Portrait of Jackie Fraser-Dunfield.

Meet Jackie Fraser-Dunfield  – freelance Food Photographer/Recipe Developer at Cooking Sense! Jackie is a self taught photographer who tells (epic!) culinary tales through her food photography. But judging from her “so-good-you-can-taste-it” images – you’d never guess that she’s not a seasoned food photographer who spends her days shooting exquisitely-plated dishes for Bon Appétit or perhaps rustic tablescapes for Chickpea MagazineWell that’s not the case. Atleast, not yet!

So, without further ado, here’s Jackie with her story and a “bag of tips” for capturing great food visuals.

When did you get into photography? Is it something that you’ve always had an interest in?

I purchased my first DSLR camera in 2008 and that is when my passion for photography really started.  We [my family and I] traveled regularly to Jamaica where I honed my craft as well as as my love for Caribbean foods.  I enjoyed taking photos throughout my life but the real burning passion for food photography became evident when I learned how to cook foods and dishes of the island.

I quickly learned to enjoy cooking with the spices and herbs I found in Jamaica.  The blend of spicy flavours along with the tangy tastes of fresh fruits worked well with my style of cooking. I love applying simple cooking techniques and combining them with flavours that pack a punch.

Jackie Fraser-Dunfield Sweet Potato Curry with Red Beans.
Sweet Potato Curry with Red Beans.

Is food photography your specialty?

My interests in photography are well rounded.  I love wildlife, flowers, people, portraits, intricate macro (extreme close-up photo, in which the subject appears to be life-size or bigger) but I do spend much of my time on food photography.  It became more of a specialty when I started my food blog in 2009.

Are you a photographer by profession?

By definition, I would have to say no.  I am self-taught and did not train or obtain a degree in photography.  I am now considered a freelance photographer as I am paid for my services and work that I provide.

One of the compelling things about your images is the styling. Is that something that you had to learn or something that comes naturally to you?

Styling and presentation has become a big part of the food photography world.  Again, as I mentioned, I am self-taught and probably much of it comes naturally but I also spend time on research and studying food styling work of others in the field.  Many have a ‘signature style’ which has been said about my work.

What advice can you share about food styling?

When it comes to styling, the first thing to consider is that ‘less is more’.  At times I am still guilty of wanting to add more to a photo but that tends to clutter the shot.  You have to identify the ‘star’ of the dish that you are creating then work around that main feature. Simple, clean and appealing to the palate are the ingredients, which make a well-styled photo.  

Jackie Fraser-Dunfield Smoky Barbecued Chicken and a Roasted Chick Pea Spinach Salad.
Smoky Barbecued Chicken and a Roasted Chick Pea Spinach Salad.

What would you say makes a great food photograph?

A great food photographer is inventive and has a vision to shoot ‘outside the box’.  For example, a bunch of fresh raw carrots with the proper lighting and styling can be just as impressive or more, than a well orchestrated plating of gourmet food.  

Read Jackie’s 5 Quick Tips for Taking Mouthwatering Food Photos HERE.

How long does it take you to get ‘that’ shot, the ‘perfect’ shot?

This is another great question and one not easily answered.  I guess it all depends on the day and the lighting.  In some photo shoots I plan the food, props, area for shooting and take into account the natural light that is available.  I start there, and like to get at least 20 shots from various angles before I upload to my computer.  Sometimes I find that ‘perfect’ shot but it could also be one of those days where I do a re-shoot.  So, as I said, it all depends on the day.  A shoot could take from 30 minutes to 2 hours from start to finish.

What does a re-shoot entail? Do you have to prepare the dish again?

A reshoot can entail a few crucial steps.  If the set is not working I will come up with another idea, different angles or a completely new backdrop for shooting the dish.  Change of props, placement of food and dishes along with refreshing the food so it continues to look bright and appealing.  Possibly a spritz of water or cooking oil to bring out the vibrancy of the dish.

Do you do any post-work on your images?

I do post-work on all my raw images.  This is where much of the magic can happen in terms of getting that perfect shot.  You can’t always control the lighting which is KEY for any good shot. Diffusing bright light which show reflection, filtering sunlight and removing shadows all come into play when editing. Tweaking and cropping of unwanted areas are very important for the final photo that is used in a magazine.

Orange & Honey Dijon Mustard Grilled Salmon Steaks by Jackie Fraser-Dunfield.
Orange & Honey Dijon Mustard Grilled Salmon Steaks.

How do you choose what to shoot?

Basically as a home cook and photographer, I choose what is interesting to shoot, appetizing and appealing to the eye. The art of food photography is having the ability to actually make people want to reach in and eat what is on the page.  It needs to be tempting to the taste buds.

What equipment is essential for someone who wants to get into food photography?

As the industry explodes with food photos on social media, more and more people are taking photos with their phones.  It’s become very popular and trendy.  I would recommend to anyone who is seriously interested in a [food photography] career, a quality camera as the foremost [equipment item to get] for capturing quality food photos.

What inspires you?

Food and the presentation in general inspires me. Being an avid cook, I have always had a visual sense for what looks good on a plate.  I am inspired by the outdoors, colours and textures when planning a photo shoot.  Then I can create!   It’s like working with a clean slate and adding all the ingredients (props and food) to come up with your final work of art.  Like any good chef, a good photographer is always looking for that ‘wow factor’ in any presentation.   

Favourite magazine…

Bon AppétitJamaican Eats

Favourite cookbook…

The Joy of Cooking. I rarely look at a cookbook now, but learned to cook with my mother and her bible in the kitchen – ‘The Joy of Cooking’.  

Favourite photo taken…

My favourite photo is ever changing.  Each time I take new photos, they become my favourites.  It’s a learning and growing process.  I can’t pinpoint any one favourite photo.

Food photographer whose work you admire most…

David Munns would be the first who comes to mind.  I love his artistic flair, [the] detail in his settings and [his] rustic approach to food photography.

For even more of Jackie’s sensory masterpieces head over to her blog, My Wooden Spoons or follow her on Instagram!