Food Photography Workshop at Brooks

On Saturday September 28th, Brooks held a food photography workshop in Santa Barbara.  It was a full day workshop with presentations, demos, and even a hands-on shooting session.  The lead instructor was Photographer and Brooks faculty member Bill Robbins, assisted by L.A. food stylist Claire Stancer, and Bill’s daughter, photographer Cara Robbins.  I drove up with Cynthia Sinclair. the photographer with whom I’ve been shooting the covers for the restaurant guides shown in previous posts.  This seemed like a great chance to improve our skills in this genre and with that, expand our clientelle.

The program started with a classroom lecture on various elements and categories of food photography along with examples to illustrate the points being made.  Then we went to the studio where Bill showed us his food photography “toolkit” and demonstrated some of the shooting techniques and “tricks” employed in shooting food including creating steam and making the perfect head on a glass of beer.  A couple of tips passed along here were worth the price of admission all by themselves.  I thought that, from the old days shooting I knew most of them but I definitely saw some that were brand new to me and really excellent concepts.

Bill Robbins preparing to demonstrate shooting tricks for food photography.  iPad Photo

Brooks instructor Bill Robbins preparing to demonstrate shooting tricks for food photography. iPad Photo

Bill is carefully adding the chemicals to a mixture that is one of a number of ways to create "steam" to help make food shots look hot and fresh.  iPad Photo

Bill is carefully adding the chemicals to a mixture that is one of a number of ways to create “steam” to help make the food in photos look hot and fresh. iPad Photo

After lunch Claire took us to the Brooks kitchen where she showed us tips and “secrets” to preparing food for photography.  From how to slice something for the best photos to bringing tired lettuce and herbs back to life… to how to shop for food items to be used in photography, she made it all look so easy and to her it probably is.  Her credits from over 30 years in the industry list like a “who’s who” of food magazines and clients.

Claire in the Brooks Studio Kitchen showing how to prepare food to last longer and look fresher for food photography.  iPad Photo

L.A. Food Stylist Claire Stancer in the Brooks Studio Kitchen showing how to prepare food to last longer and look fresher for food photography. iPad Photo

For the last session of the day, Bill, Claire, and Cara set up half a dozen different “sets” using both studio lighting and natural window lighting.  To demonstrate that the lighting need not be complex, he demonstrated both the use of cheap photo floods and window light as the key light and then used various reflectors from a wide array of materials exclusively to augment the main light.  I was impressed by the effectiveness of the minimalist lighting.  It doesn’t always work for my own style, but it certainly made me aware of some good options when the shot or situation calls for it.  it is the options and the ability to use them at the proper times that elevates a shooter in the field.

Instructor Bill Robbins showing test shot at one of the food stages.  iPad shot

Instructor Bill Robbins showing a test shot and explaining use of reflector at one of the food stages. iPad shot

Bill is setting up am window light shot for a stacked tomator and cheese dish.  You can see this dish in the montage below.

Bill is setting up a window light shot for a stacked tomato and cheese dish. You can see this dish in the montage below.

Claire is delicately putting a dollop of spaghetti in just the right place on a plate while students not so patiently wait for their turns to take a shot.

Claire is delicately putting a dollop of spaghetti in just the right place on a plate while students not so patiently wait for their turns to take a shot.

The students were then broken into smaller groups and encouraged to modify and adjust the items in each set up and shoot them.  Below are some examples from that session.  I can’t claim these as solely my shots since the items and lighting were often being arranged by either the instructors or the other students. (Note the previous blog post on ethics and class/workshop demos.)  In fact I almost didn’t shoot at all since I did not want to cut into their time.  After all  I was there mostly to learn some new trends, styles, and techniques.

But, what can I say?  I could not help myself… When a chance to shoot arose right in front of me I could not pass it by.  Here is a montage of some of those shots.  You can click on the image to see it enlarged.  Among the things to note are the bubbles in the coffee cup in the upper right which were augmented with Photo-Flo, the spaghetti shot from the shot with Claire above, the tomato and cheese stack from the window light shot, and the shots of the croissant that were from the first set up that where Bill is showing the use of the reflector.  BTW the muffins and strawberries in the upper middle were styled by Cynthia.

Here is a montage of shots taken during the Brooks Food Photography Workshops.  These images were taken of setups lit by Bill and styled by Claire.  All were taken free hand with Canon 5D Mk II and Canon 70-200 f4L lens.

Here is a montage of shots taken during the Brooks Food Photography Workshop. These images were taken of setups lit by Bill and styled by Claire then sometimes modified by the students.  However, the captures are mine as is the post production on them. All were taken free hand with a Canon 5D Mk II and Canon 70-200 f4L lens.  You can click on the image to enlarge it to full screen size. It make take a second click to bring it full screen.

For me it was a great workshop and a chance to learn some new things to help with my own shooting as well as for more up to date class presentations at City College.

It was great to see one of City’s hard working students, Angelica Wauman had come up to the workshop.  In fact it was a little disappointing that none of the others I told about it bothered to do it.  It is not often that a student gets a chance to have such a presentation done for a student-reasonable price.  Oh well, I always thought Angelica will be one of those who makes it because of her enthusiasm, passion, and dedication.  I’m not so confident about some of the others.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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