Tag Archives: food photography

NYT Outtakes

The national food media has been giving little Portland, ME, a lot of attention lately, and for good reason! First, Bon Appetit’s October issue named Portland this year’s  “Foodiest Small Town in America.” And yesterday, the New York Times ran a long, photo-laden piece starting on the front page of the Dining & Wine section called “In Portland’s Restaurants, A Down East Banquet” that focuses on the collective nature of the burgeoning food scene here. As many of you already know, I was the lucky photographer who took the images for this article.

I spent two days with the reporter, Julia Moskin, visiting restaurants, markets and shops. We had a jam-packed schedule that usually allowed for about 30 minutes in each locale. This was an excellent test of my ability to get high-quality images in a short time period while working with available props and light. I sent in dozens of images and while the Times managed to run a large number (15 in the online slideshow, another 5 embedded in the online story, and 12 in the print version), there are, of course, some other images I really like that weren’t included. I thought I’d share some of those with you here. Hope you enjoy them!

(Full disclosure: the preponderance of Scratch Baking Co. images is because a) I had a lot of time there with unfettered access (the owners are my friends as I live a block away and worked there for a spell) and b) because I’m addicted to their bread and bagels!)

portland farmers' market

Selecting a bunch of turnips from Freedom Farm’s stand at the Portland Farmers’ Market.


Wild Maine blueberries from Beth’s Farm Market for sale by Wealden Farm in the parking lot of Rosemont Bakery & Market.


Brian Pramick working in the bread baking area at Micucci Grocery.


Allison Reid, co-owner and baker at Scratch Baking Company, sprinkling flour on dough that will be shaped into baguettes.

Bagels at Scratch ready for the oven (foreground) and to be boiled (background).

Bagels at Scratch ready for the oven (foreground) and to be boiled (background).

Lou Slingerland puts seeds on Scratch's highly sought after bagels.

Lou Slingerland puts seeds on Scratch’s highly sought after bagels.

The Ring Ding a Ling, Scratch's answer to the whoopie pie.

The Ring Ding a Ling, Scratch’s creative alternative to the traditional Maine whoopie pie.

Erik Desjarlais, chef and owner of Evangeline.

Erik Desjarlais, chef and owner of Evangeline.

Krista Kern Desjarlais, the owner of and chef at Bresca, with sous chef Courtney Loreg (watch out, she wields a mean knife!).

Krista Kern Desjarlais, the owner of and chef at Bresca, with sous chef Courtney Loreg (watch out, she wields a mean knife!).

Last but certainly not least, Raleigh, very possibly the best dog ever (sorry, Clara), at Rabelais, a cookbook store devoted to new, used and rare books on food, beverages and gardening.

Last but certainly not least, Raleigh, very possibly the best dog ever (sorry, Clara), at Rabelais, a cookbook store devoted to new, used and rare books on food, beverages and gardening.


Radicchio Revelation


These breathtakingly beautiful treviso radicchio were on offer from Fishbowl Farm at the Portland Farmers’ Market last week. As gorgeous as they were, I was having a hard time getting an image I loved of them. I had two perfect cabernet-colored heads lined with sensational lime green veins and yet I just couldn’t quite get a photo that did them justice. I finally surrendered and sliced them open for the grill. Salt, pepper and a dash of olive oil and they were ready to go. I placed them in a pan and headed out to the grill staring at their beautiful innards, and suddenly realized THIS was the photo. The worn pan, the way I had put them in it, the interior colors, everything was just right. So dinner was delayed another few minutes while I took this shot. It was a good reminder that sometimes you can’t force a photo, that the stars might align when you’re simply going about your business. The trick is to always be aware so that you don’t miss that golden opportunity!

Garden Variety

sugar snap peasWell, hello there. Yes, I am having a good summer, thank you, now that the monsoons have FINALLY stopped! The garden is very appreciative of the sun as well, as you can see from this photo of last night’s sugar snap pea harvest. On a whim, I decided to shoot them on our front steps. I was happily snapping away at the sugar snaps when a couple of friends on their way to dinner at one of our neighbors’ stopped to see what I was up to. This is one reason I love our neighborhood. People we know and like are often wandering around and stopping by to chat. After a few pleasantries one of them said “Oh, we have some peas from OUR garden with us.” Out of a bag she pulled these. purple peasAren’t they the most beautiful things ever? My jaw dropped when I saw them. Yes, I get excited about pretty vegetables! Suddenly my bright green sugar snaps were not so interesting. I had to work quickly because their peas were destined for the dinner table, but I pretty much invited myself over to their garden to steal some more because I am not done with these treasures yet. Not sure how they taste, but I have a feeling they’re delicious. And even if they’re not, they win the beauty contest hands down. (I’ll admit it, as a visual person, I can be shallow when it comes to food and good looks.) My friends say they can be acquired from Seed Savers Exchange if you want some of your own next year. Just keep a close eye on them if you live in my neighborhood; I might steal them when you’re not looking.

