Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Inspiring Visual Stories | Marte Marie Forsberg | Skillshare

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Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Inspiring Visual Stories

teacher avatar Marte Marie Forsberg, Author, Food and Lifestyle Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment: Capture Afternoon Tea


    • 3.

      Shooting at Home


    • 4.

      Finding the Story


    • 5.

      Shooting at a Cafe


    • 6.

      Light, Details, and Final Thoughts


    • 7.

      Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

Join photographer Marte Marie Forsberg to learn her inspired approach to lifestyle photography! Whether you're photographing for a blog or Instagram, or simply want to capture a beautiful meal, you'll learn how to capture stunning stories in a styled yet natural way.

This 20-minute online class is all about capturing a story, giving you tools and tactics to capture everyday moments with artistry. Taking place at her thatched English cottage, lessons touch on inspiration, styling, shooting, and editing — so that you can successfully capture a setting, its food, and the life surrounding it.

Beautifully shot, full of inspiration, and brimming with insights, this class is perfect for beginning and pro photographers alike. It's a welcome reminder of small moments that are truly perfect.


What You'll Learn

  • Visual storytelling. Marte Marie uses light and simple compositions to create beautiful, evocative food and lifestyle photos. In her series of lessons, she invites you to her beautiful cottage to discuss her artistic process. You will follow along as Marte Marie selects, styles, and shoots two scenes – a "breakfast story" in her kitchen, and an "afternoon tea story" in a local pub. Whether you are creating visuals for an Instagram feed, a website, or for print photo journalism, you will leave Marte Marie's lesson inspired by this detailed look at how she creates her work.
  • Creating your own. Marte Marie will ask you to submit three photographs that tell an "afternoon tea story" of your own, however you conceptualize it. The setting can be any environment you choose and the details are yours to decide. You can use whatever camera you have on hand – even if it's one attached to an iPhone! Afterwards, if you want feedback, you will have the option of uploading your work to share with Marte Marie and the rest of the class.
  • Dynamic still-life photography. You will learn how to highlight people, capture conversations and showcase flavors using Marte Marie's simple photographic techniques. She will explore how mood boards keep her eyes fresh and inspire her color and light decisions, and she will share the secrets she relies on to make her best shots "come alive."
  • Working with light. Light is the most important tool that Marte Marie uses to tell her visual stories. You will learn how to "live in the shadows," to create moody works by playing with light, directing where it hits, or blocking it out entirely. Marte Marie will discuss simple ways to test lighting to build the kind of atmosphere that lets your subject take center stage.
  • Finding the story. You will watch as Marte Marie demonstrates how she hones her visual stories to express only the most pertinent and important details. She will discuss how she keeps compositions simple but effective, simmering down the essence of an on-location journalism photo or beefing up an at-home still-life to create beautiful, focused photographs every time.
  • Food styling. Marte Marie shapes her visual story with keywords that keep her photographs on-message. You'll learn important visual style rules like the "element of three" and how it helps make even quick compositions feel dynamic. Marte Marie will also touch on how the height of objects plays into how she styles her work, and how she uses household items to keep setting and lighting simple. Using her tips, you'll keep the focus on your food – not the background!  
  • Simple tools. Marte Marie's method is quick, simple, and approachable, and her toolkit is the same. She will touch on how she uses iPhones and cheap camera lenses to capture images for web and print – and what mobile applications she depends on to process her work on the fly, too!
  • Depending on the details. In food and lifestyle photography, visual details can make or break an image. Marte Marie will bring your attention to the smallest choices she makes – about crumbs, flour, and butter texture – that help create rustic, moody shots and threads them together to make a visual story out of individual photographs.

Meet Your Teacher

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Marte Marie Forsberg

Author, Food and Lifestyle Photographer


Join my new online Photography course via the link below:

Marte Marie Forsberg is a self-taught food and lifestyle photographer from Norway living in a cottage in the English countryside.

Today Marte Marie works for food and lifestyle magazines around the world and has a varied list of clients in the food and fashion industries.

She regularly collaborates with brands on location, and in her charming little cottage studio in the English countryside that she now calls home.

She loves new assignments and work pushes her to dig deeper, to grow, and challenges her as an artist.


