Storytelling in food photography
What is storytelling?
Storytelling's a powerful way of communicating an idea or emotion to the viewer. The goal of storytelling is to create a visual experience that captures the essence of a moment, an event, or a subject in a way that communicates its significance and impact to the viewer.
There are many ways to tell a story through photography. One approach is to use a series of images to create a visual narrative that unfolds over time. Another approach is to use a single image that captures a decisive moment or conveys a particular mood or emotion.
The best storytelling photographs often have a sense of immediacy and authenticity. They capture real moments in time and convey a sense of emotion or significance that resonates with the viewer. Through the use of visual language, storytelling photography can communicate complex ideas and emotions in a way that words alone cannot.
Storytelling in food photography
Storytelling in food photography involves using images of food to tell a story, evoke emotions, and create a sensory experience for the viewer. The goal is to capture the essence of the food and its cultural and culinary context in a way that conveys its taste, aroma, and texture.
"Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field." / Peter Adams
Before you start you must answer a question: What do I want to share with my audience?
When you create your scene, it's just your vision, taste, and style. You have to do your best to give your audience the feeling, that they are a part of this process.
How to tell a story?
First of all, remember, that story doesn't have to be complicated. I like to create simple scenes with a very direct message behind them, rather than complicated and busy scenes.
Think about your audience when you create your photo. What would you like to show them? What they should feel when they look at your photo? What emotions are hidden behind it? What's the most important element? Which element is a hero? Which props and backdrops you should use? There are many elements to think about when you create a scene.
Remember that sometimes your understanding and taste can be different that your audience, they can feel different than you, and this is absolutely fine. However, they are your audience and they follow you and your work for a reason.
Next, you should think about what's so special about your photo. A recipe you want to share or maybe a flavour of your dish?
Lighting, composition, and styling are all crucial elements in storytelling food photography. The lighting should highlight the textures and colours of the food while creating a mood or ambience. The composition should draw the viewer's eye to the most important elements of the image, while the styling should enhance the food's appeal and convey its intended purpose or audience.
You can also create a step-by-step story to show your audience the process of creating your final photo. You have to be creative and be sure of what and how you want to tell your story.
How do I want my audience to feel?
As I mentioned in the beginning think about the emotions your image will evoke. You can write down 3 to 5 words about what you feel about your dish, recipe or fresh produce you want to share. And now think about how you can include these emotions in your photography.
Sometimes you would like to show just a comfortable and easy morning scene, another time it will be dark and moody tones highlighting the texture of your hero dish and then you will be in a very romantic mood to share some love with your audience and make them smile.
It's different when you capture a client's work. When you shoot a paid project, think about your client's audience.
If that will be for example a whiskey brand or heavy main dish, the audience will be mostly men, so it should be a darker scene which creates a more mysterious mood, sense of strength and intimacy.
However, if your audience will most likely be women, for example, baking ingredients or summer spritz brands so you should capture brighter scenes. That would always be associated with fresher, lighter and more feminine vibes.
Successful storytelling should evoke emotion in the viewer. The image should make the viewer feel something, whether it's hunger, joy, nostalgia, or excitement. By creating a sensory experience through the use of colour, texture, and composition, we can create images that leave a lasting impression on the viewer.
Storytelling in Seasons
By highlighting seasonal ingredients, flavours and props you can create delicate Spring vibes, warm Summer tones, and moody Autumn or cosy Winter images. Each season is different, each one includes different produce, colours and light. That's why each season tells a different story.
Spring to me is bright and pastel colours, green hues and refreshing vibes. Spring food is delicate, and light in weight and amount. The same as the world waking up and the trees are blossoms, the story behind each photo is gentle, airy and delicate.
In the spring, we might focus on fresh greens, herbs, and early fruits and vegetables, conveying a sense of renewal and growth. Images might feature salads, light and refreshing desserts like fruit sorbets, cakes or pavlovas, and also beautifully garnished drinks. This season is all about a light and fresh look, and bright colours in backdrops and props.
Summer on the other hand is very vibrant and colourful. Think about what emotions Summer brings to you. What do you feel when you think about this season? For me, it's joy, sun, fun and colours!
This season is great to include bold colours, eg. yellow or pink. It's a great time to show fresh summer fruits and delicious summer salads, conveying a sense of warmth and relaxation. This is a season to experiment with hard shadow and high contrast in your photos. Images might feature outdoor picnics, barbecues, or refreshing drinks like lemonade or iced tea.
Autumn is about warm and cosy tones and vibes. It's a lot of comforting food. This season it's all about pumpkins, apples and hot tea. The colours are warm and cosy, it's a lot of browns and warm oranges in this season, but also reds.
At this time of year, we eat a lot of warming up creamy soups, and stews and bake a lot of pies conveying a sense of warmth and cosiness. This time is about the warm tones and light and with this in your mind always think about how to bring a warm atmosphere to your photo.
Winter evokes in us something exciting. We think about Christmas, cosy evenings and warm chocolate next to the fire pit. It's a festive season, so we can include Christmas colours in this season's photos. Images might feature holiday treats like festive cakes, gingerbread cookies, drinks or hot cocoa and mulled wine.
Green and red will be the most common colours this time, but It will be a lot of white and blue tones, which are associated with winter - a frosty and cold time of the year.
Storytelling in food photography by seasons allows photographers to showcase the unique flavours and traditions associated with each time of year, and to create images that tap into the emotions and memories that make food such a powerful part of our lives.
What you can't miss in your story?
Before you start to create your photo and the story behind it always remember about:
your colours and light
what do you want to share with your audience?
how do I want them to feel about my photo?
what is so special I would like to highlight in my image.
Overall, storytelling in food photography is a powerful tool for communicating the cultural, social, and emotional aspects of food. By using visual language, food photographers can create images that transport the viewer to different places and times, and convey the sensory experience of eating and sharing food.
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.