Feeling Enlightened After Caputos Chocolate Class

For those of you that haven’t heard, I’m a member of a blogger review group that supports local businesses.  It’s called “SassyScoops.com” and we recently had the opportunity to review the chocolate class at Caputos in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  Let me just say, it was completely enlightening.  Matt Caputo taught the class and opened our minds to the “culture of cacao” (the bean chocolate is made from).

Honestly, I was in awe the entire time by how much he knows, and how much there IS to know, about chocolate.  Prior to the class I considered myself a major-league chocolate fan, but afterwards I realized that I know about as much as a baby when it comes to chocolate.  My knowledge primarily consisted of knowing: chocolate is delicious.  BUT even that knowledge was challenged as I found out what truly delicious chocolate tastes like.  Oh… my… heavenly.

We learned all about the different kinds of cacao beans and where they come from.  I found it absolutely fascinating that cacoa beans take on the flavors of the soil/elements from which they grown in and around.  Certain cacao beans have fruity essences because they grow around a lot of fruit plants.  One chocolate we tried had essences of banana that were easy to identify while tasting; the beans that made that chocolate grow around banana trees.  My favorite chocolate was an Amano bar that tasted of blueberries – YUM.

Aside from a newfound awareness and appreciation for cacao beans, we learned about how much all the other parts of the process of taking a cacao bean and making it into chocolate affect how good the flavor and quality is.  The best way is to do the entire process of bean to chocolate all in one place.  Amano chocolates does this and they are here locally in Utah.  Amano chocolates were my favorite that we tasted, even above the world-acclaimed “Best” fine chocolate.  I preferred the flavor and richness in Amano chocolates, hands-down.  I’m so proud that Art, a Utah man, started making chocolates here.  He has put Utah (not to mention, the United States), on the map for chocolate making, which previously hadn’t been done.  I’m also so proud of the Caputo family for bringing such a wide variety of fine food, cheese and chocolate to Utah.  Their expertise and variety is astounding and is enhancing Salt Lake’s food culture, among other things.

Something Matt said really stuck out to me about all of this.  He said that chocolate making truly is an art.  There are a lot of companies that just go through the process of making chocolate as they’ve studied to make it.  But then there are the companies who make truly special chocolate because they have the “palatte” and passion for it, like Amano chocolates.  I was thinking how similar that is to many things in life, but especially my food photography passion.  There are plenty of photographers who can get the technicality down and learn exactly how to take good pics of food, but no one can replicate the passion and perspective I bring to food photography. This fueled my passion to take my craft to an even higher level by constantly learning as much as I possibly can learn about food photography so I can someday be able to talk for days about it, like Matt could talk about chocolate.

I don’t intend to sound arrogant, I simply wanted to document the part of Matt’s chocolate presentation that really stuck with me and has led me to crave continued improvement and knowledge so that I can bring my passion for food photography to new heights with ever-increasing technical knowledge.  I photograph most all of the SassyScoops.com events, but Caputos was my favorite.  I’m realizing more and more each day that my “niche” in food photography is my love for photographing chefs and food “experts” (like Matt) in their element with all their passion for the food around them shining through.  I do love studio work, but the on-location work really thrills me.

Anywho, if you’re in Salt Lake, you must stop in to Caputos, especially to take Matt’s chocolate class.  It will blow your mind and your tastebuds.

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Still Alive & Still Shooting

strawberries

This poor, neglected blog!  I have been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to update in a LONG time.  I apologize for that.  I thought I should put up a quick post that I am still alive & am still photographing food all the time!  I love it!  I’ve got some really fun work coming out in the next couple issues of Wasatch Woman Magazine, as well as some great stuff I’m working on with a few of my clients.

If you’d like me to come photograph your food, I’m MORE than happy to do so.  Just shoot me an email to quinn{at}limelightfoodphotography{dot}com & we can talk about rates & availability.  While I’d like to say that I’ll be updating more here, I may not have the chance for awhile.  Thanks for your patience with me!

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Understanding Focal Point in Food Photography

Today I was going through some pics from a recent shoot and came across a really good example of how getting the proper focal point makes a HUGE difference in the quality of the food photo. When I’m shooting something, I look for the spot where my eye is naturally drawn to, then I make that the focal point. In most cases I try to make this point focus around where the “first bite” would be. I want the focal point to lead the viewer into the pic & get them salivating over tasting the “first bite” focal point.

