Johan Wilke

It’s a known fact that eventually, time heals. I had deliberately searched Johan’s website as I was interested in the commercial work that he did for various clients. The two images included in this article struck me, and I thought well of this to contact Johan as I knew that some of our readers would be interested in how he went about achieving the result. Unbeknown to me, and all who knew Johan, that for me this would be my last engagement with him on the 25th October 2019. Johan passed away peacefully on the 27th July 2020.….

At that time, without hesitation, Johan sent me two sketches of the layouts and lighting set-up. The drawings enabled me to produce the illustrations for the feature. Included in the previous edition but without the interaction that I had with him. This feature is a fitting tribute to the special relationship that Johan and I shared, worthy of featuring again.

When you are a lover of photography and have an appreciation of the medium particularly as an art form you generally become far more aware of your surroundings discerning the images that you are purposefully viewing or are presented with. This was no exception as I was pouring over a few of Johan’s images that were used in a Food Shoot. I have a long-standing relationship and often been allowed to feature some of his work as Johan has an ability and uniqueness that often exceeds most others. There were two photographs, although not related really got my mind going. Both the shots were deliberate, planned and then executed.

Knowing that this would be of benefit to some of you with an interest in the life of a professional photographer. I contacted Johan and asked if he would share just how he went about taking these two images. Having been a professional photographer myself I was very pleased that he was willing to share this information with me. The professional industry is hugely competitive and most often professional photographers are reluctant to share the ‘tricks of their trade’ with one another. This allows them to develop a unique style that often becomes so recognizable that their work can be spotted and separated from other photographers’ work. Johan is certainly one of those photographers.

The first image up for discussion are the tomatoes on the cutting board. Understand that each element has been carefully thought out and meticulously placed.

The board has been angled precisely and having three tomatoes has balanced the image. Take just one tomato away and the eye would bounce back and forth. Now it travels very pleasantly through the image. The focus plane is deliberate keeping the focus on the front tomato and the deliberate dry leaf slightly in front. The background being out of focus is very purposeful and the new saying on the block today is the bokeh, the area that is now deliberately out of focus that enables you to create the effect. Most of us would use the term, shallow depth of field. To further enhance the effect it was desaturated in post processing.

The lighting, camera angle and focus plane enabled Johan to create this stunning image of very ordinary, otherwise, tomatoes. The eye naturally comes to rest on the tomato in the foreground making a very ordinary photograph extraordinary.

The overall lighting for the shot was created with the use of natural sunlight but diffused with the aid of a lighting scrim. Johan used a Canon USM 70-200mm f2.8 lens @ 1/125th second at 150mm. Everything was deliberately done in order to achieve the desired effect.


The second image is of a desert that looks so delectable that you just want to taste and to eat it yourself. This is a very deliberate mouthwatering technique that any food photographer ‘worth his salt’ employs and the image is faultless sure to encourage any chef or restaurant patron to want to make or indulge.

The lighting setup was far more involved with the main light achieved with a studio flash unit fitted with a softbox. The light was reflected back onto the main subject with the aid of a poly board (a sheet of Styrofoam board strategically placed and angled)

All the elements were precisely arranged on a white serving platter placed on a sheet of special Perspex placed on a dark cloth and then onto a table and only then meticulously captured. The shot is extremy difficult for any amateur to achieve as it was shot Contre-jour (against the light) and the dish had to be seperated without dissapearing into the background nor light falling into the camera’s lens.. A very striking and extermly pleasant image. Love it… Canon USM 70-200 f2.8 set at 100mm. Exposure 1/160th second, F8. The focus plane and camera angle extremely precise in order to achieve the desired effect.


In order to illustrate my point I have included a beauty shot that Johan took that is uniquely his. Although slightly off the topic you can see for yourself just how versatile he is.


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