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Photographing in Restaurants: Motion & Portraiture

Lesson 25 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Photographing in Restaurants: Motion & Portraiture

Lesson 25 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

25. Photographing in Restaurants: Motion & Portraiture


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Photographing in Restaurants: Motion & Portraiture

Motion and activity talking about the blur again, which is perfect because it leads onto that and some of you asked to use a tripod. So this is yes, this isn't a situation where we do use tripods because so we can get a slow shutter speed with a little bit of that activity. And remember, there's only two people, this restaurant's we we wanted to get activity now here's a case where we actually had them of were asked if the chef could move, so we moved him out from the plating area where we're shooting before, and they have this beautiful rollup window that is part of the restaurant so used. We asked if the chef was cool doing the doing the fish in that in that lighting there and, you know, we're was gracious enough to do it, so we're able to catch her, and this is only there one main source of life's we used it for everything we're not afraid to say. Can you move house a little bit half house, one bedroom kelly, you haul people to move over, but use in this process here he's he's cutti...

ng the fish, breaking it down. We're just catching again that that detail for promotion and stuff like that so here's one where he's cutting and plating with a back light with a window it's another plating detail dish seeing the whole fish so you know if it's uh if they have like a whole leg of lamb or something that's a great shot for plated dish too and then here we go a lot of this is the same stuff just scrubbing through you know watch them break down a full fish with that was cool so showing the whole video is cool but he could do we could use this as a how to break down a fish class so again catching that little bit of detail on the blade cutting into the meat for plating shot making a very still depth of field and it just feels um like you can focus on the fish rather than everything else behind it so he's cutting through slicing plating just go scrub through we love breaking down fish can you tell you know we just kept shooting this and again here's a shot of backlight of him cutting the fish and chunks and here's todd cutting shooting the plated dish on top of um a chair with a little bit of the backlight so sometimes things don't happen in the same place sometimes you could move it onto a chair will play it on a chair all the time that will be our table top using chairs using anything thatyou confined because sometimes they don't have big tables that they're going to move around for you to shoot hero shots in so chairs are awesome and so somebody's son like, this is great too just you get that separation between the the chair and then the floor, so even capturing just outside of it enough within your framing that's like you see that separation? Of course it's going to be blurred out it's going to be, you know, just there, but it's going to give a little bit of lift and separation to the framing. So in this video, todd is trying to get motion with her walking back and forth. So, you know, he's, we're making, um actually, I got this from my angle from the eighty five, so I'm standing back there in the corner. We're going against the wall, my shutters. Food is really low to get that blur, so I don't have a tripod. So how we get the shots is make yourself into the tripod. If you need to lean on something for support, if you need to move your hands closer, put your elbows on something you can make yourself a tripod. Spread your legs for the report like I do when I shoot certain things where I need stability, I spread my legs apart to give myself I'm a better opportunity to anchor myself to the floor so I will become a tripod. And in this one video this is the action the movement because there's only two people in a restaurant so we've got to show some things we kind of made a walking back and forth like a robot t gets out but that what he was in focus but she was moving into it and just makes it a little more interesting is the kitchen is the kitchen is just this big stainless steel box pretty much so we can add that interest in a more dull scene is adding that little bit of motion and then todd's um todd got another shot to see he's using the tripod there I'm giving direction and he's setting that up on the tripod to get a lot of that blur because we had her move a little bit faster for the shot and we just kept going back and forth you probably shot this like twenty times twenty times and he's just he's moving back and forth there we should so much total because we made a pact like thirty times she said she loved it yeah, we just called her the robot just went back and forth that was another one there I guess we don't put that in the video yeah, that one there there's another one more they're moving back and forth and we're setting up for um blur again with her moving forward when person still one person moving to give that lifestyle phil and here's one where she's really blurred because she's closer but this is kind of like the cool hero shot here where she is in front it is where she is in front it's right here scrubbing with babies back there there it is to where it shows activity in emotion with two people so here we made them become waiters and waitresses so they played two roles they were shots before another what it was that waitress waitress says he's like I'm not a waiter uh so again this is just the motion and as todd shooting motion I'm standing and friend trying to get another portrait shot so there's always opportunities for me to try to get people in action in different ways there's not a lot of um and we'll do that a lot when you have two people working if one person setting them up for one shot the second person just capturing it just from a different angle giving something different going on, you always seem to find things going going on that you're able to capture you see todd sing on the right shooting her walking down I'm standing in front photographing him plating or just setting the table playing the role of waiter or chef just setting the table to sew again we're always moving around walking in an emotion are just more video from walking back and forth the matter into a robot that day so that's the motion and activity and so that's an opportunity for you to use tripod ramana pod because a lot of times it's hard to get it totally stable. A lot of people look at me and say, well, you don't use a tripod, but again I kept practicing and practicing, so but by before I practiced on my little handy dandy, my pop mono pod that I lost, but I live by them, and if you don't have him on a pot of restaurant, I'll use a broomstick. I will ask the chef if there's anything he has in the utility room, the end of a mop, a broom or anything with the stick because I will use that as a tripod to I use that all the time else go through everything that they have in their mop room and use it as tripod, it's, great it's really great and you have to pack it in those brush rooms. They're great cause they settle really great. The only thing is that you're you're stuck to that height, though, so you have to stand on a chair going higher or finding a smaller stick and of course, having to ask them for step one sometimes you should bring yeah, so this next episode portrait so in portraiture, portraiture represents so many things, not just the face to me, poor pra chur portraiture represents anything that belongs to that human that belongs to that person, to give you a field who they are and what they do when things like that. So it doesn't always have to be the face because some people are not comfortable with face shots on part of a skill and getting a good portraiture is relating to your subject because we know because we hate paying front of the camera, you know, it's ironic there's cameras everywhere take a long time to get us exit here, but it's really uncomfortable being front of the camera, we know that. So when you're going and you're photographing someone, you expect them to be star, they're not going to be star, they're not always going to be like a chef. Rick bayless was so great in front of the camera, you've gotta work with them. I always have to make sure they trust me. So todd always has his handing jokes or whatever we start talking to them once they start relaxing and getting to know you and to trust you that's when they start opening up and really becoming them, they themselves not feeling like they have to fulfill a role for the camera, so it's really important for us to ease into that portrait work and always saving it to the very last end. If we had immediately hi, I'm diane, I'm todd tons of creative life cameras