The Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2023 winners have been announced! Once again the finalists show off how diverse the genre is, Amy Davies finds out more, with tips on entering next year’s competition.
Whether or not you think you’re into food photography, the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition has something to suit pretty much every taste. As well as the obvious eponymous subject, it could be said that the competition covers landscape, street, travel, portraiture, documentary and probably more besides.
With 36 different categories in the overall competition, the 2023 contest received thousands of entries from more than 65 countries. Chair of the judges was David Loftus, the world-renowned food photographer, with other luminaries including Fiona Shields, head of photography at Guardian News & Media, Ella Ravilious, curator at the V&A Museum and Rein Skullerud, senior photographer, photo editor at the United Nations World Food Programme.
The winners of the 36 categories were announced by acclaimed chef, author and television presenter, Nadiya Hussain MBE, in an exciting Awards ceremony at BAFTA, London on Tuesday 16 May 2023. The overall winner was British photographer Jon Enoch for his picture ‘The Candy Man’, which was taken in the streets of western Mumbai where candy floss is sold at beaches and fairs.
An exhibition of the 2023 finalists will go on show at the Royal Photographic Society in Bristol, and it will run from 20th May until 11 June – during which time the city is also playing host to Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Travel Photographer of the Year.
I spoke to a number of winners and finalists about their images, and also asked them to share some of their thoughts and tips for those thinking of entering the competition next year – and we absolutely think you should. Once you’ve devoured that which can be found below, be sure to head over to pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com to see more of the finalists.
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2023 Overall Winner, and Street Food category winner
The Candy Man, Jon Enoch, United Kingdom
Canon EOS 5DS R, 50mm, 1/160sec at f/5.6, ISO 400
This beautiful portrait of Pappu Jaiswal, a candy floss seller in Mumbai, India, was taken on the streets near to Versova Beach. Jon explains, ‘The image comes from a wider series called The Candy Men. The structure is for displaying the candy floss to attract customers along the beaches and streets. The streets are so packed so they need height so that people can see them. The beaches are also long and wide so the sellers have evolved these lovely ways of displaying the candy.’
Rather than considering himself as a ‘food photographer’, Jon says he thinks of himself primarily as a people photographer. ‘All my work and commissions have people in common. Food plays a large role in the human experience so it’s often front and centre of what I shoot but I’m more interested in the human factor rather than the food itself. Think of any great human experience and, well for me anyway, food isn’t too far away.’
‘I’m ecstatic to receive this award, it’s a real honour to get this recognition in such a prestigious competition laden with wonderful imagery.’
The portrait was shot using a Profoto B1 as a key light, along with three more B1s on stands, with a range of modifiers, which Jon likes using for their power and portability. He also likes to draw out the light which naturally occurs in the scene – such as the street lights and from the shops and houses.
Caroline Kenyon, Founder, Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year said, ‘This is a magnificent picture. For me, it evokes the great late 18th and early 19th century portraits of Reynolds and Gainsborough – the gaze, the full-length figure, the subject’s position in the frame. The man in the picture may have a humble way of life, touting his wares of toxically-coloured candy floss, but he himself is splendid. Dignified, confident, direct, he is anyone’s equal in a society riven with division and caste differences. This image shows us beautifully the universal truth, we are all the same.’
Jon’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Make sure your work stands out. It’s easy to say, but hard to do. Ideas are key. In a world so saturated with amazing images, you need to be doing something a bit different if anyone is going to notice.
- Plan, plan and plan – then throw the plan out and be able to do something totally different. You need to know when Plan A is not working and be fluid enough to try something else.
- Having the ability to think and work under pressure is key – for me it’s ingrained because I used to work in news.
Student Food Photographer of the Year supported by the Royal Photographic Society
Amazonian Foodscape, Kim Bainbridge, United Kingdom
‘An imaginative scene that could be somewhere in the dense Amazonian jungle. Made out of food.’
The Claire Aho Award for Women Photographers
Adua’s Kitchen, Carla Sutera Sardo, Italy
Sony A7R IV, 24-70mm f/4, 1/20sec at f/6.3, ISO 500
Carla describes this image of the 86-year-old Adua as a journey down memory lane. Adua had to leave her lifelong home during the Covid pandemic. Carla says she feels grateful and honoured to be featured in the competition which she likes for all the different categories available, giving everyone a great opportunity to participate.
Carla’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- I always recommend using natural light.
- Use your imagination – look around and change perspective.
- Realise that an extraordinary photograph may already be under your nose – so start searching.
Canned Fish, Saskia Lelieveld, Netherlands
Nikon D5, 85mm f/1.4, 1/50sec at f/5.6, ISO 200
Part of a series forming an homage to this popular canned food, Saskia is thrilled by the global recognition that comes from being a finalist in the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition. She says that only when she feels that the photograph is ‘mouth-watering’ is her job done. ‘If not, keep trying to make it more delicious – change lighting, position, lens, or food styling.’
