Self Development

3 Words To Describe Your Food Photography Style

A few months back, my readers were discussing their thoughts on finding their food photography style in my post 5 Steps To Find Your Food Photography Style. One of my long time readers and an all round beautiful human Lauren Keim shared with me her technique of verbalism that she uses to create words that describe her photography style and body of work.

This is a very powerful tool, both for your own creative direction and when talking to clients about what your photography can deliver. When I wrote the post about finding your style, by default I had to come up with some descriptive terms and did this exercise without even realising. I’ve had both clients and readers tell me they were fond of my style conveyed through various descriptive words. I find it so fascinating that our interpretation of art is so unique, yet we can conjure up the same feelings and emotions through language.

I wanted to share with you this idea of verbalism that Lauren brought forward as I think it can be a very useful tool for those looking to developing and define their photography style. Over a subsequent email chain, Lauren shared with me that as she is a verbal person, meaning she learns via the use of verbal techniques, she uses language to define her style of photography via the connection of three words. Three words that define her style:

Another step that helped me (because I’m verbal) was to come up with three words that defined my style. This took a lot of thought and a narrowing down of a much longer list! Now, when I shoot, I have those words in my head and I’d think, does this photo fit my words? That really helped develop my own style.

Lauren shoots almost exclusively film these days, so this process really allows her to nail her style and what she is trying to create. Film as you know isn’t very forgiving, you have to put considerably more time into each shot.

I’d love to take you on a journey for a minute (on behalf of Lauren as well) and let’s create some word association for your photography style!

Before you start find your most powerful, most loved image that makes you say ‘yes, that’s mine baby!’. For me, it’s the series of images I have shared in this post. I ended up using them as a cover page for my portfolio site and even managed to get a ‘wow’ out of one of my favourite photographers when I showed her. (I’m won’t name names, but you’re welcome to guess!).

Now with that in mind, lets have a go!

3 Words To Describe Your Food Photography Style | Learn how to confidently speak to potential clients about your style. Perfect for new food photographers looking to grown their freelance photography business. Click through for FREE exercise.


3 Words to Describe Your Food Photography Style

Step 1. Create a Word Bank

With a pen to paper, take 5-10 mins (longer is absolutely fine if you need if) to come up with as many words as you can that you think (or would like) to reflect your style. If you need some guidance or inspiration, have a read through this word bank and pick the words that you connect with.

Here are the words I came up with for my own work and style.

Two Loves Studio 3 Words to Encapsulate Your Style

Another great bank of words to have a look at is Descriptive Words for Photography which Sarah and Laura shared with me from Wandercooks.

Step 2. Find the Meaning

Narrow those words down to the most meaningful 10 that connect with you and your work. Have a look at the words you have picked and do a quick search for any meanings that you aren’t clear on how they are represented in art. Once you are familiar with the remaining terms, really distinguish if there are any on there that shouldn’t be. Any that you don’t truly connect with, or that just sound cool – cut ’em.

Narrowing my words down was both easy and hard. There were obviously ones that didn’t fit and others that I identified with. Here are my top ten 10 contenders, and the ones I culled further.

Two Loves Studio Three Words To Encapsulate Your Photography Style

Step 3. Let it Simmer

Read through your remaining list and just let it simmer. You may even want to create a word bank of just your top picks. Your brain will subconsciously go through the words so don’t think too hard on it. When you’ve had some space, take a look over some of your best work and the right three will present themselves.

It’s Not Set in Stone!

It took me a while to identify with the words I wanted to use, and this technique may not be for everyone so don’t sweat it! As I mentioned in 5 Steps To Find Your Food Photography Style, style is never finished and always evolving. You are not stuck with the words you choose today.

What did I choose? Well, for now I am going with Holistic, Bold and Clean! Lauren has been playing around with Bold, Clean and Minimal, however shooting film may challenge her to re-evaluate her defining words!

I’d love to know what words you feel describe your food photography style!?

