Food Photography Lessons Learned

This adventure started with me, a kitchen and a camera. And even a year and change later, I’d like to think it still is just me, my kitchen and my camera – plus a 1 or 2 extra pounds. Whew, at least it was only a couple, I’m still in the same jeans as college. Crisis averted.

The one thing that has changed over this year at least is my photography. Food photography is tough, oh man. I learned loads of wonderful things when I was in college taking a black and white film class with Beka our senior year – best move of my college education – but transferring what I learned there to the kitchen was another hurdle that I am still hoisting my arse over. 
Or well rather, shimmying my arse through the doggie door to the patio where I’ve been taking my photos of finished dishes lately has been…never mind.
Last weekend I took a three day (really I only watched the first two – had stuff to do Sunday) online food photography class hosted by Penny de los Santos right here in Seattle. And the best part was that it was free. You can’t get better than that. This is the same online seminar that you may have found out about on PW’s photography page, but I found it first. So, there PW! (Okay, I take it back – I heart you Ree you know that.)
Penny’s photography is exceptional, amazing, awe-inspiring, and absolutely yumtastic. She’s been featured in practically ever major publication from Nat-Geo to Saveur. I learned a ton and got refreshed on all those pesky little rules every photographer needs to know about food photography, or photography in general.
Here is a quick list of what I compiled from her seminar. Some of them you’ll pull a “no, duh”, and some are truly enlightening tidbits for food, photography and life. 
~Don’t forget the foreground, mid-ground and background of your photos.
~ Think beyond the assignment you are shooting.
~ Redefine your business occasionally and feed your soul.
~ Know what works for you – it may not work for everyone else.
~ Find the story that relates to you. 
~ Conceptualize the story you’re looking to shoot.
~ When critquing or being critiqued – Never lie, be honest, but try to coach and identify the positives as well as the negatives.
~Natural light, natural light, natural light!
~ Don’t zoom, it’s a crutch. Move to find your frame, get intimate with your subject, push an envelope, get into your story. (Probably the single best thing I learned, seriously.)
~ Look for the new angles – overhead in particular.
~ Photograph with the dishes you use everyday or that you’ve had for years. They help tell your story, you’ve both done the work together – it will help convey your story and journey in the kitchen.
~ Use a white or black card stock to shadow or lighten angles of your photographs. I totally forgot this technique!! It’s so basic and easy.
~ Play with your food – make it art.
~Ask questions, be polite.
~ Wait for your photo, it will come to you when it’s ready. 
~No matter what – do three photo assignments just for yourself. Find your story and shoot it for your soul.
~ Feed your soul – often. 
Thanks to these tips, tricks, lessons and snip it’s I’ve come a long way in the last couple of years.
All of this helped me go from this….
(Boob cupcakes for my friend Peggy’s Breast Cancer Party)
To this….

Egg White Breakfast Sammie

Much better. 
And still, so very much to learn.
So – what are the tricks that you use with your photography, food or otherwise?