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Photographing in Restaurants: Plating

Lesson 24 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Photographing in Restaurants: Plating

Lesson 24 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

24. Photographing in Restaurants: Plating


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Photographing in Restaurants: Plating

Now, plating in a restaurant's scenario is a little different because you really don't have any control at all it's all about. Well, you do have some control in terms of suggestions on how to build it, maybe build it with more color, because generally, when a chef has an idea for a dish it's already built that way, it's got the ingredients, then there there can't change some suggestions on plating than I've been able to make are in terms of dishes, sometimes they might have a big satellite dish it's, a really wide rim and it's, a little tiny bit of food, right in terms of dishware, dishware and turns of dishwater. So suggestions that I've always been able to make in terms of plating is, could you maybe just put it on another plate just for the shot? So the volume of food never changed? The look of the food never changed. The integrity of the food never changed, but the plate could change. So those air always little things that I tried to inject, particularly with the plating situations...

where they have like a really cool artistic plate, but it sucks to shoot on because it's all play and it's like a little tiny food unless you shoot tight, of course, but to be able to get a different story, I'll say, can I after I shoot this, can I can you move into a smaller plate or in any way that I could get a little bit more room? So it's not so like face front on it, you know, sometimes recall that this times, like now they want it shot on the dishes that they do it in some cool just do that as a lot of times I won't ask a chef to change plating at all after I've gotten to know him a little bit more, but some shops were very just very focused and very confident that this is how they want their food to look, and they're absolutely note suggestions like I'm not gonna ask, but some chefs are a little more lenient, like joe was really great, he didn't have to change anything, but the changes we made were more like being ingredients out for still live shots, which talk about later too. But this is here with us starting the discussion and shooting on plating. So what I'm asking chef joe, he is before we go into any shia shot in terms of food, I ask what it is, and I asked the colors I always ask, what does it look like if it is it all red, is it all, pete, you know, if it's all meat? Can you maybe put a side salad on on the side or something? All those things? Because sometimes it's just a meat restaurant and it just it's just literally a rack of ribs, so we talked about we can shoot a type if we want to shoot a story and go beyond a little bit let's say, well, there's really no green on here. Could you add a side of your vegetables on there? And most of time they'll say absolutely, yes, and then other times will say, well, if you shoot that start to make those changes, you're starting to tell the customer that that rack of ribs is being served with a side of vegetables, so that's a no, no. Okay, so the discussion of plating continues. So before we shoot all this conversation goes on first, okay, if you can't do that, is there a house? Ln the side salad you can put aside, they said, sure, could you put a glass of wine? What would you pair with this? Could you add another dish? Is there any bread that house spread that goes with it? And then all this conversation comes in before we shoot, so that the food doesn't die, particularly if it comes to stake. Or if they do want it cut through, because if it's extinct, that's medium rare after a while when it sits, it starts to get really soggy. It starts to lose that hot, crispy crust, and then the middle of rare color is isn't so defined anymore. It starts to get all muted out, so had that discussion and lost the time for the restaurant plating, and you don't have much time tio get a dish at its best invariably it's like you have a very small window, you sometimes you're lucky to have six, seven minutes with it that's it if that you know, other times you're looking at a thirty second window before something either needs to be changed out or, um, maybe it has to be remade again. So you're trying to get an idea when you're talking with the chefs of you know what? What the dishes are there coming out? So you get a sense of that time in that anticipation were like we were talking about before, when you're shooting the action, the restaurants, I think you have tto anticipate what's going to happen, and so that isn't just about the action within the restaurant that's, even with the plated dishes, knowing how long this is going to be at its best. Not just how long it can live or you can get a shot of it. But how long it's going to be at its best when it best represents that chefs work. It's really nice fresh started your warm here. So I think this dish is perfect for summer. Looks really awesome. So when were you going to be playing it? Right every years. Okay, that's. Another question. Where you gonna be plating? Because so often we want to get the process shot of plating. And if they're inside a restaurant that has ah, kitchen that's so far removed for any window