Monday, April 3, 2006

Snap pea, radish, asparagus salad

I recently took a food photography seminar at BU. "Oh really?" you say. What? You mean it doesn't show? Didn't you notice my cool new background? Ok, I admit, I have a long way to go, but compared to the early pictures from my blog, this is quite an improvement.

This 2 hour session was taught by Jim Scherer, the food photographer for Boston Globe, in the BU kitchen where the gastronomy students take their cooking classes. The best part of the class was a demo of a photoshoot of the food the students have prepared earlier that afternoon. Those must have been the most educational snow peas stuffed with lobster. First they gave gastronomy students some practice with hors d'oeuvres, then they gave us an opportunity to witness a professional food photography session, and finally they provided us with a much needed snack since food photography has a tendency to make people hungry.

Here are some highlights of what I learned from that seminar:
  1. It's easy to create cool backgrounds with colored paper. The textured paper in the picture above is from Paper Source in Porter Sq., Cambridge.
  2. Natural lighting works best. Now that the days are getting longer, there is hope of catching some of that precious light when we get home from work.
  3. Lighting from behind gives the picture more depth.
  4. Although food is usually served on large plates, the pictures are taken on little plates. For some reason the plates look much bigger in the picture than they do in real life.
But as much as I like looking at pretty pictures of food, I don't think that's what inspires me to cook. Or sure, once in a while a picture looks so edible I want to make that dish. But most of the time, I want to recreate the dishes from my travels, memorable restaurant meals, or childhood experiences. My cooking is inspired by my uncontrollable desire to recreate a taste memory or to experience a new taste sensation. I mostly use cookbooks as references to look up techniques for the dishes I want to make.

What food photography does inspire me to do is to write. Like today -- I was going to be good and go to bed early, but then I downloaded the food pictures I took this weekend and here I am blogging at 11pm.

Sorry guys -- no measurements for this salad. But it is the simplest thing ever and you can use absolutely any crunchy spring veggies. I started by trimming sugar snap peas and cutting them on the diagonal. Added some thinly sliced radishes (Japanese adjustable slicer does a superb job with those), some blanched asparagus (I used white asparagus, but green works just as well), and radish sprouts (I found these in a Japanese store). I then added a good handful of mint and dill (but you can use whatever herbs you have on hand). A good squirt of lemon, a little olive oil, salt and pepper -- done! Mix it all together and admire your healthy spring creation. Hey, while you are at it, you can even take a picture.


Paz said...

I love all your photos! Thanks for the photography tips. I could definitely use them. Actually, I could use a new camera, too. ;-) I like this salad!


Alanna said...

Just beautiful -- both!

Boston Chef said...

Very interesting pointers on the food photos... thanks!

p.s. - Please provide any other notes you may have taken from class!!!

bea at La tartine gourmande said...

Very cool Helen. Is it a class still running? Had I known!
Lovely pic!

lucette said...

Your earlier picture looks better than my current ones--I have a long way to go. I tell myself I need a better camera, but I fear it's me, not the camera.

MM said...

Thanks for sharing the cool tips from your class! I must say I love your recipes more than your photos although the latter are way cool too. So I totally understand the passion lying in the food rather than the photography. That saying, I am envious you managed to go for a course like that. Brilliant!

Ellen said...

Thanks for sharing the information on how to take better food pictures. I've been bemoaning the fact that my food photos all look the same. I can't wait to go out and buy some really fun paper to experiment with! Also, it is great to find other food bloggers right in Massachusetts!