Friday, August 1, 2014

Culinary Optics - Neel from Learn Food Photography: an interview

Food Photography tutorials email me -

1- How to capture Steam in food photography
2- How to capture white objects on white.
3- Composition theory for food photography
4- How to shoot moody and intense images
5- Painting props for food photography
6- Personalized tutorials.

How does one interview an individual who has interacted with almost all of the top food photographers? Every food blogger knows Neel Chaudhary from Learn Food Photography - everyone! In case you don’t, you are either new to food blogging/photography or you live under a rock. Not only do we know him, but many of us have a secret aspiration to be featured on LFP. As far as I am concerned, it’s no big secret that that’s on my bucket list. (No pressure, Neel.) Jokes apart, what started as a collection of information has grown into a huge data base of knowledge. The site has close to two million hits: that speaks a lot about its readership and his vision for LFP.

It took me some time to frame my questions for Neel. He asked me questions in response to my questions; it was thought provoking even for me. Neel, thanks for all the hours you put in to do this for TNS readers and my column for The Daily Meal. I don’t think the man ever does anything with a casual frame of mind, you can see his effort even as he answers questions for an interview.

A little bit of trivia here: if you ever want to upset Neel, just send him an image of food shot with camera flash. He has mentioned it several times - it really bothers him. If you ask me, I think this is the real reason he started LFP - to send ALL images shot with camera flash into the historic realm of dinosaurs :)

To save the world from flash food photography Neel is hosting a 30 day online food photography workshop. I took this workshop last year and it changed the way I see through the viewfinder. It was really the turning point for me. I am eager to participate this year, can’t wait to see you all there. It starts August 4th. Just for the record, I have never used flash on my food.

Some of Neel’s images and excerpts from his interview.

 Growing up in India there was always a lot to photograph every where. In early days I was more inclined to photographing people and landscapes. In India I come from a city known for its street food and passion for food. The food streets there are massively crowded till 3-4 am every day. Some say people of Indore don’t have blood in their body but sev, pohe and jalebi - a typical Indori breakfast that you can get in every street corner of the city.  That’s how food came into my life - through my blood veins.

"My relation to photography has been very deep and profound. I often find photography very much like meditation. Give me a camera and I wouldn’t care about anything else. Me, my camera and my subject. That is it. Over the years this connection has become very strong and continues to grow. "

"LFP has grown beyond my imagination. With where we are now in the journey I can say that we’ve achieved some success and there is lot more left to be done. There are many friends we need to educate and ask them to please not use that on-camera flash or not to get so close of your food that it feels like a you are seeing a microorganism through microscope.
As I’ve said before elsewhere, every time I see a photo taken with on-camera flash, I cry a little. I can’t sleep at night. (Okay! that’s a joke!) We need a world without on-camera flash photos. Wouldn’t that be a great world to live in.

“Wow!! I am really moved by the megapixels of this photo” Have you ever heard that? or how about “The sharpness of this photo makes me cry”

"The key to an extraordinary food photograph is whether the photograph evokes positive emotions in the audience. I say positive emotions because at the very basic level, that is what food photography is supposed to do. A good food photo needs to invite you to experience the food.

Here is part of the interview exclusive on Turmeric N Spice.

Sj: Am sure a LOT of bloggers what to know this (including myself) what does it take to be featured on LFP ?

Neel : Short answer - consistently make great food photos and me or team coming across the blogger. If you have been taking food photos and you feel your food photos are better than 95% of people on internet, then drop me an email on neel[AT]learnfoodphotography[dot]com

Currently we are looking for food photographers who have just started to earn some money using food photography. If you are willing to share your journey, please drop me a note on the email address above.

Sj: word of advice to newbies like myself.

Neel : If you are just starting out - Food photography is guess what - photography. If you are starting out and have recently bought a camera, learn the basics. You cannot become an expert by taking pictures in Auto Mode. You may get good pictures once in a while but that would not teach you much. Turn that dial from A - Aperture to M - Manual mode.

If you’ve been taking photos for a while, please remember that there will be days when things will not work out. Frustration is very much part of this process of creating art. It’s alright to be frustrated. Accept that there will be frustration and keep exploring.

The photograph that you see on LFP or for that matter on most good looking blogs are not magically created in one click. Exploration is big part of this process. So whatever you do, do not give up after the first few clicks.

SJ: How much time do you devote to blogging ? Your blog is a LOT of work, so much information, where do you find time to do this?

Neel : Unfortunately  I don’t devote enough time.

Finding enough time for everyone and everything I love is the biggest challenge for me.

I have a day job which often becomes a “day and night” job with about 50% travel. Our family is growing and we have an infant in our house (Yes! our own infant) and I don’t get to spend enough time with him.

So with all of this, I don’t invest as much time as I should. As I mentioned above, each post takes anywhere from 3-5 hours with all the organizing, emailing and research (does not include photography time or shopping time etc.).  On an average we publish 2-3 posts most weeks. Finding this time is very very challenging and I constantly struggle with balancing time for everyone I love and everything I am passionate about.

LFP has become a full time job in the nights and we still have projects that have been pending for months, things we need to fix. There are often all nighters but that isn’t a sustainable solution.

With all that said, we are slowing growing a team of supporters to help us.

Now over to Culinary Optics to read the whole interview. Leave a comment if you want your favorite photographer featured or you have any suggestions for me.

Thanks for reading !

*Neel holds the copyright to all images in this post.

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  1. Very well presented... Loved reading more about Neel...:)

  2. Nice interview. I did 30 dbfp last year and signed up again this year. See you there Simi

  3. I've lived under a rock. My food photos as embarrassing. I am on the hunt. I loved this interview. I am going to follow up with finding out more about him. Well done----

  4. Great interview and nice to know about Neel on your space. Have signed up this year's 30DBFP course ... hopefully I enjoy the process and able to explore more into this art!

  5. If this was a conversation and not an interview, I have the feeling that both of you could talk.. and we could read for hours! The project of the ''30 day online food photography workshop'' is already on-line and about to finish :( Amazing experience...!

  6. Thank you very much for this useful information. I love cooking and share my pictures with my friends.

  7. Stunning photos and great interview! It is really useful information. Thank you for sharing your tips!

  8. This cake look sweet and delicious, I love all !


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