or ISO is if you don’t have an interesting subject, good composition, and great lighting. Without these, a photo will lack impact.

Learning how to effectively read a photograph will give you better insight into how to achieve those crucial elements in your own work.

Reading a photograph is the study of how a particular image was created and the thought process of the photographer behind it. Photographers constantly make decisions about lighting (quality and quantity), composition (the arrangement of visual elements) as well as content (subject and meaning) when taking photographs.

coffee bean diptych 1 of 1 The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

Every image offers a variety of interpreta tions and by observing and interpreting t he choices a photographer has made in each we can learn and improve our own skills.  To become better phot ographers, we have to spend time looking at what other photographers are doing and learn from each other.

Of course, you may already instinctively know what you like, but by learning how to analyze the basic visual elements a photographer uses to communicate with, you will better appreciate and understand what you like or don’t like about a particular image.

vanilla beans with flour and eggs 1 of 1 The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

As I mentioned, a successful image depends on a number of things that must come together including: lighting, composition, and subject matter, but for part I of this discussion I will be focusing on the basic building blocks of all visual arts – the elements of design.

Keep in mind that understanding these various elements are only guidelines and you should also follow your instincts. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something different, learn from your successes as well as your failures. Surround yourself with others that share your enthusiasm and you will improve your skills quickly.

peaches 1 of 1 The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

The Visual Elements:

1.    Lines
2.    Form/Shape and Space
3.    Color
4.    Texture

These elements are the basic components of composition; they are the structure of the image and provide the photographer with a set of tools to begin working with.  I address each of these elements and offer insight on how to use them to improve your photography over at Tidy MomCheryl has generously lent me her space for the day and I hope you will please join me there.

Next week will be part  2 of this series and in the spirit of learning from each other I’ll be featuring YOUR photos!

 

I’m discussing the following concepts:

Balance

Movement

Pattern

Proportion

Send in your very best images that highlight any of the above concepts and I’ll include a selection of them in next week’s post as examples!

You can email them to me at gourmandeinthekitchen[at]gmail[dot]com or leave a link to the image in the comments section below.  I can’t wait to see your submissions!

Read part 2 of the food photography series: The Principals of Design

Read part 3 of the food photography series: Prop Styling with Paula Walters

Read part 4 of the food photography series: Food Styling Q &A with Tami Hardeman

What do you do to improve your photography?

pixel The Language of Food Photography Part 1 | Learning the Visual Elements of Design

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  1. says

    Oh girl I will try but I am so not good at this. It is one of those things I wish I could change the most about my food blog. My pics are getting better but they are nothing like yours or what they should be. If only you could take them for me! LOL! These tips are great though and I will definitely be trying them out! Thanks!

  2. says

    I’m a terrible photographer, Sylvie. Luckily I have good light in my kitchen, but that doesn’t help with the composition. Wish I were better at this. And yes, I do look at other photographers’ work….not enough though. :) I don’t have an artist’s eye. Looking forward to the rest of your series.

  3. says

    Oh Sylvie we are all just sitting at your feet wanting to read more! And you know I think you’re just the sweetest person, right? I mean you truly are an encourager. I always appreciate your kind and helpful comments and words. I always look forward to what you have to say.

  4. says

    Practise, practise, practise ;o)

    So true that cameras and camera settings can’t fix poor composition/exposure! And love the advice of surrounding yourself with othres who are as passionate – NOTHING improves your skills faster.

  5. says

    Sylvie, you have such a wealth of knowledge and so generous of you to share it with us. I have to admit, I haven’t paid much attention to things like texture. You have given me lots of food for thought. I look forward to the next post in this series.

  6. says

    I think you already know that I am one of your biggest fans. I can look at your photos all day and night and will never ever get bored…and I am so HAPPY that you are doing this photography series!!! I can’t wait to read about your tricks and secrets. ;-)

  7. says

    I was so happy when I found your blog and it is one that I constantly study – your photos (not to mention the recipes and writing) are gorgeous. I am finally beginning to understand how to analyze a photo and so this series of posts is perfect for me right now!
    Will definitely submit a photo !!!

  8. says

    Another great post by you Sylvie as usual! This one’s even better because it might help so many to learn the basics of photography. Looking forward to your next post now and can’t wait to send a photo of mine to be critiqued.

  9. says

    Your photos are so special Sylvie and I cannot wait to read more of your series. I have to admit that I am still relatively new to the whole food photography game and do everything mostly by instinct…I’d like to be able to approach my photos in a more thoughtful way.

  10. says

    Sylvie..love the post!

    What I do to improve my photography is just take TONS of pics! I try for at least 50 to 100 a day :) Some days lots more and some days less but just taking pics and seeing what works and what doesnt when it’s all blown up on your computer screen is what helps me the most.

    And reading other blogs with GREAT photography and studying what they did.

