Food photography – inspiring interview with Asia Bartnik

  1. How did your fascination with photography start?

My interest in photography started quite late, because after I graduated, but having a camera in my hands always gave me a lot of pleasure. It started with a culinary blog and myfascination with popular bloggers. I followed the photographs of Eliza Mórawska, Paulina Kolondry and Małgosia Dzięgielewska on their blogs and in magazines. They impressed me very much.  In this way, I began to get to know my camera and to work in manual mode. Then I started learning stylization most often by observing photos that I like and analyzing what makes them unique to me. It continues to this day. This endless learning process makes photography a bit like an addiction.

  1. What inspires you in this profession?

In photography there is no point where we can say “I already know everything “,” I have achieved everything “. This border is constantly shifting and changing depending on what we want to achieve. As in any creative activity, it is both frustrating and inspiring, motivating. You can reinvent yourself again and again. Photography is the center of expression and as long as we have something to say, we will create.

I am attracted to many aspects. It’s how immediately it works on the recipient and how quickly the photo arouses certain emotions in us. That it is able to show a very subjective view of the world. The fact that it can be a way to get to know and document the world, but also to create and change it.

  1. Why did you focus on product photography and not, for example, portrait photography?

My photographic journey began with a culinary blog. In a quite natural way, I wanted to make money on photography and I started from what I knew and where I already had some experience. The clients trusted me because I could already show them something, and at the same time from my beginnings in the blogging environment, I was closer to their potential recipients and I knew what photographs attracted them.

Product / advertising photography also gives a lot of opportunities to “bring out” creatively. It lets you tell a story, create aesthetics from scratch. Personally, I really like details and pay attention to the objects that surround me and others. I believe that they also say something about the world and about us. I have something with Marie Kondo, the author of “The Magic of Cleaning”, who thinks that you should love every object we have, even socks 😉 Her philosophy when it comes to everyday objects is very close for me.

  1. Do you prefer to take a photo in nature, in natural light or in the studio?

I really like the natural diffused soft light on a cloudy day, which when it falls from the back beautifully highlights the texture and creates an ethereal mood. It’s good for me to work with such light and I also look for it when I take photos outdoors.

Sharp light can also be used properly, but the contrasts that it causes must be a deliberately chosen part of the photographic session concept. especially if we’re talking about product photography. For example, it can be one of the means of expression when we photograph products that are associated with summer.

Both types of light can be recreated in a photo studio and it has such advantages that the sun’s light is constantly changing (its softness and color).  However, once the lamps are set up in the studio, this gives us constant lighting conditions, which shortens the process of processing a series of photos. However, working in a studio requires time to set the lamps, space to get the exact effect we want.  Everything needs to be stylized there from the beginning to the end. It requires more resources, but it also gives more control, which in the case of product photography has enormous advantages.

Currently, I’m working in natural light, but if I had a spacious photo studio, I think I would appreciate it very much.

  1. What is the distinctive feature of your photos?

What my photos look like is partly a derivative of the type of photography I do. My photo shoots are often closer to the products, and the treatment is rather natural. For product and culinary photography, care should be taken to ensure correct color reproduction, so as not to mislead consumers.

I think that what characterizes me is a passion for a white, bright background. I don’t like when the background with its color or texture competes in the picture for attention with its main character – the product. I also like a small depth of field, such as blurry background, soft light and this natural, somewhat amateurish “look” that makes the photo look more authentic. Then the product is closer to us than typical studio advertising, additionally retouched, perfect advertising shots.

  1. What is the most important thing for you in a well-made picture?

It’s a difficult question. A well-taken photo is a photo that fulfills its purpose. It can be both a simple, properly taken picture of the product, if its purpose is to present the packaging. And it may be a mood photo, heavily processed, which evokes melancholy emotions, if such emotions were to be evoked in the recipient. Pictures are usually meant to serve and it is good to be aware of why we do them, because often these goals may be contradictory. If I don’t know what purpose the image should fulfill, I can’t determine if it is good done.

