A short while ago I was invited to attend an inaugural food photography training session organised by Helen of aforkfulofspaghetti, run by Chris Windsor, a freelance professional photographer and hosted by the Scandinavian Kitchen, a shop, deli and café in Great Titchfield Street.
I’ve been a keen photographer since I was a child and have learned a fair bit over the decades since then; I’ve attended a few courses but mostly self-taught.
I’ve also delivered training myself (IT Training is what I do for a living) on “Understanding & Processing RAW Files In Adobe Camera Raw & Photoshop”. As well as covering topics such as white balance, exposure, histograms and contrast my courses have sometimes also covered general photography skills too such as selecting aperture, shutter speed and ISO, using the camera histogram display to improve exposure and so on. I have also sold prints and stock images, though on a very limited basis.
So, as I mentioned to Helen before signing up, I wasn’t sure whether the session would be that useful to me. It would depend on what Chris was intending to cover.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that there’s nothing to improve in my photography – there is so much I could do a great deal better. I look at the photography in some of my favourite food publications and blogs and sigh with a mixture of admiration and envy!
The main areas I’d like help with are food styling, which I find quite tricky and also a practical session on making better use of both natural and artificial light, particularly the latter. The other problem area for me is down to laziness rather than lack of knowledge – I seldom bother to make a proper effort to set the scene and arrange better lighting when I’m hungry to eat whatever’s just been cooked! Of course, I know no-one else can help me on that front and I just have to apply will-power!
In the end, I decided that, regardless of the content of the session, it would be fun to meet Chris and the other food bloggers attending, to visit the Scandinavian Kitchen, and to photograph and eat delicious goodies provided by them.
Arriving early gave me the chance to meet Chris and Helen before the session started as well as to explore the goodies on sale in the shop and start thinking about what I’d buy to take home later.
Chris introduced himself and showed us his reportage style of photography. His latest projects include providing the photography for books written by his wife, food-writer Jenny Linford, including a new edition of her book, Food Lover’s London, which he had brought along to show us. Although he has, in his long career as a professional, worked on all kinds of shoots, including studio work with lighting, food stylists and props, he does much less of this work these days focusing on some wonderful abstracts as well as more candid portraiture.
With two point and shoot users and two DSLR users, I quickly realised that the class would need to be pitched at a far more basic level than would be useful to me but didn’t mind simply enjoying the company.
This one was taken deep inside the coffeeshop, not much available light but used a little fill-in flash and reduced noise in post-processing.
Chris covered everything from available light and white balance to ISO to dialling down the intensity of one’s flash, all of which seemed really useful to my classmates.
My favourite bit of the session was the practical during the last 40 minutes. We distributed a couple of dishes of beautiful open sandwiches provided by our hosts, each took a plate or two to a quiet corner and started photographing away. In the main, I just did my normal thing but enjoyed a very brief session at the end trying out some home-made reflector boards that Chris set up using mini clamps.
This one was also taken in the darker area of the coffeeshop using Chris’ reflectors and a high ISO. I had to apply a lot of noise reduction when processing. For composition, I stuck with same as I’d used previously for the same dish.
It was also very nice to meet and chat to Swedish owner Jonas who set up the café shop with his Danish wife, Bronte. Together they have created a stylish and welcoming shop selling food from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and even Finland.
As well as eating the open sandwiches we’d just photographed Jonas kindly treated us to a true childhood favourite of mine – punschrulle, also known colloquially as vacuum cleaners. These rum-flavoured, green-marzipan coated, chocolate-dipped cakes take me straight back to regular childhood trips to Sweden and I’ve loved them ever since. These are also available from Ikea so I do indulge now and again though Scandinavian Kitchen does have a far bigger range of quality food items than Ikea!
Before leaving, I treated myself to some Swedish blood pudding and some cute gummy car-shaped sweets. The blood pudding made a great hangover-cure lunch on Sunday. We went for a protein blow out of fried blood pudding, fried eggs and grilled streaky bacon. Delicious and very reasonably priced too so I’ll certainly be popping back down to Scandinavian Kitchen for further supplies!
Going forward, I think the classes would benefit from being split between complete beginners and intermediate users, possibly also between DLSR and point and shoot users too. For those looking for something more specific or advanced, whether it be a session on lighting or understanding their camera settings, it may be best to book a one-to-one session directly with Chris. Contact him via his website.