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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Marte Marie Forsberg and I run the Marte Marie Forsberg Photography. I started the company about two and a half years ago, and I work as a food and lifestyle photographer, creating visual stories around food. I'm a self-taught photographer, and it was until later in life, after I turn a degree in Fashion Design and then a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, that I was like, "I miss being creative. I miss working and telling stories and creating things with my hands." So I signed up for a photographer class in university in my last semester, and I fell in love with the professor. He was my age, so it's all fine. I definitely was smitten by his way of capturing and telling these stories about people and landscape. Since I missed home, I lived in the States at the time, I began recreating dishes from my childhood that my mom had baked me as a child and sort of a way of remembering her and my home in Norway. Then I began training on photographing that and discovering light again as the main tool of telling those stories. So, I take photos both on location and in my cottage studio. I am so drawn to this little cottage because of the light. Again, as a photographer, that is my main tool I think, and this cottage has very moody light that definitely affects my Instagram feed for those of you who follow there. I do a lot of editorial work. It's really fun to when you're being asked to create a whole story which includes also researching for the recipes, and then styling, and then shooting which is my favorite type of project. Because then I can wake up, go down to my cottage kitchen, and create these stories. The title of this class is Lifestyle Photography and just capturing people, flavors, and conversations around food, obviously. The main theme is visual storytelling. We're going to break that down into light and composition. So, those are the key elements in our visual storytelling that we'll work on throughout the day. So, we're going to start creating breakfast scene in my cottage kitchen, and then after that, we're going to the pub where we are going to create an afternoon tea scene, which we'll be starting and you can tell your own visual story. So we're really excited about teaching this class. Whether you are just wanting to create stories for your Instagram feed or whether you want to update your Website, whether you actually work as a photographer and maybe want to be inspired just by a different way of using light, then I think this class will have a lot of things to offer and it might be exciting to get a new peek into how I work with food and telling their visual story. 2. Your Assignment: Capture Afternoon Tea: The project for this class is to tell an afternoon tea story of your choice and what afternoon tea means to you. I chose afternoon tea just because I enjoy it every day and it's one of my favorite scenes to capture. Whether you live in London and you have a take-out a coffee and a biscuit and you go to the park and you arrange it there, or you're in your own apartment and you bake a cake and make a bigger setting of it or just documenting it in your favorite cafe. I'm going to be using my Canon 5D Mark two but what's so great about this class you really don't need a whole lot of gear, you can use your smart phone in capturing the story that way, or if you shoot film, you can just scan it as long as you can upload it digitally and share it with the class and with me. For this project you really don't need to use a lot of time if you don't want to. You can fit it in with your schedule the way it is, you could just have a 15 minute coffee break then bring your iPhone and shoot that, since it's all about light and composition. Well don't be afraid to go darker, don't be afraid to underexpose because we are going to work in moody food photography here, we are going to live in the shadows. If you get stuck when it comes to composition don't be afraid to take things out. Sometimes these fewer pieces on the table will be able to tell a story better because you take out and you're left with the essence of the story. You don't necessarily need to have a table set for 10, it could just be again one or two cups. If you get really, really stuck you don't know what to do, just take everything away and start again. I think what will be helpful when you are approaching to create the scene or documenting it in your cafe, is define three words that help to describe the scene so that you can tell the visual story based on those three words. You open up the doors to this cafe, what meets you? Is it the sound of the buzz of the people, is it the light, is it the smell? Then how can you find a way of harnessing all that in your shot to tell that story of that experience better. So that's part of what I'll be looking for and I think it will help you shoot your project as well. I think the most important for you is to just have fun. Just lean back and enjoy creating these settings or capturing a setting in a cafe. Don't take it too seriously I think when we do we tend to tense up but just have fun and enjoy your afternoon tea experience and try to capture that enjoyment that you find in having it. 3. Shooting at Home: Sometimes I create mood boards for photo shoots. I'm taking inspiration for all kinds of things around me. I rarely look at blogs. Just because I wanted to stay fresh, I wanted to be my interpretation of the story and creating the whole story on my own. So, I look a lot of fashion magazines to get a sense of color, shape light. So, this one I tore out and I love that the color scheme here. So, this is this color scheme we're going to go for today. The colors I love is this ochre color and so it's going to be very rustic, this is very elegant. So, a lot of times you tear at images and it won't necessarily be that we're not going to- we are not going to recreate the scene, but there's element to this photograph that I'm going to take out and work with and also here it's the sense of natural light and also all the darkness around is very moody. So, obviously there not going to be any people involved