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  • Reply Lauren January 24, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Oh great post! It’s just how I go about the process…, and since I’m visual too (because, duh), It’s so nice to see your list and your crossed-out list and how you winnowed the words down. It’s such a wonderful exercise, isn’t it? And thank you so much for your kind words, my dear (and too far-away!) friend. XO

    • Reply Rachel January 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

      It really was! I am glad that you liked the word bank, I think that will help people think of some associated words that can be used. Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I just love that we can continue the conversation!

  • Reply Kiki January 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Rachel, must have missed this post but am glad I just found it – I’ll be sitting down this weekend doing a word search for my style; thanks for another very inspiring post!

    • Reply Rachel January 31, 2016 at 11:16 am

      I am so pleased to hear Kiki! Would love to know what words you have come up with. Such an intriguing exercise. Please do share!

  • Reply Karené February 10, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Ok, it’s been brewing.
    1.Bold – in tonal contrast, and sometimes I still crop too tightly. I can’t get away from bold.
    2. Clear – I’ve played around with hazy effects, but generally I like a clear light, tonal clarity and even a clear composition.
    3. What I realised in this exercise that I hadn’t even admitted to myself is that my love for bright colour has filtered through into all my shots. I used to paint bright bold colouristic paintings, I like splashes of bright colour in my home and I have started to recognise this in my shots, now. So word 3 is colourful.
    Thank you! This helps me be more confident in my how I approach my work!

    • Reply Rachel February 16, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      I am so pleased to hear that Karene! I love the words you chose. Especially, bold. I love how that translates differently to the work of others. There are a few people here that like ‘colourful’ and I think that is so important in food photography! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Reply Jessica February 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you! I would have to say. Colourful, symmetrical and bright. I do love colour, but I also love when things come together, or are parallel. I love bright even when I’m shooting with dark backgrounds. I’m just coming into my photography style so this is a very helpful process. Thank you so much! I’ve been following your blog for years.

    • Reply Rachel February 16, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Oh symmetrical is a great one! That is more sophisticated than you can imagine. I’ve been reading some articles on dissection of art and lines are super important. I am pleased that this will help you on your journey. I do believe I remember you from way back when I started on wordpress! Cheers for your support.

  • Reply Des February 16, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Love this! I am a self taught food photographer too- with similar tastes as you. I love white clean bold photos. I would love a post from you on how you edit these! Getting the right white balance is SO hard with white. And making sure they are not too harsh or too dingy. I’ve also noticed that when I upload to my blog their quality is diminished- it comes out a little dingy and blurry on the platform. Have you ever experienced this? Sheesh I wish I could come shadow you for a day. Love your style. THANKS!

    • Reply Rachel February 16, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Hey Des, thanks for stopping by and lovely to hear from you. Yes, the good old white balance issues. By the sounds of what you are describing, it think you could be experiencing a few issues. If you can’t get the white balance right in camera, you can edit the image to fix the white balance to near perfect if you shoot RAW files. JPEGS are so limited in correcting white balance, so if you can shoot RAW files that will make a huge difference. You’d also need to make sure your computer is colour calibrated, but you’ll never get an image to be prefect on all screens as different makes/models will have different calibrations. Are you uploading the images to WordPress? I noticed a plug-in on my site was reducing the image quality, when I deactivated it the quality improved. I’d love to do more posts on how I edit. I’ll keep this in the pipeline!

      • Reply Des February 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        Yes! I shoot in raw. And use Lightroom to edit. Do you use a grey card? And I do upload to WordPress- do you remember what plugin it was? How did you even figure that one out! Haha and I use a MacBook- I feel they are the best color calibrated other PC’suve had have been awful with that issue. Sometimes I wonder if it has to do with my lens? A nice lens would maybe communicate better to the camera? I dunno? What are your thoughts? (Sorry to keep bugging you!?)

