Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Table For Two Food Photography for Beginners Workshop

One thing that really irks me in my blogging life is my rather average photography skills. When I first started blogging I didn't care for anything more than iPhone photos. But looking back at my blog posts from a year ago I cringe at these photos but I'm never going to take the photos or the posts down because they are all part of my blogging journey. 

Then about three months ago I made the decision that I wanted to be more serious about my blog and this meant it was time to say goodbye to iPhone photos. So I started taking my DSLR out with me everywhere I went and started enjoying putting up blog posts with photos that I was actually proud of.

But taking these photos involve a LOT of trial and error and guesswork; a very tiresome and frustrating process at the best of times. When I was at Eat.Drink.Blog conference and heard Simon from The Heart of Food do his presentation on food photography it became clear to me how much I didn't know and how important it was to do something about it.

And then something happened as if on cue. The day after I returned home from the conference I was going through my 500+ photos from the weekend (some of them good, some of them beyond awful) when Billy Law from A Table For Two, one of my favourite food bloggers and of course ex-MasterChef contestant, tweeted about the last remaining spots on his Food Photography Workshop for Beginners coming up in two weekends time in Sydney! It was a sign. I had to register!

One look at A Table For Two is enough to convince you that Billy knows what he is talking about. His blog, as well as his cookbook Have You Eaten?, is full of breathtaking and drool-worthy food photography. And some of the food bloggers I met over the weekend who had done the very same workshop in the past had nothing but high praise about what they got out of it so it was a no-brainer to register.

So I drove to Sydney at ridiculous-o'clock last Saturday morning to get to Crows Nest in time for the 10am start. The workshop was held at the private dining room at Mumu Grill and there were 14 other people in attendance. Surprisingly I was the only food blogger there while most others were there to improve their food styling techniques for their work purposes or purely just to learn how to take better happy snaps (of food of course). 

If you are an amateur food photographer like me you probably find the process of getting that perfect photo of that beautiful dish sitting in front of you in that fancy yet very dimly lit restaurant to be the bane of your food blogger existence. Billy answered all the important questions like 
  • “What camera and lens do I need?”
  • “It’s so dark inside the restaurant, how come your photos still turn out so sharp and bright?”
  • “Why are my photos from restaurants always so yellow?”
  • “Do you use flash when you take photos in the restaurant?”
  • “What program do you use to edit your photos?”
  • “How to make my photos blog and search engine friendly?

In all honesty, it was the best $150 I've spent this year and there were so many "light bulb moments" where I took a photo after listening to Billy's tips and went "oh my god why didn't I know this until now!". 

Of course being in a group full of people obsessed about food not only meant for four hours we talked about food, took photos of food but also got to eat lots of food! 

We started with an antipasto platter of olives, jamon and stuffed zucchini flowers

Another angle, just because I learnt that I should be shooting in portrait mode more often

As each of the dishes came out we would take a few minutes to listen to Billy, click away to our hearts content, pause and wait for everyone to be happy with their shots, re-position the dish or ourselves for another angle or two, click some more and then dig in. And then repeat the process for the next dish. Everyone was patient and understood the process and played nice to make sure we all got a shot that we were happy with.

Crispy battered prawns and calamari was also part of the entrees

As was this plate of delicious smoky chorizo

Billy was an absolute pleasure to learn from; his gentle tone, patience and casual teaching style as well as the small class size meant everyone got a LOT of individual one-on-one attention.

This is of course important as no two people in the class had the same camera or the same lens, so the individual attention meant we each got to learn the tricks of the trade relevant to the camera that we each use. 

 And then the shared plates of mains came around and it was every carnivore's dream

 Hey there delicious ribs!

 Check out that feast!

 Then the dessert platters came around with strict orders by the friendly wait staff to eat it before everything melts. The creme brulee and the passion fruit meringue were my definite favourites

Yep, we demolished the dessert platter!

I can't thank Billy enough for being such a wonderful teacher and also for being such an easy going person to learn from. Over lunch we chatted about everything from photography to his Masterchef days and what his current projects are. 

I whole-heartedly recommend this photography workshop for anyone who is serious about improving their food photography skills in a fun, casual and non-intimidating environment. There are no more workshops scheduled in Sydney for this year but for all the details about registering your interest for upcoming workshops in the new year in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth see here.

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