LIF19 – Food and Drink Photography

I seem to spend most of my time photographing and writing about food, so I thought that I would go along to this event at the Leeds Indie Food Festival to see if I could pick up any tips with which to hone my skills.

The two and a half hour workshop took place at Block 47 Studios just off Burley Road, which was an ideal space – big enough to accommodate the half dozen attendees yet small enough so as to hear what was being said without the need to shout.

Elouisa Georgiou & Luke Downing

We had the dream team of presenters in Luke Downing, partner in the Vice and Virtue Group, whose food is immensely photogenic, not to say supremely delicious, to begin with; and Elouisa Georgiou, who imparted the tricks of the trade.  EG specialises in food and is a photographer of eleven years standing – and crouching, sitting, lying down and climbing ladders; in fact, anything to get the best shot.

The day was split into three sessions; Natural Light, LED Light and Flash, and was really aimed at people who wanted to be able to take staged and arranged shots of food, rather than the iPhone in situ ones similar to the ones I shoot when I am doing an incognito review.  That didn’t stop me learning a few things that I will be able to use for your benefit, dear reader.

You would think that taking pictures in natural light would be easy enough, which it is, but to take great pictures in any light is difficult, so Elouisa guided us through the staging of the shot, with various background changes and diffuser devices to prevent or create shadows resulting in the required feel.  We then went on to the arrangement of the dishes on the plate, or board, or even log!  She said that in a recent shoot at a hip burger joint she even took a skateboard off the wall and shot the burger on that.  It depends on what suits the product and business.

As the light was fading outside anyway, the curtains were drawn and the LEDs brought out.  There were the normal ones on stands, but also a couple of really cool handheld ones which looked like light sabres designed by some Swedish art house.  Not only were they great for being manoeuvrable, but they could also be made to light in different colours for extra effect. Even more, fun was had when photographing an oyster – I never thought that I would ever write a line like that – as the Evil Doctor Downing used a bell jar and a smoke machine to give the mollusc an eerie look.  It had been placed on a bed of rocks and reindeer moss to give the impression of mist on the shore. This is a dish served at Vice and Virtue, with the moss there to add the smell of the forest.

Finally, it was the Flash session, where a cocktail devised by Luke had a flame added, which needed to be captured whilst Ovaltine was sprinkled over it, causing the dim blue flame to sparkle brightly. Once again that was much harder than it sounds, but some great results were achieved – by the others!

At last, after spending the afternoon photographing food, we actually got to taste some, as Luke had brought some canapés with him from the restaurant, bless him.  They were as good as you could imagine and went brilliantly with the accompanying cocktail.

Whilst not specifically aimed at my needs, I found the whole workshop valuable, although Elouisa does do courses especially for bloggers, and I was struck by the camaraderie of all who attended.  We were split into pairs and everyone went out of their way to help the others get that perfect picture.  Although no professional, or even enthusiastic amateur any more, I came up with a couple of which I am quite proud.  I am just hoping this doesn’t mean that my copy editor will be expecting works of art from me from now on.  After all, I have spent a lifetime trying to lower people’s expectations of my work, not build them up!

Photography by Stan Graham

Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living.  He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds.  He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.

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