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Kalyn's Kitchen

Learning Food Photography with White on Rice Couple and Other Things I’m Thinking About (10-14-2014)

Todd and Diane’s huge collection of cutting boards, captured by iPhone!

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you might have noticed that a few weekends ago I was enthusiastically sharing about a  food photography workshop hosted by my good friends and amazing photographers, Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple.  I’ve heard Todd and Diane talk about food photography at several blogging conferences, so I knew the workshop held in their fabulous food photography studio outside Los Angeles would be informative, but I never imagined how life-changing it would end up being for me.  Two days of listening to the experts, watching demonstrations, and practicing new shooting methods really got me thinking outside the box on my personal food photography journey.

Plus Todd and Diane had visited my house on the tour for their gorgeous cookbook, so they could help me with one of my biggest photography challenges, which is too many big windows in the rooms where I normally shoot.  When I got home, I bought black foam core boards and clamps the very next day!  A few food bloggers have been asking me about the workshop, so I thought I’d share some highlights  and a few of my photos.    

I felt Todd and Diane’s workshop had a perfect blend of lessons on lighting, photography tips and demonstrations, examples of food styling techniques, editing and file management information, and an overview of equipment, as well as some thoughts about the business side of photography for those who might be pursuing that. We listened and watched demonstrations followed by hands-on photography practice of what we’d learned; then we edited our photos and picked a few to share with the group.  At the end of the two days for the “final exam” Diane and her brother set up stations of styled shots with various light conditions, and we had 40 seconds at each station to get a good shot.  Overall it was a packed weekend of photography practice, with hands on help and suggestions from two great photographers.

I took an iPhone photo of the big table set up with various foodstuffs that we used for our practice photos.  Food bloggers, just imagine choosing from huge rooms full of dishes, linens, silverware, glasses, and backgrounds to set up a shot.  For some of our practice shots, we had to assemble ingredients that weren’t actually incorporated into a dish and then style it so it looked like a finished recipe shot, which was challenging and fun.

Here Diane was showing how any interesting surface can make a background for a food photo; in this case it was an old baking sheet!  Diane would style a shot and Todd would photograph with different angles and then we got to see the results immediately, which was great for learning.  I even got completely out of my box and shot without a tripod to practice using new angles.  And I think there’s a new image-stabilized lens in my future.

And it’s a blurry shot with the iPhone, but the most life-changing lesson for me was watching how they used black foam core boards to absorb some of the light and add interesting shadows to the photo.  (I’ve already experimented with this at home, and wow, what a difference it makes in my too-bright house.)

Now here are just a few of the many, many shots I took over the weekend.

This was one of my photos from the first day, when we had to create a photo using vegetables or fruit.  This was shot in really low light to create shadows and highlights, and that was a different approach for me.

In this photo I was going for a different angle than I usually use in my pictures, and this was one of the dishes created with assorted ingredients that we had to style to look like a recipe. 

For this shot I was learning to add interest with linens that aren’t perfectly ironed or lined up straight (definitely outside the box for me!) This quinoa salad was leftover from lunch (the workshop included meals for two days and the food was amazing.)

This was one of the “final exam” shots styled by Diane that we had to capture in 40 seconds.

And one more shot styled by Diane and shot in 40 seconds; I loved the colors in this although I doubt macarons will be making an appearance on Kalyn’s Kitchen any time soon!

(The next photography weekend with Todd and Diane will be in January 2015, more details on their workshop pageAnd if you want to see some samples of the beautiful photos from this talented couple, here’s their portfolio.)

Other Photographers Who Wrote About the Workshop:

Something New For Dinner shares her photos, plus some great shots of the studio.

And here are a few other things I’ve been thinking about lately . . . .

Do you salt eggplant?  Some well known food writers give their opinion and Ann Mah tests salted and unsalted eggplant and shares the results.  (Found via David Lebovitz on Facebook.)

