Above: Taking advantage of the natural light, Jocasta sets up a shot. Sharon does the food and prop styling.
On Friday, 9th September, Bord Bia hosted a workshop for Irish Food Bloggers. (for a list of current members head over to the Irish Food Bloggers Association (IFBA) website) The mission of the day? To help improve the image of Irish Food. Why is that a problem you ask? Well, just try this simple experiment - Google "Irish Food Images" and just see what turns up. I tried it just before I posted this and I can tell you what turns up- disgusting "stereo-typical" images of Irish stew which looks to be honest like it came out of the pig slop bucket.
Above: Donal Skehan shows us how to set up a simple "set" for photographing food at home. Backgrounds and surfaces can be easily changes to suit each image.
The mission of the day was to offer tips to Irish Food Bloggers on better ways to photograph food for their blogs. Help came from the likes of Donal Skehan- Ireland's Kitchen Hero, Jocasta Clarke a photographer from Dada Studios, Sharon Hearne Smith, a food stylist and home economist, Kristin Jensen, freelance cookbook editor - she also writes the blog, Edible Ireland and Dinner du Jour and Damien Mulley from Mulley Communications.
Donal talked us through some key points on lighting, lens choices, F-Stop, ISO, setting up an area to shoot and much more.
Sharon talked about "styling" food to be photographed- and showed us that after icing a cake, you look to find the best side, and then she went through the steps of decorating it with strawberries (using toothpicks to secure them to the top) and also gave us simple tips for creating steam and placing the ingredients for soup on the top by using a big pair of tweezers.
Jocasta Clarke spoke about working with natural light and how to filter the brightness and bring in spots of light to the image. All my years of working as a stylist in New York came back to me and I remembered the many shoots I did over the years working with photographers to get just the right light. Food photography is a bit trickier as food can look dull and old very quickly if you don't shoot it quickly so it's about having your area all set up ahead of time and then shooting immediately. I've got a lot to think about as I work on improving my food shots on this blog.
Damien Mulley added interesting points about tagging images and how Google works to pick up your blog. One is repeating the name of your blog in the title of your post so some of you may have noticed that I've started doing that- we'll see what the difference is in a month or so - which is how often Google scans through. The other one was labelling the images you are labeling so instead of numbering as I've been previously doing - each of these images have a description so if someone is Googling for example, Bord Bia they may in time stumble across some of these.
Kristen Jensen, a fellow American, gave great tips for writing recipes for blogs and for books. It was very helpful and when I truly get going in doing proper food on my blog I will have all these things to keep in mind. The thing is, I love cooking, and I do try to get as many photographs as possible in steps but I've got to fine tune it all a bit!
And, of course, because the room was full of food bloggers, they brought loads of homemade goodies to show off their cooking skills. I confess I did not as I was a work all day the day before and had no idea their was "cook-off" occurring on Twitter as to who was bringing what!
I've added a new area to my side bar of my blog so there is now a section for Irish Food Bloggers and many of those I met on the day are up there but do need to add more. I think it is important that we all help promote each other where and whenever possible. We all have different approaches and styles and so there is plenty of room in the market for us all.
I didn't take loads of photos on the day because I was so busy taking notes but it was a fascinating day and I'm now yearning for a bigger and better camera so I can have high resolution images that who knows, could turn in to my second book! In time..............
Be sure to go directly to the IFBA website to see a list of all the talented food bloggers in Ireland - we need to spread the work around!