Food photography workshop at Eat, Write, Retreat – with Renee Comet and Lisa Cherkasky
Day Two of Eat, Write, Retreat, the excellent food blogging workshop – was packed with fascinating speakers and topics. We started the day with food photography, led by the sought-after DC team of photographer Renee Comet and food stylist Lisa Cherkasky. These women KNOW food and photography – they do cookbooks, restaurants, the Washington Post, magazines… they’re legendary.
It was fun just to watch them work together. You could tell that they work synchronistically – they would finish each other’s sentences. Instinctively, one would move the food around the set and communicate with the other without using words.
Each of our tables had a chance to get up on the set and deal with a different type of food – avocados, carrots, tomatoes, bean salad, etc. My group got cheap grocery store chocolate chip cookies - try to make THEM look good. It was tricky…..and I’m not sure we succeeded, but it was fun to observe how different people would change things up to find a good shot.
Of course, good equipment has everything to do with taking good photographs. And while lighting is key, natural light is best. They showed us how to use lightboxes, reflectors and white cards, and ways to position the product relative to the natural light from a window.
But a lot of the food bloggers in the room take photos of food after 11 at night, after their kids go to bed. These folks don’t always have the luxury of natural sunlight or setting up elaborate sets – they’re in a hurry to finish cooking, photographing and then blog about it. But honestly, you’d never know it by looking at their sites – there are some pretty amazing images on all of their food blogs.
We looked at different angles – lower isn’t always better and sometimes food does look best photographed from straight above looking down on the plate. They moved the food around, looked at every possible angle.
Start with the surface – a large element, and build on top of that.
Moisture is everything, and spritzing water doesn’t always work. Lisa uses a paintbrush with oil, then wipes it away with a Qtip. But drips can make the shot – they were clear to stop and look, and look and look. Sometimes they’d both stand up and stand back, almost using a new eye to see what they were doing.
We learned about using dental wax and food coloring and adding darkness to white foods (kitchen bouquet).
Curves are good, and kleenex wicks up moisture better than anything.
Capture steam by using a dark background, remember to use textures and layer with props.
Liquids pop when they have bubbles in them – blow some dish-soapy water into the glass with a straw.
Composition was a big topic. Bloggers shared their favorite tricks. Marbles in the bottom of soup to push the vegetables and noodles to the top. Hairspray and glycerin to freshen up drying foods, white glue for milk, soaked and microwaved cotton balls that create steam. Etc. It was cool.
They didn’t talk a lot about post production, that would be another workshop – or ten. We did look at some dozen photos of each food, from each group, and evaluated them as a group. I think it’s fair to say that – at least with food, I have a more shrewd eye, as a result of the workshop.
The morning flew by fast. I find myself looking at food and certainly food photos – quite differently now.