This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
I’ve tasted flavorsome dishes from Radhika Gupta, a Toronto-based food blogger, photographer, and health enthusiast. Her food uses fresh and healthy ingredients, but what strikes me most is the aesthetic. She creates visual masterpieces that are real works of art. Her career began three years ago when her oldest child started kindergarten. Gupta’s husband inspired her to try out photography, paired with friends and family, always asking about her recipes— she began a blog: Soulful Palate.
I learned how she presents her dishes and what it’s like behind the scenes of a food photography shoot.
ANUM: How did you start as a food photographer? What are some rules for food photography and the technical aspects behind a shoot?
GUPTA: I would say the only rule to food photography is that there is no rule. When I started, I did not know any technical aspects and just let my creative instinct guide me in photographing my dishes.
When I just started, I started with what I had. I didn’t own any lavish prop collection or super expensive photography gear. I slowly and steadily worked my way through it, learning as much as I could and upgraded my photography equipment. And since this field is highly competitive, one has to have perseverance. To earn money and fame through a food blog is difficult but not impossible. And working hard and not giving up is my mantra. And this mantra works for me because of my passion for cooking and photography both. It provides me an outlet where I can let my creative juices flow freely. It also gives me a purpose to move forward into my day and immensely boosts my confidence, for I have learned so many new skills I never even thought of possessing.
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A: Tell us something about a new dish that you made and photographed.
G: I recently made a Mediterranean salad and photographed it. I made it because I wanted to try my hand at a baked falafel. It was my first trial at making falafel, and I tried both deep-fried as well as baked because testing and comparing both versions is essential to me as a recipe developer. Though deep-fried tasted a little better, I would still go with the baked version since it’s much healthier and saves time doing the actual cooking.
The photography part is always fun, as it is a creative process. Also, the best part is that mouthwatering photos will tempt the viewers and my readers to try my healthy recipes at home. So I always focus on the quality of my food photos. Tasty recipes shine only through good images. That’s why food photography is an essential aspect of the food blogging business.
Many food groups can be challenging to shoot, salads being one of them. It can get tricky to showcase the individuality of each ingredient in a mixture. Hence instead of mixing and tossing everything together, I carefully layered and spread the parts in a way that would be pleasing to the eye. I make sure to use at least one element in the dish that would stand out in terms of color. In this case, it was sparkling red pomegranate seeds. Since the salad was mostly reflecting shades of green, I made sure the star ingredient that is falafel, had a bright place. I placed it on the very top and drizzled tahini lemon dressing over the salad. A tiny lemon wedge on the side speaks for the zing in the dressing. That’s how I construct most of the dishes for food photography. Using the key ingredients as props work well.
For Instagram posts, I love shooting overlays. However, I make sure to click from other angles, too, for my other social media platforms. Forty-five degrees and angle slightly lower than 30 degrees are ideal for shooting as well.
Talking about the technological aspect, I must mention the importance of editing software. Editing pictures can make a whole lot of difference. You can add or subtract many features from the images, provided you shoot in RAW. I currently use Adobe Lightroom to edit my food photos. And I have to admit, no matter how good my pictures are, they are still incomplete without that touch of editing software.
A: What are some challenges that you face working from home? We’d love to know a bit more about your life as a food blogger/mum!
G: Being a mum of two growing kids and working from home, I face many challenges. The biggest problem is to stress less and keep sanity in check. There are days when I sleep only 3-4 hours because I am awake shooting recipes, writing blog posts, strategizing my content for social media, following SEO practices, and so many other things. And then two young kids who are four years apart have their own needs. If one needs a constant disciplinary boost, then another one needs to be held and comforted.
On top of that, you have so many dirty dishes shouting in your face besides clean laundry pleading me to fold them. Amidst the ongoing quarantine, you can’t even expect your domestic helper to come to the rescue. So adding to another challenge is keeping my home neat and tidy.
But then juggling and hustling is part of anyone’s life who wants to make a mark in this world. I read somewhere that choose a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life! For me, food photography is something like that.
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Gupta shows how food has much deeper artistic complexities than being a simple meal to consume, laid out on an ordinary plate. Her healthy spin on desserts and South Asian recipes are quite remarkable and most definitely worth a try! With its rich and flavourful ingredients, traditional South Asian food inherently links to a long lost heritage. A big part of the identity of South East Asia lies on the different foods that come from distinctive, yet characteristic backgrounds following the influences of colonizers along with the local flavor.
The creative energy and charisma within Gupta are genuinely inspirational. I’m convinced to try out her healthy and delicious recipes on one of those lazy, rainy days. If it’s a success, I’ll even try my hand at a few pictures of my culinary creation to celebrate my endeavor.