Food Photo 101: Lou Manna’s Food Photography Workshop

February 26, 2008 in Food Photo 101, photography

Copyright 2008 Lou Manna All Rights Reserved

Copyright Lou Manna All Rights Reserved

If you want to take your photography to the next level where you are using more than ambient light, where you are using strobes, then professional food photographer Lou Manna can be your gentle guide.

As I mentioned previously, you can register for this course through Workshops@Adorama. The next class, Digital Food Photography: Creating Delectable Images, is on March 2, 2008 – a Sunday, 10am to 5 pm. It is held at his studio at 126 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron District, one block from Adorama.

Lou is simply fantastic. He is not rote in his approach, rather, he makes you feel like he really cares if you get what he is teaching you. The moment you walk in the door you immediately feel welcomed. He has teamed up with another food photographer who is also a chef, Dennis, who cooks lunch and the food for the shots later in the day.

Manna Class: Another food photog cooking for us

When I walked in the door, I was shaking and strung out because I had the most horrific drive into NYC.

Lucky to be alive

I had the misfortune to take a NY State garden parkway that was icy and wholly untreated. My car did donuts, floating in circles, rammed backwards up against a stone wall and came to rest facing traffic in the left lane (no breakdown lane on the left, just me and on coming traffic and an icy frictionless road). Two other vans swerved to miss me and flew into the guard rail, totaling them both. No one was hurt and my car started up so I was able to get out of the left lane and keep the pile up from continuing.

Lucky to be alive

Even though it had some $2,100 worth of damage, I was able to limp further on into NYC for the class and then get home.

Lucky to be alive

Anyways, I was hell bent on going to that class and was determined to enjoy it because I had been dreaming about it for years.

I thought I had come a long way but there were attendees who came from Chicago and even Istanbul, Turkey specifically for this class. Talk about commitment to learning food photography!

The first thing we did was pop our CD roms with our sample photos into one of the seemingly endless number of computers in Lou’s loft. In fact, we were surrounded by this fantastic mixture of technology, photographic studio equipment, food styling supplies, and century old NYC loft architecture. It was a bit dizzying!

Manna Class: environment

It was great to see what other people were doing, such a great breadth of experience. We then took a break to grab some of the delicious lunch that Dennis had made for us (and which made the loft smell amazing all day).

We then got to see some of Lou’s huge body of work that spans all of the sorts of food photography that you can imagine. He does the most luminous, cheerful, bright, vibrant work. Toward the end of this we began to talk about the mechanics of how various images were shot. This was the segway to the next activity, setting up the lighting and related studio stuff to take great food photography!

We started with some of the hardest subjects you could shoot, wine and beverage bottles.

Manna Class: setting up

The image above shows some wine bottles that he was shooting. When working with liquid filled glass, you have to work really hard to make sure that the reflections and internal refractions and shapes all turn out pleasing in your photo. He would put up mirrors, meter light, put up dark forms, vellums, adjust lights, all the while taking test shots which we would see on a tethered giant HD flat screen TV.

Manna Class: test shot

The set up for any one shot can grow into an amazing array of all sorts of light modifiers. Its sort of neat to watch it grow and change to meet the needs of the subject.

Manna Class: setting up

Here you can see how complex it can get.

Manna Class: setting up

Manna Class: setting up

Manna Class: setting up

Lou does some amazing shots for Partida Tequila. Below you see a diagram he shared with us mapping out how he shot some of those tequila bottles.

Copyright 2008 Lou Manna All Rights Reserved

Copyright Lou Manna All Rights Reserved

After the bottles, we moved on to food shots.

Manna Class: Manna shooting

I have to say that I loved the entire day and I learned many things, one of which is that I need to get a light meter to cure some of my strobe issues.

When it came time for us to do some food shots, I did a tiny bit of styling and then shot a bit but my hands were still shaking from the accident (adrenalin can really kill your dexterity) so it was sort of hard, much harder than I usually find when at home.

Manna Class: Test shot

I would recommend this class wholeheartedly.

If you are not interested in the use of strobe, some of this may not be for you. If you want to master food photography and bring consistency to your work, the hallmark of professional photography, then use this workshop to enter the path to harnessing those pesky photons!