  1. In addition to product photography, do you like to capture a moment that is fleeting and there is no time to refine it, e.g. a seagull sitting on the sand?

Definitely yes. I believe that such photos have a special value in the long term. This is also sometimes seen after some viral photos or stories that we see on the Internet. These are photos in which content counts, and their amateurism, technical imperfection has almost no meaning.

The purpose of the photos you are asking about is to capture the transitory moment that moved us and document it. This picture reminds us in a few months and sometimes in a few decades where we were, who accompanied us, what we felt. If we have the ability to capture it in a aesthetic and yet true way, showing the entire complexity of the moment, that’s great. But even if it’s just a click of a phone, crooked cadres and focus not where it’s needed, I guarantee that despite this, this photo will be important in your eyes for the next X years. And it can be one of the most valuable you have.

  1. What advice would you give to some beginning culinary photographers (beginning culinary bloggers), practical advice?

First, learn the rules of taking pictures in manual mode. This is not about doing it for the sake of the rule , if you do not need it, I often work in aperture preselection mode. It’s about understanding how the camera measures light, what parameters we can change and how these affect the result. Aperture, exposure time and sensitivity (ISO) are terms that should not raise any of your doubts.

Next, it is worth noting the light and shadow on your own and seen in other pictures. Is the light soft or sharp (that is, the edges of the shadows are fuzzy or sharp) and from where it falls (from the side, from the back, from the front)? Seeing this, you can easily observe where you should photograph, to get the effect you like.

The last thing is stylization. Although sometimes it’s hard to believe it, the camera only photographs what’s ahead of us and if what we see on the table does not look beautiful, Photoshop won’t  save it. There will always be a beautiful cake photographed minimally on a uniform neutral background. If styling is not our strong point, let’s start with minimalistic photos and stylize the dish itself so that it is beautiful and not everything around it. We must realize that in a small modern kitchen, we will not make such photos as we see on photographer blogs living on a French estate, which have a large window above the top and a mass of silverware from grandma. It is better to utilize your energy to create a photogenic space in your own kitchen or dining room than to try to artificially recreate interiors that we do not have. If we run a blog, let’s be authentic and unique, because pretending is visible and we lose too much energy trying to create it. Such authentic photos also have such a plus that they are timeless, and our blog will be photographed consistently. And readers like consistency.

  1. Can you reveal a few secrets from your work, some tricks you use when taking photos, where do you get backgrounds for photos, what equipment do you use?

I photograph with the Nikon D750 camera most often with a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens. I think this lens or Nikkor 50mm 1.8 is a glass capable of everything in culinary photography. I also recommend having a tripod and remote control for remote triggering of your camera.

I really like to photograph with the light falling in the back. However, I try to keep the light source out of the cadre, because then we have too much difference between an over-exposed background and the dark frame. Such light really changes a lot.

I pay much attention to the colors that appear in the frame. I don’t like when there are too many of them. I try to choose accessories so that the picture will be a maximum of 2-3 colors except the neutral ones (white, gray, beige and wood), and that each color appears in at least 3 elements in the picture. If I have a color in the frame only in one piece and this is not the main character of the photo, then I have the impression that it does not fit with the rest, unnecessarily attracts attention, it gives the impression of being there by accident. Three elements of the same color makes our eyes circulate in the loop between them and our focus does not run away from the picture, it catches attention longer.

In the stores with interior finishing articles, they have most backgrounds that I use. You can buy fragments of marble veneer – a great alternative to expensive and heavy stone. And can also use kitchen and bathroom tiles, wallpaper, or a piece of wooden plywood, on which you can create a “gypsum” or “stone” structure using paints. When working with small-sized products, such materials can be enough to create a mini photo set. Finally, I would also recommend having a photographically open head and try your hand at various fields of photography. You never know where you can learn something new which will improve your skills.

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