IF YOU’RE AN aspiring or working professional photographer, you don’t need us to tell you that there’s a continual need to learn and hone your skills, and you should never close your eyes to the value of trying out new things or stepping out of your comfort zone to tackle a genre you might not be totally familiar with.

Welcome then to an opportunity to do just that, and to sample our brand-new Pro Academy, which we’re running in tandem with the excellent Nikon School. Over the next six months, we’ll be setting Professional Photo readers six challenges to see what you can do, and you’re cordially invited to enter just one or to go the whole hog and take part in all six.

We’re inviting you to send across your best shot from the assignment to our expert team at Professional Photo and, if you’ve met the required standard, we’ll send you back an e-certificate to prove the fact. Successfully complete all six assignments and you’ll receive a further e-certificate to confirm that you really are an excellent all-round operator! It’s not a competition and there are no prizes to be won, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your skills have been recognised and it’s a chance to test yourself by tackling some fresh genres.

How to Take Part

You don’t need to be a professional photographer or a Nikon user to take part in Pro Academy, and don’t feel shy about sending in the best shot you’ve been able to achieve, even if it’s perhaps not up to the high standards of the work from Donna that you can see here. It’s all about learning and rest assured we will be making allowances for newbies!

Challenge number One:

Food Photography

WE WANT TO see your best single shot related to food, which could be an impeccable still life, a shot of a tempting dish styled up on a plate or even something that’s just food-related, such as a scene in a bustling food market. The choice is yours, but we’re looking for proof of your skills, so be sure to stretch yourself, resist the urge to raid your files, see what our experts have to say and then go and take a picture specially for the challenge.

To submit your work just upload your shot for Assignment One – Food Photography – below and make sure you fill in your email details. Our team will assess your shot and, if you’ve met the required standard, an e-certificate will be on its way to you.

Technical Tips

“THINK ABOUT THE look you want to achieve,” Neil says, “and this will help determine your lens choice. For example, a fast zoom enables you to be flexible with your composition, and if you work with a wide aperture you’ll be able to soften the background.

“When you’re working with a shallow depth of field, however, you need to make sure focusing is spot on. With a camera such as the Nikon D850 you can go into Live View and set Pinpoint AF, which enables the lens to be focused tightly on the intended focus point. Models such as the D850, D780, and the Z 6 and Z 7 Series also offer Focus Peaking, where you set the lens to manual focus and choose Peaking level in the i-button menu. The camera fires a burst of shots at slightly different focusing points, which are merged in post to create a shot with an extended depth of field.”

Learn with the Nikon school

WITH MANY OF its courses now online, training via the Nikon School really is open to everyone, with a wide range of well-priced learning available to photographers at all levels and using any brand of equipment – although Nikon users will get particular value from the content.

Head to the Nikon School website to take a look at what’s on offer and to see what you could sign up for, with everything from lighting technique through to running a digital darkroom, mastering a particular piece of Nikon gear, filmmaking and even one-to-one tuition all available, along with location courses and experience days being offered in the UK and overseas.


Submit your photograph here.

Donna Crous – Food Specialist

Each month, we’ll feature a top professional from the genre we’re covering to get some idea about what they find so compelling about their chosen speciality.

Camera Gear

In her studio, Donna switches between a Nikon Z 6II, Z 7II and D850, while lens choice ranges between a 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 or a 105mm f/2.8 macro, depending on how wide or how much storytelling she’s looking to include. If shooting in a restaurant where lens changing is kept to a minimum, Donna often works with a 24-70mm f/2.8.

SOUTH AFRICAN-BORN Donna Crous is the Nikon Northern Europe Ambassador for Food Photography, and she loves the challenges that the job invariably presents her with.  “As a food and still life photographer, you’re in complete control of the entire image”, she explains. “There are no opportunities that you need to wait for, such as a flock of birds or a sunset to create a great image. Because of this, I suggest learning to develop an eye for strong composition. Spend time reading food magazines and cookery books, and find and follow photographers whose style resonates with you. By studying food images, analysing the placement of dishes, extra props, backgrounds and, most importantly, light, you’ll be able to develop a better understanding of what goes into creating a wellcomposed food image.

“Everything starts in the shops, and finding fresh ingredients that have good colour and shape is key. The colour of the food will strongly determine the styling element: if it’s full of bright hues, perhaps being a dish such as an heirloom tomato salad, then less styling will be required, because the dish speaks for itself. If, however, it doesn’t have much natural colour, like a stew, then bringing in brighter eyecatching elements such as a coloured textured background, bowls, props and a sprinkle of bright green chopped herbs will really help to draw attention to the dish being pictured.

“The angle that the subject is shot from is also key. Study the subject and decide whether an overhead or flatlay, three-quarter or straight-on angle works best. It’s important to really have a good look and to play around to see which position best shows off the visual element. For example, layered dishes, such as burgers or sandwiches,can look great when they’ve been shot straight on, while flat items like pizza will work best from overhead.

Meanwhile, anything that has visual appeal from both the side and top is great from a three-quarter viewpoint. “When photographing prepared food, there are little tricks to make it glow and look delicious, such as brushing meat with a mixture of olive oil and gravy browning, adding fresh ingredients like herbs or berries to brown food, spritzing fresh produce with a mixture of glycerine and water for a fresh dewy look or using an upside-down ramekin in a soup bowl to ensure that heavier ingredients don’t fall to the bottom and out of sight.”

“By studying food images, analysing the
placement of dishes, extra props, backgrounds
and, most importantly, light, you’ll be able to
develop a better understanding of what goes into
creating a well-composed food image.”

© 2021, Professional Photo Magazine and respective content owners.. All rights reserved.