Food Photography

My Journey Into Food Photography

Do you ever look at successful people and wonder how they got to where they are today? How were they able to do what they do? I do, all the time. I find it so fascinating to know.

I was asked to speak at a Nikon Event as a Keynote Speaker about how I got started with food photography. They wanted an inspirational presentation, and although I am biased – my journey into food photography is quite a fun story to tell.

So I recorded the presentation that I gave at the Nikon event to share with you in this post. My hope is that you TAKE ACTION, as every little thing that you do will lead you to something. And that could be your wildest dreams.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

credit Ben Halcom, Nikon

2011 – The Start Of Something Special

These were the images I started to create back in 2011 with my first Nikon camera, a second hand D300 and a loaned 24-70mm. I was creating all the time in between work and study. I remember just the pure joy of learning, creating and I was always so proud of myself for what I was creating.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

2013 – My First Commissioned Food Shoot

Fast forward 2 years later and By 2013, I’d started to understand the technical aspects of photography, light and editing. As well as the uber hard process of creating and styling something from nothing that comes with still life photography.

I received an email about hiring me to shoot 8 recipes. It was my first job and it landed in my lap. Someone had google searched peppers, and found one of my images. They liked the work I was putting on my blog so much that they hired me. Now, this was my first paid commission for shooting food. And the craziest thing is that it still to this date the second highest paid commission of my photography career and it was my first! So it’s fair to say that I was slightly terrified but I did it anyway. I figured the worst could happen is that they didn’t pay me and I was no worse off.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

2014 – A Book Shoot, Front to Back

In 2014 I took the plunge to take on one of the craziest things I thought possible at the time. Shooting an entire book front to back. We shot 55 recipes in 5 weeks with a budget of $500 (that was just for food really). It really thrust me out of my comfort zone. I now know that 55 shots in 5 weeks is a dream, but when you’re just starting out, that’s a hard gig. Our budget only covered food, and we had to pull together props and backgrounds that we could make or find. But we were excited and very challenged by this project.

The thing about shooting that cook book is that it forced me to shoot a lot. And fail a lot. But at the end of it, I know had an entire portfolio of images I could take to get new clients.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

2015 – Learning To Make My Own Luck

Shooting a lot, testing, lighting, styling, moods really helped me to define my style and know what I loved.

Having done so many things that felt terrifying to me in my journey thus far, I just keep saying ‘yes’ to things. I started to understand that I was in charge of making my own luck. I took jobs that felt well beyond my skills, I reached out to famous photographers and asked them to shoot with me. Sometimes they said yes! I realised that I was in control of my journey and the opportunities that were out there for the taking.

In 2015 I had a clear style that was evolving and Instagram was just really taking off. I shot Cannings ecommerce range and it’s was one of the most successful shoots I’ve worked on. Still three years later I enquires from all around the world about these images. I never thought that raw meat could look so good, but it’s creative constraints like this that have really continued to push me over and over.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

2016 – Successful From The Outside

By 2016, so nearly 5 years later, I had my groove. I’d started shooting full time. Writing for big-name online publications, teaching on my blog two loves studio, and still creating personal projects. I’d worked for magazines all over the world. I was very busy and taking on every job that came my way. Funny thing is though that I was busy, but the work was low paid. I worked myself into the group hustling. And I ended up with burnout.

I was from the outside, successful in 2016. But I was utterly miserable. So I took some time off to reset what I wanted to do.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

2017 – Working On My Dream Work

ENTER 2017. In the journey to becoming a profession, there is this idea that you’ve made it if you’re busy with clients. But I realised that working taking photos for others isn’t the be all and end all. Creating for yourself is what I was really missing.

I decided that 2017 was going to be the year of me. I simplified my life, stopped spending unnecessarily so I could take on only the projects I wanted. This was going to be the year that I worked on my stuff, the work that was dying to be told.

I started to work on the images I wanted to work on, I was teaming up with my favourite Melbourne food stylist Carmel Gohar to create these magic images, I started my own podcast, organised and filled out two international workshops, released my first e-masterclass which now has hundreds of students and I was invited to speak at my first international conference.

The funny thing is that saying no and working on what I wanted to gave more momentum in getting me to where I wanted to be than taking ever freelance job that came my way.

How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.
How I got started in food photography. My journey and how taking action got me where I am today.

