The Seattle SMUG plays with their food!
Approximately 40 Seattle SMUG photographers came together to enjoy their meeting titled: “Food, Glorious Food!” The seminar and workshop was led by local food photographer, Ryan Matthew Smith. The workshop involved several food stations and, in true SMUG fashion, at least a dozen volunteers stepped up and helped pull off this elaborate seminar by handling grocery shopping, arranging for decorations and backdrops, loaning their lighting set-ups, coordinating efforts, and more.
This event began with a slideshow from Ryan Matthew Smith, principal photographer & photo editor of the James Beard Award, IACP and Gourmand winning Modernist Cuisine. He presented a wide variety of different food shots for magazine and media work; the range he shared was impressive – from abstract macro shots, to experimental shots, to classic shots. The nice thing about his presentation was that he also spent some time demystifying the shots. He broke down the types of lights he used, how he used them, and why some photos looked impossible. (It’s because they were! Photoshop is one of the tools Ryan uses to create his vivid imagery.)
What we appreciated most about Ryan’s presentation is that he made the technical aspects of the shoot sound simple. Although, as he shared, he does a great deal of brainstorming to come with new creative shots, the set-ups ultimately end up being fairly simple. He tends to use just one or two strobe set-ups. Because bouncing light is so important for his work, he often uses the ceiling to bounce and spread light.
Ryan also shared that there isn’t much need for a stockroom full of different lenses for his work; he typically uses just one lens (24 mm, f4). Because his work is primarily using flash, he really doesn’t find a need for a lens speed lower than f2.8. He does also use a 50 mm f2.8 and a 85 mm f2.8 lens on occasion, but for the most part, the 24 mm lens does the trick.
Some other tips he shared were:
- use a simple white background and one hot light for photographing translucent liquids.
- use a sound trigger to capture action in food (like a corn popping)
- use your phone to save new ideas that crop up while on the go.
What was appreciated about the different tips he shared were how simple tools and tricks can lead to powerful and vivid imagery. It doesn’t need to take a crew and tens of thousands in top-notch gear.
After the presentation, photographers split into five groups and rotated through different food stations and light set-ups. There were veggies, fruit, desserts, a cooking station, and a classic simple Japanese setting with chopsticks. Each station had a different lighting set-up: some with Speedlights, some with hot lights, and one with plain old ambient light. This allowed folks opportunities to photograph under different conditions and experiment with their approaches. Meanwhile, Ryan floated from station to station offering feedback and encouragement.A special thank you goes out to Ryan Matthew Smith for leading this event, even though he and his partners were in the throes of launching a brand new online business, ChefSteps.com. Ryan was extremely gracious to take time away from this venture to spend his time and experience with Seattle SMUG.
Submitted by the Seattle SMUG Scribe: SuJ’n Chon
SuJ’n Chon is a Seattle-based landscape and humanitarian photographer. She also works with arts and social justice organizations on projects aimed at bringing positive systemic change through arts and culture. SuJ’n is a Canon shooter and loves the four models she owns for different reasons (including her testy old skool Canonet). She likes attending SMUG events because other people’s fine work inspires her out of photographic complacency.