Sunday, August 1, 2010

Is the Sandwich Ready for its Close Up?

OK, turn a little to the right.  Could you reflect that light a little more to the left?  Hold it, hold it... Yes!, I got the shot.  What, is John going to bore us with some more fashion shots?  This is a food blog.  Oh, no.  I was hard at work crafting a photo of a beautiful.... sandwich.

Crafting a good food photo is not easy.  Some food is great to eat, but not that photogenic.  You have to work fast because the food dries out, wilts, turns brown or even melts into a puddle.  You have to work the light just right.  Using natural light doesn't mean just plopping a plate of food by the window and snapping away.  You need to control the natural light with shades, reflectors, and other modifiers.  Its a craft that one needs to constantly practice to get better at.

I noticed that the International Center of Photography was offering a food photography class.  In fact, it was the first time it was offering a food photography class.  I would have to take two days off from work to attend, but what the heck, I needed a break.

The international in International Center of Photography is not just hyperbole.  The class had students from Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and Singapore among other countries.  The instructor was Susie Cushner, a widely published food photographer.  The class started with a survey of some of the better food photographers out there.  There are some people doing really, really good work out there.  I really liked the work of Roland Bello.  His work had a narrative running through it that added another level of interest in his photos.  His work was often featured in the dearly departed Gourmet magazine.

The next two days we met at The Shooting Kitchen studio in Tribeca.  This is a photography studio built around shooting food.  It featured three separate areas to shoot in, including a full blown kitchen.  A professional food stylist was on hand to help out.  In the real world of food photography, a photographer can't work alone.  They need a food stylist and sometimes a prop stylist to get the job done in time.

The first day was a little rough.  It was tough getting all the elements together to get a good shot.  The second day flowed much better.  A rain storm came through in the afternoon, breaking the heat wave that held NYC in its fiery grasp.  But that made the lighting that much harder to deal with.  I did get my best shot, the sandwich, during this dreary period.

The final day we did some outside shooting at the Union Square Greenmarket.  The summer's bounty was on display throughout the park.  It was difficult to pick just what beautiful vegetables to shoot.

This class was both challenging and rewarding.  Anyone who is thinking about becoming a food photographer should take a class like this to get a feel for what is involved in this profession.  As with many photography classes, you start to look at things a different way.  Instead of just seeing a sandwich, I now see a Diva.