A local photographer has dished up the secrets of her journey to becoming an expert in creating a feast for the eyes...literally.
After repeated requests from friends and family about her recipes, and having qualified as a health coach, Donna Crous decided to start a cooking blog.
But what started as an online recipe collection led Donna to discover her real passion: food photography.
“Very soon I realised I did not like writing,” she said. “I enjoyed photography and developing recipes, that was the part that excited me the most. I decided to focus my blog on strong photography rather than writing.
“I started to teach myself food photography, there was not much information available in these days, so I just worked it out myself. My husband is a really good photographer, so he also taught me a lot of skills.”
Pictured: "I did not go into it thinking I would become a Nikon ambassador. It was such a learning curve, every step I took was a massive learning curve.”
In 2017, Donna submitted images to the Pink Lady Photographer of the Year Awards, which she describes as the “Academy Awards in food photography”. Although she admits she felt like an “imposter” as she didn’t feel she should be entering, she placed third in the ‘food blogger’ category.
The experience “opened a lot of doors”. With the winners in other parts of the world, Donna represented the category at various talks. The following year, she was introduced to Nikon, who made her their first Ambassador for Food Photography in Europe in 2020.
“It’s very exciting, I never planned anything because I just felt my way through it,” she said looking back on her photographic journey. “I did not know what was out there, so I set myself small goals along the way, but I did not go into it thinking I would become a Nikon ambassador. It was such a learning curve, every step I took was a massive learning curve.”
Pictured: “The props and styling depend on the actual food itself, it’s what needs to be the hero”
Despite what many people assume, Donna does not go into restaurants to take pictures. Instead, she works with publishers on their cookery books, as well as with brands or PR agencies. As a “one woman band”, she not only takes the photographs, but also develops recipes and looks after the styling, in what she describes as a “dark and moody way.”
“The props and styling depend on the actual food itself, it’s what needs to be the hero,” she explained.
“It’s about making sure that all my props and accessories will not detract from the dish itself and it is what stands out.
“It can take from 10 minutes to two hours for one piece, it depends on the food, my mood, and the lighting!”
Pictured: “There is a big market for people to learn how to photograph or to improve food photography."
Over the past two years, Donna has been combining her passion for cooking and food photography into the writing of a recipe book, ‘A healthier family for life’, which will be released on 16 December. For Donna, it was not only a dream come true but a real treat to work on her own book, which she says is a sort of “portfolio of her own work”.
“There was less pressure, I had more time to do it and I was my own judge and critic,” she said. “I did not have the worry that the author would feel I did not do their food justice or that the publisher would want something different. I was able to put my heart and soul into doing it the way I wanted to, without worrying about anyone else.”
Having moved to the island late this year, Donna has been soaking in the local food scene.
“The produce in the island is amazing,” she said. “There is a big market for people to learn how to photograph or to improve food photography. It would be nice to take Jersey produce and put it on the scene through really strong images.”
She has also been sharing her skills with local photographers and recently hosted a workshop at Harriet and Rose. “I love teaching and sharing, it’s nice to pass on what I have learned to other people who also want to learn,” she said.
“My advice to others is to never underestimate yourself and never think you do not have the skills. If you put your heart and soul into something and you love it, soon it will develop into something."
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