Heart to Heart series of interviews is back after a long break. (Updated on Aug 5th 2020)
If you are on Instagram, chances are that you would have gawked at the gorgeous pictures @bealubas. If you haven’t yet, one look at her gallery will turn you into an instant follower.
I have been an ardent follower of her work for quite sometime. In a never-thought-of dream come true kind of a chance, I got to attend Bea’s 2-day food photography and styling workshop organized at Bangalore earlier this April. All of that came together so quickly, I was in disbelief that it was actually happening. I am re-living the memories, smirking as I type now.
It was an amazing workshop and was awesome to learn from Bea herself.
It is one thing to admire someone online wondering how they might be like in real life and totally another to meet them in person. But with some people, the connection is instant. It was a great feeling to meet the real person that she is, so honest and generous in sharing her knowledge and so down to earth and full of humility. I went to learn and I think, I’ve have made a friend as well.
In this interview, she shares her styling philosophy as well her inspiration. Read on. It might seem longish, but every bit worth your time.
Thank you dear Bea for agreeing at once and taking time out of your super busy schedule to do this. I am incredibly happy that this interview is finally a reality!
What was your moment of epiphany for blogging and/or photography like?
First time when I took a camera in my hands it was really like one of those OMG! moments. I felt like the whole new world just opened in front of me. I was dancing with happiness and I could’t wait to learn more. Funny enough 4 years later I still feel the same excitement!
What do you enjoy the most about food photography and styling?
Hmmm. The most? I feel it gives me freedom. I can just be myself, loose myself in the whole process and unleash my creativity. I love how photography enables me to look at things from a different perspective and how I can learn to observe and notice things I wouldn’t normally see. I enjoy challenges too. Don’t get me wrong. They feel tough when I face them, they often test me and push me to my limits, but every time I do something I am scared of, I feel I am a much stronger person, the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Where do you draw inspiration from, especially when you are stuck?
Everywhere. And I really mean everywhere! Of course I look at other people’s work, that always really inspires me. But I don’t only look at food images, I love looking at photographs of different places, interiors or portraits! Even looking at wedding photography can really inspire my work! But I also look around me. I look at the colors and textures that occur in the nature and I reflect them in my photography, I go to places that evoke certain emotions in me, either make me calm, energetic or nostalgic and I always think about how I can achieve this mood in my images. I go to the market, cafe or a new restaurant and always feel inspired by the new flavors I try. I talk to my family, my friends, chat to people on Instagram and they always inspire me to try something new, something different. And sometimes even a stranger can say something so powerful that it will leave me inspired for a long time.
And of course I get stuck too! We all do! That’s the nature of creative people. It’s frustrating for sure, but it always passes. It helps me to do something I have never done before, I visit a place I’ve never been to or go to the bookstore and look through the books I’ve never seen before. Bookstores are like an old fashion Pinterest, with this difference that you can actually smell the freshly printed pages and touch each picture. It always helps.
What is your greatest photography challenge yet and how did you overcome it?
I feel I could write a book about photography challenges you know hahaha.
Workshops are always very challenging but they are also the most rewarding at the same time!
They take few months of preparation and organizing and because I really value people’s time (and money!) I always want to give participants knowledge (and experience) that will be useful and valuable for them. I want people to feel inspired, get hungry to learn more, and feel motivated to shoot every day. I feel honored that people want to learn from me and I always feel huge responsibility because I know how important this knowledge is!
I think the only way to overcome any challenge is to face it and do it, but also do it in the best way you possibly can. And that’s what I’ve been doing! I am always putting all my heart into it!
How do you manage time and keep blogging/social media from taking over your life?
Hahaha I’m not sure if it’s possible! Do you have any tips to share?
Being serious now, I don’t blog often these days but I’m craving a change on my website and I hope to be there more often soon. However social media is the place you can find me every day and of course it does take over my life sometimes. My dear friend Rachel Korinek said that it’s ‘very brave to stop when the whole world is moving forward’ and I think we all feel the pressure to participate in this race. I love social media, don’t get me wrong, Instagram motivates me to create food art and I love being part of this community. People are so amazing!!! But I think the world doesn’t set this pace, we do, we force ourselves to run faster and I think it’s in fact brave to slow down, but it’s also very wise.This balance is very valuable for me, and I usually know when to slow down and when to have a break. Also I think it’s important to set your priorities straight. My family is always the most important.
When it comes to creativity in blogging or photography, how do you keep things fresh and in perspective?
I challenge myself. Every. Single. Day.
If there is something I am scared of shooting because I think I’ll fail, I go and shoot it every day. I experiment, try, make lots of mistakes, and try again. I never take an easy route.I make a list of things I have never tried in photography, angles I don’t feel confident with, colors which I wouldn’t normally choose, the technique which is unknown to me and when only I have some spare time I try those things.
I love looking at other people’s work, that’s my learning field, all the lessons are written in the images, you just have to have your eyes wide open, look closely and ask the right questions
Being a food blogger/photographer, it is easy to over zealously accumulate too many props in the name of food photography. Your tips on minimalist approach?
Oh yes!!! We all know this don’t we! I was getting way so many props at the very beginning that I was running out of space at home and what is more I totally forgot food photography isn’t about the props, food has to be the star, not a plate!
