This month I'd like to introduce you to a phenomenal food beverage and product photographer, food and prop stylist Olimpia Davies.
Can you introduce yourself? How and when did you start your food photography journey?
My name is Olimpia Davies and since 2011 I’m a food photographer, and food and prop stylist, also since 2016 I design photography backgrounds and at the moment, I do my designs for a Polish company Creative Backgrounds.
Before my photography career, I graduated with a master of degree in Geology and Geomorphology and for many years I was working in an environmental laboratory. When I left my work for maternity leave, I decided that I want to change my career. I always had a love for food and my first thought was that I want my new career to be around the food industry. In 2011 I started writing Polish blog Baking Ideas and soon realised that I need to learn how to take pictures. I bought myself a camera and since then I never stopped photographing food. After a few years of blogging and working for food brands, in 2016 when I won in the bloggers' category Pink Lady Photographer of the Year, I decided to stop writing my blog and I started working full-time as a food photographer and stylist.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you adore any specific photographers?
My main inspiration always has been colour. Sometimes I get a question about how I stayed inspired for so many years without being burned and managed to create on a regular basis. My answer is always that the colours are my main drive. I concentrate on one colour and then I create my whole concept around it. It’s my secret to stay focused and the whole process it’s fascinating. Each colour I’m choosing to work with it’s giving me different emotions because I feel each colour different and this allows me to create different moods and styles. That is why I don’t close myself to one style only.
What do you think should be in a good portfolio?
In my opinion, a good portfolio requires a mixture of pictures that will show what can we offer. From pictures of fresh ingredients, cooked dishes, beverages or videos.
Telling a story through a portfolio it’s also a good idea. Potential clients could see that we understand what means storytelling and telling a client (their product) story through pictures it’s very important.
Last but not least, a good portfolio will show that we have our own style but we can be also a versatile and flexible to clients needs.
If we also offer a prop styling service a good idea would be to show in the portfolio pictures just with props no food. This will give potential clients an idea about how good we are not only with composition skills and colours but also they’ll see that we have access to beautiful props and backgrounds for all kinds of projects.
How do you prepare a food-styling set?
It all depends on the project. I do this differently when I work for a client and differently when I do a personal project.
When I work for a client, I’m very organised and everything is planned a week ahead. I work to a brief so I exactly know what colours I’ll work with, and which props and backgrounds I will use. I do some of my shopping also a week before because sometimes I work with an ingredient that is not easy to buy from supermarkets and I need to order from the speciality food store. I do my food prep a day ahead prior to the photoshoot. When I prepare my set, I always do my composition only with props, no food at this time and then I send this to my client for feedback and approval.
When I work on a personal project, not very organised, I need to give myself permission to create freely because creating for myself it’s my form of relaxation. No brief no work frame just pure pleasure so I’m choosing a colour and I’m creating like there’s no tomorrow.
What is your favourite subject to capture?
As I mentioned my photography is all about colours so I don’t have favourite subjects to photograph but each season I have a different favourite colour. I love pink in early spring, in the summertime I love yellow green and red, in late summer I love blue in autumn I love brown and purple and in winter for me are orange.
Do you work with natural or artificial light?
I love natural light, it’s essential for me to create a beautiful frame. Colour and natural light it’s my two favourite thighs in photography. But sometimes I use artificial light, usually when I have to create a particular mood in the pictures, usually for my clients.
What is a must-have in food photography?
Good eye for detail!
These days anyone can become a food photographer but not everyone will have a good eye for details and this is what can make or break. Ability to know how to tell a story using light, background and props. Knowing colours and being able to use them in balance. From material things a good tripod and a selection of great backgrounds.
Can you tell us what’s your favourite colour theory and composition? And do you have colours you don’t feel comfortable with?
I think I answered this question above 😆
But I just want to add that I don’t feel uncomfortable with any colour. Each colour is beautiful and the colour is not just a colour. For me, each colour has a different character and because colour hue has shades, tones and tints it makes it even more exciting. Today maybe I don’t like to work with red but if you look at a colour wheel where you can separate the hue for tint, tone and shade you can get inspiration and the urge to create by looking for example at the tint of red.
So if you have a problem with the main hue find if you can work with tint, tone or shade of this huge. Don’t disqualify any but try and practice.
As for the composition I love to build a whole scenery and my favourite technique is open composition where I give my viewers a space to imagine and take part in a story I created. I love to compose with colours, but I use different techniques also like negative space, rule of thirds, leading lines or contrast, it all depends on the story I want to tell.
Do you have some photography tips and hints?
No one is born as a great photographer, remember that no matter where you are with your learning process I was there too, and hundreds of others, today’s great photographers. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid but being afraid it’s normal. When you learn how to ride a bike you are afraid that you will fall and hurt yourself and it’s a normal process. You need to have the courage to do it no matter the fear. And like riding the bike you need to practice and practice will make you a good photographer. The beginning journey is the most exciting part of becoming a photographer. Use this time to have fun and look for signs that give you a butterfly in your stomach because this could be your thing. For me, it was a colour and my butterflies pushed me to choose my style of food photography.
As for practical advice, get yourself a good background, one that is neutral and will work with different styling. For me, a good background was a game changer.
Olimpia, It was delightful to get a closer look at your work and witness the passion you bring to food photography. The way you capture food and your love for this craft is truly inspiring.
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.