This first pic is the one I chose to represent this dish.  The focal point was exactly where I wanted it & where the eye is naturally drawn to anyways: 0n the bursting open tomato.

zucchini-veggie-side

The eye is first drawn to the bursting open tomato on top, then is led down the curve of the zucchini underneath to the red pepper near the bottom.  Then the eye is drawn back up to the zucchini sticking out in the blurred background, making all the focal points draw the eye around the entire dish in the picture, which is the goal of a good food photograph.  The longer your eye stays on the photo, the hungrier you will get looking at it.

veggie-bad-example

This picture, however, is less effective in leading the eye because the starting focal point is off.  It should be the bursting tomato, but instead is the zucchini slice next to it.  Because of this, the eye is not led around the picture as it should be.  This makes this a not very good food photo.

veggie-focus-notes

Understanding & capturing the appropriate focal point will take a food photograph a LONG way towards being good & the food within it looking delicious! Practice finding & capturing the proper focal point in your food photographs & let me know how it goes.  Can you tell the difference in why the first photo is much more effective than the second?

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Speaking at Ignite Salt Lake on Food Photography

Recently I had the opportunity to be selected as a speaker/presenter for Ignite Salt Lake.  For those of you that don’t know about Ignite, it’s a national program where 16 speakers are gathered & each come prepared with 20 slides on a topic they’re passionate about.  The idea is “edu-tainment,” as the presentations should be educational & entertaining.  The glitch in the presentation is that each slide advances every 15 seconds whether the presenter is ready or not, which keeps them on their toes & often provides humor to the attendees.  Thus each presentation is only 5 minutes in length.  It was a really great experience & I would highly recommend it to anyone.

So without further ado, here’s my presentation:

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Ordinary Looking Extraordinary

Lately I’ve been helping my mom build her food business by photographing her food whenever I get the chance to do it.  I’m having a lot of fun with it, actually.  Last night she brought me over a Hot or Cold Chicken Salad & Mango Curry Chicken Salad to photograph (& eat!! yay!).  Initially I was slightly puzzled on how to really make these dishes shine.

The Hot or Cold Chicken Salad, in particular, is an improved basic chicken salad casserole dish, which are generally SUPER yummy, but not very pretty.  To add some interest, I did a bit of food styling & pulled out some of the water chestnuts & added a little greenery.  I put all of this on one of my celery-green plates that I’ve been dying to photograph something on.  Then, to add some contrast, I put tomatoes in the blurred background (the dish has red bell peppers in it, no tomatoes, so this was a bit of a fudge, but I think it still worked).  While the actual food may not be as gorgeous as others, I do think it looks bright, fresh & overall pretty dang delicious.

chickencasserole

[Hot or Cold Chicken Salad: nice big chicken chunks along with chewy wheat berries (thats the fancy term for cooked wheat), celery and water chestnuts, with a hint of lemon]

The Mango Curry Chicken Salad was MUCH easier to photograph & a lot more exciting as there is a lot of color & contrast in this dish.  I plated it on a blue dish, setting everything on a lettuce leaf.

grapesalad

[Mango Curry Chicken Salad: curry dish, with Mango preserves, celery, grapes (red or green), and wheat berries]

To view my mom’s site/blog & see more of her yummy culinary creations, visit http://cookingwithmelanie.wordpress.com.

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Proudest Moment of My Life So Far

I couldn’t resist blogging about this: today my son just showed me that at least something I’m teaching him is sticking.  He’s three and a half & he’s brilliant (as all moms think their children are).

ziplocThe other night I bought a box of Ziploc Freezer Bags.  As I was putting all the groceries away, I noticed the bright pink/red meat-ish looking pic on the box.  I was disturbed by such an awful looking photo and voiced that to my son.  I said, “Tate, this is bad food photography.”  The night moved on as normal without another mention of the Ziploc Freezer Bag food photography.

Today, however, we were half-watching the food network when a Ziploc commercial came on & my adorable three-year-old stopped playing with his toys, got up, watched the commercial for a minute & then turned to us all & said “tha is bad foo fotogafee” (translation: that is bad food photography).

I suppose if my son only learns one thing from me, I guess I will be thrilled if it’s what good food photography is, right?!  ;)

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Salt Lake Roasting Company

These pics were taken for Utah Business Magazine because Salt Lake Roasting Company won a People’s Choice Award.  It was a really, really, really fun shoot.  I could have stayed there for hours photographing all the beautiful pastries, made by their in-house pastry chef.  The owner, John, was even kind enough to let me taste some of the yummy things I photographed… OH. MY. SCRUMPTIOUS-NESS.

Salt Lake Roasting Company Cappucino

I’m not a coffee-drinker, but these drinks looked gorgeous!  The foam was so funny to photograph, though.  I’d photograph it for a bit & it would shrink smaller & smaller until we’d have to replace it with a fresh, foamy top.  It was particularly difficult to get a good shot of the tall glass, as my camera had a really difficult time focusing on the glass as it was so smooth, there wasn’t a lot to focus on.  However, it was worth the effort.  I really love that first pic with the fruit tart in the blurred background.

Salt Lake Roasting Company

I fell in love with all the beautiful textures & variances in the pastries.  There was so much detail to capture.  The star-shaped pastries were really unique & I loved capturing the pastry layers & sugar crystals.  My favorite pastry to taste, though, was the pear filled one (botton left).  Yummy pastry wrapped around half of a sweet pear.

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