JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, July 26, 2010

Food photography at the Irish Embassy with Alastair Hendy

Lovely party in the beautiful ballroom at the Irish Embassy in London, a house which used to belong to the Guinness family ...

A group of bloggers was given a masterclass in food styling and photography by Alastair Hendy - author, chef, photographer, stylist (he doesn't seem to have a website so sadly I can't give you a link to his wonderful photographs).

Here's Alastair's "holy trinity" of things to think about: the look (ie the styling), the light (which will make or break any photo), and the lens (seduction by depth of field and point of focus). Suddenly I'm looking at Alastair's images in a different way.

After Alastair's talk, we were given a chance to take pictures. Alastair provided the props, and the food was provided by BordBia, the Irish food board. Lovely produce, in four groups - seafood, cheeses, puds, booze.

Alistair takes all his pictures in natural light, avoiding bright sunlight, and never using flash. So you'll see bloggers working by the window, and using reflectors - not expensive camera shop reflectors, but ones made of cardboard and cooking foil.

This picture was taken at some distance from the window, with a foil reflector to one side (similar to what's going on in the one above). Even before we get on to the question of artistic merit, it's no good - I didn't spot the creases in the tablecloth. It's an illustration of what, for me, was the main photographic lesson of the evening: the camera sees things differently to the way we see them, so images need to be planned, not casually snapped.

The photograph below of black pudding appetizers with samphire sums up, for me, everything that is good about Irish food: wonderful livestock, great seafood, abundant oats. Mixed farming, in other words - something we have largely forgotten about on this side of the Irish Sea.

Shocking to hear from the Ambassador how far adrift UK food production has got from reality: Eire is 666% self-sufficient in beef production, whereas the United Kingdom is a net importer of beef. It's not just Ireland that has the longest grass-growing season in the northern hemisphere - but here, in the United Kingdom, we've sidelined grass production, and that hasn't done us any good, either as individuals, or as an increasingly broke nation.

Amongst the other bloggers there were:

CookSister, Eat Like a Girl, Feast with Bron, Extra Relish, The London Foodie, Kavey Eats, 5amFoodie

PS most surprising photography tip of the evening: travelling food photographers should always take a damp cloth in a bag ... and within moments of starting work on our own pictures, what did we all need? yup, that's right


Kavey said...

Was a great session wasn't it?

Joanna said...

It was fun ... I've added a link to your blog


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And I've just been wondering about you, and here you are with WOW fascinating photo hints.
I really am in the market for a new camera.
Wish I could have been there.

Joanna said...

Tanna, it would have been lovely if you had been there - hope you are all well and happy

You've got me thinking: maybe I should do a post with more detail on Alastair's masterclass? Although something tells me I'm never going to catch up with one or two ace food blogging photographers ;-)


Helen (Fuss Free Flavours) said...

Wow! What a great event to go to.

Please can we have more details?

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Lovely to see you there (even though it took me a while to remember where we'd met before ;-)) It was a great event, wasn't it, and I really liked some of Alastair's tips.