here, we're going to shoot your portrait first, act natural, it would have been a very, very different than it was what you see here. So part of it is portrait work is always at the very end because we want to make sure that they know it if possible, we want to make sure that they know if they like us, they're comfortable, and they don't look so stiff and that's how we try to get the best natural portrait images or images that we can, and again it's about the detail of who they are. So here I am photographing her apron and, you know, I love aprons, and I think monica is such a great model for this, and I just felt like this is just a great way to represent her because in tying her ape, and she was always focused on getting out a couple times, making the not nice and again that's that ritual, and I'm just obsessed with aprons on dh that motion that and that few minutes at a chef has to put on that, that that cloak of theirs is really awesome, so that's part of the portrait work that I will always include and scrubbing through, and then todd's bouncing through cus if I felt that was a little dark and I had him stand there too just as a so much so I have an opportunity to shoot through and you know I'm getting a portrait of her again I told her look down because sometimes you know she was a little ceases to really shy but she has a really beautiful face I got some with her face looking at me but I really like the one when she was looking away so for chef portrait when they're not totally comfortable with looking at the camera I'll always have him look down look away and they're totally totally always loving that so it doesn't feel like has to be so staged so this I feel is a is a really, really good representative of monica and getting a portrait of her right before she goes the service and I feel like that's really representative her she's very much an artist you're kind of quiet focus super talented but just always very gentle too and just always having her moment before she went to prep any dish so if I were to send in something tow an editor if they needed a portrait of a chef I probably send this one of monica not one of her looking at the cameron smiling because I feel like I've got to know her over the last four hours and this is what I want people to know her as and scrubbing through again just kind of walking through the whole process talking to them I'm always leaning back but there's nothing else to lean back teo I feel like if I could move that computer I could have again this is um and I had joe stan here up against the light um just kind of shadowing him in bed just looking at the camera just giving that safe shop in the safe shot, moving him around and blurring the back out to make sure I get image of him within the, um kitchen and here you go here's tied, bouncing with the gold um and then he's bouncing with the the the white to get a live or in that little more that I feel because I felt it was getting a little dark on that left side and I have a look away and then I do my peekaboo shots of him and this is where he's most comfortable when he knows I'm not photographing him, so I do my pick you booze, I stand back, I do my thing and then when he knows I'm not there and then I just tell him, look here, look there or he's talking to someone is when you really try to capture that so it's not always a portrait shot is a non opportunity where you have to stage it, catch them when they don't know you're there catch them where they're engaging with clients or customers and other chefs and other cooks of whoever is there because sometimes those make the most natural shots, and I feel like he looked at this and I think he liked it because it's the most natural of him he's not trying to smile for the camera, not for me or for anybody else, so I'm always watching and catching to see when they don't know me. And this is another one of, um, me directing them two get two of them together, moving them closer to the window source and todd filling in, always directing and talking. See, I'm always moving back to the wall, there's, no other space to shoot him and it's just so tight, but but you just got to do what you gotta do, you know, no complaints. You just kind of go in and make it work, and then you have your really fresh because all the other ones, they weren't really totally smiling, and I just had it, like, just smile pretend you like a job that they do. They like their job, they love their job and that's, you know, throughout little things like that, pretend this say, this act like this, and this is one of a south side with them. Getting one of course, of some branding because they want to make sure they get branding, so always moving them around, I didn't center them, I'd wanted them justified to the right having the branding to the left, you know, it's, a small restaurant there's, not a lot of space to shoot, so you just kind of move around, get creative to see where, um, you know, we are and shooting that shot I was in back in the street, so make sure you don't get hit by car because again, I'm shooting with the eighty five, so there's got to be so much distance between me and my subject to get that composition, I wanted it wide, I wanted their whole body, I didn't want it just right here, so I had to go back in the street, so make sure when you get portrait, you don't get run by car and then moving that after I'm done and there were setting that up after I'm done, and I'm telling I'm looking for cars, I get hit thank you, my producer was like, don't get hit like, okay, and then I move in and then I move in and I do my close up work, I get a close up, safe shot, he's, there I get another close up, safe shot, boom done so it's back for in a mark is running back and forth as I do, I need this is an opportunity. Great light six o'clock light it's still great light don't don't dis six o'clock light I still not six o'clock moving back and forth. I'm running back, running front, going back and forth, and I'm moving around again, back to the side, you know, there's the side we use whatever you can because there's nothing else there. So trying to figure out all these different directions so moved him in front, the sign peeking through the door, making you feel like it was a neighborhood restaurant, and it wass and then I moved her over there, trying as many opportunities as possible. That's what this looks like a fossil advertisement or something, you know, just their faces. Like, yeah, they looked like they came out of, like, central casting, like, you know, like we hired them, but, yeah, this is a neighborhood restaurant. I wanted to get a little bit of both of them. Him still focus because he is his head chef there, and her kind of blurred back there to show that she's one of the cooks, the chefs there, too, so I think, that's it that is a video which we could show you more when she could have been there fully with us but this was as close to you could get because if we say we're going to bring all you guys they would have three wade got two hosts and you know students let's make this so you know that's part of what we do and this is only some we have more videos to show you in the next segment there's so much stuff the next segment has a shooting the hero shots where there the beauty shots now so there's none of the the emotion they were going to show the restaurant detail so there's so much more we're not done yet but also coming up on the next segment a friend of yours tell us about our surprise guest surprise gas is going to be oh so we're not so not so surprising that a surprising way were surprised of course you know shefi the stole is going to be here and you know we said we we can't introduce him because he's just such an honor we would stumble I mean he's he's the chef even store so we were told that a chase charmless is going to be here but there is this yeah, you do it. Thanks. We tracked a good tease yeah so he's gonna be here to introduce and we're gonna have him here and chef he stole an interview to, uh, talk about a couple different things, so and let him see the images for the first time. I think that is key because he has not seen any images at all. He has no idea what we did to his restaurant has no idea what we did to his chefs and has no idea what it anything looks like we're actually going toe to share that with him and get his like, almost reaction and wake you guys. I just loved being a fly on the wall to want you right there in the restaurant, making, making these images and what was going on. A lot of people are commenting and it's just great to hear what was going through your minds behind a cz you went through and it's just especially after the fact, but also during so that was just golden. I'm and I love I'm a quote from our internet hausfrau photo says great tips on asking the chefs to narrate their actions, awesome advice and something I will now start doing so it was really a great way to bring that all the way full circle.

