Food, Glorious Food

It is, thanks to social networks like Instagram, a bit cliched to photograph food. People who, when first brought a hot meal – whether at a posh restaurant or a Burger King – whip out their phone and snap a photo of their food with a cheesy filter instead of, oh I don’t know, actually eating it, are mocked by most of normal society. As a photographer I find I straddle the two sides of the argument; I can admire the aesthetic appeal of a well-presented plate of food and the desire to photograph it, but taking a poor quality image of a standard plate of food just to say ‘look at ma DINNAH’, especially something you’ve not cooked yourself, just seems a bit pointless to me.

Of course, from time to time I come into possession of a good-looking bit of food, which inevitably isn’t one I’ve made (my plating technique is simple: stack it high, it’s for eatin’, not for lookin’). Sometimes – usually when that food isn’t warm and I’m not starving – I’ll take it aside to take some photographs of it, often by the window in my kitchen which used to have a great big surface next to it.

Of course, having said all that, the first image in this set fits none of those descriptors. Because where better to start than my favourite food, the humble but irresistible bowl of chips?

1/250sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm
1/250sec, f/5, ISO 200, 52mm

This shot was taken at the height of summer, at a pub on the banks of the Thames. With the fresh air and the sun behind the bowl this is almost an archetypal London summer photograph. Of course, an archetypal summer pub shot would also need a glass of Pimm’s. My shot dressing is lacking but I at least got a shot of some Pimm’s to complete the scene.

I make this Pimm's O'clock, don't you?
1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 200, 75mm

Down on the south coast of the UK (in Dorset, a county I love dearly) there is located a company that makes the best chocolate I have ever experienced. The company is called Chococo, and one of their great genius moments (and they have had many) is selling what I affectionately call the chocolate box of chocolates. Pop into their store, choose your nine favourite individual chocolates (this in itself is hard enough), and for a little extra the box they put ’em in will be made of chocolate.

Made. Of. Chocolate.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment, and then you can take a look at it:

1/30sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm
1/30sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm

This is back in the familiar location of the surface by my kitchen window. It may seem bright but it’s not great, ultimately – I was still shooting at an ISO of 4000 and only getting a shutter speed of 1/30th. Sooner or later I’ll remember I have a flashgun and a softbox for this sort of thing.

1/40sec, f/5.6, ISO 4000, 64mm
1/40sec, f/5.6, ISO 4000, 64mm

I played about a little bit with the box, trying out a few ways of arranging things and a few angles before eventually tucking in.

1/30sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm
1/30sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm
1/30sec, f/5.6, ISO 4000, 135mm
1/30sec, f/5.6, ISO 4000, 135mm

For this last shot I broke out my macro lens to get maximum light out of its f/2.8 aperture. I still had to throw the ISO up to 5000 to account for its lack of IS.

1/40sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 100mm
1/40sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000, 100mm

And I wasn’t the only one interested in the chocolate. Zelda wanted a look too.

1/50sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm
1/50sec, f/5, ISO 4000, 47mm

The next business to supply food good enough to photograph (and entirely different class of food above and beyond ‘good enough to eat’ which is, technically, the lowest class of food) was one far more local to me: Ruben’s Bakehouse in Twickenham.

Ruben’s Bakehouse opened reasonably recently (I’m not entirely sure when) and came to my attention via rave reviews on the local twitter feeds I follow. The main one that stuck with me was Nick Frost (of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) proclaiming the pizza there to be the best anywhere, ever. Since my wife and I are quite keen on pizza this got my attention.

Our one visit there came on a Saturday morning, sadly too early for pizza. Instead we left with a lovely crusty bread and a cupcake with an actual blackberry on it.

1/40sec, f/4.5, ISO 320, 38mm
1/40sec, f/4.5, ISO 320, 38mm

This time I broke out a tea tray we have to enhance the rustic look I was going for in the images. I was still using my kitchen window for light.

I tried to hide the fact that it was a tea tray, but it wasn’t always possible.

1/50sec, f/4.5, ISO 800, 45mm
1/50sec, f/4.5, ISO 800, 45mm

Of course, it was inevitable that I broke out my macro lens at some point.

1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/125sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/160sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/160sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm

I was quite keen to capture the texture of the bread too; it was lovely and crusty.

1/200sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/200sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm

I don’t often photograph food. Usually I’ve eaten it before I’ve had a chance to get my camera out. Most of the food I’ve photographed before has been on stalls in London markets, so check out the links below if you’re interested in seeing more.

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Related Posts:

A Scone & A Cupcake
A Taste of India at the South Bank
Borough Market

3 Comments

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  1. All looks so yummy – love the macro shots especially! It’s a shame in a way that it’s become so cringe to take photos of food in a restaurant. I’m keen to do some restaurant reviews but that coupled with being a bit behind-the-camera-shy anyway, it’s a tough one to crack…

    Like

    • I know exactly how you feel. You may know that you’re photographing your food for an entirely valid reason, but you’ll feel that anyone watching is just thinking of you as one of ‘those’ people. With the additional nagging doubt that a waiter is going to come along and tell you off. I’ve been in those situations before!

      The important thing to remember is that most places are okay with you taking photographs, and it’s unlikely anyone’s even watching you – and if they are, you’ll likely never see them again. If I could only convince myself of all this…

      Like

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