Craig Fraser self portrait



Q&A compiled by LIZAR VAN REENEN

Multi-talented Craig Fraser’s photography skills ranges from that of architectural, decor, food, social documentary and landscape photography.  We at CapeClick would however like to wet your appetite by showcasing Craig’s all too famous mouth-watering food photography shots with local celebrity chefs such as Reuben Riffel, Phillippa Cheifitz, Tina Bester and Franck Dangereux amongst others.

Q:  HOW AND AT WHAT AGE DID YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CAREER START?   A:  My interest in photography only really started when at Rhodes University while studying journalism.  In my 3rd year we had a choice of specialising in a particular area – I chose photojournalism.  My lecturer, TJ Lemon, a graduate of the fine arts department and ex-student of photographer Obie Oberholzer, played a huge part in the beginning of my career as a photographer.  He recognised some potential, encouraged me and in the end it was in that year that my career path was decided.  I was 25 years old in 1989.

Q:  GRAPHIC DESIGNER LIBBY DOYLE AND YOURSELF MORTGAGED YOUR HOMES TO START QUIVERTREE PUBLICATIONS.  DID YOU TAKE THAT RISK DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOUR IDEA FOR THE BOOK SHACK CHIC HAS BEEN REJECTED BY QUITE A FEW OF THE MAJOR SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLISHERS?  A: One never really “knows” and once we have been rejected by people who have worked in the industry for 20 years, we were very aware of the risks involved.  We believed in the idea, we wanted the book out as we felt it was an important book.  We knew it was a powerful document especially with the likes of Sandile Dikeni and Taweni Gondwe’s writing.

Q:  IF YOU DID NOT TAKE THAT LEAP OF FAITH, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR LIFE AS A PHOTOGRAPHER WOULD HAVE PANNED OUT?   A:  My life as a photographer was always going to go in the direction of self-publishing.  It was my goal.  I had my mentors whom I admired and wanted to emulate their success.

Q:  IS FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY A DIFFICULT MARKET TO PENETRATE?  A:  It is vitally important for an aspiring photographer to specialise.  If you arrive at an advertising agency with a portfolio that comprises of fashion, food, architecture and pack shots, they will not know what to do with you.  If you arrive with a portfolio comprising of great food photographs, only food, they know who you are and what you do.  So to answer your question, no I don’t think it is more difficult to break into the food market than any other market.  In fact, there is a huge scope for food photography.  It is easier to penetrate than car, jewellery photography or even something like architectural photography

Q:  IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT WAS THE MOST “DIFFICULT” TYPE OF FOOD TO SHOOT?   A:  As a commercial photographer, I did a lot of pack shots for food packaging.  One day a client arrived with a cows tongue.  She wanted me to photograph it whole and uncooked so they could put the photograph on the label.  We could not make it look appetizing.  We tried everything.  However the shape, the colour, the texture had nothing going for it.   The success of food photographs, particularly the ones I do for cookbooks, is very much about appetite appeal.  Texture is very important as is colour.  My aim is to get the reader hungry, they must salivate when they look at the image.

Q:  IS IT ESSENTIAL TO HAVE A FOOD STYLIST ON BOARD?  A:  It is essential to have someone who knows how to cook, present food as well as having an understanding of what will look good on the final printed page.  When I do cookbooks with Reuben, Tina or Franck, we work without a stylist as they are brilliant at plating food.  I have photographed food for 20 years but I would not attempt to do the styling – we work as a team.  A good stylist adds immeasurably to the experience and the end result of the shoot.

Q:  WHAT ARE YOUR THREE PERSONAL CHOICES OF LENSES WHEN SHOOTING FOOD?  A:  Up until December last year, I shot on Hasselblad 503CX with a 120mm  f2.8 macro lens.  Now I use three lenses on my digital system:  100mm  f2.8, a 50mm  f1.8 and a 110mm  f1.4 lens.  Generally I shoot in available light thus I like fast lenses.  It is important to have a macro lens to capture “delicious detail”.  The 50mm lens is good for overhead shots so one does not have to use a ladder.

Q:  IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE “DO OR DIE” RULES OF FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY?  A:  No funny angles, not too close up, give the food space to breathe within the frame.  Lighting should accentuate shine and texture.  Use natural light sources and make sure the colour of the food remains natural.  Lastly, make the reader hungry.

04.  Food shots 1

05.  Food shots 2

06.  Food shots 2


07.  Chefs in action 1

08.  Chefs in action 2

09.  Chefs in action 3

10.  Chefs in action 4

CRAIG FRASER WEBSITE:   www.quivertreeimages.com



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