International Food Photography Day 2012

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Arabic music drifts like a lullaby to exotic dreams, merging with zingy scents of mint and lemon, sharp bursts of garlic and gentle cinnamon. Candle light flickers through the patina of delicate lanterns. The table is set with glass and pottery, earthenware and old china in Byzantine hues of azure and crimson, tangerine and terracotta.

It is quite a transformation and the mood is unmistakably one of celebration as Phood studios come together with friends and colleagues to celebrate the inaugural International Food Photography Day and to launch their new daylight food studio.

And what better way to do so than over good company, great food a bash at some daylight food photography!

Taking cue from the Middle Eastern menu devised and cooked by chef and stylist Nicole

All images by PhoodstudiosGrimsdale, with wines chosen by Leeds’s oldest wine merchants Cairns and Hickey, the day was centred on both a feast to share and a feast to shoot.

Prop stylist Hannah Marshall was in charge of setting the scene – both for the table and the camera. Choosing disparate colours and textures was key to her vision – layering eclectic and vintage pieces (primarily sourced from Phood studios vast collection of props) to evoke the warmth and vibrancy of the Middle East.

She hung the walls of the dining area with Persian carpets; found huge hand crafted platters for the sharing plates, smaller ones for hummus to dot between guests. Every plate was different, but together they all worked.

The camera only catches a small frame – for the photographic element of her brief Hannah selected small pieces that could add the right note to the picture. Swatches of bright silks, old Turkish tiles, a golden glass bowl, coloured cups for coffee.

Andy and Roo were assigned to christen the new studio, photographing two dishes from the day. Both were excited by the possibilities afforded by natural light – its refinements and challenges.

“Daylight gives a completely different feel,” says Roo. “The colour temperature is something flash can never really re-create. It’s more editorial, perfect for a looser style of food.”

Roo says the challenge is in the unpredictable movement of natural light. “It means photography becomes an interplay of light and math” he says with some relish.

As Nicole cut and squeezed, tore and blitzed, ripped, scattered and seasoned with flourish and abandon, on the other side of the studio (in the soft glow of northern light from the newly un-veiled windows) food stylist Ann Reynolds was a picture of calm focus, using tweezers and a considered, careful placement. Working from the same recipes, the two stylists’ approach couldn’t be more different.  Cooking to eat and cooking to shoot require a changed approach – yet the best food photography looks like it is ready to eat!

“It is all about exaggerating elements,” says Ann. “I extracted ingredients from the recipe to create contrast and variation in colour and texture. For example, I chose the most charred pieces of chicken and really thought about how I cut things; the angles and shapes. If a recipe says to chop herbs I might tear instead to retain the shape of the leaf.

The day is in full flow, heaving plates of saffron chicken and tabbouleh are being passed around with jokes and anecdotes, sesame crusted pide mops up garlicky hummus and Lebanese wine swishes in tall glasses. Laughter and conversation, food and wine – the essentials of celebration

On International Food Photography Day, surrounded by their friends, the guys from Phood (their wispy Movember taches now speckled with flecks of flaky baklava filo as they slurp hot espressos) have something to be proud of. The new daylight studio means they have even more to offer as food photographers. They can catch light and shadow in ways that flash never could. But most of all, they have created a business out of what they love – out of what they have in bucket-loads: a passion for food.

Cheers to that!

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