Food Photography with Donal Skehan - Food Blogger Connect #FBC14

Food Photography 

I love talks about food photography and styling. It's so good to listen to someone who is as mad about it as you are. I may not ever be as skilled as Donal Skehan, but I could still listen him talk about it for hours.

Don't worry I shall keep this short and sweet!

This talk and demonstration was by Irish lad, blogger, photographer and all round nice chap Donal Skehan, ably assisted by the rather elegant food stylist Sharon Hearne-Smith.

Donald Skehan 

Donal first talked us through food photography and how it has changed. He summed up modern food photography as more about personal contact. He told us today you will find more people in shots or sometimes just hands.

Here are some of Donal's tips:
  • Take photos of the process of making a dish.
  • Set up  a shot how you would eat food, have things in the shot that would be on the table if you were sitting down to dinner.
  • You wouldn't have the raw ingredients of a dish at the dinner table, so don't include it in the shot.
  • Do some reportage pieces, for instance a grid with photos of where you bought or picked produce, following through with the cooking to the end dish.
  • Use a higher ISO in dull light.
  • You need a camera, tripod and bouncer as your basic kit.
  • Use the bouncer to take away shadows
  • You can use a mirror to bounce light, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. Try gently bouncing light off just one small area of a dish. It's good for lifting the colour of brown food in particular.
  • Take photos in RAW format.
  • If you need long shots and close up shots go for a 24 -105 lense.
  • Make sure the food isn't too big in the shot
"you don't want the food to look like it could eat you!" 
  • Take shots in both landscape and portrait.
  • Also take overhead shots.
    • to take a good overhead shot, stand on a stool and fit a spirit level onto the flash connector (not sure if that is the correct terminology), to make sure your hot is even.
    • Tuck the camera tight into your shoulder and have your arm tight into your body to keep the camera steady.
    • Hold the camera firmly by the lense.
food styling

  Food Styling with Sharon Hearne-Smith

I knew quite a lot of the tips Sharon shared with us, but it was nice to have a reminder and to hear her talk. I find there is always something to take away from a session.

Sharon's tips: 
  • If a sauce is a bit flat in colour, add some foil to the dish under the surface, this will instantly reflect and lift the colour of the dish, say for instance cranberry sauce.
  • Keep tissue and paper from gift and food boxes. It doesn't matter if it is crumpled, it makes an interesting surface to display baked goods on.
  • To stop croutons sinking in soup and to keep the spoon near the surface, place a small upturned bowl in your soup bowl and only just cover with soup.
  • Use, tea towels, doilies, crumpled paper, paper straws in baking shots.
  • Wrap coloured twine around the handle of a knife for a pretty effect.
  • Use a cotton bud to clean a tide line around the inside a bowl of soup or sauce.
  • Use a perfume spritzer filled with water to spray and perk up salad leaves.
  • Brush on oil or water with a paintbrush to liven up the look of food.
    • think about the food, should it look oily or wet?
    • only use clear oil, olive oil will distort the colour of food.
  • Use a paint stripping gun or blow torch to melt cheese (say on a burger) at the last minute, as cheese will start to look oily and rubbery as it cools.
  • Grate cheddar and place it on a baking sheet to melt. Pick off the crusty bits to add to the edges of an oven baked dish like pizza or lasagne.
  •  Add salad dressing to a salad at the very last moment and pool some on the plate.
I hope you enjoyed those tips and found some inspiration. Now it's time for veggie dish of the day.

Veggie Recipe of the Day

Vegetable Lasagne

from Amuse Your Bouche


  1. OMG what a great post - wonderful information - I wish I was at these fabulous classes - but thank you so much for sharing with us! Photography is the most challenging part of food blogging in my opinion - so many times I've made a dish that was delicious but just couldn't get a good photo so never posted it!

    1. It can be hard at times Mary, but picking up tips like these can help. The best thing I ever did was buy white art boards (mounting boards). You always get a good looking shot.

  2. Being gutted that I couldn't go to FBC I've been enjoying these posts covering it but this has been the most useful so far so think you. I don't always have time to attempt styling but I'll definitely kept the tips in mind when I do.

    1. I'm so glad you have enjoyed the posts Laura. I could go on for another week, but doing the last tonight focusing on the blogger and the food. Going to save Ottolenghi for another time.

  3. IT was a great workshop, but for me it was aimed at publishing and not bloggers, I follow the "Shoot to Eat" food styling, but, we are all different and I did pick up some useful tips and they were both lovely and very friendly!

    1. Yes, they were telling us from their perspective which was a professional one and what they do, but I agree they were really nice and some good tips.

  4. Always useful to hear food photography tips, thanks Jac. I'm not really keen on photographing food you are not going to eat or food you have to fish a bowl out of before you can eat it. Food needs to look natural as well as good. Also, if it takes too much time, who's really going to bother.

    1. I know it does take time, but I try to make more of an effort these days, hopefully it is appreciated.

  5. Thanks for a great post Jac, I'm disappointed I didn't get to go to FBC this year but I love the fact you've taken time to share some of the tips you picked up. Food styling and photography are my weakest areas, I'm never really sure how to style food for photos, this is partly laziness and partly greed as I generally want to eat whatever I've made ASAP rather than faffing about!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post Jen. It would be so nice to get the chance to meet up sometime.

  6. I really enjoyed this session - Donal and Sharon were both charming and entertaining. Probably they should have emphasised they were shooting for publications - I found the pie stuffed with kitchen paper tale a bit gross!!!

    Although I get that tricks like this are what it takes to make food look appetising in photos, it does raise questions about food waste and makes you wonder how much of what you see in magazines gets chucked away. At least you can be pretty confident looking at blog pictures that someone's family has genuinely eaten that dish you see on the screen.

    1. I know you are right about that Sarah. I would say it all gets chucked. We certainly have to think about presenting our food in a way that doesn't taint or tamper with it.

  7. Some excellent tips there, I need to try harder!

  8. I absolutely loved Donal and Sharons session , he is sooo full of life and shared his knowledge with us wholeheartedly ! Good summary of the top tips he shared Jaq!

    1. I know they were good.. Glad you liked in Manjiri. I loved spending time with you at the weekend. You always make me smile Manjiri :)

  9. Brilliant post - some really interesting information. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. That's a fabulous bunch of photography and styling tips Jac, thanks so much for sharing as sadly I couldn't make it along to that lab at FBC and i'd really wanted to.

    1. I know that labs were the best. I bet I missed a few good ones too. It was so nice to meet you Katie :)


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