Join Me in Turkey for a Food Photography and Writing Workshop, October 2015

Want to take photos this good? Dave will show you how. (Photo by David Hagerman.)

They popped the question over lunch, about a year ago. Freelance food writer Robyn Eckhardt of the blog Eating Asia, and professional food photographer David Hagerman brought up this event at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley, CA. We had met to celebrate their book deal for a Turkish cookbook (I coached Robyn on the book proposal), which sold to Rux Martin. What did I think, they ventured, about a Turkish workshop on food writing and food photography in 2015?

I had to think about it for, maybe 10 seconds. Let’s see:

  • Picturesque village of Alcati, on the Aegean and famous for its stone houses and narrow streets. Check.
  • Lots of Turkish food, which fuses Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. Check.
  • Near the beach and Ephesus. Check.
  • Gorgeous accommodations, covered in Conde Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure. Check.
  • A chance to hang out with two professionals I enjoy and learn from them. Check.

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Styling Pro's Secrets to Gorgeous Food Photos

Food Stylist Denise Vivaldo

For every food blog with gorgeous photos, 10 others need work.

So I’ve asked Denise Vivaldo,  founder of Food Fanatics, a catering, recipe development and food styling firm based in Los Angeles, to come to the rescue. She has styled food for television shows including The Tonight Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Inside Dish with Rachel Ray.

She helps authors with their cookbooks, including Mariel’s Kitchen by Mariel Hemingway, cookbooks by Suzanne Somers, and The Date Night Cookbook by Meredith Phillips.

She also teaches food styling (sometimes with photographer Matt Amendariz), and is the author, most recently, of The Food Stylist’s Handbook, based on her decades of food styling experience.

Q. What is the definition of a food stylist?

A. It’s the food stylist’s job to prepare food for the camera. The food is not necessarily consumed but prepared just for the camera. The majority of tricks we use are to manipulate the food so it’s still edible.

Now that’s different for food bloggers. You develop issues about food when your family’s going to eat it. You want it to still be hot, to make sure nothing gets into it to contaminate it, and you don’t want to waste it.

So if I were making strawberry ice cream, I would pick out a quart of strawberry ice cream at the grocery store and shoot that. That way I might not feel panicked about working with it.

Q. Where do food bloggers go wrong about food styling?

"We put the green beans going in different directions. It's a platter like my mother would have brought to the table. We blanched the onions first, then sautéed them to preserve their color. We undercook everything."

A. A blogger in a class I was teaching once said to me, “I just throw it on the plate. I have four kids to feed.” You need to understand composition.

I’ve found that bloggers don’t read the instruction book that comes with the camera. I tell them to take off the automatic setting and learn to focus the camera themselves. Take the automatic flash off and learn how to harness light.

They don’t get close enough to the food. You want to be able to lick that photograph! Props and food trends come and go, but less is more in photographs.

Q. What if I don’t have a whole cabinet full of pretty plates and dish towels?

A. Then get close to that food!

Also, food needs color. Get gorgeous colored napkins: vibrant blues, pinks and orange. Then [Read more…]

Ramp Up your Food Photography

There’s no way around it. Blog readers are as interested in the visual aspects of the food as the  content. So if you’re writing about food you ate or cooked, you need to be just as good at taking the photos as you are at writing.

How do you get there? Fortunately, there’s tons of good information online about improving your photography skills, much of it provided by friendly bloggers, including those who win awards for their work.

free-stock-images-cake-pictures-01-500x375Here’s a list, by no means comprehensive, of ways and people who will help you improve your food photography:

Generous food bloggers who share their knowledge: