What Photography Has Taught Me

I’ve been interested in food photography for about 6 years – pretty much ever since I became a nutritionist. It started with cell phone pictures and then I bought my first and only DSLR camera. For years I just watched others or grabbed my camera and started fiddling with any and all settings – I didn’t take any formal lessons or instruction. I would take hundreds of the same photograph, all on different settings. Then, I would see which one I liked and I would try to remember what happened. I hated most of them, but when I found one that I loved – it felt so good! 1 out of 300 is still 1 usable picture! Now how’s THAT for a positive spin 😉

Sounds like a lot of other things in life right? Sometimes we quietly try things out on our own and we think – huh, that was fun. Let’s keep learning that!

Last year I finally took an actual course (my first!) and learned about aperture – it’s basically how much light comes through the lens based on shutter speed – but my brain likes to think of it more like how much blur will be in a photo. Basically, do I want the entire picture to be in focus or do I want some blur around the edges and background?

When I was in the class I remember the instructor asking “So how long has everyone had their camera?” Some said a few weeks, a few months – and then they got to me – “uhhh…a few years” I said. “And you’re taking Level 1?” he said kind of judging me – I just nodded, feeling a bit embarrassed.

Seriously, how often do we judge people? Too much. Does it matter what age we are when we learn something? Or that we take an introductory course to something we’ve owned for years? I think what matters is that we do it, and that we try. And that we enjoy things and have fun.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a photography expert, or that I am a photographer, but I definitely have an interest. You can often find me cooking and spontaneously running to grab my camera, and then continuing to cook with it draped around my neck and dangling on the side of my hip. Most of the time, my pictures are completely unplanned. Sometimes my food gets cold because after I serve myself, my eyes see something and I want to try to capture it. Now, keep in mind that half the time my food looks like absolute shit because I’m not a food stylist, and the other half the time I don’t photograph it properly – but hey, it’s about trying and enjoying it right? One day I’ll compile all of the photos where my food looks like shit (like actual poop) and I’ll call it “Looks like shit, but tastes real damn good” 😉

That’s the thing – when you like doing something, does it even matter if it’s done perfectly? Nope! Because you enjoy the process, it’s not necessarily all about the outcome. When you get intrinsic pleasure from something, it doesn’t matter much what other people think because you’re doing it for you.

I also remember a time when someone saw a picture I took – I was pretty proud of it because the lighting was awesome and it was so crisp and sharp – and she said something like “where’s all the pizzazz – you know, the dripping sauce, the napkin nearby, the crumbs on the plate and all the colour – this is just the meal and nothing else”. I just laughed! I said “thank you – that’s all I wanted to capture – I’m just happy the damn picture is in focus!” 🙂

gluten free crazy granola

It’s all perspective. What you think “isn’t that good” could be another person’s huge milestone. Everyone is working on something at some point. It’s not always perfect, or complete.

With my photos, all that I care about is that I capture the actual food so I have something that’s bright, mostly in focus and good enough to put on my website so I can share my recipes – and occasionally I may throw in a fun stripped towel on the side or a dribble of lemon zest if I’m feeling bold and confident and have something lying around 😉

Food photography

I think learning about photography has taught me that you can’t judge people where they’re at, sometimes people just do things for fun and not to be experts, and that you can learn anything, at anytime, no matter how long you’ve owned something or how long it takes to learn or how long you’ve been meaning to learn it. What matters is that you try and that you enjoy it.

When I first started taking pictures of food, I had 1 great shot out of maybe 300. Now, I only throw away about half of them – progress! Next step – is patiently trying out all of that “pizzazz” – a little dribble of that, a little wood cutting board here, a little zest there. I’m learning – slowly and steadily.

What’s one step you can take to trying something today? You don’t need to master it today, or tomorrow, or maybe never – but trying can actually be pretty fun too 🙂

Food Photography

Picture courtesy of the amazing photographer Felicity Murphy! I had such a fun day with her as she took pictures of me taking pictures of my food. I have to say, when I saw the shots of me with my camera in the kitchen, I thought – “Yup, that feels like me!”. I’ll continue to pick up my camera whenever I get a hit of inspiration, and I’ll keep trying. For now – it’s just a hobby that brings me pleasure and that’s a-okay with me 🙂

Blast from the past – a few oldies from the archives that in the past were progress in various ways. I still treasure them, even though they aren’t “the best” 🙂

Side - beets n brussels thyme but with sweet potato
Dinner - sweet shepherds pie2
Snack - apple and pb kids
Breakfast - cheesey christmas frittata





About Sarah Maughan

Sarah Maughan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, ON and has been consulting since 2009. Her website aims to educate you, make you laugh, help you live and inspire you to eat whole food! To stay up to date sign up for free blog and recipe updates! In the meantime, empower your body with food!
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