source, you just have to shoot it right there. So often we'll say particularly if it's, not during service, can you plait closer to window? Well, actually, ask them to move, like, put everything on a tray, move over so we can get some really beautiful detail shots of plating or saucing or salting or placement of certain ingredient. But luckily, in this case, that he was already facing a window for his station where he played it hot food so we didn't have to ask him to move house, which we always have to do. It is perfect. Yeah, and some chefs don't mind they love movie house, others are a little more. Then you show him how pretty could look, and they'll say, ok, I'll move everything over, so I mean there's, a lot of great interaction with the chef and how flexible they are because they want to get their plated food as beautiful as possible. So once they found out that you find out that you really do care and you're trying your best to try to make it look great most of the time, they're all for it, and I think that's what she just mentioned that you care, I think above all as above all else is not forgetting it's a human experience, it's a human interaction. This isn't just doing a job. This is just a business, it's not just capturing a photo. This is a human interaction between you and the chef and what they do in capturing what their livelihood, everything that they spend all those time in hours working in creating it's like you're capturing that and really understand that first, and keeping that in mind first before you approach anything in the chute. So in regarding a stand in when you're doing restaurant shooting, do you typically have time for a stand in? Yes, sometimes we do, in this case, we didn't. But generally we will we'll just say, come grab another empty bowler dish, we put it there and I'll just grab a leaf like it did the other day or apple or anything that they have in the kitchen of all places, they're sometimes we do sometimes we don't take like the pact akash shoot for that one for final dishes, the dishes health we didn't have a stand in for, but we knew we were going to shoot, so we basically we had our table scoped out that we asked if we could use this table for shooting and you know, again so in that case, you're asking the front of house like, you know, where's, a place where I could see where it wouldn't be out of your way during service, but that can be designated for us. So this will be our table. And as we have that table skipped out, we had our linz we knew everything that was going to be on a table I knew basically, you know, instantly you can pretty much feel like your angles, that sort of thing, that the way the lighting's from the table. So in that case, you have your standing at least table area ready so you know we're going to shoot so when the food comes out the kitchen you're taking it straight to that table and shooting and so you're able tto take those steps out in some situations though the dish that you shoot is actually still going to go to the customer so in a lot of the puck to cost shoots way had like a man and a half because we knew it was going to come out with your place it here boom boom boom and then they actually took it too the client or the diner for littlefinger rearranging out no sneezing juggling to that dinner and I had you get me the dish that you shot tio okay, so I think I'm going to get some detail why don't you get the wide maybe you grab it from here and then why don't you just get started? We can photograph you making it okay wanna go ahead and just pretend we're not here just make your day real quick in this situation here and people say, well, you so lucky you have two people if two people two sets of legs that can run I just have me have one person you have two people to cameras all these lenses you can get all these great shots how what am I gonna do with one person well that's not a problem because sometimes we are shooting by ourselves too will go in situations where we're separated so we take on an adventurous or or or an event or situation all by yourself so how we do it is well usually have two cameras and we'll have a multitude of lenses generally depending on what we're shooting if we know it's going to be both event in detail we each carry a wide and we'll each carry they have some sort of telephoto so that way in bringing this out so when people see this image to think what you guys have it easy there's two of you there's just one of me and that's not something that you see it as a negative is a positive because we do the same thing so I have like we always have a set of extra set of lenses and our camera and we just have to and we're ready to shoot I think the key and how we shoot individually compared to other people is that maybe we shoot much faster we should very very fast we don't dwell on it as soon as we're done shooting we're thinking about like in this situation the next dish can we shoot the process after we shoot the final dish can we shoot it with the drink? Is it dead get if it's not dead can we do an opportunity where we dig into the dish and you'll see here, so always think fast, always be alert always be aware, and if they did start to develop the confidence in your shooting that's, like within a couple shots, you get that shot you're looking for, and you can move on to the next one. You see it's like we don't really I spend a lot of frames on any one spot it's like, you