Happy snapping - Christopher Archambault investigates the brave new world of food photography
PUBLISHED: 16:22 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013
A strong desire to capture the fleeting moment between creation and consumption pushed me towards food photography.
Christopher Archambault investigates the brave new world of food photography
Photos: Garth Vaughan and Archambault Culinary Services
A strong desire to capture the fleeting moment between creation and consumption pushed me towards food photography. Yet I find it very frustrating. Not due to its difficulty or the elusive British sun, but because only here can I achieve perfection. A wise old culinary legend once told me that he gave up on the fire and brimstone of professional kitchen life because he loved food too much. I pondered this for days but it was only my own creeping years and gravitation toward the lens that I began to understand. All factors are against a chef trying to reach the diners with creations as they were originally intended. Time, volume, temperature, distance, balance...they all want to ruin what you have so carefully coaxed and presented. Photography immortalises your creations just as you envisioned. Every possible adjustment can be made before pressing the button to ensure perfection. Photoshop makes the image even better than the real thing, hence the term food porn. All the subtle tweaks and additives, making the contrived look natural, feeding the eyes with a colourful flood of desire and sending one running to either fridge for a quick fix or phone to book the next culinary outing.
For me, the penny dropped years ago when I was on yet another long day of food styling for a photographer brought in at great expense to shoot the new season of website/flyers. I couldnt really understand why, in this age of the all-singing-and-dancing DSLR, photography was still being seen as a mystic art. I believe that when it comes to food photography, styling trumps the snapping. Technology is making it increasingly simple for just about anyone with a little flair to take a picture that wouldnt go amiss in a magazine or framed above the mantle. The rise of Instagram and iPhoneography is only in its infancy, but as cameras and filters on smartphones head for pixel heaven and do the job of Photoshop in the press of a button, professional food photographers need to have much more of an eye for styling.
You dont take a photograph, you make it Ansel Adams
With marketing budgets shrinking, the commercial setup is certain to follow, and with it the plethora of assistants and food stylists that can often accompany the big shoots. This is why a chef-photographer can add an edge to a shoot when his/her life has been spent essentially styling food. Give me lots of natural light and a reflector and I can take food pictures to rival any studio. Where this guerrilla approach can fail is with a lack of kit and lens knowledge, or when the sun refuses to shine. Nothing can replace a top photographer who is at one with his camera in the way I am with my knife.
And so, this leads me to Garth Vaughan, an accomplished lifestyle and food photographer from Colorado who has spent his career freelancing in New York and working for Disney in Florida. Now set up in Southernhay, Exeter, Garth has a favourite quote, from Ansel Adams: You dont take a photograph, you make it. I couldnt agree more. Garth approached me after my demo at the Crediton food festival and a worthy trade was made. He wanted to snap my food and I wanted to glean in a day as much kit/lens/lighting knowledge from him as possible. Gordon from Intoto Kitchens in Marsh Barton was kind enough to let us work on site and his stylish kitchen combined with great natural light and Garths amazing Kinoflo soft light managed to make some not so shabby dishes shine stellar. From this experience, I learned that the right kind of soft lights can look good with food, and to add a 2,000 tilt shift lens to my Christmas list.