Running late is not something I like to be doing, but on this particular Sunday things had clashed (trying to bag some Glastonbury tickets. I didn't bag any) and there was no getting round it, which is why l found myself arriving late to the start of a food photography workshop I had booked with Will Reavell at his London studio just south of Waterloo Station.
Five of us had signed up, and our task for the day was to photograph a roast dinner and dessert. The goal a single final photograph of each dish as if we had shot for a magazine. All the food would be prepared & cooked by Tara a chef and food stylist who was with us for the day.
To begin we watched as Will created a set for the food and explained all the elements. A large north facing window gave a lot of natural light but without the hard shadows from direct sunshine. A south facing window could be used but would benefit from some diffusion. If you are reading this in the Southern hemisphere then the opposite applies. The "table" was a few wooden boards laid together and the background a cloth of dark purple.
Tara began bringing the food to the table. A beautiful chunk of roast beef with a couple of slices carved from the large end so it was possible to see the succulent red interior. A dish of golden roasted parsnips, carrots, garlic heads, baby tomatos & onions, another tray of crunchy roast potatoes and finally crisp yorkshire puddings.
With the scene set it was time for refinements and adjustments to find the absolute best photograph that could be made. Different heights of the camera gave different perspectives of the food and something I hadn't really thought about was how the food and plates would intersect each other. The edge of a plate behind a key food element could look very distracting. A sprig of herbs laying in a particular direction could lead the viewers eye out of the picture instead of keeping them engaged. Flakes of salt were added to the roast potatoes to give them little highlights. One thing in particular was the large white bowl which contained the Yorkshire puddings. It was too large and white in the background. Distractingly so. The answer was to place the puddings directly on the table. The lovely golden colours became more apparent and the bowl distraction was eliminated.
Now Will had found and captured his final image we students grabbed the opportunity to get a couple of shots ourselves. I opted for an overhead view which is popular and contemporary but tends to come and go as a fashion (According to Will who has 18 years of shooting food under his belt). Imagining my photograph as a magazine cover I left some space at the bottom left under the food for cover lines. For a US publication the space would be more appropriate at the top.
One of the tasks for the whole team would be to help eat all the food prepared by Tara for lunch. Before that could happen we would need to photograph the second roast of the day, a beautiful rolled pork belly with lovely crunchy crackling. Cauliflower cheese, griddled courgettes and apple sauce completed the accompaniments. After some guidance from Will, the students split out to other shooting sets in the studio. Some had brought their own ingredients and foods from crusty floured breads to hearty stews. A stroke of luck left me to shoot the roast pork. After some time of arranging and moving and tweaking and thinking I arrived at the composition below. I'm very happy with the result but would possibly tone down the highlights in the crackling facing the camera. Just a tad!
With main courses photographed and sitting comfortably in our bellies Tara set to baking the dessert of fruit crumble with custard. Back at out sets we thought of ideas for our pudding shots. Custard just deserved to be poured so that's what we planned. I tend to like clean & uncluttered so the crumble in it's baking dish and dessert bowl seemed enough. However I was easily persuaded that a bit of mess really adds to the image and makes the food much more enticing. A sprinkle of blackberries and a little relaxed serving to get some crumbs on the table added just what was needed. Whilst Tara was serving the steam rising was beautiful. When she played the part of a hand model and poured the custard it all came together. The first photo below is another overhead shot of the crumble before each of us got our portion. The light from the top of the picture, the cloth and the big old serving spoon all come together to create a bright, light, fresh yet warm and mouth watering image. Can you taste it? The second photo is my favourite of the custard pouring. Steam, crumbs, berries and custard. Perfect for autumn.
I had a really great experience at the work shop with Will and Tara and the other students. I learned so much more than is possible to write here. Will was helpful, enthusiastic and informative. He's probably photographed more crumbles than I've ever eaten but was still full of passion for the food and for photographing it at it's very best. I attended the level 2 course as I know my way around the buttons and menus of a camera. Will also does a level 1 course for people who are less camera confident. If you have an interest in food photography as a hobby or as a blogger or even with aspirations of shooting for food magazines I would thoroughly recommend starting with one of Wills courses. Details at the following link www.foodphotographytraining.com
A few of my other favourite photos from the day