I am a visual artist. Not with a brush or chisel, but with a camera. I mostly capture food scenes, still lifes, and areas of my home. Basically anything that catches my eye and is inspiring to me. I am drawn to the small, quiet scenes at home because they happen in our everyday lives. There is something inspiring about that; a quiet cup of tea, a cozy moment at home, or baking a loaf of bread. Some of them are staged, and some of them I photograph just as they are.
I recently took a class on Skill Share by Marte Marie Forsberg entitled Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Food, Flavors, Conversation. For those of you who don’t know what Skill Share is, it is an online platform where people can teach classes, sometimes for a nominal fee, sometimes for free, and students can watch their videos and get practice with various projects. Besides the class being free, Marte was able to share her experience as a self-taught photographer. If you are at all interested in this topic, you can sign up for free on Skill Share!
Marte suggests coming up with a story behind your picture. Not that you tell that story to your viewers, but it is merely implied. This will make your photos come alive. I find it easier for me to think about what mood or feeling I want to convey. A simple way to achieve this is to use natural light (you should always use natural light). In general, I’m drawn to shadows and the contrast between light and dark; particularly in the winter months when the days are shorter and the light is softer. It just creates a moody scene that is more indicative of the winter months.
You can also use props; something that makes sense in the picture, enhances it, but doesn’t detract from the story. Adding a human element is always a bonus. Reach your hand in the frame and grab a fork or a cup. Your photo now looks lived in, someone is there. What about the food? Does your scene take place before the eating, midway, or after? My favorite is either midway or after; crumbs lying carelessly on the table or a napkin haphazardly thrown on the table, not neatly folded because someone excused themselves too hurriedly. Someone has been there.
Marte’s project to the class was Afternoon Tea. Capture what afternoon tea looks like to you in three pictures. Well, I’ve never been a big fan of tea. Not that I don’t like it, I just never got into it much. So I submitted what coffee time looks like to me. These series of pictures you can also find on my coffee and cranberry orange scones post, including a recipe. My coffee time is just like their tea time over in England – a moment to be savored, enjoyed, and slowed down. A soft light poured through the window as we enjoyed our wintery treat. It was just two friends enjoying one another’s company, gathering around scones and coffee – that’s what I wanted to capture, the essence of it all.
Sometimes an inspiring photo is right there in front of your lens already, other times you have to convince your audience a little bit more. Maybe the lighting needs adjusted or maybe you need some props and styling in there. Maybe you need to shoot at a different angle. If you don’t get that feeling you’re envisioning after you take the picture don’t worry, continue to troubleshoot until you’ve achieved the proper mood. It’s not easy and it takes practice, but it sure is fun to experiment with!
If you would like to get practice at this, I encourage you to sign up for Marte’s class! Of course you can do it on your own but you will get feedback from Marte and other classmates if you enroll in the class. So go out there and capture afternoon tea or coffee until January 11th and you have a chance to be featured on Marte’s Instagram feed, among other things! Above all, have fun with it and enjoy the scene you’re creating.