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Simi Jois, a self taught Indian artist living in US, is an excellent cook and food photographer by passion. She has gained an extensive knowledge in food styling and lifestyle photography in a very less time. She calls her art “Culinary Optics” because it ties together both her passion for cooking and photography. Her food photography blog turmeric n’ spice has now become a huge resource for any new food photography enthusiast. She is here to share her expertise and experience with us.


Please tell us how you have developed interest in food photography.
I come from a family of artists, school and university brought me a career into the world of marketing. I liked my work but something was missing. I would find myself doodling in my art-pad, probably to satiate the artist in me. The artist in me was looking for a medium. I love to cook and experiment in my kitchen. Food photography was the natural transition.

I love the visual aspect of food. Imagine roasting your favourite spices to make a spice blend… the colours, textures and aroma, is so enchanting. It is in these moments of life – I find my frame and the magic of light happens. To transform this emotion into a photograph is very gratifying, and probably that is why I developed an interest in food photography. I call my art “Culinary Optics” because it ties together both my passion for cooking and photography.

Have you done food styling course? How did you develop these skills?
I have not taken any course in food styling. I think aesthetic is a big part of food styling and every individual has a sense of aesthetic, that is why we all gravitated towards liking visuals that are well balanced. It’s about honing the skill. Walk into your kitchen, look at the colours and textures; there is so much of inspiration in the kitchen. Practice is the only magic.

Do you have a cooking style? How do you rate yourself as a cook?
I’m not sure if I have a cooking style but I do love to cook. I love trying new techniques and recipes. I’m not sure I want to quantify my passion for cooking and rate myself. I just enjoy it and it’s something that brings family and friends together. Sharing a meal is more than sharing food on the table – how can you rate that.

Do you think you should have a sound knowledge of multi cuisine and culture of each state/country to know about food photography?
It is always better to know about the culture of a region before you photograph food from that particular region. Culture and food go hand in hand; the appropriate mood can only be set when you have an understanding about the region, the people and the culture. More importantly you do not want to offend by misrepresentation. For example one should never stick the chopstick upright in the bowl of rice – as it is the way a bowl of rice is offered to the spirit of a dead person. When you are in France, avoid picking up the chicken leg with your hands, you might be stared at and never ask for ketchup. On the other hand in an Indian household, especially in southern India, do not use your left hand to eat. Since we eat with our hands, using the left hand to eat and using the same hands to serve yourself is considered unhygienic and disrespectful.

When you are photographing food from a different region or culture, it is good to read up a bit. It not only saves you from jarring errors but helps with the story telling.

Can you explain a bit about colour aspect necessary for making the food image appealing?
We eat with our eyes first, colours play such an important role in making the plate of food appealing. We all have a sense of color in built in us. When we go shopping for our clothes, we do not have a personal designer or a color wheel with us. We just know what colors compliment each other. Having said, knowledge about colors is essential for any artist, colors play an important role for food photography as well. Imagine a frame showcasing a brown curry with tons of props and colors… the viewer will not know where to look. The photographer has to use color to lead the eyes of the viewer to the hero – the food. You may have the most beautiful red bowl, but that is not the star of the photograph – but the contents of the bowl, that is the star. Use your color instinct with food, what is the mood you are trying to portray? If you are not good with colors try using the color wheel.

The color should add to the story and frame and not stand out… Be harmonious in your choice – harmony is pleasing arrangement of different colors. You can never go wrong if your choice is analogous (colors next to each other on the color wheel eg – green and yellow as main colors) or complimentary (colors opposite each other on color wheel eg. green-yellow and purple as main colors).

The image of green and yellow reminds me of sunflowers.

In the image 1 below, we can see the colors of the spices are greenish yellow, purple compliments the warm tones of the spices. It helps to pop the green and add color to the image. If color wheel is not your thing, take inspiration from nature. Green and yellow seems to go with everything. There are thousands of colors of flowers, most have green leaves, and the shades may vary.

Can you explain a bit about framing and arrangement of elements in your photograph?
Framing and arrangements of elements is part of composition. Composition is all about:

● Evaluating what elements you have and positioning it.
● Shapes you have and the shapes you can create by placing the elements.
● Leading the eye – perhaps the reason why we want to compose. Arranging the elements to lead it to the hero or creating a story.
● Colors, textures and perspective of elements.
● Balance and framing. Creating an image where all elements are well balanced.
● Negative space: the space that is left empty. 

The image below shows you the various ways in which you can arrange the elements and frame your image. The options are unlimited, with the same elements, colors, light you can frame your photographs in so many ways. Try to arrange and rearrange the elements. There are endless possibilities.


Can you talk about your aspirations and future goals regarding food photography?
To create, innovate and grow. I hope my art does not get repetitive and stale. My goal is to keep my creativity fresh and innovative.

Please share a few tips to make attractive food images.
Food photography is about storytelling – visual storytelling. Create a story, play with the elements, use color, light, shadows and frame your images to narrate your story. Enjoy what you do, obsess about your art – you will have nothing short of striking images. And embrace your failures; it is your best friend. Thank You!

Thank You Mrs. Simi Jois for sharing your valuable experiences and food photography tips with us.

With Love & Passion

Smile Art Beats

Smile Art Beats
Beats of Artistic Hearts. A Magazine from Dinesh Dinu & SMILE ART Creations team, which recognizes the hidden talents in the field of Arts & Photography.