Photography & Food Styling Masterclass

“Be imaginative and challenge established norms.
An eye for detail and respecting time-honoured traditions will never lead you astray.

Chopinand, on creating beautiful piano music

~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~

It seems the power of savvy marketing and social media cannot be underestimated in today’s competitive business environment. Australia’s fragile economy has seen the official cash rate drop to a 60-year low of 2.5%. Private businesses are not the only ones clamouring to boost business activity and sales but local governments are also doing their part to support their business communities.

The suburb of Bankstown is 19 kilometres south west of Sydney CBD. The nine suburbs within the jurisdiction of Bankstown City Council is home to more than 180,000 residents from 160 countries as diverse as Vietnam, Lebanon, China and Pakistan. In recognition of this diverse community, the council provides a number of arts, culture, leisure, educational and recreational facilities and services for its local residents.

World on a Plate photography competition 2014 is an initiative by the Bankstown City Council to promote the diverse cuisines of its residents and to support local food businesses.

Within the month of May 2014, you can actively participate by submitting photographs of your favourite food with your favourite people. Be it dinner with the family, dining at a local restaurant or a Sunday picnic at the park, your photograph submissions are eligible to win some exciting prizes.

To kick off this competition, Bankstown City Council has organised a photography and food styling masterclass conducted by Sydney professional photographer Tanya Zouev and food stylist extraordinaire Janet Mitchell.

The council has also invited local media and food bloggers to help spread the word about the competition.

Food stylist Janet plating up a Caprese salad

Food stylist Janet plating up a Caprese salad

Caprese salad is one of my favourites in summer. It is a beautiful dish to photograph because the salad shows the vibrant colours of its native Italy.

Arriving a little late, I am delighted when I see Janet assembling slices of tomatoes, bocconcini and basil.

Caprese salad

Janet Mitchell's Caprese salad

Good extra virgin olive oil, a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper are all you need to bring this delightful salad to life.

Janet’s artistry in plating up this beautiful salad might transport you to a glorious Italian summer in the Amalfi coast.

Food bloggers snapping away

Food bloggers snapping away

In actual fact, I am in the company of talented Sydney food bloggers photographing this dish on the floor of the conference room in Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre in Sydney.

"This cake is HUGE!!" ~ Tanya Zouev, explaining the finer points of good photography

"This cake is HUGE!!" ~ Tanya Zouev, explaining the finer points of good photography

I am impressed by Tanya Zouev‘s talent as a photographer because her clients include some of the biggest food brands in Australia.

She gives the participants some first-hand experience from being a food photographer for more than twenty years.

“I would remove those little crumbs and actually prefer the glazing to drip down the side rather than the middle of this cake” she says.

“The light would capture more of the glaze oozing down the side than the middle. I’m anal but this trait has produced some of my best works” she explains laughing.

The essence of good food styling

The essence of good food styling

Tanya’s eye for a good image and Janet’s food styling skills are a lethal combination.

I don’t have a sweet tooth at all but the rustic yet elegant presentation of this simple orange syrup cake and Turkish baklava might even tempted me to indulge.

Behind the scenes ~ setting up the props

Behind the scenes ~ setting up the props

Behind the scenes, I am thinking ‘Universal Studios’ where the food and cutlery are the Hollywood actors.

Taking aim ~ Tanya Zouev behind the camera

Taking aim ~ Tanya Zouev behind the camera

Tanya’s eye for detail is impressive and her top tips for amateur photographers include:

    • Capture food images from the top and portrait style gives more depth compared to landscape style
    • Pay attention to detail
    • Use interesting props to fill up empty spaces
    • Remove crumbs, messy sauces on the edge of bowls etc
    • Understand the basics of good image composition
    • Use good light source to create bright, vibrant images and avoid shadows
    • Blur out background to create focus for the subject
Food photography ~ Tanya Zouev's laptop

Food photography ~ Tanya Zouev's laptop

As participants, we get an insight into how Tanya comes up with the ‘perfect food image’.

By building upon each photograph, she adjusts, removes, adds and best of all engage in friendly banter and argument with her ‘partner in crime’ Janet.

Finer touches ~ Janet Mitchell styling a cake

Finer touches ~ Janet Mitchell styling a cake

Janet’s skills as a food stylist are no less impressive and she has these tips to offer any aspiring food blogger:

  • Cutlery, plates and bowls should be practical for the food being served
  • Food items should be discernible at first glance
  • Freshen up vegetables , garnishes and glaze just before capturing the image
  • Smaller portions always look better and easier to photograph
  • Use interesting props to fill up empty spaces
  • Inexpensive and rustic props often make the best ones
Janet Mitchell and Tanya Zouev with participants of the masterclass

Janet Mitchell and Tanya Zouev (fourth and fifth from left) with some participants of the masterclass

This 2-hour masterclass reminded me of the piano masterclasses I used to attend as a music student.

Some of the principles for creating beautiful piano music are very similar to the art of capturing an enduring photograph.

Be imaginative and challenge established norms. But an eye for detail and respecting time-honoured traditions will never lead you astray.

Rustic elegance ~ Tea and dessert anyone?

Rustic elegance ~ Tea and dessert anyone?

ChopinandMysaucepan attended this photography and food styling masterclass and received door gifts as a guest of Bankstown City Council. All views and opinions are our own.

Janet Mitchell can be contacted via her website:

http://www.janetmitchellfoodstylist.com

Tanya Zouev can be contacted via her website:

http://tanyazouev.com/

World on a Plate photography competition 2014 is held between 1 May to 31 May 2014. Please click here to for entry details and terms and conditions.

For more information, please contact:

Bankstown City Council
Upper Ground Floor
Bankstown Civic Tower
66 – 72 Rickard Road ( Corner of Jacob St )

Tel: +61 2 9707 9999

http://www.bankstown.nsw.gov.au/

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9 Responses to Photography & Food Styling Masterclass

  1. Love rustic props! i agree, there is something about them that makes the photo so much better

  2. I’ve got to say Chopin, the lighting in that room seemed pretty terrible for a photography master class ;)

    Jibe aside, I’m disappointed I couldn’t make it. Alas, here’s to the next one.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Michael,

      I believe lighting was turned low during the presentation. I’m no expert in photography but the images taken by Tanya Zouev looked brilliant even under those dim conditions.

  3. Raymund says:

    I want to enroll in something like this

  4. Melanie says:

    Thank you for sharing such great ideas and concepts for aspiring food photographers. These tips will be easy to start applying right away!

  5. milkteaxx says:

    the props are beautiful! have been wanting to learn more about photography for a long time!

  6. What a great class! Such great tips — always wonderful to get expert advice. Wonderful post — thanks.

  7. What an exciting masterclass, Chopin! I would love to be a part of something like this. It’s so cool how she has the background for each dish!

  8. Chopinand, I’ve long admired your food photography, especially whilst capturing some of the beautiful dishes you’ve share in the midst of difficult lighting in your restaurant reviews. Your comparisons to music made me think of grace notes, appoggiaturas, and all the little touches we add as we play… why not food photos? Terrific advice!

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