Maine Eats

Maine Eats coverBe sure to check out the July/August issue of Port City Life (soon to be Maine magazine). Inside is a supplement called Maine Eats. I photographed several food-related venues for this issue including the amazing restaurant Fuel in Lewiston (a photo of which adorns the cover at left), the splendid bistro anneke jans in Kittery, and bread and cheese making classes at Stone Turtle Baking School in Lyman and Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport. These are the types of assignments I love—shooting food and people who are passionate about it. I can’t speak highly enough of the food, management and staff at both Fuel and anneke jans. Everyone was incredibly pleasant and accommodating, and I was blown away by the tasty treats coming out of the kitchen. Both restaurants use a lot of fresh, locally grown or harvested food and prepare it in innovative, yet relatively simple ways that allow the true flavors of the food to come through. Living in the Portland area, I am spoiled by the wealth of great restaurants five miles from my home, but it was a treat to witness and sample what’s happening in other parts of the state. I highly recommend special trips to both of these fine restaurants.

The classes at Wolfe’s Neck Farm and Stone Turtle Baking School were equally enlightening and enjoyable. I wrote an earlier post about the bread, butter and cheese making class at the farm with a photo that didn’t fit into the magazine layout. Of course, there’s never enough room with these articles to fit all my favorite photos from the assignment, so I’m including some more here. Enjoy!

fuel kitchen

Justin Oliver, the hardworking chef at Fuel, with salmon on a cedar plank, shaved cucumbers and saffron rice.

fuel kitchen

Mushrooms, saffron rice and squash risotto over the flame at Fuel.

anneke jans dining room

The dining room at anneke jans is intimate and homey, and almost always bustling!

anneke jans bar

Large baskets of pomme frites are a favorite at anneke jans.


I know in my last post I said I’d write next about food photo tips mentioned during the conference I recently attended, but I decided first to talk about trends, which is somewhat more fun and interesting. First I have a question though. Once a trend is identified does that mean it starts to no longer be a trend? Is it passé already at that point? Because if you think about it, it must have been seen all over the place for it to be identified as a trend and then maybe it’s not so cool any more. In any case, here are some of the trends in food photography identified by presenters at the conference, especially by Delores Custer, a food stylist, consultant and teacher who was a wonderfully informative presenter. She humorously referred to certain time periods as “the year of the edible flower” or “the year of the black plate.”

1. Casual, less controlled, not too perfect, more fun, doable. This theme was brought up again and again over the course of the weekend. Natural light is all the rage (yay!), less precise images (with crumbs, etc.) are favored over stuffy, pristine or ornately decorated scenes (yay, again!).

2. Inferred food. This is related to the first trend and was mentioned by the warm and witty Clare Ferguson. Have you noticed you frequently see photos where half a casserole is missing, a sandwich has a bite out of it, or a pie has some slices missing and the insides dripping out? The idea is that the food is irresistible and someone has already delved into it. It shows that this is real, edible food that people are enjoying, not something shellacked and unappetizing. Makes sense, no? Here’s my extreme take on that trend…can you tell what I had for lunch yesterday based on the remnants of the plate? Ok, so maybe that’s a little TOO inferred!

inferred food

3. Organic, sustainable food and styling. Mette Neilsen and Steph Culberson gave a passionate presentation on this very topic. They talked about ways to reduce waste, which is rampant in food photography. They emphasized that the way to get clients on board in doing things more sustainably is to show them how it will save them time and money. Suggestions included things like buying just the amount of food you need to shoot from your local grocery store if it’s available there instead of having your client send you those 100 boxes of frozen pizza. Or how about suggesting to your client that they garnish that chicken breast with local sage instead of strawberries in April when the only strawberries available are from thousands of miles away and are barely red on the inside?

4. Tight shots. Food that is shot just showing the subject matter. Again, makes sense to me. Shouldn’t we really be focusing on the food? (Not that I don’t enjoy lovely props now and then…)

5. Graphic shots. Often food is shot with primary regard for its shape and form. As I mentioned earlier, Pornchai Mittongtare does this beautifully. Here’s one of my more graphic shots.


6. No backgrounds or white backgrounds. White is big. Maybe this will be “the year of the white plate” or was that last year? Anyway, here’s a recent image of mine employing this trend (unintentionally!).

tuna nicoise

7. Stacking. Delores Custer says stacking is back in vogue. I definitely recall seeing lots of images of stacked cookies over the holidays last year. A stack of pancakes certainly makes sense. What other food stacks well I wonder? They’re can’t be that many, can there? Let me know if you think of some.

8. Salts and peppers. Fat and chocolate. Yum, yum. I know from my own ridiculous salt collection that this is a fact. Maybe I’ll take a photo of all the different salts currently in my cupboard as my next project. And I hereby make a note to myself to investigate fun pepper options. The new cookbook Fat was mentioned several times. It’s filled with wonderful photos by Leigh Beisch. And chocolate. What need I say about that?

And I should mention a trend that Christopher Hersheimer pointed out is over with, done ad nauseam…please, please just stop it already with the tight shots of hands holding food! Ok, we’ve all done it. It can be handy (har, har) when you have no other background to work with and hey, hands are interesting, but IT’S BEEN DONE. Get a new schtick, people. May I suggest one of the above items? Or better yet, come up with the NEXT big trend. Quick, before it’s called a trend.

“We are at heart cooks…”

Boston skyline

I’m sorry to just have a photo of the Boston skyline to share with you (the view from my sweet suite at a Boston University dorm) after having recently returned from the International Food Styling and Photography Conference, but no doubt I will have numerous food photos of my own (other people’s are below) to come that will demonstrate a few of the many things I learned during this jam-packed (so to speak) weekend. Wow! My mind is a bit overloaded what with all the socializing, networking and fascinating information imparted. This will require more than one post as my head is swimming with so many interesting tidbits. I’ll start out by mentioning the presenters that most inspired me.

canal house coverFirst inspiring talk: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, a food photographer and chef/stylist team who were both instrumental in the early days of Saveur magazine. I’ve long admired Hirsheimer’s work and was thrilled to listen to her (Christopher is female for those of you who don’t know) and Melissa talk about how they came to own their own studio together where they self-publish the new publication Canal House Cooking and collaborate on cookbooks, as well as, from the sounds of it, create and eat amazing food in a beautiful setting every day. What a life! The main reason I was excited after listening to their presentation was that I felt validated and hopeful as a result of learning how they work. Here are two amazingly successful women, doing what they love and doing it the way they want to do it. Christopher, echoing a theme running throughout the weekend, said during her talk, “We are at heart cooks; it is why we are able to please ourselves.” Christopher uses natural light, loves gritty, authentic shots (with fun things like paper towels and plastic bags), and said that their clients might be slightly alarmed were they to witness them at work because of their haphazard approach. That just made me feel so good! I’m definitely a trial and error type shooter and sometimes worry if a client were to see me at work they would think “this person doesn’t know what the #^^&$*(! they’re doing!” But I’ve learned recently that a lot of photographers operate this way. It’s really the end result that matters. Hersheimer said it’s all about emotion and creating images that resonate, so as long as your resulting image does that, that’s what’s important. It does not matter how you got there. And I love that she gets there shooting non-tethered (without the computer attached to the camera), with natural light and simple props because those are all things I do. So, thank you, Christopher and Melissa for validating my work approach and style!

Secondly, I was intrigued by the story of Beatrice Peltre, a Boston-residing, French freelance food writer, stylist and photographer whose fame came about as a result of her lovely food blog, La Tartine Gourmande. Beatrice started her blog as a way to do things that she loved: cooking, photographing and writing. She was doing it for her own amusement, but she quickly amassed quite a following because of her great recipes, lovely photos and entertaining stories about her life. Soon people were contacting her about paying work. It did not matter to them that she was just creating these dishes in her home and shooting them in her living room. What mattered was the level of authenticity in her work. This message really resonated with me as well. If you are authentic in your work, it creates a level of trust with clients. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Just be yourself. As a result of the blog, Bea was approached about writing and taking the photos for a cookbook, which she will be completing soon. Quite an inspirational success story!

Lastly, the beautiful compositions and tones of James Tse’s and Pornchai Mittongtare’s (he’s Thai in case you’re wondering) food photos have filled me with endless inspiration for future food shoots. Both of these guys are soft-spoken, unassuming, but very funny and talented food shooters. I love James’ use of cool tones and textures, and his simple, but elegant sense of composition.

He shoots mostly on location and yet in every photo of his, the food is absolutely mouth-watering. Pornchai’s work is mostly done in the studio and has a very graphic sensibility, but it’s every bit as eye-pleasing and appetizing as James’ work. Many thanks to these two, as well, and all the other presenters, for sharing their work and tips with all of the eager attendees. And, of course, a very big thank you to Lisa Golden Schroeder and John Carafoli who organized this amazing conference for the second time.

Speaking of tips, I’ll devote the next post to some food photo tips I learned at the conference. I will also do a post on the trends in food photography that were discussed. But for now I’m off to shoot some food!

Dive into Chives

chive blossoms

Now that lovely fresh food is abundant here in Maine, I’m working on bolstering my collection of stock food images. Wandering around, peering into people’s gardens this time of year (yes, I’m a nosy neigbhor, and I love looking at others’ gardens), you’ll often see pom-pom-like, pale purple blossoms sitting atop thin, vibrant green spikes. Chives, the smallest species of the onion or allium family, are a hearty plant that come back year after year and tend to expand each year. I didn’t know until I saw them for sale at the farmers’ market a couple of years ago that the lovely lavendar blossoms are just as tasty as the green part of the plant. Cut several chives with the blossoms on top to make a beautiful and fragrant bouquet and put them in your kitchen. With them in your line of sight as you’re cooking, you’ll remember to use them more often than if they’re outside. You can serve them whole in salads for a colorful touch or snip them and sprinkle over pasta, pizza, risotto or any other dish that could benefit from a slight oniony flavor. Enjoy!