Onyinye Ubah

You love yummy pictures of food, right? They make you suddenly go hungry and salivate? You are not wrong anyway. Unknowingly to a lot of people, behind every yummy and tasty looking picture of food that you see, there is lots of tremendous work done behind the scene. The life of a food artist requires dealing with inanimate objects that can also take up a life of their own and slay in pictures quite beyond your imagination. Truth be told, foods have the possibility to slay in pictures if they are dressed well and given their own kinds of props and lights, just life animate objects.

The surprising thing is that I never set out to be a food photographer. In my university days, I helped out a friend take one or two portrait pictures in Bowen University where I studied Mass communication but majored in Integrated Marketing Communications. It was one of those things we did for pleasure. Life has a way of making the jig saw puzzle turn into a beautiful picture. Three years ago, I found myself behind the cameras making food to slay in the most beautiful ways.

Food are easier to deal with in one sense, food could be a hard to deal with in another sense. In one sense, you are faced with zero makeup issues, no whining and complaints by your muse. They maintain a certain posture you might want them to take. On the other hand, food may have a mind of its own when you have to work with food that melt or change colour after a while like apple and avocado. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, it takes a longer process to get the outcome you want in food photography. The play around colours, props and the content itself is a tremendous work on its own. Like people would say, the eyes eat before the mouth. Funnily, you still get to eat your muse at the end of the shoot which in one hand, it’s a kind of compensation.

The many travels outside school to cover events back in my university days only fetched me a stipend. The future didn’t look rosy but that’s one thing about passion. Every other person may not see what you are seeing at that point. The many days and nights of travelling to and fro Ibadan, Lagos, Akure and its environs was still considered as a hobby. Money was rolling in but the full picture of what I wanted was not clear at that point.

The full picture began to emerge after my university days. Coincidentally, I found a job in a photography studio that took me to Abuja. I spent one and half years in that job. I had some struggle trying to convince people around me I could take up a career in photography. My passion sounded worrisome to them and they were quite concerned. During that period, an Uncle visited from the United States who was also into arts. My father mentioned to him that I had become a photographer. Surprisingly, my uncle was able to enlighten him on the brighter side of photography. At that point, most people around me got the whole idea. Right now, the table has turned. They are now the ones keeping me abreast of any information that pertains to photography on the internet, radio and television.

Still trotting along the path of my passion steadily, I was invited to Goethe Institute for training. It is a German institute that train photographers. It was there I met the likes of Jide Odukoya. The workshop opened my eyes to realize photography was beyond the clicks and flash. My eyes were opened to see that photography is a career path that people tow and make good names and money for themselves.

With that exposure in mind, I saw my job from another point of view. The professional look I gave it changed the outlook of things. So, before I start any shoot, I would find out what the client have in mind. Furthermore, I would conduct more research on their social media page to know what have done before and what they plan to achieve. Next, I would take a comprehensive look at the menu, to be sure of the nature of the food that would be my muse. Setting up a mood board and a story board comes in handy for me to digest and start getting the props needed for the shoot.

Another area of difficulty in this job is the props needed for the shoot. Eyes for details for every cutlery and utensil are as important as the food itself. The right spoons, plate, designs, table clothes and all are taken into careful thoughts. Tiny details as such sum up the answer whenever people ask me about my secret in getting beautiful images. Truly, there are no secrets and nothing extra ordinarily special other than careful attention to details, good customer relationship, quality pictures and positive vibes. Half of the time, my jobs come from referrals from previous clients.

Unfortunately, there are content thieves who make our jobs rather difficult. Some go to the extent of using your works to run sponsored posts on social media. There is another category that looks at our works as mere pictures, forgetting the efforts put behind the scene as well the high cost of props used in shoots. 

Once upon a time, there was a man who set up a studio specifically for food images. It has a kitchen where people can do food tasting and take professional photos of food. At the corner are offices, of which one of them has a professional who is a world renowned food consultant. This food studio is a one stop shop for any matter related to food and food image in Nigeria.

That, hopefully is the big picture of my future.

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