PROFILE

Yasmin Albatoul

Roasted chestnuts in a frying pan on a wooden chopping board.

Canon Ambassador and food photographer Yasmin Albatoul started out sharing her delicious-looking images on social media and quickly gained a huge following. She now shoots product shots for high-profile food brands. "Clients say my shots of their products get more likes and shares," she says. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 37mm, 1/200 sec, f/8 and ISO100. © Yasmin Albatoul

Canon Ambassador Yasmin Albatoul's food images are never just about food. The Algerian photographer's gorgeous, mouthwatering – and sometimes gravity-defying – shots engage the viewer's senses, wherever they are in the world. And it's that connection with her social media followers all across the globe that motivates her as much as the desire to create stunning images.

"We eat food every day, but it's also something special," Yasmin says. "When people see my pictures on social media I want to send them a feeling – to make them hungry and to make them happy."
Specialising in food and product photography was initially a practical choice as much as a creative one for Yasmin. "As a woman, where I live, I'm not able to travel alone or to go around the city to shoot street photography," she says. "When I was at university, my friends always said to me, 'You can't make a living from photography, it's just a hobby'. But I said, 'Yes I can. I can shoot food photography from my home.'"

Yasmin first became interested in photography as a child while looking at images in her grandfather's magazines, but it would be many years before she owned her own camera. Aged 17, she shot a still life image of the Qur'an surrounded by flowers using a camera borrowed from a relative and entered it into a photography competition for young people run by Al Jazeera. She won second prize, which included a simple digital point-and-shoot. "I had a camera of my own for the first time," says Yasmin. "It was wonderful."
A headshot of Canon Ambassador and food photographer Yasmin Albatoul.

Location: Batna, Algeria
Specialist areas: Food and product photography
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
A hand pours oil over a dish of rice and peas topped with a lemon and garnished with herbs.

Because she works solo from home, Yasmin cooks and styles all her own food shots. "In reality, I don't like cooking – it takes too long!" she says. "I just want to shoot pictures." Taken on a Canon EOS 600D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 800D) with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens at 1/500 sec, f/2.2 and ISO100. © Yasmin Albatoul

A top-down shot of herbs, dried fruit and spices laid out on a rough black surface.

"Lighting plays a big role when you're photographing food – in highlighting the details of the subject and the colours. The sharp and direct lighting gives another dimension to this image." Taken on a Canon EOS 600D with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens at 1/160 sec, f/6.3 and ISO200. © Yasmin Albatoul

The following year Yasmin began a degree in psychology at the University of Batna but continued taking pictures in the evenings and during weekends and holidays. To expand her photographic skills, she read books, magazines and websites, and watched YouTube videos.

But it was when Yasmin began sharing her pictures on social media that things really took off. One of her online followers, a fellow female artist from Saudi Arabia, became a mentor, sharing insights with her about photography and still life and funding her new camera: a Canon EOS 600D.
A dusting of powdered chocolate falls onto two squares of chocolate brownie.

"I can spend hours in the kitchen and then hours taking pictures," says Yasmin. "Sometimes it takes a whole day to get a couple of photos." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens at 1/160 sec, f/3.2 and ISO100. © Yasmin Albatoul

Coffee splashes over the rim of a glass as it's poured from a copper ladle.

"When I started out I thought that food photography was all about composition, but I realise now that it's all about light," says Yasmin. "The light is what makes a picture beautiful." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/100 sec, f/5 and ISO250. © Yasmin Albatoul

Yasmin began freelancing as a photographer covering events and graduations at university, along with the occasional wedding. As well as shooting food from home, she also worked part-time as a clinical psychologist. After completing a master's in Clinical Psychology in 2018, she began a PhD at the Université de Sétif in Algeria, and at the same time, started working at Innova Studio, a photographic studio in the city. "They were already doing weddings and events but not food," Yasmin explains. "So I asked, 'why don't you shoot food photography?' That's how I started working with them in 2019."

Filled with cutting-edge equipment, the studio offered an incredible learning curve for Yasmin, as well as a great source of clients. And although the following year brought Covid-19 restrictions, her career was on the ascent. After winning $1,000 in the XPOSURE International Photography Festival competition in 2020, she upgraded to a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Yasmin is now commissioned by brands such as Danone, Kiri Foods, Laboratoires Vénus and L'Ombre Collection to share her shots of their products on Instagram, which get thousands of likes. "The client sends me their food or cosmetics and says, 'We just want to see our product look beautiful'," Yasmin explains.
How did you start shooting food or drink suspended in the air?
"I'm always looking for something new, thinking, 'what can I do next'? For me, food photography is not just about good composition and colours. I also want people to ask themselves, 'how did she take that photo'? Food photography is generally very static, but cooking is full of action, so I wondered how I could bring that action to my photography." 

What techniques do you use to achieve this? 
"I started by using the shutter speed and continuous shooting mode to freeze splashing liquid. It was difficult at first. Sometimes I'd take hundreds of pictures just to see one photo that captures the splash of water or coffee or juice. After this I realised that if I could take photos of a splash, why couldn't I make other dishes fly? I started learning lots of techniques. Sometimes I use shutter speed, sometimes I use accessories. For example, I use threads to keep objects stable, take the picture and then edit them out." 

How do you decide which dishes to make with the products you're shooting?
"I'm always looking for simple foods to photograph that don't take too long to cook so it leaves me more time for shooting. I always think, 'how can I cook food that will look delicious in a photograph – not for eating'. It's easy to shoot salad because it's fresh so it doesn't change like some food. A steaming cup of tea, for example, cools over time. You have to work quickly."

Social media has been a catalyst for your career. How did you build your following?
"I've done sponsored Instagram posts for different brands, not only based in Algeria but internationally, in Pakistan, France, India and Canada. That helped. But mainly it is about working hard to create images that make people say 'wow!' and want to share with their friends. I also sometimes write something in the post encouraging people to share the image."

One thing I know

Yasmin Albatoul

"Food photography isn't just about the final dishes. It's about everything around that – the ingredients, the cooking and the eating. When I think about composition, I think about how I can make the viewer imagine that they are eating the food, whether that is by placing the plate in the centre of the frame or showing a hand pouring some coffee. It's about the feeling or the message that I am trying to transmit, and that can connect people all around the world."

Facebook: YasminAlBtoul.Ph

Instagram: @yasmin_albatoul

Website: www.yasminalbatoul.com

Yasmin Albatoul's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Cameras

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Designed to perform in every situation, the EOS 5D Mark IV is beautifully engineered and a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder. "I bought this camera with prize money from a competition," says Yasmin. "It had been my dream to own one for many years."

Canon EOS 800D

The successor to the EOS 600D that Yasmin first started shooting with is a sophisticated DSLR that's easy to use. "The EOS 600D was a great first camera – so easy to use – and my clients were always happy with the results. I learnt a lot with it," she says.

Lenses

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work and handheld movie-making, thanks to its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh. "This is my favourite lens ever because it is great for details in food photography," says Yasmin.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

A wide aperture lens for high-quality portraits and low-light photos. Yasmin says: "I use it when I want a wider shot showing the table set out for dinner or lunch."

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