know, maybe one two boom we're out unless that happens to be an actual and let's say they're pouring salt or something like that, where you want to get just a lot of frames will quit because there's going to be a lot of movement things were changing a quick one might look a little better than the other, but in that sense, you're still only spending a second or two on it. You're just capturing some frames really quickly, and I think that luxury of of shooting well, the luxury of shooting on tabletop doesn't happen in the kitchen, andi think how we were able to transition over to table top so much easier was because we shot event and all the stuff where we just get a chance. To shoot three frames and that's it it's that confidence building that we were able to have so when we go to a table top it doesn't happen in fifty shots it would kill us that's what we get in five or six so being confident and knowing it's enough it's good enough boom boom boom I know I've got it I know it's good enough I'm going to move on to the next moment or situation in here but if you can don't go too fast let us catch what you're trying to do and if there's any narration and your end like if you want to let us know I'm gonna be cutting that cucumber next those cues help us so that we kind of expected no where to go that's key telling the chef please let me know what you two do next communicate you just can't go in and say okay chef do you think I'm just going to shoot you? Part of that can be good if you want to be like the quiet photographer flying a wall I only want to be in a flying awhile photographer if I need to be if I've got a great chef like joe, he was just so alert always listening, always responsive to what we were needing to get that was super helpful so in this case one of the chefs I can't remember who it was was was building a dish and we knew that there are all these elements to it so I wanted them to be able to give us the cue so that we know oh if you're going to salt it's going to come here because all those action things we don't want them to put like this spark parsley on whatever and have us miss it but you can't put extra on because they would make the dish look ugly, you know? Well, so I can bring my tweezers and pull him out, but and you see what it's like just a quick notice on teamwork on the two of us working together, you find that diane does most of the talking and there's a reason for that because it's not that I don't want to say anything, but one of us needs to take a lead you don't want I don't want the chef to have two voices. Yeah caine is here just giving him directions you know it's like we just you keep a simple way but you see the reaction like they wanted to keep it and you and that's why we tend to have what we tend to give one person tends to take the lead one or the other of us on dh then the other the second person is feeding off of that so I'm still listening to what she's saying what direction she's giving to the chef occasionally I'll interject stuff, but I'll hold myself back. So that way, just one of us can help give the lead and guide it. And I think that's something that what makes us work better together. Okay, so this is against shooting plating on a far top down. A lot of times people think plating dish is everything about the tight detail. The hero plating could be the process too that's. A very important part of our work and be able to show that whole process and clients love that. And that's, why we get hired for that and that's what we put on the portfolio clients love when we come. Because we just don't give him one final hero shot. We try to give them the whole process. So in shooting plating, todd was on that standing on one of the stools here. This is still a plating shot, it's. Not a literal plating shot. Where it's literally a hero but it's a plating shot the shows in the process. So always think wide think tight, think wide. Okay, write some shooting on any five. Feel good with this lens. It can be hard because it's, not a macro. I just, uh, let me have you listen to what I say here. I love the scrubbing opuses okay? Okay, right. Some shooting on an eighty five they feel good with this lens. It could be a little hard because it's not a macro but I like the perspective on it. Which one of you shooting? So this is, um shooting with the plating two in an action sense and stuff it right where it so this is in an action sense and again plating doesn't have to be the dish it doesn't have to be a wide it could be the person in the process of making it with a person in it to making it more kind of like the story of likea portraiture making so this kind of fulfils two rolls so what? We're shooting one image sometimes it fulfills three shot lists we could take this to show a plating we can take this take this to show it as a portraiture so don't be afraid to be able to get a portrait shot in and still use it as a plating shot. Did you say you were using an eighty five? Yes, I was using him like this I was using an eighty five eighty five is a is a little tricky to shoot some hands free hand tabletop food shots it's not and I want to say straight off that I would not use it probably in eighty five all the time to shoot tabletop freehand eighty five millimeter one point for is my favorite portrait lens. It say my hand down, hands down favorite lens, it's a harder lens to shoot, particularly because it is a long focal length. So for me to get this