I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon Melissa Delport’s work but I’m sure glad it happened! She’s a young, vibrant food photographer from Cape Town who claims her hidden talent is eating more than the average Joe, which we think fits her career perfectly.
Her background story
Melissa grew up in Johannesburg. At the age of 15 her family moved to Durban, after which she returned to Jo’burg to study photography but later threw chance to the wind and decided to settle in Cape Town.
As far back as nursery school she can remember always feeling a strong connection with a life of creativity, never even dreaming of working in the corporate industry. Her greatest influences in life come from her love of the arts and then, her mother, a master of flavours and an excellent cook who taught Melissa most of what she knows today.
The discovery of food photography
Although she had always been quite the serious home cook, she only found out how deep that love was rooted into who she is after entering Master Chef SA Season 3. “I had my 30 seconds of fame and it changed my life. Like a beast unleashed, I knew I had to be in the food industry.” And as fate would have it, a friend who was opening up a burger bar in Cape Town needed photographs for his burger menu and the rest was history.
Food evokes emotion
Going through Melissa’s blog, The Truffle Journal, her photos make you salivate with the craving for her photographic creations and that is what makes her happy! “My first and foremost goal is that people must get hungry when they look at my photographs. If you don’t, I am not doing my job.” She describes her style as very much “memory centred”, evoking emotion and achieving a response from people; be it a memory around food or a need to eat and share a new food memory. “Whether I shoot natural light or flash I want people to get hungry!”
Using a food stylist or not, all depends whether I am shooting with a client and if they have the budget for it. On bigger jobs, I prefer working with a food stylist as it allows me to dedicate all of my energy on what I do best. “It can be a bit manic if I do it all and I believe that you can create powerhouse work when you collaborate correctly with other creatives.” She adds that all of the photographs on her blog, The Truffle Journal, is cooked, styled and photographed herself; it’s her space to share her creative voice.
Going through her website and being a HUGE fan of ice-cream myself, I just had to know whether or not she used artificial light and if she got to eat the ice cream after the shoot.
“Everything was shot with natural light believe it or not.” She went on to explain that she really enjoyed that day since she could eat as much of the ice cream as she possibly could! When she shoots for her blog she ALWAYS eats the food since it’s hers, but if it’s for a client or a restaurant she will only eat the food if they offer. She believes that assuming the food is available for you to eat is just rude. Melissa then admits, “It can be hard because sometimes I photograph the most amazing food and then watch it go back to the kitchen!” we here at Outdoorphoto must agree, it sounds quite excruciating.
Less gear means travelling light
She doesn’t consider herself very gear-conscious but it hasn’t always been that way. Two years ago she decided to sell ALL of her gear and states that it was the best decision she’s ever made since it allowed her to focus less on constantly upgrading gear and more on developing her skill as photographer and blogger. She bought the 5D Mk III camera body with a 24-70mm lens which she uses with her tripod and a skrim, preferring to travel as light as possible when on the job. She doesn’t really like to shoot food with a flash but it all depends on the job and what the client requires.
“A magician never shares his secrets!”
I asked her to share her workflow when it comes to post-processing and she jokingly said that a magician never shares his secrets. She then admittedly said that she strongly believes that you have to get the shot perfect in-camera. The photo-selections she does using bridge and the processing in Capture one or camera RAW and then from there she will tweak the images using Photoshop. We all know learning by reading is one thing but learning by doing is the better option and she would definitely put herself in the second category. She firmly believes that to take a good food photograph one has to make sure the food looks mouthwatering and stay true to its colour!
Crazy Dreams and Creative Recipes
Melissa considers her craziest dream has to be eating at all of the 3 star Michelin restaurants, within the Michelin calendar year. Constantly creative in the kitchen, she shares amazing recipes on her blog, which she would love to expand. In the future she is hoping to travel much more and is just dying to go to Melbourne since the food scene is rapidly expanding there. Considering that there isn’t one travel opportunity she’d say no to, she imagines how amazing it’ll be to experience cultures through their food and to capture it all in photographs.
We are so grateful that Melissa Delport took the time to answer our questions and share with us the bubbly person behind The Truffle Journal. Our wish for her is to follow her dreams of travelling more and to one day reach her goal of having eaten at all the 3-star Michelin restaurants in the Michelin calendar year.
If you’d like to see more of Melissa’s delicious work, just have a look at her social media pages below: