Last week I had the absolute pleasure of taking part in a food photography panel organized by the Commonwealth Club entitled Eat, Shoots and Leaves. There were three of us on the panel: Shing Wong, a professional local photographer specializing in everything from food to weddings and Pim Techamuanvivit of the popular blog, Chez Pim. The ever-gracious Richard Pelletier was the moderator, and helped make the panel much more of a casual conversation than a stuffy, scripted talk.
That evening, we covered aspects of food photography that many folks are curious about: how to start, what equipment is necessary, how to find your own style, and how to market yourself. Here's a little insight into what we had to say:
Jumping Into the World of Food Photography
You've got to begin somewhere and it seems with many people that I've spoken with, it's a bit more accidental than anything. For me, I began my blog A Sweet Spoonful because I love writing and wanted an immediate platform to reach people and talk about food. The photography came second, but has evolved into a very important part of the blog. Pim mentioned how she began blogging so long ago that she didn't really have any models--she just jumped right in. And her photography's changed through the years. These days, she doesn't lug her heavy DSLR camera around while traveling or eating out around town; she prefers a light little Lumix instead as it facilitates capturing a moment and telling a story quickly. She's less intrigued by composing and styling the perfect shot. Shing's story is not uncommon: he has more of a corporate day-job, but is passionate about photography, so he's found a way to make both work and ends up shooting and editing a great deal in the evenings and on the weekends.
Finding Your Personal Style
Richard asked all of us if we have a personal style and what that would be. I spoke about how finding your personal style is so much about finding what is not your style. For me this was huge. I attended a food photography class with a teacher who was very interested in glues, foams, and other tricks to make food look like a perfectly manicured museum object. This isn't real food. Luckily during that particular weekend, I met the lovely Lara Ferroni who has become one of my biggest inspirations. She shoots photos mainly using natural light where food is center stage. Real food. That she's usually made herself. So for beginners who are searching for their own unique style, my advice would be to begin finding who inspires you (and who really does not). And practice. A lot. On your own or with friends. Your style will evolve with time and practice.