full frame of her and not towards she's, so tighten crop was I had to stand all the way back and chef joe will know thump with the bump of the wall. I am broke, too. Send the interesting, almost broke things just because I'm always having to move back. But I lead this lens because it gives me a perspective that I leave that, uh, that I get the compression of the back feeling closer to her, and it feels a little more intimate and allows me to be ableto convey her a little bit more, like closer to her environment and that's. Why I love the eighty five because of the compression, and I also love it for the depth of field. It allows me to go really shallow in the back of shallow as I need to go, um, particularly with portraiture, where I need to blur and especially wretch restaurant portraiture where I really need to blur everything that was in the back. But this is the eighty five that is used for a lot of my detail shots, but I shoot with this so much free hand, I don't get shaking us on it. I can still get it sharp, even at one point for one point eight, so you just have to be careful freaking to shoot detail on in eighty five be a little hard because it's, not a macro let me move this back because I realized it also one reason that we don't use it for plaited as well as you can get as close to your subject. So when you need a tight plated shot, you can't get that on the five. Yeah, so if you're gonna want to go in and say it, just say justcause, diane shoots detail, played it in a restaurant in eighty five, I would say practice first, run it before you invest in that lens cleanse. It could be a little hard because it's, not a macro, but I like the perspective on it, which one of you shooting with fifty todd shoots another perspective on a fifty millimeter lens per plated, and especially when we have to shoot quick, the fifty millimeter lenses awesome, too, and like we was mentioned, like in the video, like when we first they're starting it. You know, one of us is going to shoot wide, one of us is going to shoot a little tighter, so we'll have a different focal length when we have the luxury of having to shoot at the same time that we each of us is capturing a different perspective perspective from the lens as well as it just makes us makes you move different when you have or you shooting one lens vs another, you just will move around your subjects different and you find something different, and sometimes I started actually shooting with the twenty four seventy, but I just I just love my eighty five so much I just learned how to use it, so I'm always gonna have a great and she can't just move a little slower, always giving direction don't be giving it don't be afraid to give direction. You know, this is a lot more top down shot that we got of the side of her. This is more kind of an environment shot two of her plating to show you she's not really plating directly in a kitchen she's part inside the seating area, too. So it shows the chef being a real part of the dining experience in terms of plating, because very rarely do you ever get a chef that's plating so close. To the diner I mean literally that wooden bar right under the other side is where people are sitting and eating at the table I mean, I was like that's a great aspect of market where it's like that interaction between the chefs and the dining is just so enter toy and it's like they're right up touching against each other and some being able to capture that within that I think is was an important part of shooting a restaurant like this and you know, if if people were sitting there I would have loved it more because that would really have shown that intimacy to show her plating like literally right there I mean, we could see if is that that you could see her it's like it's like a sushi bar that's part of it goes into this frame means because we don't have those people there, so we're not going to show too much of that singer you don't want to feel like it's empty like it's an abandoned restaurant, they're just shooting tour thing that they don't get in. So yeah, I said that that they're so how you crop and how you interpret that this is a very important part of the story see how far back I'm having to stand up against a wall to use theeighty five he's really loved peekaboo shots peekaboo shots are kind of like really intimate allowed you to peek into what people are doing, and how I do that is is finding an object, placing it in front of the frame and blowing it out, and that really gives that feel of intimacy. So when you're shooting, uh, either a portrait or a fast action shot just feels really natural to be ableto have that placement in there because it feels like you're speaking into the experience and what they're doing. So, yeah, in this case, her, this is this could still be used at the plating shot because she's in the process of plating and be used as a portraiture shot. But part of it, too, is even in plating shots just like portraiture will try to put something in front to give a feel like you're peeking into someone's dining table like todd shot yesterday with the chair blurred out slightly a little bit so those peekaboo shots also apply really well to plated shots, too, because it feels like, what do you eating? I just want a peek into what you're eating it's it's kind of fun wait, I got through okay notice, you see? You should hear me say, ok, go for it because I first I had her wait to chop, and