food photography

Food and Light 2011

August 13, 2011

This blog has been a little quiet of late, and I apologize for that. Things have been busy, really busy. Here is one of the reasons why – Food and Light 2011.

Jen Yu of UseRealButter fame emailed me a while ago and asked if I wanted to be an instructor along with her and Todd and Diane of WhiteOnRiceCouple for this two day photography and styling workshop in Boulder, CO that she was setting up.

Obviously I couldn’t type back “HECK YEAH!” fast enough. These three are some of the best photographers and stylists I know, and just ooze creativity and ability – why the heck would I not want to work with such a committed group of people? I also consider them great friends and all round genuinely lovely people. It would be total insanity to say “no” to this, even if it was the week after I got back from a month long trip to Europe with my family. (I know, poor me..)

Anyhow, yes, things have been quiet. But not for much longer. I have been back from teaching this class for a few days now, and wanted to give a run down on the two days, because they were so darn fantastic, so life changing they are certainly worth talking about.

First off a huge thanks to Jen for inviting me along for this. I thought putting my presentation on lighting and composition together for the class was time consuming, but this pales in comparison to all the work Jen did to make this a knock-out event. Everything was planned out to the detail, all bases covered. Everything thought of. She had it down. Seriously. It was pretty great for this instructor to see, and I would hope it was the same way for the students (attendees?) too.

Secondly – I didn’t take a single photo on the trip. All the photos you see here are from the incredibly talented Jen Yu.

The two days yielded an intensive class. There was so much that we wanted to cover, from camera settings to lighting, to styling – everything that really makes the difference in a good photograph. Jen wanted the class to be pretty unique in that it had a lot of hands-on shooting, and I couldn’t agree more. The best way to learn is by doing, and that is difficult if you are sitting on your butt listening to an instructor rabbit on all day. But we did rabbit on a bit….

Look how fresh everyone looks! this must be the start of the day

Day 1 started at the Rembrandt Yard with a camera basics presentation from Jen. I don’t envy her taking this one. I have taught this before, and it is a total bastard to teach. The concepts can be tricky to get over without  it being technically overwhelming, or boring, or both. Jen had this covered in easily the best presentation I have seen on this stuff. Fun and engaging it was. Packed full of knowledge and useful tips too.

Next up was me with a presentation on lighting and composition. Basics of natural light was covered and some simple composition techniques to get interesting images. This ended up a bit of a meaty presentation to be honest.. meaty in the fact that I used some images of the past year to demonstrate key techniques and it has been a very meaty year for yours truly.

Me!!! now with 100% more glasses!

Me!!! now with 100% more glasses!

After an hour and a half of lectures the students were let loose on food and props to start taking shots, based on the knowledge (hopefully) gained from us two yabbering on.We walked around pontificating…

get that Canon out of my face, I am a Nikon Girl!! or more likely great looking shot, try this, this and this!

Diane: "get that Canon out of my face, I am a Nikon Girl!!" or more likely "great looking shot, try this, this and this!"

some beets get the rubber glove treatment

some beets get the rubber glove treatment

With a break for lunch, students were given “homework” to shoot their lunch. We scarfed down some gorgeous takeout from the Kitchen, and started setting up the afternoon.

The afternoon started with a styling presentation and demo from Diane. This was hands down one of the most impressive demonstrations I have ever seen, on anything. Ever. In 15 minutes she had two shots fantastically styled and shot. Each different feels, with great composition and styling. It was jaw dropping to see. Diane gave tips on how to refresh dodgy looking produce (which really worked!!)

Diane and Todd - Diane starting her styling presentation and demo

Diane and Todd - Diane starting her styling presentation and demo

I followed up with a quick styling demo after that (how on earth can you follow that from Diane?) – and then it was on to attendees doing more shooting and styling.

Diane helping attendee style a tricky curried bean dish (brown beans are notoriously bad to style)

The great thing about teaching this workshop setup by Jen was the sheer amount of hands on camera time the attendees had and time they had to ask questions. From the get-go Jen wanted these two days to be very much a hands-on workshop rather than a series of dry lectures. You really learn by doing, so this was a great thing indeed.

Be at one with the soup.. says Todd (I am guessing here..)

"Be at one with the soup".. says Todd (I am guessing here..)

It was awesome getting to work with such a darn talented and enthusiastic people. Both attendees and instructors!

Day 2 was over at The Kitchen Upstairs (which rocks out some seriously awesome food I might add). A small wine bar space above their main restaurant. We split the attendees up into three groups, which rotated through three stations – Diane teaching candid shooting in a restaurant situation, Todd covering artificial lighting with speedlites, and myself and Jen covering post production with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Diane chopping, whilst instructing on how to shoot candid, working shots

Todd covers shooting with a speedlite, using a portrait session as an example

Todd covers shooting with a speedlite, using a portrait session as an example

Me yabbering on about Histograms in Lightroom, before Jen covers Photoshop

Me yabbering on about histograms in Lightroom, before Jen covers Photoshop

It was then on for a jolly nice communal lunch, before people got to do some more shooting in the afternoon

LUNCH! (fabulous it was too)

LUNCH! (fabulous it was too)

We wrapped up the afternoon with a judging of peoples submitted images – a competition for which Jen had organized some pretty amazing prizes (er, Kitchen Aid mixer anyone?!). It was tricky I tell ya, so many great images were shot over the couple of days of the class.

I left feeling tired, impressed, and honored to be a tutor in such a fantastically organized couple of days. I had a blast, met some really amazing people, discovered some new blogs I didn’t know about, and learned a lot.

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  • commiskaze August 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I would have loved to have been there, thanks for the photography tutorials -it is really helping me out. Bought a 50mm yesterday so we shall see how it goes. Thanks Again.

  • la domestique August 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    It all looks wonderful! I live in Boulder and hope to attend next year (when I graduate from my Nikon CoolPIX P100 to a digital SLR). Thanks for sharing!

  • Jay August 14, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Wow, this is awesome! This inspires me to shoot some more food. 🙂

  • Dana August 14, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    SO, when is the Seattle workshop??

  • cavatappi August 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Ditto @Dana. Seattle next?

  • Tanjerine August 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    It was all that and a bag o’ chips!

  • Grazor August 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Damn< this looked too cool to be true Matt. Brilliant mate. I would love to attend one of these, if you do one in Seattle or if in fact there is another one in Boulder. Never been to either place and I love to travel. Great stuff and thanks for the share.

  • Susan August 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    F A B U L O U S! Had I known I would have been on a plane THAT day! Come to the East Coast. Oh, somewhere around New Jersey!. Keep up the food work!

    FB: Susan Bingaman Artist.

  • the good soup August 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Ok, so, Seattle then New Jersey then Brisbane, Australia! Why not? I’ll find the venue!

  • Lori August 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I’m from Australia too, come here!!

  • Julie @ Burnt Carrots September 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Matt! Thanks so much for hosting the workshop. I had a great time and learned so much. You are a great teacher. 🙂

  • Moya September 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Hi Matt, I have just stumbled upon your site as I have been trying to improve my food photography for my blog. Your advice has been a great help to me and has given me plenty of food for thought. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.