Photography is powerful. It can make us appreciate nature, introduce us to new cultures or inspire us to make a change. When it comes to food photography, it has the power to make us crave delicious meals or perhaps even inspire us to cook.
One person who knows all about the genre is Shilpa Razniewska. Shilpa is a food photographer, stylist and recipe developer. On her blog and popular Instagram page Soulful and Healthy she shares wonderful recipes and drool-worthy photos.
As part of our Creators Spotlight series we caught up Shilpa to find out more.
My blog, Soulful and Healthy is delicious, easy and simple. It is a reflection of my love and passion for food, most of my recipes are a fusion of different cultures. My husband is Polish, I am Indian and we live in Ireland, so there is a wonderful mix. It is interesting to see how food can bring everyone together no matter where you come from or no matter where you live.
I share simple recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Most of my recipes are healthy without any compromise on taste. At the same time, it is my portfolio when it comes to photography and styling. I do everything on my own from styling the dish, to painting my own backdrops. Clients can see my Instagram page and get in touch with me if they want to work with me for their photography needs.
My pregnancy was a tough one and so was my child's birth. I had swine flu the very next day after he was born. My post pregnancy recovery was not easy either. I started struggling with postnatal depression. In order to get rid of it, I started baking. It helped me a lot, it was very therapeutic, but with all the baking came lots of sugar and we also started to gain weight.
So, I started discovering healthy yet delicious ways of cooking and baking. In 2015, I started my blog Soulful and Healthy one winter afternoon. My little boy was two years-old and while he was napping, I created my very first blog post on WordPress. It was very small, nothing fancy and my photography was very bad (the photos were taken on my phone).But, I got some very good responses to my recipes, it was encouraging! It motivated me to work harder and since then there is no looking back.
Food photography is exclusive and it is a very niche profession. Once you are out there and your work stands out, people will recognise you and your style.
It is not as easy as it looks. It can be very challenging, for example, to make a bowl of
hummus or porridge look good. When I first started my blog, I never would have imagined that I would be where I am today. I never thought anyone would even bother trying my recipes or hire me for photography. But here I am today after years of hard work and dedication. I think when you put your heart and soul into something it will definitely show. It might take some time but it is worth it.
There are few things to keep in mind when photographing food but the three most important ones are:
The most important thing to keep in mind while photographing food is that it should look edible. It should make the audience feel like they want to dive into their screen and eat it. Always keep in mind the hero of your photo, the main character should be your food everything else should only support it in the background.
I always prefer shooting in natural light on a gloomy day. We have that grey, cloudy weather most of the time in Ireland so we are lucky. The clouds act as a natural diffuser and make the light subtle and soft which makes the colours of the food stand out and yet it gives beautiful shadows. Never use flash when shooting food; it distorts the look of it.
3. Colour contrast
The choice of colours is very important. If the dish that you are shooting is bright and colourful, make sure the background isn’t very bright and colourful as well, there has to be a contrast. The hero - which is your dish - should be the one that stands out not the background or the props. Keep in mind the colour wheel. For example, when I shot a red pepper and tomato soup, the background I used was dark wooden brown. This gave it a beautiful contrast, along with real dried autumn leaves as props.
Fresh fruit and vegetables is something that I love working with. When I see fresh produce, I set some aside to photograph it before I cook with it. I know I might sound very dramatic and clichéd when I say this but nature has always inspired me. If you look outside, nature has its own way of showing us natural colour contrasts. A lady bird is red with black spots, the daisy is white and yellow with green leaves, all of this is so beautiful and you learn so much from it. I keep this in mind and I am always looking out for things like this when on walks.
Also, there are many wonderful talented photographers I follow on Instagram who have always inspired me and will continue to do so. They share their knowledge and I have learned so much from them.
If you believe in what you do, do not give up on it. Creativity is a gift. If you use it in the right direction, work will come. It is not something that will happen overnight or in a few months, it takes time, effort and a lot of hard work. It took a few years for me to get here and I still have a long way to go.
There will be moments when you might feel overwhelmed and want to give up. I have had those times too. I’ve wondered if what I am doing is worth it. My husband told me to do it for the few people who have been there from the very beginning, but most importantly to do it for myself.
If it makes you happy then others will also see it. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. Do what you do best and your work will not go unrecognised.
I love to work with both small and big brands. I enjoy working with brands which I can relate to and which my audience can relate to. For blogging, I love working with food brands that suit my lifestyle and the content that I share on my social media. I have declined some brands where I felt they didi not suit what I believe in.
For photography, I work from my home studio. I do food and product photography. I used to do a lot of shoots for restaurants and cafes. I had many shoots lined up this year which all got cancelled due to covid-19. Hopefully, in the near future I will get back there again.