Monique and color theory in her work

Can you introduce yourself – who you are and what you do

I’m Monique Sourinho and my instagram is My website is currently undergoing a makeover but my blog is also Bee the Love. I am a food/restaurant photographer, lifestyle and commercial food stylist, as well as a recipe developer.

When did you start food photography and how did you learn, and how long did it take you to change this passion into a full time job?

I started food photography a little less than 3 years ago. I was in school working towards my pastry certificate while working at an ice cream shop when I decided to buy a camera and teach myself how to photograph in manual. I used Pinterest and Youtube. I started by photographing people but one day it clicked to merge my admiration for photography with my love of food. The defining moment of turning my passion into a full time job was when I went through a breakup. I moved back with my parents which was an hour away from where I worked. I left the job and simply decided to focus on food. I haven’t looked back since. I think it was more of a fight or flight response and I chose to push on through.

What type of projects do you do and what clients you work with? 

I categorize what I do into two sections. I have my personal callings, and then I have work-work, but they all relate to food haha! For instance, I develop recipes for brands like Misfits Market, Almond Cow, Laird Superfood, and Edible Communities. What they all have in common is a focus on food, nutrition and sustainability. However, I also work with other types of clients, with a team of people/agencies, by styling for more commercial-focused brands like Subway, Jarlsberg Cheese, and Zenb. Another part of what I do that I don’t focus on is influencer projects. Some clients include Le Creuset, Disaronno, and Empress Gin.

On my down time, or my personal time, I still develop recipes, style, and photograph. I enjoy exploring my local communities and connecting on different levels, listening to people’s stories. Through photography and through food, a lot of doors open. I learn something new every day and I do whatever I can to continue diving into these topics with like-minded people deeper and deeper. It’s very much a way of life for me. I am enamored by people and their passions, so much that it fuels my own passions to continue the cycling forward. In other words: I really love what I do.

This month, we are talking about colors in food photography. How do you approach colors in your work? 

I approach colors in food by asking what the objective is. Colors can influence a viewer’s feelings and emotions. If the goal is to stop people in their tracks, a bold primary color works wonders. However, for a more calm approach, neutral colors like gray, beige, and muted tones are the way to go. In my personal work, I prefer neutral earth-tones. My life can get pretty busy so I catch myself wondering often if I subconsciously want a sense of stillness. Another part of why I choose soothing tones is because I want the focus to be on the food. Then again, everything is situational to what the purpose of the entire photoshoot is.

Do you decide on a color scheme before you start setting up your scene or when color combination comes into your mind?

I do! Depending on what food I photograph I like to highlight or subtly compliment colors that are in larger blocks. By that I mean, sometimes I visualize the entire scene into blocks of color, totally disengaging with the fact it is food at all. I painted portraits before this food direction, so it might have something to do with that habit. Since photography is taking 3D objects and capturing it in a 2D way, I think about how it translates from the angle I photograph. Some questions I ask are, what are the top colors that catches my eye and how can I enhance that through combining or toning down colors?

What are your most favourite color schemes (when it comes to food photography images)

I’m not sure I have a favorite. I admire ALL, though for the sake of staying “on brand” as far as colors go, I lean towards beige, gray, light blues, and sun-kissed colors. I prefer colors that are non-invasive, and gentle on the eyes. As far as consumerism goes, the goals are to hyper-sensualize to draw people in. There is a lot of psychology behind colors and how people react to them. Personally, becoming aware of certain intentions, I prefer the feeling of “organic” versus persuading someone’s reactions through the use of specific colors or color combinations. (I suggest researching the psychology behind the Facebook blue or McDonald’s red and yellow.) I should note that I haven’t had a favorite color since I was 6. 6 year old me loved bubblegum pink and periwinkle. Though after that age, to this day, I still cannot decide what my TRUE favorite color is because I love all of them and I love the different feelings each individual color evokes as much as I love the combinations.

How has your “color” style developed over years?

