I can hear you guys think it from here: “he’s really lost it now!”. But please hear me out.
The only thing that people can relate to is (are?) the “imperfections” they share. And since relating to people and making them feel special is all that counts, at least to me, imperfect truly is the only path towards success.
Whether it’s in my photography or in the way I welcome people here for our culinary adventures, I always try to create the best possible sensory experience of course, but I also make it a point to keep things as casual (OK, casual chic) and authentic as possible.
As an example of authenticity and imperfection being perfection, take a look at the picture below. It was taken more than half a century ago and is of very poor quality, but it feels so genuine and true. Nothing had been organized or posed. But wouldn’t you love to have been part of that picnic by the side of the road on that warm Summer day? That’s my great-grandfather on the left there by the way :0)
Let’s take food styling for my photos as another example.
Mimi and I were having this discussion the other day and in our humble opinion, when it comes to food styling, less is often more! Oh how many times have I eaten cold food just because I had to take a hundred pictures of a dish so I can finally get it from the exact right angle and present it to you?! Hours, arranging cutlery and placing wine glasses and bread crumbs just so. Hours I will never get back! Damn you blog readers! Damn you! (just kidding)
Now I just take pictures as I eat…
Food photography is part of lifestyle photography (at least it is to me). And lifestyle photography is about creating a beautiful world in pictures so that people feel like they are (or could be) part of it. We have to make an effort to make each dish look as delicious as possible of course, but the main goal should be to make the experience feel accessible. If a reader looks at a photo and says to herself “there’s no way I can cook that or present it so well”, then I’ll have lost her and I have failed at my own dream of making joie de vivre a reality for my fellow “bon vivants”. Most of us want our blog posts to stand out, but by trying to make everything look perfect, we run the risk of loosing people’s interest and trust.
All this to say that true perfection in this world lies in its imperfections. Perfect isn’t perfect. Imperfect is. “Perfect” people and things bore the hell out of me (needless to say that I am not at risk of being bored with myself anytime soon).
OK, this post is getting way too long. Just remember that in food and lifestyle photography, as it is in the way we live and share our passions, the simpler and the more authentic, the better. People don’t relate to perfection. They relate to authenticity and good storytelling! Sharing bad Iphone pictures can make people smile or feel just as good as a 100000000 pixel count DSLR masterpiece would! Even dirty dishes or a messy cheese platter can make us dream of a fabulous feast…
Let’s stop trying to be/seem perfect! It is a waste of time and it only impresses idiots. You know, the ones we didn’t want to be part of our lives in the first place!
35 Comments Add yours
I’ve been trying to find recipes that provide interesting taste notes, do my best (remember, I’m still only 1 year in on producing large quantities so there is a lot of room for bettering), aim for simplicity in presentation, share with a smile. Amazing how well that works!
Your take on authenticity is truly ‘perfection’! You and your blog could never be boring! I adore it and the photos are perfect in their imperfectness! 🙂
All your “perfectionism” pays off! I LOVE looking at your photos and Mimi’s! You can tell that both of you take a lot of pride in what you are presenting!!
May we always find balance! I enjoy great photos but they need to look real. If they start looking “staged” then I’m not as drawn in. They lose personality!
Oh my goodness Stéphane, have you just made my blogging easier? LOL, hard to say. Although I have been known (on many many occasions) to post awful photos of food, out of focus, etc., simply because that’s all I ended up with. So very happy to see you posting again!
I was taught a long time ago: ‘go with the flow’ I try to . . . ’cause it does work . . . obviously with you also . . . methinks Steve has said it all :)!
My serving pictures are always a bit of a mess, largely because I’m more concerned with getting the food on the table and ACTUALLY EATING IT (sorry to shout) than I am with pictorial perfection. I suppose that’s the difference between people who photograph what they eat and people who get paid to photograph what other people would like to be eating – if you see what I mean. Your pictures, however, are always lovely and evocative of time and place. If those are ‘off-the-cuff’ then I aspire to the same casual attitude.