Food Stylist Award
Milk & Cereals, Stephen Conroy, Italy, styled by Alice Ostan
This striking image of a breakfast staple was expertly styled by professional food stylist Alice Ostan, based in London. She says of being a finalist, ‘I’m very happy and proud of myself and of the amazing photographers and props stylists I get to work with every day – sometimes I pinch myself that this is what I do for a living. The competition is a brilliant opportunity for photographers and stylists from all over the world to challenge themselves and put their work out there, as well as being a great way of seeing and appreciating the work of others within this fascinating industry.’
Being a food stylist, Alice’s equipment is quite interesting to examine. ‘My work kit is way bigger and heavier than what I’d like to admit. Some things are essential like good sharp knives, tweezers, brushes, pins, spray bottles; others are more unusual or specific depending on the project you’re working on, such as hairspray, food colourings, pipes freezing kit, glycerine dulling spray… I could carry on for days!’
Alice’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Practise, practise, practise. Every food stylist has their own way to do the same thing, whether it’s the perfect cheese pull or painting a turkey – master whichever technique works best for you.
- Brainstorm with photographers and prop stylists who you would like to work with.
- A good kit is something you build over the years, allowing you to achieve the best results on set – this takes away some of the stress of just ‘winging it’ with what’s available… though improvisation is a good skill to have too.
Lost Love – Grandfather, Indu Vishwanath Singh, India
iPhone 6, 1/160sec at f/2.2, ISO 100
This poignant image shows Indu’s grandfather, cutting his love’s favourite fruit – still unable to take off his ring after her death. For Indu, food connects us emotionally, and this is a great example of exactly that.
Indu says, ‘It feels great to be a finalist with a very dear photo. It has feelings and emotions that I am completely connected to, forever.’ Generally Indu uses a Sony A5100 or Sony ZV-E10, but this image was taken on an iPhone, via the Lightroom app. ‘It’s not the best quality, but I believe the beauty of even age-old photos is in its imperfections and great story. The iPhone is the easiest way to capture moments that tell a story rather than creating a scene that needs a story built up.’
Indu’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Emotion needs to come through in food photography. It should awaken a sense of involvement just like an opera hits your heart. Learn to read emotions and communicate that through your visuals.
- Read through the competition guidelines to pick the best category for your photo.
- Try to make sure it’s something the viewer – or judge – won’t forget.
Alone, Bobby Cortez, USA
Fujifilm GFX50S II, 50mm f/1.4, 1/15sec at f/11, ISO 200
For Bobby, this intriguing shot is a metaphorical interpretation of how we can all feel sometimes – including himself on the day it was shot.
Hotel Art Group Cream of the Crop
Mushrooms in Seville Market, Susan Astor-Smith, Australia
iPhone 11 Pro, 1/50sec at f/1.8, ISO 250
These mushrooms at the Mercado de Triana in Seville caught Susan’s eye with their strong shapes, lines and textures. She felt black & white perfectly suited the graphic detail of the image.
MPB Award for Innovation
Red, André Boto, Portugal
Sony A7R IV, FE 90mm f/2.8, 1/160sec at f/14, ISO 100
The idea behind this surreal shot was to represent sliced objects that are not usually cut – like the table, glass, spoon and fork. Everything in the image was cut and painted red before the photo shoot. The final composition is intended to look as if a knife has been pulled through all the objects.
André says it was an amazing feeling finding out he’d been selected as a finalist for the contest. ‘I had heard about this competition for several years, but it was my first time entering, so being a finalist is a really good sensation, especially considering the different kinds of images I submitted.’
Professionals will know that being limited to a client’s brief can be somewhat frustrating, making it difficult to innovate or try something different. With this piece, André wanted fresh styling to try to make it particularly appealing to the judges. ‘Doing something surprising, giving it a “wow” effect, can work in a good way to draw the attention of the judges.’
The shoot took place in a studio and used two Bowens Gemini Pro 1000 studio flashes for lighting, alongside a Sony Alpha A7R IV and FE 90mm f/2.8 lens.
Politics of Food
Plastic is Served, Sylvie Pabion, Spain
Canon EOS RP, 35mm, 2.5sec at f/8, ISO 100
This is an issue that plagues a lot of us – unnecessary packaging surrounding our food that is difficult to dispose of in a sustainable way. Here we see a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, with the plastic wrapping, bags and trays that surround the produce drawing attention to the over-use of such plastics. It encourages the viewer to perhaps reflect on attempting to reduce their own plastic consumption.
Food for the Family
Slurping Spaghetti, Catherine Falls, Ireland
Nikon D850, 35mm f/1.4, 1/400sec at f/2.5, ISO 800
As with many families, a classic spag bol is always a winner for Catherine’s. Here, her youngest daughter demonstrates exactly why as she tucks into leftovers for lunch.
Catherine tells me she loves seeing the work of other entrants and how others take on the different challenges. At the time of writing this, she didn’t know she had won the first place in this category, but said she was very excited to find out the winners. ‘It’s very rewarding to have your work recognised and celebrated in this way.’
This playful family portrait was shot using a Nikon D850 and Catherine’s ‘trusty’ 35mm lens. ‘I find it is wide enough to capture enough of a scene to tell a story in a single image.’
Catherine’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Good light is everything. When I photograph food I actually prefer very bright sunlight that creates harsh shadows.
- Do what you do best. If you’re a lifestyle photographer, for instance (like me), put people in your image alongside the food. If still life is your bag, concentrate your efforts on creating a delicious meal time set-up.
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year (Europe)
Hot Dog, Alice van Kempen, Netherlands
Nikon Z 7, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/125sec at f/8, ISO 200
Alice is thrilled to have her photo as a finalist, it being the first time she’s entered the competition. This striking image comes from Alice’s series of photographs depicting dogs wearing millstone collars made of food. She says, ‘The right title is almost as important to me as the photo itself. In this case, the title was first – so the chilli peppers were the only choice as a product. The dog is Claire the bull terrier, my favourite model.’
Alice’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Be inspired by other photographers, but never copy.
- Try, experiment, don’t be afraid to fail.
- Read the rules and regulations for any contest. After that, it’s important to choose the right category – a beautiful photo submitted in the wrong category may not be noticed at all, or even be disqualified by a jury.
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year (USA)
Yellow Glads and Lemons, Heidi Egerman, USA
‘Yellow gladiolus from my garden provided the photographic impact for this image. A technique called light painting was used to bring this scene to life. The camera was set to a long exposure in a very dark room. A diffused flashlight was used to paint this scene with light.’
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year (New Zealand)
Kapiti Cityscape, Vanessa Wu, New Zealand
Phase One IQ3, 55mm, 1/125sec at f/4.0, ISO 50
An image shot for Vanessa’s work with the food brand Kapiti, she has created a landscape out of dairy products. Of the awards, she says, ‘I love that you get to see what everyone is doing around the world, and that there are so many different genres in food photography. It’s such a wonderful accolade – I’m super-proud to be among a global network of talented photographers and filmmakers.’
Vanessa’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- For advertising-style work, you need a lot of patience when trying to get something perfect – especially if it’s for packaging.
- Editorial work has more flexibility and a freedom to it.
- When submitting work for a contest, pick the images that make you feel hungry!
Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year – Places
Pommard Pruning, Oscar Oliveras, Spain
Sony A7, Zeiss 50mm, 1/500sec, ISO 500
A great example of how food photography covers so many genres – this would probably be more normally thought of as documentary perhaps. It shows a vineyard worker burning vine branches from the previous season in the Pommard Rugiens vineyard in Burgundy, France.
Oscar loves entering the competition for the level of international coverage the awards receives, and has been a finalist before. He says he’s overwhelmed to once again be next to so many incredible images and talented artists. He pairs his Sony A7 with a Zeiss lens, which he says gives a sharp and crisp look.
Oscar’s top tips for entering Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year:
- Don’t only submit your favourite images.
- Spontaneity and naturality is more important than technique and gear.
Tips for entering the next Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year competition from the judges
Executive Director of Curatorial Exhibitions, LA and former Head of Photographs, the National Portrait Gallery, London
Speaking for myself, I’m always looking for something that expresses humanity. If a photographer can make me see what food means to people -socially, emotionally, spiritually – they will rise to the top.
The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year is unique, because it allows for many different approaches, from still life to portraiture and travel to documentary photography. It can be overwhelming.
- My advice to photographers is whatever mode they’re working in, find their own entry point.
- The best entries show personal insight and display deep understanding.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the judges are looking for a particular style. What we want to see is an expression of yourself, who you are, and what you see.
At Collective (Photographers’ Agent, Rare)
Front and centre, show us your personality, creativity & technicality but don’t forget it must always look to a connection between audience & subject.
I speak for myself here, but I want to be taken on a journey in a multitude of ways. When it comes to advertising, show me an experience. If you’re photographing a dinner party, sell me that emotion, and allow the work to scream fun, anger or passion – connecting with the audience is key.
- Sit & plan your shoot, and consider what you want to achieve. what is your message? what is your subject? How can you approach this like no one else? Do you revive a long-dead technique, light it from above, shoot it from below?
- Consider all the angles and discover what speaks to you in that moment.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new on set, with fellow artists, in post. Not everything will be successful, but you’ll learn.
Director of Education, The RPS
Produce an image that has an immediate impact and which hasn’t been seen before. Many images pick up on the same subjects e.g. drying spices, or a fish market stall, so these need to be distinctive to stand out, but ideally a new approach will be best – so think about getting up close or find an unfamiliar angle – as these can often engage a judge. The judges look at a lot of images in across several categories so that immediate impact is key and ensure a closer look.
- Choose your category(ies) carefully and make sure your image(s) fit it
- Ensure it’s as good as it can be from a technical perspective, so in focus, correctly exposed, and no defects
- Be creative and aim to produce something new and engaging
- Tell as much of a bigger story relevant to the category as you can within one image. It’s hard to do, but an image that tells a larger story will be more engaging
- Think about what you want to show and what story you want to tell. Going through your archive and submitting an image from that doesn’t always work.
Want to see some great photographs, have a look at some of the best photography exhibitions to see!
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- Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2023 shortlist announced
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- Best portrait tips from the pros
- How to create still life flower photos
- How to set up a still life studio
- Transform landscapes with square format