The right ingredients

If you think creating Michelin-star dishes has little in common with creating great photographs, think again. During the final week BBC Masterchef 2016, the finalists were challenged with producing dishes devised by chef, Daniel Humm.

After training in his native Switzerland, Humm opened a restaurant in New York. Within a few years, Eleven Madison Park had gained three Michelin stars, been voted the best restaurant in America and ranked as the fifth best restaurant in the world. So what is it that elevates Humm’s food from a good piece of cooking to a work of creative expression deserving of such accolades? Humm told the Masterchef contestants that his recipe for success is devising dishes that:

  • produce an instant sensation;
  • look beautiful and effortless;
  • are creative and deliver something unexpected; and
  • tell a story and have a reason for being.

It struck me that this philosophy could apply equally to creating great images. For me, a great image is one that produces an instant sensation; it grabs and holds my attention by provoking an emotion, stirring a memory, making me question or pause for thought, or piquing my curiosity. It also tells a story; by that I mean that it transcends the merely pictorial by conveying in a single frame something that cannot be expressed easily in words. A great image also communicates the photographer’s unique vision of the world to deliver something creative and unexpected.

To put my theory through its paces, I applied Humm’s recipe for success to some of my favourite images (pictured in the slideshow below). Needless to say, everyone passed the ‘Humm test’. So I may be booking up for a three-Michelin star meal…all in the name of improving my photography.

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  1. So true. Maybe a great photograph is all about triggering a perfect mix of memories, associations and emotions in the viewer? It’s the subtlety of the way these aspects come together that gives that inexplicable sense that you’re looking at something more than ‘just’ an image.


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