but we're taking elements from this photograph and working with it. When it comes to composition, I've just given some examples from Instagram shots as I see, if I'm setting up a quick scene, I tend to use the element of three. There's different interpretations of three. Here's obviously mortar and pestle, some garlic and some pepper, that's the element of three. There might be more pieces in there but the main elements are three. Same here with the scissor and some spring onions. So, this all sort of elements of three that might help you when you set up that, if you have too many things on the table, just go back to thinking, all right, number three. How can we create that scene? For the shoot we're going to style today in my kitchen it's a breakfast scene. According to the tear sheet that we had on the mood board earlier, it was ochre colors, it was very naturally lit, it was dark in mood in a bit rustic. So, that's the scene I'm setting today and I've chosen different props that have the same color scheme that they will complement each other not too many patterns or too many colors that knock each other out and so the food can take center stage. I have drape the kitchen walls here in black, but that's mainly because I want to stop light, because we're going to be working in moody darker side of food photography. The backdrop is fairly important, and today I've chosen an old barn door just to keep things very quiet and calm, then we can add elements of color, the ochre color that we saw at the tear sheet earlier. If you don't have a lot of fabric to drape around your kitchen, these boards are really great just black on one side and white on the other. Easy balance a bit of fill light in on your food and also to stop light, to create that dark and moody photography. I think when it comes to setting the scene and telling this visual story about breakfast scene and bringing it to life, it's leaving things a little bit natural and raw, of course in your project you can use as minimalistic and clean as you want. But for this purpose as we are creating a rustic breakfast scene. I've left butter that's not completely wiped and perfect it's got some edges and bits. I think crumbs of the bread for falling a bit out, just some spill, don't be so worried, just have fun and incorporate that into making the scene feel more alive and realistic. So, the hero of the day, our bread, sprinkle some flour on top. Just because I wanted to have that freshly coming out of the oven feel to it and also I want to add some elements of life to the setting. First, it will be an overview shot. So, I'm just going to go up here get from up high, capture enough of negative space around the bread. This is obviously all up to you but I like to capture the roundness of the bread so that I get the whole silhouette and also the shadow that's occurs on this side. Just for simple reasons, I'm just using one lens today. That's a 50 millimeter, and it's your good all-round lens, when you travel, you do food photography, it's a good all-round and also minimal investment if you want to begin as a photographer. I keep playing with different heights and obviously you can be cropping later if you feel like, oh, that was too far off. I think when I shoot this will be the same with a DSLR or the iPhone, it's all about finding the right angle and, of course, you may have your phone, it's a lot easier. You don't have to adjust anything. You just tap with your finger. There's lot of different apps. I just shoot with the in-house camera that it comes with mainly because I just want things to go fast. So again, it's just trying to find your angle. I always shoot in square because everything I shoot for Instagram is always on shot in my iPhone. Then I find it hard, if I shoot the normal rectangular photo mode, and then later cropping in and like, I didn't get enough. But then if you shoot in square, you know that you've got everything you need. We've had the face down on the bread, we've captured the introduction image if you'd like to a story. The part two, we'll be working on very muted colors again like we did on the first shot. So, we're just going to bring in those elements again, keeping this crumbs that fall off the flour, keeping it all there. Again, this is obviously the triangle and that's a very easy setup. So, what I'm going to capture the scene, I'm trying to find the angle, where does the light hit and need to hit in order to tell the story. Because if it's all in darkness and I've just this part isn't catching light, the most part of the story is happening in darkness. So, I need to find where that edge is. Again, I have my handout seeing where here light disappears, here it is. Same on the table you just try around. Right here there's a line of light and dropping off. So, this is where I think I would begin to play with it. Most of the things I want right now is in light. So, if you wanted to create a little bit moodier, you would push it back so that maybe light hits right in the middle. It's all about playing around and finding the right angle. So, we're going to set scene number three. We've cleaned out what we did in Scene 1 and Scene 2 because I want this to be where everyone sits down and enjoys their breakfast; the bread, the orange juice. So, we're going to set all that up as the breakfast table. As I'm setting this up what's important to keep in mind is the height and how you're going to shoot it. If I'm going to shoot this from above and down and you will need to think about how high and how low the elements are. If I'm going to shoot it from the side, do you want the jug to be the same size as your glasses? So, it's all about playing around having fun and trying in the end. So, I'm just going through some of the shots that we've taken with my iPhone during the setup of setting one, two and three. I'm going through which ones I like the most, finding where define the story and this is before I've edited any of them and you should try to really get it the way I want in the phone before I edit because then I know that whatever I do editing is just enhancing what's already there. So, here I would have definitely underexposed a little bit more, which I