Personal photography projects can be incredibly beneficial to your growth as a photographer. Whether it be a 365 or a series of self-portraits, it will stretch you beyond your safety zone. And what could be more fun than seeing what personal projects the CMpros are up to?! In this series, we’ll feature a different CMpro and follow along as they show off some of their images and share about their unique project. Today we are excited to have Jessica Nelson here to talk about her personal project, Food!
food | jessica nelson
What is/was your personal project and what inspired you to start it?
As part of my 365 for 2013 I decided to add in monthly themes that would help me grow creatively. I wanted to choose things that were very far from my comfort zone. I had shared a photo of food on CM just before June of 2013 and someone suggested I take that idea and run with a 30 day project. At first I dismissed the idea, I mean, shooting all food for a month sounded terribly hard. But then I took it as a challenge to see what I could come up with.
Are there any challenges or ruts you faced during your project and how did you overcome them and keep a creative eye?
The entire month was a challenge! I started out having some good ideas on what to shoot from things around my house. A pretty glass of ginger ale, an apple or some popping corn. I did a mix of food styling and macro work. I liked the variety of both. The food styling part I found to be much harder. Its tough making food look good before it gets all wilty or melty (if those are words). I had a hard time getting good angles and good surroundings. I liked shooting outside in the natural light to get some pretty bokeh around the subjects but then I also found shooting in the studio made for clean simple shots emphasizing the food only. But minimizing the glare on drinking glasses was something I had to work around with the placement of my lights. Then I also realized that macro shots really brought out some unique textures and colors as well. When I wasn’t up for the challenge of styling the food I ran for my macro and something from my pantry and looked for anything unique about it. I also spent a lot of time on Flickr looking through other people’s food shots to get some ideas as to what would look good. I also had to resort to going shopping when my creativity (and pantry) got low, like a bag of brightly colored candy that I could use in the studio, and then eat.
What have you learned through your process with your personal project?
I learned that shooting food was quite enjoyable because it didn’t whine at me when I asked it to sit still for a photo. I learned that using a window sill provided some really great light and atmosphere. I also learned how to stack some fruit snacks into a pyramid and shoot it quickly before it fell over. :) I also learned that its fun to shoot at the grocery store. Yes you get funny looks from the other shoppers but I just smiled and waved at them. Food mostly is shot in color but in some cases converting to BW really made the textures of the food look dynamic.
Is there anything additional about your project that readers may find interesting?
I found that for my own shots, the ones that stand out the most to me are the ones that use different DOF or perspective. I love shooting from above and the angel hair pasta from above that I shot in the studio has to be my favorite from the month. My second favorite is the grapes in a basket outside with the bokeh. I initially shot that one from the same above perspective but then I quickly realized that these grapes needed to have a little more personality so I had them peeking out of the basket. I found that I had to really vary each shot’s perspective and aperture to get the look I was going for but of course some of the shots I envisioned I totally couldn’t pull off so I had to go back to the drawing board and try something different. But in the end I am very glad I took this project on. I definitely recommend a food or still life project for anyone who wants to learn better lighting and composition techniques. I think mine have improved but I see another sill life project in my future.
Jessica Nelson, Maryland
website | blog | facebook | twitter | pinterest | instagram | ask a pro
Jessica Nelson is a serious hobbyist who lives in Maryland with her supportive husband, three camera-tired kids and an energetic rat terrier. Her passion for photography started at a very young age in the darkroom with her father and continued throughout her teen and adult life. She is often seen, camera in hand, chasing her kids around the house to capture their every moment. When they don’t cooperate she is known to take her passion outside to shoot the beautiful nature that surrounds her, since they can’t protest. She enjoys natural light but loves a great studio set up as well. She also dabbles in film from time to time as well as works on her Phoneography skills. When she is not playing photographer she is working as an engineer, home watching too much bad TV or out camping with the family in their 5th wheel.