then I said, okay, now you can chop don't let them chop the hole thing and have would be the last cucumber you're like. Oh, man, I missed it, so be so active in the plating and I always ask, can you wait? Can you go? Okay, you did that really fast. You one more time, just teo that's okay, you know what you're doing, so now I'm ready, because at that point, you know, because I do, I kind of walked into the situation, I missed the focus and it couldn't get it right, so don't be afraid in this case she can played it again because it was only cucumber, so and if they have a box of cucumbers, you can haven't do it twenty times, maybe don't push your food costs too much, right? So getting that flow so you see how I I love the eighty five it's harder to shoot, but I love the depth of field in situations like this because it adds to the motion and the blur's out the top left, I think that's a fire hydrant, maybe or all the details that I didn't want to see. And um but look, I was able to catch this the second time and she was cutting because they're pros they just cut so fast so you see in the video is fast they're slow could mr the first time so I said do it again and then I got down and I got made sure that I grab focus on the on the cucumber before she cut it and then when she cut then I fired away but there's these type of um not so play but process shots that's part of the plating process is invaluable to a client I can tell you they will if because they can use this shot not only to sell that dish that can sell it use it to sell any other dish that has cucumber in it that can use it for a seasonal campaign I mean, you'd be surprised at how many times that we use an image of an action or process played it shot question from the internet from um have you ever dropped your cameron on a bowl of soup? Okay, so but but from snappy gourmet how do you keep your cameras and gear clean when you're working a restaurant so close too? So food do you get them professionally cleaned? No, no, we just made it so I pretty much cleaned over here um I mean, I think it's something that is good for everyone just to be intimate with their gear to be ableto understand how to clean it it it just makes you feel more connected I don't like even like with my knives at home I don't send them out to be sharpened I love what an account to sharpen it it's just one of the skills that I like developing something the lenses I like killing them um maybe cleaning those sensors or some like that for the camera body I might send out for but your daily maintenance I thinkit's good you you just start to see and understand the gear even a little bit better great we'll save a lot of money way have so much gear because we do video we have all these things it's hard tio send it out all the time because the cost can get high yes, I ask another internet question while we're asking questions this one's from joanne underscore emma as well as logy ill are however, what about color contamination from different types of ambient light especially adding in that you're shooting with highest so and sometimes dragging this shutter so for example restaurants that aren't as clean perhaps in terms of the walls and everything as as market what would happen if the place was all green or had bright colors that's that that's great question in this shot actually the video and cover and I forgot to talk about it in terms of lighting right above where they are is an actual warm light there was actual light there and I asked f jo, can you turn it down so just like here when we were shooting tabletop here in creative life, we asked everybody to turn off the ambient light so if it's during service you cannot do a thing, you will just make those color corrections later in post but in this situation where we knew we wanted to get really beautiful natural light flowing into every subject that was on that table top placement then we just ash chef, can you turn it off? Do you need it? Well, first fall you say, do you need that light? Because just don't make it about you because when you do it's not about you, it's, about everybody else on the team it's about making sure chef is comfortable making sure chef can do his work the best he can for you to capture it. So I always say, do you need the life? You don't? Can we turn it down a bit? If you know if you really need it, we'll keep it on if not, maybe we can work halfway and he dimmed it down a bit, so but in terms of all the green lights and stuff, you're just gonna have to work on it in post you know, they can't shut down a restaurant lighting if it's busy for you to shoot dishes. Yeah, part of goes into looking around and finding your life sometimes out, even though the restaurant in general might have makes lighting here and there. Sometimes you can find a place where it's at least a singular light source. Um, so then you're able to adjust your white balance to whatever that light sources. Yes, I do restaurant right up for my blogged and a lot of times I'm eating dinner and so it's dark, the sun's already gone down and I often asked for a window seat. But usually, you know, if it's mood lighting in there, they're trying to make it romantic, then there's only candlelight and I've had very little success getting any kind of course, maybe that's just the way it is and try to use it to advantage is bringing the candlelight closer. Okay, um, but that's where you just can't do much and you can work