  11. says

    Thanks a bunch Sylvie. I am happy to read this post from food photographer I adore. Can’t wait to read your other posts. I loved that you have asked questions in your post. This will make us think and analyze.

    Initially I didn’t pay much attention on reading a photograph. But now that I do, I realize how much there is to learn from each picture I see. This has given me a new perspective and a platform to learn and improve.

  12. says

    Great post Sylvie! Valuable resource. Reading photos is so much fun. Something that I find myself doing with a very different perspective, now that I understand the aesthetics much more. :-)

  13. says

    What a great post. I’m looking forward to reading all the posts in this series. There is definitely so much to learn and your photos are just stunning so it’s great to learn from someone so talented.

  14. says

    This post is a blessing!!! You read my mind! I absolutely need help in this department. I feel like my poor photography skills really detract from the cookies. Hanging on every word!!!

  15. says

    I’m such a bad photographer. Although i have natural light in my kitchen, I don’t have the artistic eye. i’m already reading some books on composition and styling … hopefully my photos will get better.
    I love all your photos and can’t wait to read the future posts. You’re so sweet for sharing with us all these helpful tips. Thanks Sylvie

  16. says

    Thank you for taking the time to do this series. You know I’m a huge fan of you, your blog and your photography, so I can’t wait to read the rest of this series! So informative and so well written!

  17. says

    One of these days I may take photos a fraction as well as you my friend. Until then I will keep stopping by to learn, bask and continue to be in awe :) {{hugs}} Great post!!

  18. says

    This is quite an informative write up Sylvie..Always enjoy the depth of words in your posts.Thank you so much! Cant wait for Part 2 and few more pointers.Off to Tidy Mom to read the rest of the story!

  19. says

    I am officially a new fan, what a beautiful site! I really do try to learn from other bloggers, how to capture a good photo. I have definitely improved, but still need to continue building on my skills:-) Thank you for this post, I will submit a few photos later. I would love to see if I am on the right track:-)
    Take care, Terra

  20. says

    This has been by far the most useful post on photography I have ever read, written by a blogger. I have emailed you a few pics and hope to hear from you about them.

    This was really great. Thanks so much for sharing.

  21. says

    I love that you’re doing this. As an amateur photographer I’m always inspired by other photos and wanting to learn more! Very cool! Can’t wait to see more.. btw, that peach photo is insane… so incredible! What kind of lens did you take that with?

  22. says

    Love this post. Your photos are always so inspirational to me because of how you use light and darkness, color and form and especially because, unlike most food bloggers, your styling is moody, emotional and never ever frou-frou and overly styled. I have been moving towards a style that fits ME rather than follows the accepted food blogging rule, photos more bare and sharp, deep colors against white or colorful foods against dark. Like yours. Your style is unique, daring yet understated and simple. I love it. I so wish I could spend a few days with you learning.

  23. says

    Just came across this post. Its a great topic and is important to understanding what goes into a composing a frame.
    Lovely series, keep it going!

  24. says

    GREAT post! I have SO much to learn about photography…thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Your photos are stunning!

  25. says

    Hello Sylvie. I just discovered your blog through another and I am completely and utterly smitten by your recipes, you photography, the whole concept of your blog. It is always so exciting to find blogs that inspire me.
    This post is particularly interesting. I’m a mere novice in photography, I actually don’t have a decent camera yet, so reading this was very useful. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
    Magda

  26. says

    This is a very helpful lesson and good info for someone like myself trying to improve my food photography skills and knowledge.

    Thanks!

  27. says

    I have just discovered your blog and I’m really impressed. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on food photography! Your tips are very helpful!

  28. says

    Dear Sylvie, I just discovered your blog, and I really enjoy looking at your images, going trough the recipes and reading your ‘language of food photography’. You have an incredible range. Thanks for sharing & keep up the great work! Sofie

Trackbacks

  1. [...] “At the core of all photography lies subject, composition and lighting. If those three things are poor, no amount of post-processing work will fix it. It won’t matter what your aperture, f/stop or ISO is if you don’t have an interesting subject, good composition, and great lighting. Without these, a photo will lack impact. Learning how to effectively read a photograph will give you better insight into how to achieve those crucial elements in your own work. Reading a photograph is the study of how a particular image was created and the thought process of the photographer behind it. Photographers constantly make decisions about lighting (quality and quantity), composition (the arrangement of visual elements) as well as content (subject and meaning) when taking photographs…[Visit Gourmande In The Kitchen to read on]” [...]

  2. [...] Part one and part two of the series discuss how to see more creatively by using the elements and principles of design. In part three professional prop stylist Paula Walters shares her tips on how to choose the right props for your images. For part four, food stylist Tami Hardeman answers your questions on food styling.  In part five of the series, food and still life photographer Ilva Beretta talks about creating moods in food photography. [...]