Class Materials

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Gear Guide
Places to shop for Food Styling Props

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

First, thank you to Diane, Todd and the CreativeLIVE team for a wonderful exploration of "shooting" food with artistry. This course offers the beginner and professional photographer many incites into the world of natural food photography. With some business and lifestyle tips the majority of this course showcases an effective natural shoot style that allows anyone to deliver wonderful images. The strongest point I found useful is to “find a voice” for the story, your images or your client. While I understand “finding the voice” when writing copy it is the realisation that any activity can have its own voice. Your voice can be the style of image you like, the shoes you wear, the books you read, etc. it is not limited to how loud you (or anyone else) shouts. Using general principles and building good habits through practise will allow you (and me) to achieve, not just find, success. The “lighting clock” is a useful shorthand helping communication with clients, producers and peers. The strong emphasis on practise, speed and taking advantage of any appropriate situation both improves productivity and reduces the impact on a client. Last but not the only other gem in this course is the bald (not a joke Todd) fact that any photography business was, is and will always be based on the relationship between the photographer and the client. Building a relationship is the best marketing device any photographer, food stylist, entrepreneur or creative mind can develop. Other courses offered by CreativeLIVE also stress the relationship aspect of good businesses as their best marketing asset. I highly recommend this particular course for lovers of (in no preferred order) food, photography and life. Thank you for reading and I hope you find your voice in all things. FJH...


Diane and Todd are amazing! They've held nothing back when giving the rest of us an honest, detailed look into what it means to be a food photographer. I've seen many seminars on the topic from different companies and photographers and this one is my favourite. I love their no fuss approach to food photography. It leaves me feeling like food photography is manageable without having to fuss with cameras and lighting gear that are outside of my budget. I love that Diane often mentions how there's more to food photography than the plated dish. And Todd is just adorable and has the cutest laugh! They're a fantastic team that are engaging and make it easy to learn from them. Highly recommend purchasing this course!

MAlisa NIcolau

I loved this class and how Todd and Diane taught it. It was very personal and inspiring, with lots of insight and tips. This is not a camera technical class, but more an artistic, motivational and visual food photography learning environment. Their examples on how to set up scenes and stories behind the food and people involved are very enlightening. They gave me a lot of great ideas and hope that I, one day, will become as good of a photographer as they both are. Great team!!!!

Student Work