Speaking of photography, I loved this post from Distractify with 75 Iconic Photos that Define the 21st Century So Far.  Do you agree that these are photos that define our time?  And what do you think they missed?

The New York Times explains Why You Hate Work.  (I definitely don’t hate my work, but I understand why so many people do.)

My friend Barbara taught me this recently (on Facebook!).  In case you I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know how to do it, iMore shares How to Save a Photo from the Web on Your iPhone or iPad.

And if you need a little fitness inspiration, check out The World’s Oldest Yoga Teacher.  (Found via  Elise Bauer on Facebook)

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21 comments on “Learning Food Photography with White on Rice Couple and Other Things I’m Thinking About (10-14-2014)”

  1. Thanks Kim. It was really an inspiring weekend for me, no doubt about it.

  2. Hi Kaylyn,
    Todd and Diane's class was great fun and so valuable. I'm so glad to get to know you and really appreciate all your wonderful tips. Your new pictures look fabulous!

    — Kim, Something New For Dinner

  3. Hi Letty,
    Those big windows in my house are just too much light. The workshop was so helpful for that. I can show you how to use the black foam core board sometime.

    I saw some discussion on the FB page about waiting to November to get together, but I do get the idea that there is only a small core group who really wants to make it happen. We should just go by ourselves when the others don't respond!

  4. Kalyn,
    I caught somewhere that you were at the workshop. So excited for you! I have only begun to realize that my bright afternoon windows are hindering my photos– I'm still not certain what to do about it. I thought sheer gauzy curtains to soften the light–I'll try the black boards first.
    ps 3rd week in month went by without a peep after your inquiry. ?

  5. Elise, thanks again for letting me know about the workshop! I think one reason I learned so much is that Todd and Diane are so nurturing and supportive as teachers, so I felt encouraged to really try new things. I have a little backlog of photos but I'm going to start mixing in a few new ones soon! xoxo

  6. Hi Kalyn,
    Todd and Diane's workshop was a life-changing event for me too. You would think after so many years of doing this there wouldn't still be so much to learn, but WOW did this workshop open up my eyes. Todd and Diane are so incredibly generous with their knowledge. I can't wait to see the transformation of your photos going forward!

  7. Johanna, it does make me wish I had taken something like this much sooner! But I'm so glad I did it now.

  8. That looks like a really interesting course – I think I need some photography courses. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it

  9. Annalise, it was really amazing. And I went there determined to do whatever they asked me to try!

  10. Your photos look incredible! I love that the workshop forced you out of your comfort zone, I could totally benefit from something like that!

  11. Thanks Stephanie. It was really so great!

  12. Alanna, I do have a bunch of photos still to come from before this (and I CAN'T reshoot all those recipes, lol) but I'll probably start mixing in the newer ones.

    And interestingly enough, too much light is a real problem. I never would have imagined it.

  13. These are beautiful photos. I love your impressions of this well spent weekend.

  14. Ditto Lydia — I’m curious to watch how the workshop changes your day-to-day photos …

    PS Too much light? Oh for such a thing! 🙂

  15. Merisii hopefully the lighting will be much better!

  16. Thank you for sharing your workshop experience and the pictures! Glad you found a simple way to create perfect lighting at your home.

  17. Thanks Lydia, it was just so much fun!

    Todd and Diane, Thanks so much for sharing your incredible knowledge! Seriously it was so beneficial to me to watch you two in action and then try things myself. Just amazing. xo

  18. Arghh, accidentally deleted this comment from White on Rice Couple (instead of publishing it) from my phone:

    "Your food photo from the workshop are so beautiful. We're so happy you're seeing things in a different way with light and composition. You were a fabulous student, thanks for attending! xoxoxo"

  19. Oh, that looks like so much fun! Can't wait to see some of the new techniques in action!

  20. Thanks Dara! The workshop was so wonderful.

  21. What an amazing experience, Kalyn! You came away with some pretty awesome shots.

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