Hi Linda. I used to plan and stage a lot. Now they are 99% “off-the-cuff”. The only things I “worry” about is good composition and color…
I clearly need lessons. 🙂
Great post Stephane and a good reminder that simplicity and honesty should be the backbone to the photos we take and share and to the lives we lead. M.xx
A great post, I love to cook but I think I have a learning disability when it comes to photography. Maybe it is the lack of experience.
Believe me: if I can do it (kind of), anyone can! Just use a simple camera and play around with it…
Thanks for the encouragement.
LOVE LOVE LOVE! You 🙂 ❤
Love you more! How the hell do you do the little heart thingy?
haha! It is simply a < and a 3 put together 🙂
Oh how I agree with you…..Keep IT REAL!!!!!
Ah, but what IS perfect? The perception is as varied as the human race for we all see our own way. I cringe at food photos styled to be all about the props and nothing about the real subject matter. I agree 100%, keep it real
YOU are perfect Sandra! And that is NOT a subjective opinion! I think I should start a Youtube channel. When I see all the bad food styling out there, it makes my bones hurt. I would call it “My French Heaven TV”. What do you think? 😉 🙂
Yes to the Youtube channel! Sorry to disillusion you but I have too many flaws to list!
You are too funny ☺️
laughing out loud!!! Love you Stéphane! I think you made the point perfectly!
I really wish I could swear in my posts sometimes… 😉
Very well said!
It’s wonderful to see you back again, Stephane. (I know you already had a “return” post, but we were out of town celebrating our younger daughter’s graduation and were mostly offline all week.) I always enjoy your photos, perfect or im-, and I also appreciated your thoughts on perfection, imperfection, and accessibility of photos (and people.)
Hi Janet! Offline for a week?! I don’t think I could take it. I this makes me realize what a hypocrite I am when I try to convince people to slow down and live a more authentic life… Contradictions… Contradictions…
As you can tell from the “casual” photos of our meals and my other photos, I TOTALLY agree with the casualness of presenting one’s feelings in a way that results in a smile or at least a happy thought from the observer. On the other hand, your careful portraits, as well as the more candid ones, have me totally in awe.
The raison d’etre of photography to me is to be able to fill one’s heart with joy when looking at any given photo – those of others or my own.
I whole heartedly agree dear Judie! I couldn’t imagine a life without family pictures to help us remember the best times… I just purchased a really good scanner and I am in the process of rescanning all of our old family pictures and slides. The oldest photo is from 1865 and I have thousands to go through. It is a delightful process though. I am so glad I did this first a few years back when my grandmother was still alive. She helped me identify some people whose identity would have been lost otherwise… My dad will help me with this batch. What’s great is that he tells me who is who but also great stories about specific pictures. Now that I think of it, I realy should write a blog post about this!! You see how you always find a way to inspire me Judie?!
That’s a very astute observation and represents one of the great paradoxes of the immature Psyche…it constantly seeks perfection but is inevitably frustrated because perfection is impossible in a constantly shifting gestalt of foreground and background (context). In fact, the mature mind finds perfection quite offensive and difficult on the eye because it recognizes not only the impossibility of it, but the neurotic futility of the effort. It’s why great beauties always had a “beauty mark” to break up the symmetry of their faces as well as add an element of imperfection, making them more real and possibly attainable. It’s also why the four-in-hand tie knot with its one-sided skew is more popular and appealing than the Windsor knot. And you are right…people who try to look and act as “perfect” as possible are so boring and pathetic. And let’s not get started on HDR photos…ugh! 🙂
I absolutely HATE HDR! It is the equivalent of a “lady of the night” whose face is covered with cheap and thick makeup. I love it when people say that it’s actually OK when applied lightly. Hilarious!
Haha, I like your analogy. We have an expression that applies quite well in this case….”Good from far, but far from good’.