I'm entering a food photography competition. It is part of Eat.Drink.Blog, an annual conference for Australian food bloggers.
The entry criteria limits entry to photos that have been used in a blog post published between 1 March and 1 September. Which kind of sucks because I have photos I'd like to use which were published outside of those dates. Oh well.
I've been through my posts for that 6-month period and have a shortlist. But now I have a problem, because my shortlist is seven and I'm only allowed to enter three photos. Which is more of a problem because there are no judging criteria -- at least, none that I can find.
My initial thoughts are:
* they want something striking -- an image that immediately captures your attention
* the photo should be interesting -- try to tell a story or invoke emotion/curiosity.
I have done some digging into the judges to see if that sheds any light on the kind of thing they're after.
"Grant has been a newspaper and magazine photographer for 40 years working around Australia and abroad." His bio is incredible. He knows his stuff. Not much about what he'll be looking for, but his profile photo is artfully shot, and his photography website has arty photos, mostly of people.
"Sky loves working with food stylists and photographers to ensure Sumptuous recipes are not only beautiful to look at but also inspiring to readers." See above re striking, capture attention.
"Sneh Roy is a designer, illustrator, photographer and food stylist from Sydney, Australia." She won last year's competition. I took a quick look at her blog and saw one photo of Billy Law (for an interview), three nicely-styled food photos (two from the same vantage point), and this photo of a chocolate-smeer moustache.
Putting all this together, I figure my best bet is to enter artfully composed photographs including interesting people and well-styled food that inspires readers.
A pity that they're not the kind of photos I take.
So, here is my shortlist (also at Flickr, with descriptions).
1. Kerbside tragedy
Like: I like the focus in the middle of the footpath, and the cars and fences stretching into the distance.
Could be improved: if the food was more obvious -- i.e. a cake or something, face-down. That would really grab your attention.
2. "We call this rice"
Like: clean lines, variety.
Could be improved by: another colour or something large in the bowl. Or maybe a spoonful missing.
3. Microherbs, fungus and foam
Like: bright, clean, great looking food.
Could be improved by: A little more space at the bottom of the frame. Being something more impressive than just a photo of really good food. (I mean, I took the photo but didn't do any of the other work.)
4. "Happy birthday, John. Your ice-cream is on fire."
Like: Has three elements to it: food, sparks, person. Look at those sparks! And it really captures the excitement of the moment.
Could be improved by: slightly lower angle -- i.e. taken from the table, looking up at John's face. I have another photo like that, but the sparks are better in this one so this one made the shortlist instead.
5. A delicate nose
Like: It's a really sweet moment, of Rowan enjoying the mist and aroma of a liquid nitrogen dessert.
Could be improved by: Something more striking on the plate. Removal of objects in the background.
6. Colourful characters
Like: Colours. The composition -- objects in the foreground somehow give it a sense of immediacy. Like it's a captured moment in time.
Could be improved by: Chef facing the camera. Something more interesting happening/being done to food.
7. Service at the speed of light
Like: Colours. Composition. Blur from long exposure. Pose of the chef at the table. That the focus is in one corner of the photo.
Could be improved by: Being more striking. It's an interesting photo, but is that enough?
My thoughts right now:
1 and 7 tell a story. They evoke a kind of nostalgia that's absent from 'close-up of food' photos.
6 is a good photo, but there's nothing special about it. Same goes for 2 and 3, really.
4 and 5 are really 'in the moment' photos. It wasn't just good food styling in nice light, that anyone could (to some degree) have taken. I like that.
I can enter three. I'm probably leaning towards 1, 4, 5, and 7. Those are the photos and moments that seem uniquely Detective Chow.
I have until tomorrow night to enter. So now I'm going to go away and do something else (like write a proper food review comic, maybe?) and come back to it with fresh eyes.