No, my friends, I’m no longer feeling so terrible with the flu that the thought of even writing about food repels me; I am, I believe, fully recovered already. No need to bump me off. Whew! But my appetite is still slightly limited and my interest in slaving over a hot stove, nil.
Lest you be too confused by today’s post title, I am not making a personal request either to be executed or made into a photographer’s portrait subject. Not crazy about either idea. I’m also, for the record, not overly fond of getting shots (except for the knowledge that they usually are meant to help me be healthier), and I can’t recall ever drinking shots. All such nonsense aside, my teasing post title only means to tell you that I’m thinking about food photography and meal-time hunger and how incompatible they are.
Left to right, above: Flavored honeys at the farmer’s market in Halifax; a cinnamon apple napoleon with vanilla custard and pomegranate glaze at an unknown restaurant in Seattle; a glass of Pilsner Urquell enjoyed near its ‘birthplace’ at a neighborhood eatery in Prague.
Pros don’t need tons of time or patience to suss out the situation, set their cameras on the ideal settings, frame the shot, take it, and abracadabra!, they’re done. Great art, now let’s get down to eating. So unfair. Of course, that’s arguable, because if I spent the time and effort to learn and train properly in how to use a camera of any sort, I might conceivably get decent enough skills to save myself a few frustrations, not to mention gut rumbles.
Fool that I am, I have always let my natural intimidation around all-things-technical (plus, admittedly, fear of a certain unpleasant would-be teacher in years past) scare me out of getting serious about cameras. I’m generally content to let the camera do all of the work for me, at least until I get photos onto my computer where I can play with them endlessly as artworks or, at the least, adjust them so they better fit my idea of what I saw or am trying to convey. Part of my artist persona has always been to edit, tweak, second-guess, and fiddle with images, so it’s not as onerous to me to figure out how to make a photo into what I want it to be—I’m far less interested in documentary accuracy and straight-out-of-camera [*SOOC*] “honesty” than in getting my story told. All photographs were, and are, still only images of what the photographer chose or was able to show us, despite the popular notion that they are “truthful” in ways that other visual forms of data are not. And while I like a Pretty Picture or a dramatic image, what I’m always in search of is illustration that enhances and furthers my storytelling, whether with words added or not.
As a cook, I am in the same category. I love to eat delicious and, sometimes, complicated foods. I enjoy goofing around in the kitchen and, occasionally, discovering something I can make that’s delicious or, rarely, complex. But the very idea of having good technical skills as a cook—never mind chef—is just as unattainable, between my aforementioned phobias and my laziness, as going pro with a camera.
The results of all of this? I blog about food; as an aficionado but never as an expert, I am limited in what I can tell you about food not only in technical terms but in how I show it to you. I shoot as well as I’m able, and if it’s really imperfect, touch up what I shoot until it’s at least marginally post-able. Then I use it. And I blather about what I do and don’t like, how I make dishes or fail in the attempts, stuff I like to eat when I’m out and about, new treats I’ve learned to adore, and other food-lust topics, just as though I had any business doing so. I happen to like documenting my foodly obsessions.
The other thing I do is try to learn along the way. Food tricks, perhaps. Learn from my mistakes. Photographic ones, mostly. Couple of things I’ve learned: find pretty foods to shoot (see above montage). Better chance of getting a good portrait, if you have a good-looking subject, whether conventionally beautiful or just wonderfully interesting. Use as much natural light as you can get. The food can be moved a little to catch the light better but the sun can’t be so easily moved to better suit the food. Don’t get fancy. The food’s already attractive—okay: or horrible, if that’s what I’m documenting, so it’s at least meant to be an interesting subject. No reason to do a lot of fussy setup and presentation extras, since I have limited supplies of tablewares and glamorous shoot venues, so I tend to pay more attention to details of the ingredients or go for a tight shot of the plate rather than overdo extraneous things.
That’s about it. Because, as I intimated in my opening salvo here, even the littlest bit of time spent on the photographic part of the posts is time taken away from my pursuit of eating. Digital cameras are a boon in this regard, of course. Fast, efficient, no waiting. My little old smartphone is helpful as well. As techno-dull as I am, I know very little indeed of what my phone can or can’t do, let alone how to make it do anything for me. But I know how to take the simplest of snapshots, and my phone camera knows how to send them to my waiting computer, and that speeds up the process just one helpful little bit more. So glad to get to the table faster.
Left to right, above: Zucchini frittata with salsa, olives, and crispy bacon; roasted chicken breast with guacamole and coleslaw; skillet-cooked steak and mushrooms with pan-fried mashed potatoes, balsamic deglaze, tomatoes, and strawberries. All home cookery.