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 now, I’m hungry all over again.