Thinking like a chef to save your dollars

free photography tutorial banner

I’ve always been a bit of a foodie. I love my cooking and I love to experiment with new cuisines and dishes. I actually learnt this appreciation of food from my Dad, who is well known in our friend and family circles as the chef of the house. I’ve also been a tech head in the past, loving gadgets and appliances that I bought to help enhance my cooking performance. And in a way, this is kind of how my photography journey came about; a passion for images followed by a passion for collecting image making gadgets to help improve my photography, and it raises a question that I get asked over and over again by my workshop participants; what should I be investing in next to improve my photography? And the simple answer is this: think like a chef.

This weekend’s workshops!

Saturday, July 23rd


You see, if you’ve ever seen a professional chef at work they don’t usually have state of the art, non-stick teflon pans, nor do they have the latest and greatest oven. These guys are masters at their work because they know what they are doing with the ingredients they have. Sure the equipment they use does help and can make aspects of their cooking easier, but if you gave a chef the choice between the latest technology frypan or some new and exciting ingredients to experiment with, I’m pretty sure I know which one they would take. So today I want to provide an insight into how to make your photography investment choices easier with some simple cooking tips and they go in order from cheapest to most expensive.

1. New ingredients are the spice of life – Cost: $0

If you’ve ever seen Ready Steady Cook, you would know that a highly experienced chef can make something pretty amazing out of very little but for the majority of budding cooks, fresh and creative ingredients are the key to a meal with some wow factor. Flip to the photography side of the coin and I’m talking about getting out there and experiencing new scenes and new things. Invest money in your experiences and even your iPhone photos will come out more impressive than the full-frame photographer who does the same thing over and over again. After some inspiration? Why not consider a road trip? A camping holiday? Or maybe just invest some extra time in getting up a little earlier to see sunrise at your local beach? Investing your time is the first step to improving your photography.

2. Don’t just grab a cook book – Cost $90-$300

There is only so far that youtube and cook books can take you. They often prescribe very specific recipes that give you amazing results… but for a dish that already exists. When was the last time you saw a photo that really inspired you and made you think? That is where the art of education comes into both cooking and photography. Learn how to put the ingredients together on youtube but then invest in finding someone who can inspire you to learn how to create your own visual recipes that are different from the rest. Education and mentoring is the second investment for overall improvement.

3. Get some new utensils – Cost $500-1500

Have you ever tried to make homemade fettuccini without a pasta roller? I have… and let me tell you, it can be done but it’s pretty tricky and takes a huge amount of practice. Fettuccini is one of those rather specific things that, whilst can be done with basic gear, it a whole lot easier to achieve brilliant and consistent results with a simple piece of equipment. That’s right, I’m talking some nice lenses. A great photographer can achieve stunning images with almost any lens but there are specific looks and feels that require good, fast prime lenses attached to the front of your camera. New lenses are the third investment in improving and the first hardware-related investment – they allow you to achieve images simply not possible without the specialised kit.

4. Replace the oven – Cost $1000+

Ovens are expensive and to be honest, outside of a specific few high end, fancy-pants ovens they all actually do one simple task; they heat up to the temperature set and they hold it there. Cameras are kind of similar, some are faster, some are less noisy, some are smaller, some are more digital but ultimately a camera captures the beautiful ingredients coming coming into it and bakes it into visual delight. It’s critical to think about this step though because often photographers first thoughts are ‘I need to replace my camera with the new one’… is a new oven really the answer to better cooking? If you’re coming from an old wood fire stove then yeah, it will probably transform your capabilities but for most of us, we get caught up in the ‘this-year’s-model’ mentality. Replacing the camera is usually the last step to improving.

They say we eat with our eyes first and the same goes with photography. A poorly plated meal never tastes quite as good as the same ingredients that have been presented like an art form. Presentation takes practice, inspiration and thought and so does our photography. Investing in your photography from the roots doesn’t sound as fun as a new shiny toy but ultimately it will lead you to making the right decisions about your equipment and what you really need to get the job done and will take away the crutch of reliance on high performance machinery, instead forcing your to be more creative, more adventurous and inspire new styles in your work. So what does all of this mean? Get off the seat, get outside, find a workshop, learn which lenses will aid your vision and when you’ve mastered those elements, upgrade your oven and start the learning process again!

Share this Post