Let's get to know Mridul Kawatra! She's an Attorney at Law in India, focusing on Intellectual Property Laws. But that's not all—she's also a self-taught Cook, Photographer, and Creative Director. Her love for creativity inspired her to start the Food Art Project - a platform that elegantly brings together my love for photography and my insatiable palate for delectable cuisine.
Can you introduce yourself? How and when did you start your food photography journey?
I am an Attorney at Law in India, specialising in Intellectual Property Laws. Alongside my legal career, I am also a self-taught Culinarian, Photographer, and Creative Director. My passion for creativity led me to establish, Food Art Project and The South Asian Kitchen in 2020 during the lockdown.
Food Art Project is a platform that elegantly brings together my love for photography and my insatiable palate for delectable cuisine. It celebrates the nest in the world of food and lifestyle photography, with a global outreach. The main objective of this project is to provide creatives with the recognition they deserve and connect them with the right opportunities in the industry.
On the other hand, The South Asian Kitchen showcases my creativity through recipes, photography, and styling, all inspired by the diverse cultures of the Indian Subcontinent. What started as a passion project has now become a lucrative business, allowing me to collaborate with top brands in India and internationally.
Originally, Food Art Project aimed to spotlight Creatives worldwide. However, it has evolved into conducting Global Photography Challenges with established photographers from around the world as judges.
To further expand our commitment to creativity, Food Art Project is taking its first step beyond the virtual realms. We are organizing a Creatives' Retreat in Jaipur, scheduled for October 2023. It is going to be an opportunity for Global Creatives to immerse themselves in a unique artistically inspiring experience while staying in a lap of Indian regal luxury.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you adore any specific photographers? What do you think should be in a good portfolio?
A truly remarkable portfolio for a food photographer is like a tapestry woven with threads of creativity and visual mastery. It is not merely a showcase of stunning images, but a testament to the art of storytelling through the lens.
One vital ingredient in this recipe for a captivating portfolio is the ability to develop and consistently maintain your own unique style. Like a blueprint, your style should be distinctive and unmistakably yours. It should be a re-ection of your creative essence, making you stand out amidst a saturated industry. While it is tempting to imitate the trends, resist the urge to copy. Instead, let yourself be inspired by the world around you. Allow the whispers of diverse cultures and artistic epochs to guide you in carving out your own niche.
Within your portfolio, demonstrate your versatility in styling. Showcase your ability to adapt to different themes, cuisines, and concepts. However, do so while maintaining the essence of your uniqueness. Let your images dance between various styles, yet always carry your unmistakable signature. This will reveal your prowess as a photographer who can seamlessly transition between different assignments and clients, while also being sought after for your inimitable touch.
For me, this creative journey led me to discover my style rooted in the captivating allure of shadows. I found inspiration in the rich tapestry of the Indian Subcontinent, drawing from its diverse cultures and embracing the chiaroscuro techniques of the Golden Era. This style, characterized by the interplay of light and shadows, breathes life into my images, weaving a tale of mystery and intrigue.
So, in crafting your portfolio, let each image be a canvas that speaks volumes about the creative alchemist that you are. Show the world whether you are a photographer who can be hired for a job or a visionary artist whose distinctive uniqueness is prized above all else.
How do you prepare a food-styling set?
Preparing a food styling set is like setting the stage for a culinary masterpiece to unfold. For me, my favourite approach is to create a dark and moody setting that tantalizes the senses and ignites curiosity. I begin with a vision in mind, envisioning the colours and textures that will dance together harmoniously.
In my styling set, every element is carefully chosen to enhance the beauty of the dish. The props are curated to create a visual symphony, with each piece playing its part without overpowering the main act.
But, never forget the secret ingredient: light. It is the master conductor of this symphony of flavours. I like to follow the path of light, whether it be a warm golden glow or a dramatic harsh light. Let it caress the edges of the plates, casting shadows that add depth and allure. It is through the dance of light and darkness that the story truly comes alive.
What is your favourite subject to capture?
Ah, the art of capturing still life. If I were to choose my favourite subject to grace my lens, it would undoubtedly be the regal fruits that adorn nature's canvas. Among them, the pomegranate and citrus fruits exude a captivating charm that simply captivates me.
The pomegranate, a treasure trove of ruby-red jewels, evokes a sense of mystery and decadence. Its intricate patterned exterior hides the promise of a succulent reward within. As I delicately arrange each seed, their vivid colour sings of fertility and abundance, offering a feast for the eyes.
And then there are the citrus fruits, nature's sunshine captured in vibrant orbs. The zesty bursts of yellow, orange, and green awaken the senses and breathe life into every frame. Their tangy aroma seems to dance in the air, enveloping the viewer in a symphony of freshness and vitality.
