simple lessons in food photography

In August, I was invited to Pot Pie Farm for a special farm to table supper, with a focus on food photography.

In typical Pot Pie style, Carol Bean and Mark Connolly prepared an off-the-top menu. They set up tables in the field, and as the sun slowly set, brought out course after course. Our friend Rachel Vecchio, of the terrific  baking blog Sugar Talk, brought some amazing desserts.

Margaret Elman, of the fabulous NY photo team Margaret & Joy was on hand to photograph the meal. After learning some things about food photography at Eat, Write Retreat in May, I’ve been honing my own skills and paying careful attention to food photos wherever I see them.

An opportunity to watch Margaret work? I wouldn’t miss it.

On this evening,  I learned some broad, basic lessons about food photography. This wasn’t about food styling tricks or photography tips – it was about the basics.

Here’s what I learned.

Lighting is everything, and in an outdoor setting without additional lights, there are only a few magic moments. Margaret was ready for every one of them.

Compare the shot above to this one below, which has action (dripping honey). Action is great, but the light above is better.

Equipment counts, although a good eye goes really, really far. Of COURSE expensive equipment makes a difference. But plenty of photographers create gorgeous images every single day on cheap cameras. It’s the eye (mostly).

Try different angles. I watched Margaret shoot from every angle possible angle. Some work better than others – and every shot is different. There’s no rule of thumb here – experiment!

Does this angle work? Or not? It flattens the image. Changes the message.

Look at the difference between these two shots – angle is the main difference.

Set up your shot. Bring the food to life.

Action shots are good. Food photographs are often static – you can add interest with action ( here – eating, pouring).

Shoot a lot. And then some more. Margaret, clearly passionate about her work, did not stop taking photos.

All. Evening. Long.

At one point, when the beautiful meal was assembled on the table, the sun was setting, and a million photos had been taken, Mark said “ok, let’s eat!”

Margaret’s charming husband, Dave –  laughed…..

“Well”, he said, “we won’t really be doing THAT for a while……”

I went home with 90+, and I’ll bet Margaret went home with well over 700 photos from the evening. And she culled it down to this – here is her blog post about the meal – the post is called Tuscany on the Eastern Shore.

And here’s Rachel Vecchio’s blog post about the evening, on Sugar Talk.


And now, I’m hungry all over again.


~ by kbosin on November 20, 2012.

5 Responses to “simple lessons in food photography”

  1. Fabulous post, Kathy! Your pictures are beautiful and a lovely remembrance of that wonderful evening. I’m going to set a reminder to look at this in February when August will *really* seem like a long time ago. (P.S. thanks for the Sugar Talk shout outs!)

  2. What a great post, Kathy! Dave and I so enjoyed reading your well-chosen words and seeing all your great photos (even though some were of me – oh, my – I do prefer to be behind the lens ;). We both have such fond memories of that dinner and yes, you were very close – I actually took over 1,000 photos that night – whew – makes me tired just thinking about it. And I can’t wait for the next opportunity to do it all over again! Missing you all down in MD and that beautiful country with its stunningly delicious bounty. I imagine the bonfire party was quite a blast. Let’s all plan another food, friends and photos day for spring, for sure! Big hugs and thanks so much for bringing it all back to us again xo

  3. Great post – food, photography and learning!

  4. Simply lucious! Thanks, Kathy.

  5. So fun to see the shots of Margaret in action. It’s always inspiring to me to meet people who are so passionate about what they do…like you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: