Interview with Stefan Johnson Food Photographer

Here we are again at Clapham Studios with a new edition of Interview with a Photographer. This week we sat down with Stefan Johnson Food Photographer, to find out more about how he started with food photography.


Why did you become a food photographer

My degree was a BA in Documentary Photography and whilst I loved shooting reportage the reality is that unless you are incredibly good, dedicated and also lucky there is simply no living to be made from it. After assisting editorial and portrait photographs I gravitated towards editorial photography. It was only 3 years ago that I realised that I could, or rather should, combine two of my biggest passions – food and photography. And rather then simply pushing editorial food photography I’ve really tried to inject a reportage aesthetic into my work.

What makes a good food photographer

Being technically accomplished is important, as it is in most photographic disciplines, specifically understanding the relationship between light and objects. But I think what is perhaps just as important is understanding the subject. Just as a fashion photographer should appreciate and understand fashion, a food photographer should understand ingredients, cooking, plating etc.

What lighting do you use and why

On location I will try and use natural light as much as possible, after all nothing beats the clarity and softness of defused sunlight. In the studio I use constant LED lights, recreating sunlight to the best of my ability. Every time I think I’m there, I discover something new and realise I may never be able to fully recreate sunlight. But I’ll try

How long have you been shooting food and how has it changed since you started

Only 2 or 3 years so I haven’t really seen any changes to speak of. Having said that I do shoot at a lot of michelin start restaurants and seeing the continuos change in trends is fascinating. I think that would have to be a series of articles in itself.

What tip would you give to anyone starting out in food photography or styling

Just get shooting. Its amazingly accessible which is one of the many reasons I love it. A single ingredient, a camera and a half decent tripod is all you need. Its of course great to assist established photographers and pick up skills from them, but sometimes doing it yourself, learning through error, just as much as success is deeply satisfying and more creatively stimulating.

Worst thing thats happened to you on a job

Waiting 2hrs for a chef to prepare a huge cake of mini desserts for an afternoon tea shot, only to drop the entire thing when it was handed to me…

Who would be a dream client

Editorial wise, perhaps Observer Food Monthly. Chef wise perhaps Francis Mallmann who has a three star restaurant on a Patagonian island. His food and restaurant look absolutely incredible

Nicest chef/food celebrity you’ve worked with 

Well I wouldn’t say he’s the nicest, but Adam Byatt from Trinity, took me under his wing when I first started out for which I’ll forever be grateful. Any time I need help or advice he’s my first port of call.

What is your favourite dish or type of food to shoot

Tough question, any food with small colourful shapes. Contemporary Fine dining food is extremely photogenic, which is inevitable.

Why do you like shooting in clapham studios

Its a studio build for food photography. So many studios are sterile but it has a real warmth to it and food stylists I work with really like it. And a happy food stylist makes for a happy food photographer

View Stefan’s work here

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