Photographing Food

NOT ONLY DO I LOVE FOOD – cooking and eating it – but I enjoy photographing it, and for several years, Halifax's Atlantic Insight magazine asked me to illustrate their monthly food feature. But I didn't do it alone – I had the help of food stylist Katherine Chute.

Kathy worked out of her rural Nova Scotia home just outside the south shore town of Liverpool. I would bring the camera, she would do the cooking, and together we would make the photographs. We would set up our tabletop studio in her living room, which made it easy for her to go back and forth to the kitchen.

The full page bleeds you see here were all shot on 4x5 Ektachrome colour transparency film, using a beautiful old wooden field camera. Lighting was delivered by a strobe in a large softbox held by a boom overtop of the composition we were building. Kathy would have assembled a collection of props she thought appropriate for the food were presenting (which would vary with the seasons), and we would add them or remove them as needed. A little tweak here and there would make a huge difference in the composition and the process was very time consuming. Usually we could do only 2 different photos in the same day.

One advantage of shooting these setups on 4x5 film was that I was able to have precise control over the plane of focus by tilting the lens board. But perhaps the main advantage was that it allowed us to easily shoot Polaroid tests before committing to film. There's nothing like seeing what you're going to get before you shoot. Today's digital camera have made this step unnecessary.