Everyone asks me what camera to purchase to be an amazing photographer and here's a little secret, I don't think that buying a fancy camera makes or breaks you as a photographer. I think sitting down and funding in yourself, taking time, and building knowledge are what makes you better. But for those of you looking to make it rain with those tax returns, here are some of the most valuable things I have invested in over the last few years.
If you have discovered a resource, tool, or tip that has helped you knock down the walls of your own photo skills, I would love to hear about it! Chime in below or over on Facebook so we can keep the conversation going (I love talking photography and I'll probably offer to feed you)!
The Top 5 Investments for Food Photography
Investing in Yourself
The best things aren't learned from reading and rereading books. The fundamental understanding and knowledge of a skill can only come from doing. I have been snapping pictures since high school when I got my first Canon Rebel and developing prints in the photo lab (whoa, film - who knew I was that kind of old). I have taken 40,000 images of food, and it wasn't until this last year that I realized I knew what I was doing it.
The best investment I have made for myself, far before the ones following, has been investing in myself. Last year, something changed and I started photographing a lot more. I started being less intimidated by photography and owning that this is what I do, a part of who I am. I spent my hard earned cash on several photography and business workshops. I felt invested. Because I put those hard earned Benjamins into something for myself, I put my head down and worked hard to recoup. There's a responsibility associated with spending cash on things and I wanted to make sure I was getting every single pennies worth.
Note: Workshops for photography and business I have attended (not food photography related) Mountains to Sea Landscape, Morocco Photo Tour, The Giving Lens Photo Tours, Julie Paisley Workshop, & Sarah Bradshaw Workshop. All of which I highly recommend and would love to chat with you about! Let's grab coffee and talk cameras!
If you are serious about learning to be a better photographer, there are countless workshops and resources for improving out there, my friend Ashley over at Spoonful of Flavor did a round up recently of some great Food and Travel Photography Resources. For the internet junkie, Creative Live is a great starting point. But for those looking to break out and build solid relationships, check out Pinch of Yum's studio workshops in Minnesota or tune in for details for my Pop-Up Workshops all over the country this year. I am teaming up with Ally of Ally's Bohemian Kitchen (and kick butt cookbook author) first one is scheduled for June 12-15 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and we only have 8 seats! Check out the Foodie Pop-Up Workshop site for more details - it's going to be a blast!
Investing in the Camera:
No, not the big fancy expensive one. Just 'The' one. Just like 'the' ring, or 'the' person you want to spend your life with picking the right one isn't about the one with the cha-ching after the dollar sign. It's about the right fit. I don't believe DSLR's are for every photographer (heck, my next camera isn't going to be one), but I do think that spending time to learn whatever tool it is you do have is where things will suddenly start to click. Some great photographers use only their Smartphone these days - that right there should tell you that it's not about the camera! I don't think a 1999 point and shoot is a great way to go, but I will be the first to play with one of those disposable Kodak film cameras if given the chance. It's about feeling comfortable with the camera in your hand. Take out the manual and read it, push all of the buttons (no, take that back, don't format the memory card until you are ready), know what they do (see that note about formatting the memory card), and understand it. When you know what your tool can do, and just how it works, your photography will get better. From there you can work and re-work it until you feel you have outgrown the tool and need a new one.
Investing in the Right Equipment
Food photographers own a lot of stuff. I have two racks in the basement of pots, pans, plates, random glasses, swabs of cloth, bits of old wood, tarnished utensils, and who knows what else. I look at it and sigh every time I do the laundry. It's all sitting and collecting dish soon to be boxed and taken to Goodwill. (Seriously, scour Goodwill for some kick butt finds!)
Here's what I wish I had known while I was busy stocking up for a Mad Hatter themed tea party - invest in a sturdy tripod (I use one similar to this Manfrotto Tripod and have this collapsible tripod for quick traveling and as a backup) and clean white dishes. A few other things I would throw in are a few sheets of white foam core and a few well-loved linen napkins. That's it. I'm weird and go through phases where I challenge myself to different things in my photography. Lately, it's been shooting with nothing but a solid background and the dish for my Whole 30 diet on GirlCarnivore's Instagram. It takes like 2 minutes.... I don't even bounce the light with foam core. And I kind of fell in love with food photography all over again.
Also, for ten bucks a month, make yourself an Adobe Creative Cloud account and learn photoshop and light room. You don't need to spend years becoming the next photoshop master to improve the Kardashians ever evolving curves, but simple adjustments can really make an image pop, especially when being compressed for sharing on social networks.
Investing In Inspiration
Being inspired is what moves me and bonus - it costs NOTHING (or at least, it can be pretty cheap at times). I flip through magazines, Pinterest, walk down the street with or ride through a trail with eyes wide looking for how the light is bouncing off of things. For food photography, this can mean anything from watching the clouds and getting inspiration for a light and airy cotton candy cake to seeing how the light hangs across your bedroom right before a storm to inspire a comforting dish.
Another key facet to being inspired is not being behind the lens. For me, this means spending hours on myself on my bike or running. It means being balanced and healthy. If I sit to long staring at a shoot, I get nothing accomplished and feel awful. If I manage that time better and go out and explore some single track, I come back refreshed and able to take on the challenge with a renewed energy. It may sound odd, but spending time away from my camera shows me things I was missing staring through that little lens and inspires me to be better.
Investing In Your Tribe
You know those lists where it's things you wish you could tell your past self? My social circle is one of those things that I wish I had known was coming my way. I have been introduced and become friends with some of the finest people I know. These people are not just great friends, but amazing individuals. They are hard working, have big goals, work hard, and do it all while smiling and helping another along. Every single person I consider a good friend in my world today is an amazing person. They push me when they know I need it and tell me I did well when I think I could have done better. They are hard on me in ways that make me better and will always support me in all that I do. They are the people who inspire me to be better and just by having them in my life I have become better. Having solid healthy friends and support is damn near the top of the most important things I have invested in myself. It's taken time and effort.
Investing in yourself is hard, trust me, I get it. There are a million things to do and other needs that should be met. Spending money on something as frivolous as photography can be hard to justify, but I look at it this way, photography is my thing. The thing that I am not spending time on at the craft stores or nights out socializing. Photography is the hobby and job that funds all the other things. It's my big "heck yeah" in life, so when I look at the annual budget, I make sure there is a slice reserved just for it
A friend texted me the other night asking to see some pics from a recent trip. He was speechless. Turns out that year of work and effort really showed in the prints. He told me he was amazed at how far my images had come. When you are the one working day in and day out, it can be hard to see that progress, but looking back to a year ago, I can see it.
Stop by and check out the Foodie Pop-Up Workshops! Our early bird rate for June's workshop goes up May 1st and I'd love to see you there!