Photo Visit with Béatrice Peltre

Super Photo Magic School

Today I'm thrilled to share a brief interview with one of my favorite photographers, Béatrice Peltre. Many of you may recognize her bright images from her highly acclaimed food and life blog, La Tartine Gourmande.

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Béa's blog was one of the first that really drew me in, mainly through her colorful images and approachable (seemingly effortless!) style in photographing the places she visits. Béa uses pattern, texture and color like no one else! I always feel transported by her vibrant foods, props and ways of seeing. It's such a privilege for us to be able to pick her brain and peek into her process. Thanks Béa!

How do you first start to conceptualize how a recipe will come to life through your series of images?
I look at a recipe like a story. I am always inspired to cook something because of an event that happened in my life. It could as simple as a visit to the farmer's market where I find a lovely bunch of fresh radishes. I am immediately taken by their shape and color--I must confess a weakness for red in fruit and vegetables. And the natural beauty found in the simple shapes of fresh produce. Right there, I build around my ingredient. And I imagine images that come along. I love to shoot raw ingredients, and the produce I am using at different stages before the recipe is completed. With my images, I want to inspire the reader to imagine a story. The story of the making of a delicious recipe that prompts "I want to eat that. I want to live that moment."

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Does the final result differ from your original idea?
Sometimes it does. I am not always sure of what props, fabrics I will end up using before I start. I always work as a food photographer with a food stylist vision. Separating both seem difficult for me. One comes with the other in my vision of the end result.

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How do you get yourself out of a food styling/picture-taking rut? do you ever find yourself in one?
I guess not. Or if I do—and I have since I've worked as a food stylist or a food photographer exclusively, I always ask if I can step in in the role that I am not assigned to do. So there you are . . .

How do you use light within your images of foods on a tabletop? What does your set up look like? (near a window? certain time of day?)
I only shoot with natural light. There's a window near my setup. Lots of natural light coming through. The light is filtered. Never direct sunlight. Best around 10 AM or 3 PM. Depends how sunny it is. I actually don't like when it is too sunny. And I use bouncers to fill light where I need it. So I guess I am not the best candidate for night time photography (unless my ISO setting is really high).

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What's your favorite part of the recipe to image to blogging process?
Well, I really love every part of the cycle involved: recipe development, recipe testing, styling and photography, writing, photo post production. A lot of people don't particularly enjoy the post production, but I am really fond of that part. Not so much in terms of the manipulation of images—I only adjust basic settings, such as contrast, color, curves etc, but in terms of creating a story with a collage of images.

Any advice for less experienced photographers shooting foods, people, environments?

Shoot as much as possible. If you are shooting digital, it makes it less cost involved. So why not experiment as much as possible? Try the same setup with all sorts of different camera settings and compare. Change the light source and see how it changes the image. Identify what you like in an image. Be critical and not scared to try again. When I started, my pictures were really really bad. I worked hard at it because I love what I do. I love to memorize moments with my camera. I am lucky it paid off the way it did.

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Thanks Béa!

(Images: Béatrice Peltre via her blog, La Tartine Gourmande)