        • Reply Rachel February 17, 2016 at 12:54 am

          Well that’s great! Process of elimination. I guess it’s not impossible it could be the lens your using, but the lens would have to be really crappy. So I guess it’s back to the process of elimination. I’d say it could be one of the following: how you edit the WB in Lightroom, the use of mixed lighting, your whites (background) not actually being white (they could be warm/cool whites or creams), the brightness of your image vs the brightness and colour of your theme on WP. Without seeing your raw file and how you edit it, it’s hard to tell as there could be a number of factors. As far as the plugin, I had Photon – Jetpack and had to disable it to stop it from reducing the image quality.

  • Reply Sarah and Laura @ Wandercooks February 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Okay, I promised I’d get back to you and I’ve finally done it. In Bali no less, ‘Eat. Pray. Love’ style. The perfect place to comtemplate before heading back to the real world. (Ironically, I’m currently reading her next book Big Magic which I can not recommend enough, I think you’d love it!)

    Originally working with Laura, we had placed opposite words on a page and marked where we think my photography stood between them. This included words such as Light/Dark, Warm/Cool, Clean/Chaos, Colourful/Grey, Action/Still etc which helped slightly, but didn’t delve deep enough into my personal style. Those words helped to achieve just a look, but with no meaning behind them.

    So we delved deeper, and into your word exercises. Which for anyone else doing this, here is another great source of words:

    Many scribbles and discussions later, and I’ve come up with the following:

    1. Eclectic – I want to take my readers on an inspiring journey through global ideas and flavours. Always showing something a little different that leaves them curious and intrigued.

    2. Real – The images have to look edible, drool-worthy and just so damn delicious. I want people to feel like they could sit at that table and join in, or most importantly feel that they could replicate it at home.

    3. Bold – Bold is such a powerful word that can have so much meaning. What does bold mean to you? Is it the lines, sharp textures or the smack of colour dominating the photo? Pushing your boundaries of composition to achieve something so incredible you want to stare at it all day? Or simply a new ingredient, flavour or dish that takes you out of your comfort zone? For me, it’s a little of all of these things.

    Am I pumped and ready to practise with these circulating in the back of my head?

    Hell yes.

    • Reply Rachel March 8, 2016 at 8:17 am

      I just love these Sarah! I especially love ‘Eclectic’, I think that matches what you are trying to create over @wandercooks perfectly. Thank you for sharing those descriptive words. There is an amazing collection there. I will post into the main body cause I think people could really benefit from it. Bold is such a powerful word, I’d agree. I’ve been thinking of the meaning for me for while now and I think ‘bold’ to me means that the dish can stand on it’s own right. That is to say if it were removed from the photo and composition, the dish would still be strong enough to create a powerful message.

  • Reply Sarah and Laura @ Wandercooks March 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Great! It is a fascinating collection of words that really make you stop and consider. Nice personal meaning behind your ‘bold’ too, love it.

  • Reply Marisa Franca @ All Our Way March 18, 2016 at 12:21 am

    WOW!! This is a real poser!! I am going to have to go back and look at my images. Do I have a style or am I still searching? I think I’m still trying to find “me”. I want to tell a story about the food — is it a celebration? Is it comfort food after a long day? Is it a celebration, but keeping a style that’s “me”. Thank you for such inspiration!!

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:20 am

      Let me know what you find Marisa!

  • Reply Lisa May 2, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Rachel, I just stumbled on our blog on Pinterest, and I’m sooooo glad I found you! I love the thought exercise in this post, and I can’t wait to sit down and think more about this. I struggle with figuring out what my true style is, even though I’ve been blogging for over two years now. It’s funny, sometimes, I want things to be clean, and other times, I want EVERYTHING in the frame. Anyway, I can’t wait to poke around your site to pick up some tips for my photography!

  • Reply 3 Things NOT To Do To Find Your Style – What's news today? June 11, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    […] Doing this exercise will more likely help you find your style without the comparison trap. […]

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