2020 gave me a lot of time for creative isolation with my food photography skills. I definitely drove myself a bit crazy, but I also learned and grew so much in a short time, mostly due to the consistent practice I did daily. Here are the biggest takeaways from the year that helped me to grow my photography from “blogger” to “professional.”
1. Manual Focus:
Can you believe I just started shooting manual focus this past year? While I’ve always been pretty comfortable with manual camera settings, focus has always been something I was nervous to trust my eyes with. My Canon makes touch focus incredibly easy so that’s something I’ve often relied on when on a shoot.
I was unsatisfied with how sharp my images were coming out even on a tripod, so I decided it was time to be an adult and use manual focus, not expecting it to change much. Turn out… it’s a real game changer. I’ve been loving implementing it and find that my images are truly a reflection of my vision now, instead of the camera hijacking the operation
2. Use a Tripod–all the time.
I’ve always loved having my tripod around for hands-in-frame shots, but recently started using it for everything. It gives me more time to examine the elements of my scene through the camera lens, and I find it helps me to get razor-sharp images without my shaky hands messing things up. I love the Vanguard Alta Pro tripod right now.
3. Move your body when you move your camera.
It’s pretty common when you’re first starting out to move your camera without physically moving your body with it. I’ve found that if I’m shooting low, I need to get down on the ground and really look at my scene from there. No matter what angle I’m working with I always try to get as close as possible to really take it all in the way the camera will see it.
4. Give yourself a few hours before you make the final edits to your images
My mom and I talk often about understanding the limitations of the human eyes as creators. Part of doing your best work is understanding that you can only notice certain details for so long before your brain needs to take a break. When I walk away and then come back to my images I see things I never noticed before. I always take time for a break before making final edits and doing a last visual check. I also prefer to do this in natural daylight, if possible.
5. Get better at editing noise.
I never used to pay much attention to the noise reduction sliders in Lightroom, until I really started shooting more movement with a higher ISO and also began selling to the Picture Pantry. It’s really important to look for noise in both of these cases, so I spent a good deal of time learning what each slider does and how to make images look the perfect amount of “smooth.”
6. Think about color stories
This year I began giving a lot of thought to the colors used in my images and using them to create certain moods or highlight certain aspects of the food. I used to just grab whatever props or garnishes looked pretty, but now I think about whether the color is complementary/analogous/etc. and how I can use it to strengthen the image. I’m looking forward to diving deeper into color this year as I work in my technique studies!
I could go on here, but those are 6 big takeaways that I’m implementing in all of my work in 2021. I’d love to know what your creative lessons from the year were in the comments below!