Crafted Films
Female Focus

Female Focus Interview: Donna Crous

October 27, 2020

For the fifth installment of the Female Focus interview series I had the pleasure of talking to award-winning blogger and food photographer Donna Crous. Photography was obviously one of the key topics, but we also chatted about recipe development and how important nutrition is for a healthy lifestyle.

Creating gorgeous images for cookbooks and magazines sounds like a dream job to most - how did you get into food photography?

It definitely is a dream job, I mean, who doesn't want to be around delicious food all day?! I started blogging a few years back and decided that I loved the creative photography part of my blog. I automatically focused on growing my skills through self teaching and basic trial and error. This gave me the opportunity to create what I liked in terms of a style and worked best for my blog. What I didn't realise at the time was that I was actually developing a recognisable style because I was shooting entirely for myself without client pressure or input. I’m very fortunate that my husband is an extremely knowledgeable amateaur photographer, so he was able to guide me on the technical side, which is my weaker side as I see myself as a creative photographer.

How would you describe your shooting style?

It’s a tough one because I’d say my style is dark and moody, but at the same time I like the food to be bright and true to its natural colour. I really want the food to stand out and be the hero of the image by drawing the eye straight in. I like to use shadows, dark props and natural backgrounds for more emphasis, whilst small flowers are great for softening and adding a romantic touch.

You’re not only a self-confessed foodie but you also develop recipes and started your own blog Eighty 20 Nutrition five years ago. What was your motivation behind the blog and what type of food does it focus on?

I'm most certainly a foodie, I don't think I could do this job otherwise. I really love food, not just cooked dishes but also the natural beauty of fresh/raw produce. I started my blog after we moved from Cape Town to the UK 6 years ago. It was mainly so my friends and family were able to access recipes that I would otherwise have shared with them back home. At the time we were following a strict paleo diet which is essentially wholefoods, vegetables, healthy fats and grass-fed free-range meats. It's also sugar, grain, soya and dairy free, so required a whole new skill to bake and make delicious treats for my sugar deprived family. I knew how hard the transition was to change my family's way of eating so I really wanted to share with others who were starting out on their new diet adventure.

You mention on Eighty 20 Nutrition that your daughter Kyra is your health inspiration - can you tell me more about how switching to a paleo diet has helped her and your whole family with their health?

Yes, Kyra is such an inspiration to me. She was being bullied at school because of her size, along with this she had developing health issues of insulin resistance and knee and ankle pains. My husband and I decided that the whole family would benefit from a healthier lifestyle and so we started to make drastic changes. Kyra took to them immediately and within weeks was feeling healthier, more confident and her school work started to improve. Her dedication and commitment was truly inspirational. She still struggles and continues to be aware of what she eats, it certainly wasn't a quick fix but rather a total lifestyle change for life.

From your own experience, are there any disadvantages / advantages to being a female photographer or does it not make a difference to you Personally?

It really doesn't make a difference to me personally, in the food photography industry there are a number of well known female photographers who do their own styling and photography, so I don't feel it's as much of an issue as it may be in other types of photography. I have been mansplained by an elderly gentleman at a camera club who started to explain aperture to me during a presentation by another photographer, but I just chuckled because it was actually really sweet.

You mentioned that your daughter Gemma is about to enter the industry working as your business manager/shooting assistant - how do you feel about her pursuing this career and how do you think the industry has changed for women over the last 15 years?

I am thrilled she is following in my footsteps as she has a great eye and a natural talent. She is helping me with my business and it's important that she learns that being a photographer is not just about spending time behind a camera but that so much of the day is made up of dealing with clients and running a business and marketing. Not necessarily the stuff we enjoy as creatives, but definitely essential to running a successful business.

You are an ambassador for Nikon, the first Nikon Northern Europe Ambassador for Food Photography to be precise - how did this opportunity come about and what does this role involve?

I’m so honoured to have been appointed an Ambassador for Nikon, it's a huge privilege for any photographer and certainly a big step for food photography to be acknowledged on such a public platform. It happened through a chain of events starting with being placed third in my category for Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year in 2017, I was then invited to speak for The Photography Show and from there I was introduced to Nikon School of Photography. To think, I debated entering the competition, how different things would be had I not plucked up the courage and overcome the fear of imposter syndrome. Certainly from my side the role is to inspire new photographers to pick up their cameras (preferably a Nikon) and learn to shoot naturally and comfortably without fear of “breaking to rules” or feeling that they don't know all the technical details of photography so therefore aren't real photographers.

What are you currently working on (if you can share)?

I’m currently writing my own cookery book, which is due to be published in 2021. It's taken me a long time as I was diagnosed with breast cancer halfway through writing so I had to put it on hold during my treatment. I’m all clear now and back on my feet and really loving the process of creating my own book instead of working on other authors' books.

How do you unwind and how important is self-care to you?

I love nothing more than sitting in my living room, with my pets (Jack and Lola), a blanket/fire, cup of tea and either a book or TV series, that truely is my happy place. I also love a walk in our local forest and corn fields with Jack my dog. As my studio is based at home, I have to be careful not to work 7 days a week, which can happen if I have a big deadline. It's important for me to take creative breaks from work.

If you could invite any 5 people (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you invite?

Oooooh.. okay, definitely Nelson Mandela, I’m South African and he is iconic, Graham Norton because I’m sure he would keep us entertained with celeb stories, Annie Liebowvitz, she is such an an inspirational female photographer, Nigella Lawson because I’d ask her to cook her delicious food and my amazing mum Carol who passed away 10 years ago from cancer, I’d love to know what she thinks of my career now!

From her home studio in Godalming, Surrey, Donna works closely with brands, creating a unique and distinctive photographic image for social media and the web. Her reputation has been built not only on her photography, but also recipe testing, cooking, and styling. Donna works closely with a publishing house based in Boston, USA and their authors, creating visual imagery for their books. Donna is currently writing her own cookery book which is due for release in 2021

Beside spending time in her kitchen or behind her Nikon D850 and Z7, she is also a wife and mum to two daughters. Donna's portfolio can be found at

Are you a woman working in the production (video, tv, film) or communications industry - do you love what you do and are you passionate about your job/running your own business? I would love to hear from you!

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