Igor Dutina joined our community in 2007 and his favorite subject is food photography which he occasionally spices with people portraits and landscapes for more flavors and colors. His food photography, as delicious and elaborate as it may look, is actually a "one man show" with Igor doing the shopping, the cooking, the styling, the photographing and finally the eating when possible. Sounds complicated and time consuming but for Igor, food photography is something he really enjoys doing from A to Z. His recipe is easy to follow and the results are guaranteed. We will not spoil the surprise but from what we have heard, getting the right equipment and accessories as well as focusing on elaborate plates and good food compositions are the best ingredients for delicious looking shots that sell like hot cakes. Here's more of Igor's food for your thoughts:
Tell us about yourself. What is your life outside of microstock photography?
I am former photo journalist. Some years ago I worked for several news agencies, and after I settled in Trebinje I changed the course more toward studio photography, alongside with life/nature/landscape projects. I am a father of two and a husband of one. :)
Your portfolio is mainly based on food images, do you ever participate at the cooking process as well? Is this a teamwork or do you do the cooking, styling, photographing by yourself?
Yes, for stock shots I focus mainly on food images. Why? Because I love doing that! Every now and then I take some time to shot and process other kind of images, people shots, landscapes, business concepts, but that is just for the occasional change in routine. Speaking of food images, it's a one man show. I have a studio with small kitchen in it, and I do everything by myself. Since I'm living in a small town, it is often pretty hard to get all the necessary ingredients for what I plan to photograph. Therefore I usually spend much more time and effort on preparation than on the actual process of photographing. I always gather more ingredients than I actually need, just to be sure nothing is missing. Visiting the local market and groceries is the first and necessary step and I really enjoy doing that. After I get everything I need, the cooking and preparing food for shooting has to be a pretty quick process. Prepared food is often in its best condition for just a short time, although some ingredients can last longer. There is no rule, but usually I manage to prepare food, cook and make 20 to 30 usable images (out of around 200 I take on average) in a few hours. Cleaning time not included. :(
What should each beginner in food photography be aware of?
- Food photographs are eaten by eyes, not by mouth, always think of that.
- Get yourself all kinds of dishware and food accessories, sometimes they are more important than the food itself.
- Always try to find the best looking ingredients.
Light in food shots is very important. How do you handle the light? And speaking of light, which one do you prefer: natural or artificial? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both in your opinion?
I use mainly studio strobes. I got myself all kind of light modifiers, and I use only artificial light, but this is because I like to work at night and evening - there is no daylight at a time when I am working :). For me, it is easier to control artificial light, but I think that daylight is also the good choice, with greater chance to do something unpredictable. The great advantage of studio strobes is that you can set lighting regardless of time of day, weather conditions, season etc. And once you master some setups, you can easily reproduce and tweak them many times. When shooting food, I use no more than 3, often only 2 strobes. It is easily possible to work with just one light and a few reflectors, but as I work alone, I am much faster with 2 or 3 lights. Also, with fast strobes I don't need a tripod (I use it only for macro work), which gives me greater flexibility in composing shots. Of course, studio strobes, tripods, big softboxes (I prefer white umbrella, 60cm square and 150cm octagonal softbox) really shine only in studio environment. I've never taken them outside. If I were shooting somewhere on location, I would prefer daylight easily. With a few reflectors, sturdy tripod and a little more patience, daylight would be just great for food images. But, as I say, I shoot food exclusively in studio environment, and therefore strobes are my number one choice.
What's your favorite food?
Mediterranean, definitely! Light in calories, with many healthy ingredients, but rich in taste and color.
Have you ever considered taking a step into any other photographic genre, and if so, what would that be? Is there a concept you would like to really try but have not done so yet?
I am trying every now and then to make something different, sometimes with success. In the future, I'll try to focus more on children photography. I am trying every now and then to make something different, sometimes with success. In the future, I'll try to focus more on children photography. I have two gorgeous daughters and three nieces which are all great models. As they're growing up rapidly, every time I setup a shooting with them - they are different in some way, and always interesting to put in front of camera. And, of course, they won't be children forever...
First photos you took for stock. If you are to look back, what would you say about these?
Pathetic :). But I am a quick learner, and some of the first food shots I took are my all time bestsellers. At the beginning, I started with just basic "lightbox and bulbs" setup, and focused on photographs of small object, fruits, vegetables, etc., which is by far the most exploited approach to stock, resulting in being one of tens of thousands of photographers doing the same thing. Wrong approach, obviously. Luckily, I quickly shifted to food photography, and when I equipped a studio with small kitchen, and started to cook food for shooting, I got the possibility to be more specific on subjects.
Is there a favorite photo accessory and how does it make the difference for your shots?
Lenses are everything. I have a rather modest camera, Canon EOS 50D, but this one fitted with 100 macro and 28-70 is a great tool for what I am doing.
Some tips for styling food. How do you style raw food? What about cooked food? Is the food still edible after you style it? If yes, who gets to eat it?
When styling food, I always think of focus point, a spot where I want to draw the attention. Some very tasty foods are problematic in this respect - there is no attractive focus point on stews, soups, chilis and so on - unless you add it something else, attractive in color and shape. A few leaves of herbs, slices of chili pepper, carrot, cheese, spoonful of cream, and so on, can add life to some visibly boring dishes.
The background is also very important. How much of it will end up seen in a photo or how blurred it will be is essential for the overall effect. You can make a whole set of different images with the same setup changing angle of view and depth of field. There is no rule but to try "everything in focus" and "selective focus" approach, and find what's better for subject you're shooting. I try to think of attractive combination of colors and, if necessary, add more color with dishes and accessories. For food that is already rich in color, like salads, white dishes are the best choice, but some meals looks better on blue or yellow. For more traditional meals I try to match with tablecloths and plates that look more rustic, but modern healthy meals are eye catching and plain white background is often enough.
Well, in principle, the food prepared for photographing is different than the one prepared for eating. Vegetables are usually almost raw, soups are generally fakes, meat is sometimes overly spiced for the effect, and so on... but I try to make it edible after photographing, mainly because I think it's a sin to throw it away.
Your plans for the future. Is there anything you're really looking forward to doing, seeing, shooting?
Yes, more people shootings, and diversifying my portfolio. I will try to do more outdoor and experimental projects.
Time to leave Igor's kitchen, a magic place where two hobbies, cooking and photographing, blend together harmoniously and deliciously to create tasty food and successful stock images. Before we go, a word of advice: make sure you don't browse his portfolio on an empty stomach!