Creating an image concept. This sounds like "professionalism". Like "I know what I'm doing." Like "I have a plan”. Quite "fancy" and - depending who is talking about the photo conception - also elitist.
And we see every day that a concept does by far not result in a good image. Snapshots, created with the camera app on your smartphone, end up on Instagram, in family photo albums and also not infrequently in publications with a large audience. Were these images created with a concept in the mind of the photographer? In most cases the answer is no. Photo-journalists also often “only just click”. However, these professionals know exactly what they are doing at the time of the release. A snapshot exists through the liveliness and the authenticity of the motif and not through a plan worked out in detail.
However. You can resist as much as you want, but if you deal in more detail with photography as a means for expression, you must inevitably deal with the issue of conception sooner or later. However, not because a concept is a miracle cure. A concept prepares and creates a routine even before the shooting - no more, no less. However, this routine is a very good friend. If you get along with it, it can cover your ass with a planned shooting.
Especially in food photography, it is good to develop routines and to be able to work according to well-established patterns. Of course, the motif does not run away, and, once you are used to it, even cold food can be eaten with pleasure, the time is definitely on the side of the photographer. Nevertheless, freshly prepared food looks better on photos, and so there are certain limitations when experimenting. At the latest, when the lettuce leaf on the sandwich to be photographed hangs down in a sad and wilted manner, you know that you have taken too long to photograph the really delicious open sandwich. So it is good if you have already had thoughts about the set up, the light and the props in advance, therefore have concocted a concept.
For the photographs on eat this! and for our books, we go about this according to a very simple pattern.
As we take pictures almost exclusively with "Available Light", the time of day and the current position of the sun specifies where we take photographs. A window with a northerly orientation is often the best choice as a light source. If you have not paid attention to the North window when choosing the flat, you go with or against the sun and look for the place which is illuminated indirectly and softly.
The backing and a possible background are chosen according to the colourfulness of the motif and the mood that we want to create with the image. The colours of a yellow-orange pumpkin curry on a wooden backing also tending to orange naturally shine less than if the dish would be shot on a dark backing. A light parsnip soup in white bowls also disappear with a light backing. For the image of the barbecue panzanella we therefore chose a white bowl that emphasise the red, orange and yellow tones of the fruits, the rustic wooden backing suits the summer barbecue theme.
We proceed similar with the choice of props. Which napkin colour fits to the motif? And, do you want to give the impression of a beautifully set table with the "good cutlery" or shall the image show the reader that the dish can be prepared perfectly and be taken along to the next barbecue party?
During the actual image composition, there are few possibilities to proceed according to a fixed scheme. Especially here, feeling is in demand. We have become accustomed to photograph from the perspective of the "eater", and thus impart to the blog readers that they are our guests and look onto their own plate. We thus pay attention for example to arrange the cutlery as you would expect at a set table. For the right look, it is also important that the light shines on the motif from behind or from the side, it should only be brightened at the front. It sometimes is then also necessary to convert the whole set, if you for example change from portrait to landscape mode. With the help of this concept, you can imagine how the light must fall after the conversion and you thus know instinctively how the new composition should look like.
So as to give more structure to the image, we often use coarsely ground spices, coarse sea salt or freshly chopped herbs and quite seriously - this can turn a good image into a perfect image.
Only now we go to the camera and to the selection of the right objective. With panzanella, it is important to show a lot. The bread, the barbecue, the capers and olive oil should be visible without the image looking stout and "narrow". However, an angle which is too wide has an unnatural effect and distracts from the real star, the salad bowl. So we pick up the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD which images in about a normal focal length at our Canon 60D.
Does this mean that we are working for each recipe on the blog according to a pre-determined and written concept? No, of course not. As already mentioned, it is about patterns and experiences. You make mistakes, learn from them, you know the next time how to avoid them and thus collect thus the basic ingredients for an image concept. And let's face it, fun and creativity would fall by the wayside if you would only shoot according to "scheme X"
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