Visual Content Creation

Food photographer Sandy finds satisfaction in new techniques

Post by
Marisa Young
Food photographer Sandy finds satisfaction in new techniques

Food stylist and photographer Sandy Wood serves up visual stories from the kitchen to table - often with a cheeky tipple on the side. Her enjoyment in the garden is also evident as Sandy's images pay homage to the ingredients and the earth from which they have come.

Sandy is always pushing the boundaries of her own aesthetic, challenging herself to learn new skills and expand her creative repertoire. We are honoured to feature Sandy this month, she is an award winning photographer who is as down to earth and humble as she is talented.

Meet Sandy!

I live just outside London in St Albans at the edge of the city, so have fields to my left, and the city to my right, perfect for countryside walks and fresh air yet still I’m close enough to walk through the park past the lake into town to the shops, pubs and restaurants.

When I’m not creating for Creatively Squared, you’ll find me hanging out with my husband and two sons (aged 14 and 13); baking; cooking family meals to enjoy in the garden, we recently bought a wood fired pizza oven which has been a great addition to summer outdoor mealtimes; at the allotment (it’s my happy place, but sadly I haven’t had much time to spend there since home schooling kicked in!); walking our Tibetan Terrier Huxley, or feeding my Netflix addiction! Pre-Covid, you’d also find me hanging out with friends in pub gardens for long summer evenings.

My creative journey so far

I was taking part in the Creatively Squared challenges on Instagram and replied to a stylist callout back in June 2017, another stylist had recommended that I give it a go. It was an exciting opportunity to move towards paid photography and styling work.

I think the love of food photography is in my genes, I remember coming home from family holidays with my Mum and sister, and most the photos on my Mum’s films were of the food! She would be so proud to know this is what I do.

I would describe my aesthetic as minimalist and airy. I like to focus right in on the food without too many distractions.

My favourite shoots are often those where I am exploring a new style which makes it so satisfying to capture. The Kumala project was really fun as bringing in the bright bold colours was something I hadn’t tried before, it was good to get out of my comfort zone and experiment. The bottle laying on the fruit is a favourite.

Tools of the trade

I shoot with a Fuji X T2, 16-55mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, and 60mm f2.4. The tripod is the Vanguard Alta Pro with arm. I invested in a c-stand just before lockdown for more stability and to take the camera higher on flatlays. I usually shoot tethered when creating for Creatively Squared and edit mainly in Lightroom, but have recently been using Photoshop to do some retouching. I’ve only recently been delving into flash and have the Pixapro CITI400 Pro strobe with a large modifier.

In my studio at home with handmade ceramics, I have a variety of backgrounds, some old wooden chopping boards, a large marble pastry board and a selection of vinyl backdrops and linens. I’ve recently had a few shoots at Nomadic which is now a favourite venue to shoot at, they have a beautiful setting in the woodlands with long communal tables decorated with foraged greens and decadent glassware and candelabras. The food is cooked over fire by guest chefs. Normally the tables would sit everyone together, but since re-opening this year as lockdown has eased, they have 2 sittings instead, so there is good social distancing.

Staying inspired with a fresh perspective

I try to take Instagram breaks a few times a year so that my mind isn’t saturated with other people’s gorgeous food photos, otherwise I find myself unconsciously coming up with images too similar to those that someone else has already created.

I love being inspired by Instagram, some of the photos I see blow my mind (Aimee @twiggstudios, for one, takes this art to a totally new level), but, sometimes it’s good to step away and look at other sources of inspiration, I’ve recently been looking at a lot of interior and landscape images on Instagram and Pinterest. Whenever I come back after a break I come back with fresh eyes and more enthusiasm and a new perspective.

I started following @luisabrimble soon after I set up my food account in 2016, I love the breadth of subjects she covers, she is a total inspiration, I love her work and the energy she gives out.

Challenges keep the creative mojo alive

If I get caught up and lose my mojo, I’ll join a challenge to get me back on the right track. The @creativelysquared challenges are a great source of inspiration, there’s such a broad range of talent that you can’t help but learn new techniques.

Also, @thelittleplantation #eatcaptureshare challenges are always a great, there is such support within the community and I’ve made good friends from joining in with these. Whenever I participate, I can see my work improve along the way. @twolovesstudio @bealubas also hold challenges which are really enjoyable to join in with and they are such good educators I always learn more than I expected to.

My top 3 tips

  1. Set the scene and take test shots before bringing the food out. This way you can shoot the food at it’s freshest. I use a food double (something of a similar shape and colour) to help me visualise the final image.
  2. When you have the shot you’re happy with, take the camera off the tripod and play around with different angles, directions of light and aperture. I try to do this when I know I have a shot I’m really pleased with as I find I’m more relaxed, at this point anything else is a bonus. Sometimes an unexpected shot can be the one you love the most.
  3. When it’s not working out, don’t be afraid to clear everything away, take a break, and start all over again. The creative process is an ongoing process, it doesn’t always come first time round. I find this with editing too, I try to make time to look over my work the following day with refreshed eyes to refine the images.

A proud moment

A photo I'm most proud of has to be the ‘Food at the Table’ award winner. I never dreamed that I’d be shortlisted, let alone win.

I was at an influencer evening at a local restaurant. I hadn’t been to an event like this before. When the main course was served one of the guests pulled out a mini light (like the one in your competition this month!) to take photos, I loved the scene, the expressions on faces as this beautifully presented food was set on the table, everyone reaching for their phone or camera to capture the dish, there was a palatable air of excitement, I just wanted to capture the moment.

Thank you to Sandy for being our Creator of the Month! You can see more of Sandy's work on her website sandywood.co.uk and Instagram account @sandywood

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