Minimalism: When Less Needs More

(Note: Before you even begin reading this, please be warned that this is possibly my lengthiest post. I will not share and food or cocktail recipes nor will I share lighting information. What you will read here are some random thoughts that have been running around in my head since my last few shoots.)

Family Shoot-3
Family shoots, portfolio portraits, and minimalist food photos: A summary of my photography in the first three weeks of 2016.

Hello, 2016! Happy new year to everyone taking the time to read this entry, my first for the year. The first two weeks of January have been exciting, to say the least. In the first three weekends of the year, I’ve already had the chance to shoot a variety of subjects ranging from family portraits to food shots for a restaurant menu to a more conceptual coffee shoot, all of which have their own set of quirks.

What surprised me though was my new found appreciation for shooting food on a purely white background, something that I didn’t think of highly prior to shooting the restaurant menu and coffee. I know that my little disclaimer on not thinking highly of this genre of food photography might seem a bit douche-y but please do let me explain. My initial foray into food photography was focused mainly on one thing: Mimic what I see in food magazines and learn to improve on these or put my own twist to it. This, in hindsight, wasn’t really the best mindset to have with most food magazines showing photos that are, more often than not, rustic.


Longganisa Carbonara-2
Rustic goodness!

Rusticity (I’m not too sure if this is a real word but if it isn’t, please do stick with me here) usually satisfies one or all of the following criteria. If you want a photo to look rustic, make sure you tick off as much of these items as you can!

Food on wood. Have some old wooden planks lying around at home? Put it to good use and plop your food on them! Do this and you’ll be well on your way to shooting a rustic looking dish.

Be kitchen prep area messy (Not junkyard messy). The beautiful thing about rustic images is that a little mess here and there is acceptable. Some parmesan cheese fell on your wooden planks? Leave it be! That right there is character. Pepper rimming the plate and not on the dish? I say that shouts artisanal.

Bring the garden to the kitchen. If you happen to have one of those little potted plants hanging around your house, throw that in the image. Have a few more sprigs of rosemary? Make an herb bouquet by tying them with some kitchen twine. That pop of green in a wood dominated frame will work wonders.

No one likes it all smooth. Chances are, your wooden planks will be extra smooth and clean. Your plates and cutlery would be be shining like the diamonds that they will never be. So do your viewers a favor and add in some linens with really nice texture. A table napkin with subdued hues can give your image another point of interest.

Nestle Fruit Selection Yogurt Recipes Shoot Two-6

At the end of the day, rustic images work wonders for food if you want to give a homey and comfortable feel to your photos. They tend to be very inviting and the farthest thing from intimidating. It’s relatable and that’s why people love it.


Lot One Shoot-16a
Three cups, one drink. Shooting on white and relying on shapes and textures to tell a story.

Prop and set styling plays a huge and important role when going the rustic route. With all my food shoots falling under that category, it made sense that shooting food on white would be significantly easier. All I would have to do would be to set up a paper background, place each dish in the space, and just keep shooting and swapping until I shoot all the dishes that I have to shoot. This would be a piece of cake.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each dish would still take around an hour to shoot. If all I had to do was take a photo of each dish in a predetermined spot in the set, why was it taking so long? Something else must have been happening to make the shoot take as long as it was taking. That’s when it dawned on me. Going minimalist puts more focus on the dish itself. Without any background and foreground elements to support the dish, each and every flaw in the food will be even more evident. The food had to look perfect.

This realization is the reason why I am writing this now. There is the cliche that goes less is more. I feel like this is something that should be rewritten. Less needs more. Taking away all the other elements in the image demands more perfection with how your subject is captured.

This thinking can also be applied to other things as well. Whenever you decide to take something out, you have to ask yourself if the remaining components will still be able to deliver the same impact. Will you have to strengthen your main product to compensate for any flaws that will be brought to light by this omission? Brought to an extreme, how will your product or brand hold up if you take away all distractions?

That’s about it. A few mostly random thoughts I’ve been having recently. If you made it this far, congratulations! Your time is greatly appreciated. Again, 2016 is looking to be very exciting. Cheers to the new year!

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