Francine Ray­mond gets some pro­fes­sional ad­vice on how to make your meals look their most ap­petis­ing

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Oc­ca­sion­ally, just as I’m sit­ting down to eat, I get an email from my son Max with a photo of the dish he’s just cooked. Not a “selfie” or an “elsie”, just a pat on his own back, with a bit of culi­nary one-up­man­ship. And it seems he’s not alone – coun­try­wide, peo­ple are pho­tograph­ing their meals. So last week I set off to Lei­ths School of Food and Wine in Hammersmith, to join a group of pas­sion­ate cooks – food blog­gers, jour­nal­ists and producers – learn­ing how to show off their food in its best light. Food pho­tog­ra­pher Wil­liam Leavell, who has worked with top cooks Mary Berry, Rick Stein and An­to­nio Car­luc­cio, pro­duc­ing mouth-wa­ter­ing im­ages for their cook­ery books, knows all there is to know about pro­duc­ing pro­fes­sion­al­look­ing shots. He sug­gested we bring along any cam­era or even a phone at a pinch, but most stu­dents looked daunt­ingly pro­fes­sional with dig­i­tal sin­gle­lens re­flex cam­eras with 3570mm lens at­tach­ments, mak­ing my com­pact feel lim­ited and light­weight – fine for ca­sual pic­tures but in a lesser league. So I’ll be sales shop­ping for a Canon EOS 60 or 600D, a Nikon D3100 or a Sony A58. Ac­cord­ing to Tele­graph pho­tog­ra­pher Rii Schroer, th­ese cam­eras have big­ger sen­sors that pro­duce bet­ter pic­ture qual­ity with more flex­i­bil­ity and a range of lenses. She sug­gests one with a big chip, a good-sized screen and easy in­struc­tions, so that – bar leav­ing the lens cap on – you’re guar­an­teed to take good pic­tures. Ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam, to record a great dish you need to tick off the fol­low­ing check­list: choose your props; plate your food; work out the right cam­era an­gle and com­po­si­tion, ad­just your light­ing, work out your fo­cus, then click. Quite a work­sheet, on top of the cook­ing, but with time and prac­tice, and your set pre­pared be­fore­hand, you can re­lax and shoot your meal to look ca­sual and ef­fort­less, as op­posed to hot and both­ered – a look that many cooks per­fect. You’ll have your own style, so fo­cus on it and surf web­sites, blogs and Pin­ter­est boards to elab­o­rate your ideas. I’d set up a spot in a spare bed­room where you can rely on a good source of north­ern day­light, out of di­rect sun with the light com­ing from the right, and try to work in the early morn­ing or late af­ter­noon – a piece of white card makes a good re­flec­tor. Com­pile a se­lec­tion of props: for sur­faces, a pile of linens, boards and trays in dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als (I love old Formica pat­terns, wall­pa­pers and maps); for back­grounds, choose an old Tell a story with your com­po­si­tion Choose props to re­flect your style Don’t be tricksy, just keep it sim­ple Use nat­u­ral day­light if pos­si­ble Odd mul­ti­ples work bet­ter than evens Work speed­ily; food is at its best straight from the kitchen A spritz of wa­ter or oil will lift and re­fresh food

A feast for the eyes: food photography from Lei­ths (main im­age); Francine learns from the pros, left

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