on it in post that's editing skills and post post production skills. Sometimes there is a limit to what you can do. Yeah, I think everybody else way eat tio when we want to make sure that there's no one with, like, flashy lies like that cheese okay so um oh god what am I going to find your way always asking am I in your way am I blocking you always talking it's not just you it's everybody around you so moving wind moving type yeah that's great so she's gonna start plating it's gonna be pretty quick so you want to get you to taiwan right right you see notice that's like she's gonna start plating list let's go go go and you're always go go go running running running give us once you've got what you need the stepping stone no yeah I'll go high so he goes low I go high he goes close I go light we're always watching each other so these type of like motion shots to the process of putting that fish down it's just so cool because people love seeing the process just like people say I love watching right shoot why you know it's ugly don't you want to see the final hero picture but no I mean it's always fun and we love seeing the process too so it's that whole beginning to end a dizzy it's not just about z beautiful shot no this's really beautiful always talking to each other this is another process shot to just with hands you know a lot of chefs will plate with tweezers when they really get a chance to use their hands in there I just think it's so beautiful that personal touch to food a lot of the details shots that I will focus on is that human element bringing into preparing the food that we eat. So I love hand shops. Garnish on this dish is all there is of it. Yeah. So, yeah, she's played a modest asking what else's goes on what's next is there garnish? What does it look like? What color? Okay, so she's talking through that helps. So even shots like this that above overhead peeking through, they blur of the hand, all these process shots and it gives a little personality and story you can tell, you know, she's, a fun person is probably an artist look at those cool tattoos that little that that cool bracelet, you know, and I love it because it shows it's a chick cooking it's awesome, you know, you know, female chef and it's like, you know, being able to capture those bits of f n and femininity behind the plating of this is very much the story because it tells you market has a female shop that's their making food and then, like with these shots to a lot of it, you're also waiting in that timing you have tio and it takes just time experience practicing it of getting the timing of when the arms are here blocking it to win a captured just right amanda so you're always looking for that timing and waiting for the moment it's just not rapid fire random shooting you know the spray and pray type it's like you want your you looking for those moments and then being ready to capture it when it hits tony they contacts like sprinkle our garnish you would have some type of going across okay so today can you catch that uh motion through what the blur she's going to do much of sprinkles on time I was asked what is it is a sprinkle a little leaf let me know because if it's a sprinkle or or salt you've got to be super quick because there's no um single object that you can catch but if it's like a sprig you can catch okay so kind of spanish questions hold on, give us he's gonna catch that you catch that? Yeah. So where I was looking for blur too just because it gives that little bit of human interaction to a friend the hand the blur, the little the little bit of her shoulder picking in the back of her hair the back of her neck right here it just makes it so personal so it's just not about the hero dish it's a plating scene but it makes it feel like she's making it for me if not here, this is the food that was made for you is like she's making it for me. And while that's that's her there's a human part of it, so we always loved peekaboo shots over the shoulder through the apron. Anything like that, that can help the plating feel a little more interesting. So it's not just so literal on on a plate, because we just don't like things that are just so obvious and so literal. Whenever you're ready. This's frozen ice, um, we actually had just did this twice, because we don't know what that was and it's just starting to melt, so this is actually frozen ice. So knowing that knowing the second time, what it actually wass I was ready for it. So is this where she didn't know what it wass, you know, sometimes there's much questions is what you ask it's like you never going to know everything that's going to go on, so, you know, that's, part of it, you're dealing with, sing it up the best you can, and then dealing with the little details that you need to as you go and see the volume that was on there, we knew it was gonna be cool to get like that, that blur of the flow of of the he was like a frozen ice frozen cucumber rice frozen cucumber ice that's what it wass knows savi chain delicious you know I know it's not the solution you have to see this through that's fine working with you know I can always asking each step along the way one sprig to sprig shoot like crazy once break to spring because sometimes you get a lot of blurry stuff so how many shoots tell me things do we shoot here? We should allow him to shoot like fifteen or twenty and hopefully three we'll come out just from all the blur and the cover and the