Do you work with natural or artificial light?
In the realm of food photography, I am a purist when it comes to light. Natural light is my instrument of choice, for it has the power to breathe life into the subject and evoke a sense of authenticity. The way it cascades through a window, gently caressing the food, creates a softness and a warmth that is unparalleled.
The dance between the sun and the shadows is an essential element of my craft. I carefully position my set to capture the perfect angle where the light embraces the food, emphasizing its textures and colours. The subtle interplay of highlights and shadows adds depth and dimension, making the food appear tantalizing, almost within reach.
This connection to natural light allows my photographs to tell a story. It brings forth a sense of time and place, capturing the essence of a sun-kissed morning or the golden hues of a lazy afternoon. So, when it comes to lighting my food photography, I choose to let nature be my guide and revel in the beauty it bestows.
What is a must-have in food photography?
When it comes to food photography Essentially, there are four vital elements but more than the knowledge of these elements, achieving an overall balance is what creates an even greater image. Light is the maker or breaker element for any image. Being a natural light photographer myself, I always observe the direction of the light, how it changes its color throughout the day and alters the shadow or appearance of my elements. Similarly, if you're using an artificial light the quality and direction of light is what's important. Light helps to create a particular mood in your image and accentuates the textures by creating a blend of highlights and shadows. Personally, I feel natural light works best for food photography, especially if you're a beginner because it's easily available and helps you understand the basics of photography. In my professional opinion, try to have your light come from the side or back as this will add the perception of depth and texture to the image.
Colour sets the mood of the entire photograph and can play an eminent role in creating an emotional connection with the viewer. A single colour or a blend of contrasting colours can make an image feel different in seasons and moods. Warm colours like reds and yellows tend to be noticed before cooler ones like greens and blues. To add depth to your images, try placing warmer colours in front of cooler ones to create depth and make the image more visually appealing.
Every photo needs a strong formation or composition in order to gain the viewer's attention. It does not specifically refer to focusing on a particular subject in the image but rather caters to all elements such as shapes, patterns, colours and contrasts.
A good photograph evokes an emotional connection with the viewer. No matter how beautifully structured the image is, if it's not able to build a connection with its audience, the photograph is no good. Thus along with the use of light and color, being able to generate an emotional response is a powerful element. Bringing all of these elements under the frame will create greater images than good ones.
Can you tell us what’s your favourite colour theory and composition? And do you have colours you don’t feel comfortable with?
When it comes to color theory in food photography, I nd myself drawn to the enchantment of monochromatic, analogous, and complementary palettes. These harmonious combinations create a visual symphony, allowing the colours to play on each other in a way that is both pleasing and captivating.
Shades of the sun dominate my favourite colour theory—starting from the deep purples of dawn blending seamlessly into bright sunny yellows and nally cascading into the deep oranges and reds of a breathtaking sunset. This spectrum embodies the beauty of the natural world and serves as a vibrant backdrop for my culinary creations.
As for composition, I nd myself drawn to repeating patterns or a random, evenly distributed layout. What pleases the eye becomes my guide, allowing the visual elements to ow together e ortlessly. I don't intentionally follow a specific composition rule, but I often nd patterns and a central focus emerging organically in my work.
However, I must confess that there is a colour that sometimes poses a challenge - blues. While blues can convey a sense of calm and tranquillity, they can also be tricky to incorporate seamlessly into food photography. I nd that they require careful consideration and a delicate balance to ensure they enhance the image without overpowering the subject.
Do you have some photography tips and hints?
Let me share with you some photography tips and hints that have guided my journey through the lens. First and foremost, patience is key. Take the time to study your subject, understand its unique characteristics, and nd the perfect angles and lighting to showcase its allure.
Experimentation is another vital aspect of honing your craft. Don't be afraid to try new techniques, compositions, or angles. Push the boundaries and let your creative instincts guide you. Sometimes, the most captivating shots come from unexpected moments of inspiration.
Pay attention to the details. It's often the little things that make a big difference. From the placement of a single garnish to the subtle adjustment of a prop, each element contributes to the overall impact of the photograph.
Above all, let your passion shine through your work. Be open to continuous learning, a nd inspiration in the world around you, and let your curiosity guide you on a never-ending journey to capture the beauty of food in all its delicious glory.
I want to express my gratitude, Mridul, for this interview and the chance to get to know you better. It was lovely to hear about the lighting, styling, and composition in food photography from your perspective. Thank you for giving us a peek at your food photography world. Your excitement and strong dedication to your work are clear, inspiring those who want to do well in the world 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.