TAKE ACTION, NOW!

Everything you do will lead to something else, which will lead to another path and onto success. Now get moving, it’s those little things that will lead you to the big things. And enjoy the journey.

 

 

 

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  • Reply Andrea February 1, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Rachel. I loved the part where you stress the importance of saying no and focusing on what we really want to do. It’s so hard for me sometimes!

    -Andrea

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:13 pm

      It sure is Andrea! It took me a long time to realise that I could say no and that my business wouldn’t crash around me 🙂

  • Reply Laura February 1, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    I just wrote and photographed my second cookbook, this time with a publisher and not self-published. And wow, was that a lot of work for 9 months! I can’t say I’m in love with every single photograph. I did hit a creative brick wall in the middle of the project. But after seeing PDFs of my book come to life, I’m happy with what I accomplished. And oh-my-God did I learn a lot and oh-my-God did I shoot a TON of photos and oh-my-God did I make a lot of mistakes! You made so many great points about the learning process. It really resonated with me!

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm

      Wow, Laura! That’s amazing. I’d say that’s normal to hit a creative wall. Usually, that’s why there are large teams on cookbook shoots. Soe exciting to hear that you learned a lot.

  • Reply Melissa February 1, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    What a great post rach. I loved your video. I too read pixel to plate and that’s what ignited my passion for food photography. I photographed a cookbook with 55 photos in it in 3 weeks with a 8 month old. I made so many mistakes but it made me grow. I reckon I had bald patches by the end of it. Ha.

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Yes what an achievement, it’s these projects that really make us grow (despite maybe a little less hair)!

  • Reply Irina February 1, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    What an inspiring story. I can’t say I’m always enjoying my journey in food photography, but with every picture I take, I feel I get closer to finding my style and my voice. I’m enjoying your courses, too – they are helping me a lot along the way x

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      So cool to hear Irina. I think as humans it’s hard to love something 100% of the time. Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep going. Taking a break is also ok! You’re passionate and I know you will get there.

  • Reply Karen February 1, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Absolutely love hearing about your journey. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks for stopping bar to watch Karen. It’s always fun to hear how people get started.

  • Reply Adrienne February 2, 2018 at 12:16 am

    Nice article. Wish more of these were written.

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      Thanks Adrienne 🙂

  • Reply Dyutima Jha February 2, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Awesome post, Rachel. I have to say that you’ve got me thinking now. I want to take action but not sure where to start. What made you say yes to your first assignment? Did you feel ready enough to take it up? Would love to know .. thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      It is hard to know what action to take, but I think we just start. I can be something small, and each step leads to the next. Any really big thing I’ve done, I never felt quite ready but I knew I had to do it.

  • Reply Evelyne February 7, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Rachel,
    I discovered your blog on Pinterest and I’m so happy that I found your inspirational posts. I’m new to food blogging and food photography, but with your blog alone, I have been able to increase my food photography skills. Thank you again for blogging on a topic that so many have a difficult time with.
    Thank you,
    Evelyne

    P.S. I followed you on Pinterest and I also subscribed to your email list as soon as I came across your blog.

    • Reply Rachel February 7, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks Evelyne 🙂 So great to have you here.

  • Reply Ana February 17, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Hi Rachel!!
    I loved hearing about your journey into food photography – our journeys are *eerily* similar in several aspects! I certainly hope that with loads more practice (and your CE course I just signed up for) I can be as good at it as you are and perhaps even turn it into a career one day. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for encouraging me to work harder and continue on this journey! I hope I can attend one of your workshops in the near future and learn from you in person!
    Hugs!
    Ana

    • Reply Rachel February 19, 2018 at 11:40 am

      You’re so welcome Ana! Glad that you are inspired to see where you can take this passion of yours. We’ve got to at least try right?

  • Reply Helmi Smeulders February 26, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    Happy to ‘get to know you’! Joanne of theoliveandmango mentioned you in one of her instagram posts which made me curious . Lovely to read about your journey as a food photographer. I’ll be shooting my second cookbook this year, so a little inspiration at the start is very welcome!
    Bye, from the Caribbean,
    Helmi

    • Reply Rachel March 9, 2018 at 5:04 am

      Thanks for stopping by Helmi! Wow a second cookbook, good for you 🙂 It’s lovely to meet you too. Happy to have you as part of this community.

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