blocking of their hands over the food yes so you just keep the focus on the food and all the time as our hands were coming in and out of the shot and shooting at a lower shutter speed makes you get the blur but then you have to be very careful when you're shooting my hands are elbows are always on the table because I don't have a tripod they don't want to use ever use a tripod in a restaurant so it's just lots of shooting and practicing being able to stabilize your body and get that depth of field because I love it that's my style a love that motion but you still gotta have something focus okay flies like a bird lotions the motion's great but everything's in motion fleury food yes piggyback off of what she was saying um I didn't notice you all adjusting much with your camera it's like you are so in tune that you know you can okay, I want to go up down boom shoot, you're not fiddling around with apertures and shutter speeds that we went in with the existing light, you kind of set it up and then you could make quick adjustments. Yeah, that's really, you know, you practice, we chased her dogs around the backyard, you know, like location kids and try to meet her and practice because just we'll be moving, so we're meeting we shoot oh, man, you're meeting meaning, like, just just trying to follow fast action around and, you know, it takes a while to get to this point and not shoot two thousand pictures, you know, you like for me, for the most part, I'm just trying to keep my just missed down to a single dial just one thing that I'm changing, I have two that I'm set up and, you know, I might change maybe my depth of field between one scenario another and so, like when you walking cross like changing that, um, but for the most part, it's, like if when I need to make explosion adjustments in just one day, I'll cook a click boom another doubt you know it's like I have just that one that I need to do it depends what it is. It'll change from one star to another. I try to keep it down to just one. I'll go to cause I'll jump from a plaited too like a portrait really quick and sometimes I need a little more depth of field if I'm shooting two or three people cause I just don't want to have one person and focus and everybody blurry. But again practice practice, practice. I mean, just get a fire going on behind. You should catch that by all rights to this one. You catch that one that's. Amazing. Jo, can you do that one time? Is it? This is one of joe's favorite pictures and willing up one which is good. It worked and, you know, always being aware because I was shooting her. And then I noticed joe was and in this corner doing his own thing. I said, he's, got a fire go over there, go over there. So even though you're focused within the viewfinder shooting, be aware of everything around you not just for shots, but for safety. There could be a chef behind you with a knife, there could be a waiter behind you with a tray of hot food you've always got to be aware, so matter how focused, particularly ur in shooting detail and plated food, the focus is so minimal, you've got to be aware everything around you, and that could be advantageous when you're getting shots like these because he got, like, one shot and he nailed it first time. So that's, why not go over there, go over there? So I'm shooting what? I'm always looking around to see what else is going on because you don't want to miss those amazed moments in that opportunity to catch it something spectacular. That's beautiful. Did you get the fire shot so first dishes like this could die pretty quickly, so we're gonna try to bring it over. Um, way have backup. So launch just in case. It's a long way. So let's, identify camera front chef monica, where did you play it, too? Or you wouldn't want us like the froth before you played. We ask chef, just like you would worse camera front. So maybe let the noah had time. So you know where you're gonna be ready to shoot? Because as soon as that dish goes over to wherever going to shoot, you gotta like it. Quick and in this case, it was because it was ice and it melts so super fast, she's telling me camera first really super beautiful, so chef's gonna place the fish onto the grill and unfortunately it's a really slow grilled dish, so we can't have him fake it to make it at fire, so we're still just focusing on just the plating itself, the process of the plating we'll go into the hero shots and just a bit so for that previous now we're moving on to second guess the previous dish we then just took from that that instance and we started shooting just final heroes on it uh, which will get into that in just a bit so that you could just sort of see just that process they're focusing on just getting them in action and that plating process is and if you can back out when you get a chance my in your frame, you are alright, just let me know when you're going in so shit what's the fire type of this about way so in plating, two were always asking what's the fire time meaning if it's going to be a steak, how long it's going to take two fired up? And if it is we give tell, we tell him, okay, we've got ten minutes for final dish it takes you ten minutes to fire up. We're ready to go. So another thing, it's not just asking about what it looks like, it's asking about timing, particularly for dealing with pastry chef, particularly if you have a dessert that has to deal with sugar and ice cream. Those very delicate, fancy things that have melty stuff and sugars and candies and carmel's all over it die in like a minute and a half, and they take so long to prep and plate it if you screw up it's the hardest thing to tell a pastry chef I can you make it over, you know? So just just be always be ready well, and what if they're mean right, way do with really nice, usually way have about four minutes to be able to get some sneak in some really great ingredient shops, so if chefs awesome he's working with us and wave pretty much had everything done and before he played in this final dish, that was an opportunity to shoot more detail, so we're always not just looking at what we've got. We're always still shooting. Who cares? We can call later and mowed later let's, just shoot so it's an opportunity. Not only does she plated dishes to shoot detail food dishes to that aren't necessarily the dish, but just single ingredients. Getting his meas it out I'm just helping a composition of it there's two white ingredients center side by side so I just separate yeah so he's setting that up and script through we're just going over through this and then just talking over todd, she told the photographer and work as a stylist and help and composition and working with the props that he has can I take a look with its great little more top down? So so many changes here and there you want and that's where I'll play the role of food stylist so in this case we get it basically kind take another artistic look at the dish the timeline doesn't have to be a cz precise the chef has time to step away way and they were able to get some different shots on it yeah, and this is the final hero shot that we got really quickly for the ingredients of that dish and they love this type of shot too so plated here a dish could be just a series of ingredients that can be representative of the food because again, if they decide to change the plating of the dish in any way or something changed, they still have the ingredient to sell that dish and um it's just always super helpful and fun and good practice to be able to move on and notice that lighting the moody lighting the twelve o'clock about like backlight, I'm gonna start selling those t shirts because I know everyone going teo shooting back light and then we'll crop too so it's not cropped in camera yet, but we'll go ahead, so we'll talk to shit in three chefs they'll say, well, it's a little why that will crop later on because they don't understand the technical parts of photography, so they'll asked if sometimes they will hold you back. So you tell talk to them afterwards about we're going to crop later because sometimes they'll say, well, there's a spoon in there, I don't want we just always have to explain these to them, so they understand cause they don't understand from a graphic standpoint because they're not graphic designers and stuff like that. So we're continuing, um, it's a lot of the same stuff of plating and another here's, another shot of me shooting him, plating the, um his fish dish with the beans and you know it still playing dish, but it's still just a portrait shot, and I always love incorporating single hero or plating hero dishes with people in person to make just so much more interesting it's like it's one of those things that I mean just makes you get beautiful it's not just about the food, but it's about the human interaction on it, so so you were just talking through areas, pleading pretty much all the same things and here's, another action shot here, where we talked about how he was going to salt talked aboutthe salty, he's assaulting, insulting, and then we really get assaulting shot so all that we would not have built to get that if we had talked it through first, we would have totally missed it, and if it were an actual dish that was being brought out to a a guest, he can salted twice, you know what I mean? To be over salted so you can't can't always think that they're going to be flexible to your needs. You have to be totally, um, flexible to what they need to do and, you know, it's the same things here and again, it's you know that that plating portraiture that we talked about these another is that I love the shoots I can peek a boo underneath the arms like I used duck underneath and bring him back, but those type of blurry type hand shots, I'm cool with it. Some people, technically probably old school would say there's too much blur there and I'll be like, you know what? We're not shooting to win awards, we're not shooting to be prayed it's like we like it and everything that we've shot that we liked every time we've given it to a client they loved, and they will always use these shots because that's, a todd and diane style shot booth personal style, because we'll be there to capture those. Those was really special, intimate moments and things like that. So, again, this is more important, your butt again, a portrait of him plating. I'm eighty five, the natural light coming through the side. I love the shadow on it, absolutely love. It gives depth and dimension to this this plating story, you know him and here's, because we're actually you see the mix light, you see the light coming from the hood, lighting up his face and say that we're cool with that. It doesn't. It doesn't need to be that perfect, clean portrait shot. This is part of the environment.

Class Materials

bonus materials with purchase

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