I bumped into somebody I knew whilst shopping at Ingleburn here in Sydney. He ran a small cafe called Ribs and Pasta Express. He was an old family friend — emphasis on old family friend. This is a very small Cafe which caters your typical take away outlet serving coffee beverages, hot chocolates, sandwiches, salads and burgers — you know the typical take away outlet. There is one difference though, is that he also serves ribs and pasta which you don't typically see on take away outlets.
When I bumped into him, we started catching up and eventually lead to me taking on an assignment and photographing some of his speciality products
I don't own my own studio, all my food photography shoots are done on location. This cafe was so tight that there's hardly any space to move. Lucky for us though, when we did the food photography, it was during the quiet period.
I needed two sessions of food photography; one a large enough space to take photos of the key foods and the other whilst the ribs were being cooked. In Ingleburn shopping complex, there's a storage area used by Woolworth to store boxes and trolleys, this is where we set up shop to photograph the bulk of the food. The other, where we had to shoot the food had to be done inside a tight cafe where I could only fit in one external flash and I had to make sure that there's no one else walking around my area as there was literally no room to move.
This is my very first food photography and though I was excited, I was nervous because I wasn't sure that my gear would stand up to the challenge. I am still building my gears you see. Another challenge was that there appears to be a rush to get the product done. Normally we would scope the place out and see where would be the best place to take a photos before actually taking photos. But not this shoot, he wanted more than just food being photographed, he also wanted documentation of his Cafe. So I quickly scoured around to see what can be done. Lastly, poster sized prints, laminated prints and graphic design was needed to place the photos together with the menu displays.
Often you would hear in food photography, there is a stylist to make the food look good on camera. Photographers in general are not stylists, we just present the food. We tend to say, let the food speak for itself and we'll just capture that image. What we do bring to the table though, are things like lighting and technicality on how to take a good photo. Have you seen photos food photos that looked so bad? I have. When you see those photos, the food may taste great, but when you look at it, it's as if somebody has regurgitated the food and placed on a platter. Yuck!
Most small business, though, don't have a huge budget and chef's in general have an eye on how to present their food. This is what we've done here. I've let the chef stylist the food and I've just presented it. One concern to this though, is that chef's in general prepares food to look good to be eaten, not to look good for the camera. There's a difference between the two in a sense that, food often shrink when it's cooked. This is where food stylers comes in where the food may not be cooked at all, or half cooked. Food stylers have a way to make the food really look good and very enticing to eat. But if on strict budget, a chef is good enough to style the food. You'll just have to collaborate with them.