The unbearable difficulty of photographing

Few years ago I wrote on my blog site “About me”  that my daughter gave me a camera – not brand new but much better than my old one. First I took pictures of dogs and fish, but finally got bored and turned to food – only to run into different kinds of problems. Believe it or not, food isn’t as easy to catch in photos as pug faces, although I thought otherwise. Pugs are running from one place to another and sometimes they are not very willing to pose, whereas food instead stays nicely on the plate without protesting either.

To take a photo isn’t the only problem. First of all you have to be able to put the food on a plate so that it looks delicious AND the presentation looks beautiful. Because I’m not a professional chef and have never learned to make really tempting servings on plates, my photos have been and still are quite amateurish attempts to create the servings even somewhat attractive as a whole.

In addition to the camera I do not own any devices like fancy studio lights, camera tripods or classy background materials. I bought a small studio box and tried to use it, but the lighting conditions were not optimal at all. And, furthermore, some time ago two little rabbits spent a couple of weeks here and they ate most of the box – I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

Up till now I have placed one filled plate or one pot of food or some pastries on a corner of my kitchen table and most of the time I have had to rely on electric light alone. Very often the result looks pretty good on the camera display, but when you transfer it to your computer, it looks different – mostly in a very bad way – and sometimes there is nothing to do, not even in Adobe Lightroom. Hundreds of taken photos and hundreds of photos moved directly to the trash. The meals, on the other hand, have been amazingly tasty, and it’s quite a pleasure to eat good food anyhow.

We use to eat our dinners quite late in the evenings, so daylight can rarely be used. Sometimes in the summer I have succeeded in taking perfectly lighted photos even in the evening. However, the last two summers were so sultry that we very willingly ate at night and whatever they say about Finland’s nightless nights, there isn’t enough light for photographing.

One big problem is the fact that I make food in the first place for eating, not for photographing. In other words, all the diners are waiting impatiently for food when I’m still playing with my camera and therefore I can’t use much time to produce a successful shot. And usually I hardly have time to check the results before the meal and if they did not succeed, there is no possibility to take another one.

As difficult as photographing food is, so is capturing my artistic attempts with the camera. The problem is mainly technical: even now I haven’t learned to use my camera as it should be used and I really don’t know all the possibilities in it. For better or worse, pastels let light through all its layers, which makes them look more grainy than they actually are in nature and the same happens with pencil works. Oil color is thicker and therefore the results are better even with the camera.

In spite of all these problems I should say that making good food is rewarding and I enjoy serving it to my family, whether I succeed in taking good photos or not. Drawing and painting give me great satisfaction and though I partly cited Milan Kundera in the title, photographing with all its challenges is still an interesting and nice hobby. So I’m going to enjoy it with all my heart even from here on.

If you’re interested in not only food but also drawing and painting, please, visit my Instagram account @art_sirkku


P.S. In the opening picture there can be seen one of my pastel studies: a fennel. I thought fennel is an easy object to start with, but on the contrary, it was really, really difficult.

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