Mission Heirloom Food Photography Workshop + Five Tips for Better Images

Okay, I have loads and loads of catch-up to do on the blog. I don't know if I have mentioned it, but after three weeks of a jam-packed work schedule (blessed,) I packed my bags and drove up to Oregon to photograph a cookbook with Rainshadow Organics, which just so happens to be my favorite organic farm in Central Oregon. Anyways, sometime between my work trip in the Bay Area and arriving here in Oregon I got very, very behind on sorting through all of my content. But I wanted to share that I recently taught an amazing Food Styling and Photography for Visual Storytelling workshop at Mission Heirloom in Berkeley, California. The workshop was for those wanting to improve their visual storytelling abilities through the medium of photography. And we covered a lot of ground. We talked about the basics of food styling and discussed what the process of creating a story and emotional connection behind your images looks like. It was awesome and we had the best group of women. I left feeling so inspired. And I think they did too.  My workshop was jam-packed with how to create gorgeous food image and there is way too much to go over in a single blog post (you’ll have to attend one of my upcoming workshops for that!) But, today I’m sharing five tips for creating beautiful and dynamic images. 


Creating a gorgeous image of food starts with the ingredients. When you start with vibrant fruits and vegetables, you're already halfway there. Focusing on sourcing the highest-quality products you can find. The farmer's market is a great place to source gorgeous ingredients. I love using ingredients that have character—the imperfect apple, for example, with its branches or leaves still attached tells a much more compelling story than a green shiny apple from the grocery store. The farmer's market is also a fabulous place to practice your visual storytelling and food photography as it's essentially a pre-setup scene. 


...is everything. Take special note to how your favorite restaurants plate and serve their food. While I am often taking photos of food that is pre-plated, I've learned a lot along the way. Most importantly, make sure to use a variety of colors and textures to create a dish that is easy to photograph. It’s also so nice to include small edible flowers or herbs on top for an added pop of color and freshness. Also, a major pro-tip that many people don't know is to plate on smaller plates; I never buy a plate bigger than a salad plate. This way the food looks more full and it's easier to fit everything into the frame of your camera.


When actually shooting images, pay attention to the lighting. Are you sitting inside at a restaurant? Try to get the seat closest to the window so you can steal some natural light. Maybe your shooting a dish for your blog at home—take it outside into a shady area for a gorgeous diffused light. Shooting inside? Turn off all of the overhead lights. NATURAL LIGHT, friends. It's the name of the game. Any artificial light will change the natural colors of food on camera and things just certainly won't look as nice. 


A newspaper. A watch. Sunglasses. A flower. With instagram and the emerging new photo-culture, it seems we have all mastered the marble slab with a plate of food, a ruffled napkin and a sprinkle of salt. And I am so bored of this look. How about we start trying to tell dynamic stories? Think about what your trying to convey through your images and then add props that make sense. How can you communicate without using words but only imagery? For example, I challenged my students to create a breakfast scene. What kind of props would we use to tell the story of a Saturday morning breakfast? We came up with a newspaper, a flower, an espresso cup and so on to convey a weekend breakfast. 


Or what you may refer to as: editing. It's everything. It's a big reason I don't let clients see images straight off camera or why I don't deliver all originals. Taking a picture is about 10% of the entire process of creating a really dynamic and amazing image. Because so many of my students use their iphone for photographing their food, I thought I'd share my two favorite apps (besides editing in instagram) for editing images: Snapseed and VSCO cam. Two amazing apps. I'd say I use the latter, VSCO cam, more often than Snapseed, but both are great. I always, without fail, increase exposure and contrast. And then often times with food, I will give a little bump up on saturation. That all being said, start to develop a consistent editing style to give your images a cohesive and recognizable look. 

So there you have it. Five tips to up your food photography game. Any question? Feel free to drop me a line. I also now have a private facebook group for my past workshop students but I'm making it available to blog readers, because I love you all. So if you're interested, just drop me an email and your welcome to join.