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Brooklyn Cookin’

August 2, 2010

Last month I attended a three-day food photography workshop in Brooklyn called Brooklyn Cookin’. Chris Marquardt, a professional photographer and a podcaster from Germany and Chef Mark Tafoya, a personal chef from New York City got together and crafted this unique workshop. I had been listening to Chris’ podcast Tips from the Top Floor for a couple of years and loved the easy to understand tips he provides in layman’s terms. Half the participant were aspiring chefs and the other half were aspiring photographers. The chefs worked their magic downstairs while the photographers received instructions upstairs and both parties met at given times to photograph action shots as well as prepared foods.This was the first (in person) workshop I had been to. It was great to be able to ask questions and receive instruction in person.

We spent the first day at the indoor Chelsea Market. It used to be an old Nabisco factory and was converted into an indoor food market. It had remnants of the factory still visible and was very well lit with warm lighting. It was difficult to take a bad photograph. Following that we visited the Union Square farmer’s market for more photography fun. The second day we met at a house in Brooklyn where we received instruction and awaited inspiration from our chefs. We were not disappointed! We learnt about photography using available light. The third day we met at the same place and dabbled in flash photography using strobes, soft boxes and gels. I will highlight some great tips I learnt followed by pictures of each of the three days.

Composing the Background
Sometimes you can get really lucky and get the perfect lighting, perfect contrast, perfect subject and perfect background. Put all of these together and by chance if your subject happens to be showing a side profile with a line of a fence in the background at the exact elevation as his/her nose, your whole picture can get ruined. No matter how good everything else is the viewer gaze will for sure fall first upon the error. Be very aware of the background when composing candid shots.

Composing People
When taking a picture of a person never cut them off at a limb joint or below the elbow or below the knee. Doing so makes the subject look incomplete and cut off abruptly. The viewer’s eyes tends to search for extensions of the arms or legs and not finding them make the photograph less appealing.

Shutter Speed for a Moving Object
If you are trying to capture a moving object by taking a panning shot, say a car driving at the 30mph, and you want the car to be in focus but the background to be blurry and in motion, set the shutter speed to 1/30 seconds. The shutter speed should always be the inverse of the speed of the moving object in seconds.

‘Suggestion’ of the Thirds
Rule of the third is a great way to compose a picture. It makes you aware of who the subject is as you try to place it in one of the outer squares of an imaginary tic tac toe board. This works a lot of the time and I consciously try to do this while composing a shot. Chris said to consider it a ‘suggestion’ and not to get bound by it. Sometimes a subject placed in the very center of the frame can be quite powerful too. Know the ‘rule’ and then turn it into a ‘suggestion’.

Invisible Lines
Lines draw attention to a subject. Use lines or edges in the scenery that lead to your subject to draw attention to it. Sometimes the lines can even be invisible or suggested such as a person looking in a direction or pointing to an object. This forms an invisible line and the viewer is forced to look in the same direction as the person in the picture. If the person In the picture is looking at your subject, so will the viewer.

Note: None of the pictures below were post processed. Enjoy!

Day 1 – Chelsea Market

Wonderful lighting at chelsea market

Old exposed piping of the Nabisco Factory

Playing with depth of field

Chris Marquardt giving instruction

View of a bakery through a glass window

Lobsters at the fish market

Sushi at the fish market

Playing with shutter speed and falling water - slow shutter

Playing with shutter speed and falling water - fast shutter

Rusted steel - depth of field

Hugs at the farmer

Day 2 – Photography with available light

Chefs in action

Colorful foods and bowls

Action shot

Action shot

Action shot

Ready to eat

Salmon bean salad

Dinner at 5:30

Dinner at 5:30

Dinner at 5:30

Dinner is ready!

Day 3 – Strobes

My first experiment with two strobes, one on each side

Fun with gels - blue gel

Fun with gels - orange gel

No clear subject but decent lighting

Outdoor shot on a sunny day - two strobes and overhead diffuser

Outdoor shot on a sunny day - two strobes and overhead diffuser

Back inside again - available light - action shot

Available light - shooting against the light makes food look tasty!

Available light - pea soup

Chefs / photographers


Chef Mark Tafoya

Chris and Noerah

by Noerah

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 8:41 am

    Wow, you really had quite a time. I am very curious about strobes but have never tried them.. can’t wait to find out more about your time there. Was it worth it?? The pics look great.

    • August 3, 2010 10:19 pm

      The class was definitely worth it. I had a great time and asked a LOT of questions. I had Chris Marquardt give me a separate lesson on curves in photoshop. He is a great teacher. Strobes are fun but I have to work with them more to really figure them out. I will buy a Speedlite and a soft box and start experimenting. I will write about it more once I understand it better. -N

  2. August 3, 2010 4:04 pm

    Looks like lots of fun! How did you find out about the 3 day food photography class? I think it would be a blast to do something like that! 😀

    • August 3, 2010 10:21 pm

      I found out about it through Chris Marquardt’s podcast (link is in the post). It was a great experience.

  3. August 4, 2010 10:52 am

    Stunning photos, Noerah! what a great opportunity to learn from the masters… I love your pics- always taken with such an eye for color and detail. Keep up the good work!

  4. August 10, 2010 9:42 am

    I have offered a food trade with photographer friends for a mini class so I can get great photos in my kitchen. Great article, spending a lot of time here….thanks for sharing!

    • August 10, 2010 9:56 am

      Thanks for visiting! I think food photography is great.. you get to eat what you shoot.. okay so it gets cold by the time you are done shooting, but still..

  5. August 10, 2010 10:33 am

    I have no idea how I missed this post… I don’t remember seeing all of the pics from your class! I hope I can do something like this sometime, I bet it was fun to eat all that awesome food, too!

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