Foodsnap: A Food Photo Critique

I first became interested in food photography when I started taking photos for my personal blog, This summer, I interned with Lara Ferroni, a renowned food photographer who lives here in Seattle. (Lara is responsible for the beautiful Key Ingredient photos for my column in Seattle Magazine.)  My internship with Lara has ended--she is generously devoting her time to another intern now--and I've started another internship with wedding-turned-food photographer, Clare Barboza. Learning from these two extraordinarily talented women has cemented my love for this art, and I can't wait until I learn enough to develop my own style. So often, we rush through life without pausing to appreciate the simple beauty of a cut fig, or a blushing peach. Food photography captures those moments, and freezes them for eternity. That's why I love it.

And so for that reason, I was especially excited when I learned of Foodsnap, a one-day food photo workshop put on by Keren Brown (of Foodportunity) and Foodista--via my Twitter account. The event, held Friday Sept. 18th, featured award-winning New York Times photojournalist and author of Digital Food Photography, Lou Manna.

Brown and Foodista flew Manna in for the weekend, and the tickets to this workshop reflected that cost, at $159 for early registration and $180 after that. Luckily for me, Seattle mag was offered a free ticket to the workshop, which allowed me to join a group of photography enthusiasts at Georgetown Studios, eager to learn how to snap better photos.

The morning began with an array of doughnuts from Frost in Mill Creek, and coffee from Seattle Coffee Works. The majority of attendees were food bloggers, though I also spotted Brian Canlis (managing owner at Canlis) in the crowd. Lou soon took the stage, asking how many of us used point-and-shoots, and how many of us used DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex camera). Two-thirds of the crowd used DSLRs, which led me to assume this was a pretty serious crowd in attendance. The sweet lady seated next to me had a top-of-the-line Canon 5D Mark II, which she said she emptied out her savings to purchase a few months ago.

For the first hour and a half, Manna spoke about his experience shooting for The New York Times and various other past projects (like the late restaurant critic, Craig Claiborne’s cookbook). I recognized many of the photos from the slideshow from his book, which I read this summer on a recommendation from Lara during my internship. After the presentation, I heard some attendees complain that this portion of the workshop wasn't terribly helpful, as most food bloggers don't have access to food stylists, or extravagant lighting set-ups. Some felt that Manna's style was dated--or at least, the photos he chose to show looked dated. (Many slides, indeed, were from 1975-1990, when he worked for The New York Times, and some were from his book, published 2005.) When this portion of the presentation was finished, Manna critiqued our food photos, which we submitted previously to a Flickr pool. I found this segment the most enjoyable part of the workshop, and the most helpful. Manna discussed areas in pictures that were over-exposed, and explained how cropping an image to make it off-center makes a photo more visually interesting. For the most part, this critique was done anonymously, though he did ask the names of a few people whose photos he particularly liked. (And one poor individual, whose photo Manna found unappetizing.) 

We broke for lunch just before 1pm, and mingled, san