Surprising twists in our lives pave the way to positive changes. This is the case for Daria Kalugina, who made a U-turn in her career to become a food photographer. Her wise words will resonate with you because her story is truly an inspiration to all. Find out more about her work, her story and her tremendous success.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background.

I’m an automation engineer by profession. I finished the Bauman Moscow State Technical University but my creative mindset led me to a completely different path.

Long before my fascination with food photography, I used to shoot portraits and other art photography. Back then, I was solely interested in people, their personalities and facial expressions of the different emotions. I liked capturing their mood, keeping a good conversation going in the process of a photoshoot and creating a close visual and emotional connection between us. At some point, I began to understand that despite the common opinion, passion and skills for a photographer aren’t enough. You need a model that can work with the camera, be able to relax and seem natural instead of bind oneself with fears like back in the childhood days when someone said “smile for the camera”.

Cooking was always a parallel passion for me. I decided to combine my two passions. Now, my fascinations and interest totally match my professional direction. I shoot for restaurants, magazines, big manufacturers and also host master-classes and online courses around the world.

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What got you interested in food photography?

To make food look tasty and appealing in photos, you really have to love to eat. I think that’s the main condition of a realistic shot. If you love what you’re working on, everything will turn out 10 times better.

I like working with depth, creating a realistic image of an early breakfast, a cozy dinner or surprise viewers with my unique perspective on food photography. In photography, the most important thing is to make the viewer believe the story of your image, so he or she will want to transport into the scene and try everything right away.

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What is your work process like from start to finish of projects or photographs?

If we’re talking about a sponsored shoot, before I even get to work, I work with the client to discuss all the details of the project. This way, both of us get a better understanding of what we expect from one another. These discussions are a very important part of my work, they really do help with future developments of the shoot.

The photo session usually happens either in my studio or restaurants, depending on the specific project. During the shooting process, I try to realize the wishes of my clients to the best of my ability in the individual shots. It’s wonderful when clients trust my creative intuition and leave some room for inspiration. That’s when you get the best and most authentic shots.

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What would you say is an important factor to success with food photography?

Most importantly of all, you have to love what you do. As strange as it sounds, with creativity, it’s really important to have self-organization skills and be able to distribute your resources to have time for everything and not acquire a ‘creative burnout.

I try to take up projects that inspire me, force me to leave my comfort zone because only then do they bring new experiences and success.

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Do you have a favourite photograph? What’s the story behind it?

They say the best shots are spontaneous. In my case, that’s exactly what happened. We were eating shrimp fondue with my family and I wanted to take a picture of this beautiful fried shrimp. After thinking about it for a bit, I put it on top of a fork, fixed it between two wooden beads and by some accident placed a lemon and a chili pepper on top. The construction of it turned out quite sturdy as not a single piece fell. I threw some spices and took a shot. The image and preparation took about 2 minutes and when I ate this piece of shrimp, it was still warm.

Now this photograph is a cover for an exhibition “Height” at the swissotel Krasnye Holmy in Moscow, and I proudly have it as part of my portfolio.

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Your #1 tip or words of wisdom:

Never stop at your achievements – you’re only limited by your imagination and laziness.

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