I got rid of a lot of things since then and I don’t buy much these days. My tip would be to invest in ‘’classics’. You can never go wrong with nice quality plain crockery. I know in India you do love color but honestly when food is as vibrant as it is in India, choosing plain props will make the food to pop out on the pictures. I love vintage items too, because I feel they add character to the images and tell the story. Also they have an amazing texture and camera loves texture!
When choosing props, it’s important to remember that it has to compliment the food and not distract from it and this is a question I always ask myself before purchasing anything.
You make photography look so easy. Three things you did to seriously improve your photography
Thank you Radhika! That means so much! I know it sounds cliche but it takes TIME. It’s a long process so I had to learn that the patience is the key. And it still is, I feel I am at the very beginning of this beautiful journey but I am excited to learn more. Every time I get overexcited I have to remind myself that I don’t have to rush anywhere, I have the rest of my life to spend with a camera in my hands
What really shifted my photography skills was training my eye. To be a better photographer you need to lear how to be a better observer. We often look at things and we don’t notice much details and that’s the important skill to develop. Again, it takes time, but trust me the picture you will look at today will look totally different in a month’s time, because you will look at it dfferentely. I sometime look at some pictures I admired for years and suddenly some detail hits me like a lightning bolt!
How could I not notice this detail before? You suddenly start to remember the patterns, the shapes, the textures, the colours!I still to this day hang pages of my favourite magazines around the house, so I can look at them and study them even when I brush my teeth lol
And number three: WORK! WORK! WORK!
What is your food styling mantra/philosophy?
Food is the star! Full stop. It has to look so good that it will be the first thing you notice on the picture. But of course I love to play and take the viewer on an adventure through my photography, so when it comes to styling I love to tell the story!
Also I like to describe my styling as a ‘controlled mess’, so you will see crumbs here, there and everywhere but it’s always there for a reason.
There are so many food photographers today. How to stand out as a food photographer/stylist?
Here is the thing, we are all different and unique! We all can offer something other people can’t, but we are frightened! We are scared! We feel if we follow what other people do and create, we are in a safer place, but really we are only in someones shadow.
Being yourself means being brave and often following the route none else walked before us. It means you have stop worrying what other people might think about your work, and pat yourself on a shoulder for making an effort and trying (even if you fail!). It means making a lot of mistakes, but always learning something from those mistakes. And let me tell you, once you set off on that journey, you will never regret.
Follow the best food photographers out there, not just one person, choose a few. Look at their work closely. Look every single day and note what you love about their work, how does their work make you feel, what is their strongest asset. Then think about how you could make this work better (It can always be done better!), how could you make it different, how could you make it more ‘you’.
Then go and be that person!
What is your take on post processing? What according to you is “too much”?
I must admit I like to spend more time styling that to edit my pictures in Photoshop, but I know there are people who feel opposite and that’s great! You always have to follow your heart and do what you love. Although I spent minimum time on editing I feel that every photo is different and I find that some need more touching than others. On some occasions when the light is perfect, I nail the composition and the food looks so good that it makes me hungry behind the camera, I will only add some highlights or shadows, detail and sharpness. That’s it. On other occasions when the lights is quite dull and the color of food doesn’t seem as vibrant or sometimes even lifeless I’ll have to play with the settings a little bit more.You just have to go with your guts!
A piece of advice you’d give to aspirants who believe they have what it takes
If you believe you have what it takes I’d say ‘Hey! Don’t you ever stop believing in that! Now go and show the world how amazing your work is!
Here’s one of my absolute favorite work of hers
And a lighter rapid fire round:
Ingredient(s) you love to shoot : There is something about eggs! Probably because I love eating them too!
Memorable childhood meal : Pierogi! The best
Your all-time favorite book and cookbook : Recently, I can’t stop going through the cookbooks: ‘Stirring slowly’ and ‘Rustic’, but I often go back to Jamie Oliver recipes! One of my favorite creative books – ‘Steal like an artist’ by Austin Kleon, this guy is a genius!
Something you’d like people to know about you : Hmmm….My meals are not always as perfect as on my Instagram! I’m not a superhuman – I eat ready made pizza from the supermarket at least one a month!
An item from your bucket list : I just realized I don’t have a bucket list!
Favorite photographer(s) : Ohhh! It’s one of the most difficult questions ever! There is so many!
Let me name a very few: Eva Kolenko, Vanessa Rees, Jonathan Gregson, Andrew Montgomery, Helen Cathcart, Linda Lomelino, Rachel Korinek, Luisa Brimble.But there is honestly much more!
A place you wish to see in your life time : New York!!!
A photography gadget or tool you swear by : I’m not really a gadget person J But I do believe in knowledge so I keep training myself! There is no better tool to take pictures than your eyes and your heart
What would you choose for your last meal: Ohhh! That’s so depressing hahaha! I’d go for Pierogi though!
Favorite lens: 50mm and 100mm are my favorite lenses! I feel unfaithful to choose just one 🙂
Favorite mobile app for photography: Lightroom mobile
Your favorite photography tip/quote? Rule your mind or it will rule you by Buddha. To be a good photographer you need to convince your mind that you are!
Hope you enjoyed reading her interview as much as I did!
You can find Bea Lubas on instagram@bealubas
Bea’s new book “How to Photograph Food“ is out on August 26th 2020
* Photographs and text on this post are by BEA LUBAS. They have been published here with her permission