will do when I edit, and I always sharpen and then finding what I love how you can see the flour. So, I use Bosco a lot. That's just because they have the tools that I like. It's an easy platform. They've got a lot of templates that are already there. Filters to put on that I've really enjoy working with. So, I can just take any of these and I know from the get-go most of them I don't put a filter on, all I do, wish I could do an Instagram now I guess is to sharpen it. It's all very subtle, yeah. Like I'd add a skin tone to this, it's only because I know it's a little bit red. I don't want it to be too desaturated. I want to add some tone to it. So, the bread again looks alive. Delimiter vignette to just, again, enhance the moodiness, and there we go. So, basically all I've done is just sharpen it, underexpose it a bit and add vignette. If it doesn't have enough coloring, I would add some code to its cheeks. We've already created a scene here in the cottage, create our breakfast scene and now we're going to take a lovely walk and end up in the pub where we're going to document the scene using the same elements, light, visual storytelling and composition, in telling the story document it again in one shot. 4. Finding the Story: I have always loved telling visual stories. I think I was photography even before I touched my fast camera. Because when I remember my childhood, I can remember sort of seeing these scenes of my mother in the hammock with the leaves casting a shadow, all light on her face and how the green colors of the leaves change when they're dark and when they light as the sun passes through them. So, when I recall my childhood, I'm like, "Oh, I've always been a photographer." So, when I started out as a photographer two and a half years ago, I definitely sort of changed, not necessarily how I see things but the tool of light, how I use light in capturing the story and in telling a story. In the beginning, I think, when I had to film scene, I wasn't quite sure what's the essence? What's the story? What's going on? And as I've done more work within capturing these stories, you began to having sitting down and you see that's why the stories. You can come into a restaurant and instead of opening up and taking a picture of the whole restaurant, while we're setting like, "Wait a second, it's actually the sound of the wine glasses, or the fireplace blowing, or the pizza oven." And then you start finding out what it is that you feel when you enter into that restaurant and also how to capture it so you can tell that story. 5. Shooting at a Cafe: So, now I've been in the cottage and we've talked about how to create a scene, and when you're out and about, favorite park, you've had your takeout latte, or you go to the tea house and have your afternoon tea. This is more about documenting the scene and finding little things in the setting like the texture of the walls or a bay window, anything that's simmers it down to the essence of that place and you have a cup of tea or do your biscuit, or your short bread and try to capture the atmosphere surrounding it. For me, it's all about the light whenever I shoot. So, I've just got a few little pieces here, just a teapot, and a cup and saucer to set the scene. Again, it's like that number three; two things that are the main ingredients and then one little extra, and this is that number three that we talked about in the cottage. So, right now I am testing the light, that's what I normally do. I will just go bring out my iPhone and see in and it is very dim and it's lovely because it's super soft light coming in from the window. I like the setup. You got a little bit of the wall, a little bit of the window, and that little tea setting. So, that's what I'm going to try to capture. So, try to capture the obviously little moment by the window and trying to find an angle where that seems to come through and these all have to pump up the lights a little bit later and that's all right. You can work with these things in post. As long as you are probably even crop that out. So, feel free to play around in post as well if you want, but there's plenty of things to capture. 6. Light, Details, and Final Thoughts: I think key things to think about when you're working with natural light is the angle for where it's coming from and how it hits the subject, when that being food or photographing these often teas areas and the breakfast story. It's all about where the light and the shadow hits each other. That's where the magic happens. So, it's trying to find one light source. So, when you're walking from the window, say you're working with natural light, try to turn off the rest of the light in the room so that it's one strong light source. That will create these beautiful shadows hitting on your food that will make the stories come alive. I think when you've created a scene, if it just doesn't work takeaway objects one at a time. Sometimes, it's just moving a spoon or a handle of a teacup that might just poke in the wrong direction. So, work with those small details. Pay attention to them. People talk about telling a story with photos and especially work with natural light. It is again all about where those shadows begin. That is what makes the key ingredient to making that story come alive. But then it's also a little bit in the styling. I was working with rustic setting in the kitchen, styling my breakfast scene, leaving the crumbs on, the glass half-full, indicating that someone's been eating there or something is happening. So, it isn't just like a stale or still life. But then again, those can be beautiful too. It all depends on the story you want to tell. So, when you create it, be aware of what kind of story you want to tell and be consistent in all your shots so there's not crumbs in some and completely clean in others, that you have a consistent voice throughout the series when you capture the afternoon tea story. So, now it's really just up to you to go out and capture your afternoon tea series and what afternoon tea means to you. I'm really excited to see what you come up in those three images that you're going to share with the class. 7. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: