Grilled CornWhen Food Bloggers of Canada asked me to write a resource article for their members, of course my mind started racing with what I wanted to share. I’ve been teaching food photography workshops to food bloggers for over 2 years with one coming up on Saturday, June 30th in Vancouver hosted by Food Bloggers of Canada, so hands-on tips and tricks are what I’m asked for quite often. These are the usual suspects as you can imagine: technical suggestions, lighting tips, a list of my favorite lenses, where to buy equipment.

However, what I really want to share with you today is a resource article on inspiration. The dig deep into your creative soul kind. The push yourself to grow as a photographer kind. Because anyone can learn the technical side of something, but it takes determination, focus, and a creative ability to be inspired and grow as an creative imagemaker. So if you’re ready for that, read on, and I hope you enjoy it. I am excited to give Food Bloggers of Canada what I consider to be 4 of my most important tips on being inspired that you, too, can put into practice right away!

Strawberry Salad

1. Don’t pick up your camera...yet.

(I know, this sounds like a weird one, but trust me here). I remember in design school I was taught to spend some time with a pencil and paper before sitting down in front of the computer. The point was to take time sketching out ideas and planing out where the design was going. To experiment. To think of all sorts of ideas - good ones and horrible ones - until one appeared as the best design solution. I’ve always thought this lesson applies to photography as well. Tear out inspirational images from your favorite magazines. Spend some time selecting your props. Spread out a few different fabric options. Consider your location options. Do all of this before picking up your camera!

Planting seedlings

2. Get out of your house/kitchen/studio.

Of course we strive to create a desirable and workable shooting area, be it part of our home or it’s own, separate, space. The light needs to be right; for food photography it needs to be close to a kitchen (pretty much a deal breaker); and you need to want to be there, you need to feel inspired when you’re there. But here I’m suggesting you break out of that comfort zone. Go find a farmers market. A garden. A farmer. Shoot in a new location. Shoot your usual subject matter in a different environment. Inspiration will come from being in new surroundings and you will come across subject matter that may surprise you.

Beet Sandwich

3. Be open to the process.

Now that you’ve made a plan and you’re about to shoot, don’t turn away any thoughts to change it up! Contradictory, right? I know! Welcome to a creative process. Being open to the process of where you find your subject matter, how you are inspired, and what you are inspired by can give you great results. Not only results you will see you in work, but results within how you work as a photographer. You may learn to trust your instincts more, or even yourself more, all of which are very good things.

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4.  Determine your visual style.

This is a biggie. It won’t happen overnight, and you may find it will change as your work progresses, so try not to stress about it. My suggestion is keep it on the back burner, and once every 3 or so months, book some quiet, alone, do-not-disturb-me time to critically review your work to see if a visual style is presenting itself, or if the stylistic intent you’ve already decided upon is coming across consistently. In the meantime, try shooting in different styles and consider food & beverage photographers who shoot in a variety of visual styles for inspiration. An interesting exercise I was given prior to a consultation with Selina Maitreya was to go through magazines or websites and find 5-7 photos that I would have killed to create; as in, I’m dying from jealously they’re so good. Then make notes about why I love them (write down what comes to your mind as soon as it comes, and don’t edit); I wrote mine on sticky notes stuck to the back of each photo. Then look at all the notes you’ve written; is there a pattern? Do the photos all fall into a similar visual style? Is the lighting the same? The composition? The style of props used? This is your visual style coming out. It’s an awesome process to do; I’ve done it several times.

Jackie Connelly is a Vancouver Island based professional photographer who specializes in garden, food and food lifestyle photography.  Her client list includes Pourhouse, the Glowbal Group, Terra Breads, Browns Social House, Au Petite Chavignol, among others.  She has also photographed the book Sugar Snaps and Strawberries as well as features for GardenWise Magazine.   She is also a member of FBC along with her sister, Tina.  Together they author the blog Willowtree – a food blog for people who are living with food sensitivities!  Follow Jackie on Twitter: @Jackie_Connelly or Facebook: Jackie Connelly Photography.

All images courtesy of Jackie Connelly Photography

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movita beaucoup

Oh, that 4th tip. Finding your visual style. Oh, how I have been struggling. And though I often dog-ear photos I like, I hadn’t thought about writing out WHY I like them. Searching for a pattern. Genius! I’m going to try it ASAP. Yippie! (And thanks!)


Very good article! I will save that one to think about things later and try it. Thank you very much for sharing those points!
(I hope I will have the chance to improve … at bit at a time!)

Ruth Mills

I”m really inspired now. I’m dying to get out and find more props this is a challenge in our little city, but I did find a small Salvation Army store the other day , and bought a bag of junk for 50 cents, all I really wanted was the antique wooden bottle opener, boy was I excited to find that, and I found a furniture store going out of business that was selling all their fabric samples for 1.00$ I could do this all day .

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