This month I'd like to introduce you to Baiba Opule, a passionate and skilled food photographer and stylist, whose love for photography, design, and various art forms has shaped her unique career path.
Can you introduce yourself? How and when did you start your food photography journey?
Hi everyone, my name is Baiba Opule and I am a food photographer and stylist from Riga, Latvia.
Creative and artistic expression is something I have always enjoyed doing, and photography has been in my life since my childhood because my parents are photographers. Thus, from my parents, I have had an opportunity to learn a lot. Though in my youth I was not dreaming of following in the footsteps of my parents, I always gladly would join photo sessions and assist in whichever way it was needed.
In vocational school, I studied advertisement design; then, in college - public relations and advertising management. Parallel to my studies, I worked as a waitress in a restaurant, and it is where I acquired an appreciation for the art of food. Witnessing the excitement and the care that chefs prepare meals with - tending to the tiniest details and flavour nuances - was fascinating to me.
Because I had access to photo equipment in my parent’s photo studio and because I had some image-making experience, one day I decided to try my hand in food photography. That was back in 2010, and it is how, I'd say, my food photography journey began: it was slow-evolving at first because I was also trying myself in a few different other careers, however, I would find myself returning to food photography over and over. Nevertheless, the most notable turning point in my career as a food photographer was several years later, when I began studying food styling and storytelling through food. It is then I realized what truly beautiful and emotional stories I can share through photography.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you adore any specific photographers?
I seek inspiration in a variety of places surrounding me.
Firstly, yes, there are food photographers and their art inspires me a lot. It's so hard to name someone specifically because I think there are so many wonderful photographers around us.
Next, the food itself is inspiring. Whenever I am at the farmer's market or even at the grocery store, I pay attention to how the food is displayed, noting if I see something unusual “that I would like to take a photograph” with.” As well as I also make observations of what is seasonally available and when food looks best. Thirdly, I enjoy flipping through cookbooks and food magazines and making and tasting new meals and beverages.
Beyond the food world, I am mindful of other things that speak to me – beautiful colour combinations, various design forms, art and photography in general.
What do you think should be in a good portfolio?
I believe a good portfolio should represent a variety, yet in the same it should still be coherent and visually engaging. What I mean by variety is not only the variety of foods and beverages photographed, but also the variety of moods, colours, compositions, and a mix of perspectives (food portraits, landscape, and close-ups) represented. The portfolio should depict your strengths as an artist, as well as it should have something creative and interesting about it to be memorable.
How do you prepare a food-styling set?
That depends on the nature of each project, whether it is a single item I am photographing (for example, for an advertisement), if I am doing food styling myself, or if I am adhering to a client brief.
I always make very detailed, handwritten lists in which I plan out every detail so as not to forget anything. In my opinion, one can be best prepared, if all the details, from food to dishes to backdrops, have been discussed with a client beforehand. I gladly send my clients samples with the props I have at hand to get a sense if that matches their vision, or if I should plan to acquire something else. Naturally, the mood boards are discussed beforehand as well, or sometimes I collaborate with my clients to create one.
For more elaborate projects, I prepare visual samples, try out light set ups and do test shots.
What is your favourite subject to capture?
Good question! I suppose my favourite subjects to photograph (and to make!) are cakes and desserts. When I prepare those, I always have a feeling of elation that associates with festivities, lovely events, and warm emotions.
Do you work with natural or artificial light?
I work with studio lights. It is important to me that I can work at any time of the day, because in Latvia, where I live, during the fall and winter seasons, the daylight is very limited. Additionally, because I work with specific light moods that clients envision, photo sessions sometimes are all day long, yet the light must remain unchanging. The benefit of working with studio lights is the ability to control them precisely and adjust them as needed.
Nevertheless, I do enjoy natural light photography, and I definitely would like to spend more time exploring it.
What is a must-have in food photography?
In my opinion, a food photographer must have a good aesthetic sense and creativity. Good technical skills are paramount as well.
Can you tell us what’s your favourite colour theory and composition? And do you have colours you don’t feel comfortable with?
I am fond of the opposite colour theory, because of the contrast that draws attention and, in my view, stays memorable. However, I also adore monochromatic colour theory, as it creates a more unified feel and elegance, and a sense of harmony and peace.
In terms of composition, I like the repetition principle, as well as I enjoy when shapes and lines create dynamism in the image. Finally, I very much appreciate when the negative space is used thoughtfully in images: it gives an image a clean and pleasant feel while drawing attention to the main object.
Speaking of colours—I like absolutely every colour because each one has something beautiful and unique about it. Every colour has its own character and energy, therefore it brings me a lot of joy to explore different colour gammas.
Do you have some photography tips and hints?
Practice is key to improving your skills as a food photographer.
Always be open to learning something new. It’s good to experiment with different techniques.
And never forget: it’s okay to make mistakes. You learn and grow from it!
Thank you Baiba, for this interview and the opportunity to gain deeper insights into your world. Your expertise on the significance of lighting, styling, and composition in food photography is truly invaluable. I admire how you generously shared your knowledge, offering a glimpse into the artistry and technical prowess involved in this captivating field. Your passion and dedication to the craft shine through, inspiring all who aspire to excel in the art of food photography.
If you have any questions or struggle with any subject, send me a DM on my Instagram or email me. I will do my best to answer and help.