In the beginning I  was all over the place. I opted for “moodier” color style by use darker grays and navy blue backdrops. Then I shifted to a bright pink and yellow phase as I dived into pop art. After that I went through a blue phase, then a pastel phase… and currently I’m hovering back to the neutrals. It’s not set in stone but I have a feeling I’ll be lingering with neutrals. When focusing on the vibrancy of natural, organic produce, there’s so many colors provided by nature that I think, who would want to take away from that? (And I don’t have enough space in my apartment to dive into more colors at the moment haha.) Even if I had more space for props and surfaces and sorts, I’d stick to muted colors anyways. It’s definitely a personal choice. My personality is not that “forward” either though.

What do you find challenging when it comes to colors? Is there any color scheme that you find difficult to approach? 

When it comes to colors, the most challenging thing is deciding. Colors can go a lot of ways, so again, I circle back to, what is the purpose/goal/objective? I wouldn’t say color schemes are difficult to approach. Moreover I feel I have to get over my biases for why I like certain colors more than others haha. For example, some client projects call for bright and vivid, and a lot of it. Sometimes there can be a lot going on and it might not harmonize as an entire image as initially envisioned. I guess the challenging part is deciphering what feels balanced or not.

What can you advise to our members who are at the beginning of the food photography journey and start learning about color theory?

For beginners I highly recommend playing and practicing colors against a white surface, then a black surface, then a gray. Start with the basics and observe the relationship of that colored subject against those staples. Next, add more colors and study again. Look at the colors of the shadows, the colors of the the object next to another object, and look at how colors shift in soft lighting versus harsh sunlight. There is a lot to learn in those simple things that is key for unlocking much more. Every intricate image can be broken down to basics. Pick up a color wheel and train your eye. Have fun with it! By all means, have fun! There is no right or wrong way to learn, because if you are passionate enough, you will learn one way or another, and continuously so. There is a quote someone shared with me: “Origin of Genius is 1 Percent Inspiration and 99 Percent Perspiration” – Thomas Edison In other words, things take practice, patience and dedication. You can take advice of a handful of different people but it won’t make the same amount of sense as putting things into action will. It’s a different level of understanding being hands on.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? 

I find inspiration from nature mainly. Sometimes inspiration comes from random moments and conversations. I live near the ocean in a place that has all four seasons. Sometimes my inspiration comes from sunrise, slowly pouring light onto the earth, softly awakening the vibrancy the world has to offer. Sometimes inspiration comes from sunset, where things fade off into the glow of the moonlight. For me, life is so poetic, and I wish to translate that feeling through what I do.

Can you please show 2 images of yours, and talk about “behind the scenes” – why you made certain decisions when it comes to colors. 

For this image I wanted to focus on the salmon, the nori, and the speckled bowl. I chose the backdrop because it reminded me of the ocean and the collaboration was for “How to Make Salmon Maki Rolls”. So, not only was the backdrop setting the tone, it was to contrast against the color of the salmon. It also matches the blue-greenish tones that reflect off the nori and sesame seeds which was a bonus. Since the packaging of the nori and rice vinegar are a little bright, and I wanted to show the brands for reference, I desaturated the colors to fade into the entire scene a bit better. I also chose the quieter, almost dulling tones, to give off a more “masculine” vibe since the person I collaborated with is far from flamboyant. Though colors aren’t exactly masculine or feminine, research suggests that people associate blue, black and white as more masculine, whereas higher, brighter intensity colors tend to “increase femininity”. But take that with a grain of salt. There are no “rules” or right or wrong or sexual identity or anything.

For this image I focused on the idea and feelings of a summer afternoon. I wanted to focus on the color of the lobster by using softer colors to frame it. Because the overall image is brighter I desaturated the blues and brightened the luminance. I kicked up the shadows so it all fades in comparison to the red of the main subject. I also wanted it to feel like a laid back evening. If I used brighter, bolder versions of red yellow and blue, then the colors overall would be more “zippy” or give off a heightened feeling of urgency or action. I matched the color of the drink to the lemons and butter to help distribute the yellow amongst the image. Overall, the use of primary colors has a range for its uses but is overall pleasing to the eye and attention-grabbing

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