In a recent vote for favourite SilverKris cover of 2018, the May issue featuring cover story “Wild Kitchen” came up tops with the highest number of votes. We spoke to Melbourne-based photographer Peter Tarasiuk who shot the cover image for this award-winning story, for some tips on how to get the most out of your food shots.
How did you conceptualise this cover shot?
The dish – Cape Moreton scarlet prawns with roti – was shot at Adelaide restaurant, Orana. The dish is striking for its colour and the way it’s served. Orana has beautiful light pouring in through the windows and the tables are made of burnt timber. I knew the contrast between the colour of the prawns and the black background would make the dish “pop” and that it really needed to be shot overhead to get the full effect.
What was the most memorable part of the shoot for this story? Did you have a favourite image?
The most memorable part of photographing this story was learning about all the indigenous ingredients that we were surrounded by. Speaking about the Aboriginal communities and their harvesting methods, Jock Zonfrillo of Orana told the wrietr of the story, “You don’t survive anywhere for 60,000 years – you survive in the freezing cold waters of Alaska for 15 minutes. You thrive for 60,000 years.” My favourite image is possibly the portrait of Jock. He’s a very interesting man and a super important part of Australia’s food scene.
What is most important to you when it comes to choosing a dish to shoot?
Form, texture and colour. The dish needs to have a point of interest. Everyone has seen bacon and eggs before. Look for something with a point of interest. This could be anything unusual for example, if the dish has edible flowers, or it’s served on an interesting plate. For this cover shot it was the rocks on the plate that made the picture interesting.
What advice would you give travellers who want to get the best photos of their food?
The most important ingredient is light. Look for a position close to a natural light source and ideally with no other light sources, like overhead lights or lamps. The colour of these lights can be very different to daylight and change the way the food should look.
It’s also important to find the angle that works best with the dish – overhead is not always the best. For example, if you were to shoot a hamburger, an overhead shot would only get you the bun. Instead, for something like a hamburger or a sandwich you want to see all the ingredients so get down low and look into it. Shoot at the same level as the table.
When it comes to shooting something static such as food, how do you bring it to life?
Again, I can’t say enough about light. Using light correctly can make a dull plate of food come to life. To help with this I always try and shoot food during the day. And again, think about the background, use props such as a glass of wine or salt and pepper shakers.
If natural light is not an option try and shoot where the light is coming from [whether it’s] behind or next to the dish. Not from the front. That will give the image depth so that it doesn’t look flat. Try not to use the flash on your phone. Instead, get a friend to use the light from their phone to light your dish for you. But the most important thing is to enjoy your food and appreciate the effort the chefs have gone to in creating it for you. Some things are best enjoyed and not shared.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love that I get to have an opportunity to understand a small part of different people’s worlds. I’m constantly poking around in different worlds of which I have no understanding. I love to learn and I am curious about almost everything. As Socrates is supposed to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. At the end of the day, try to capture something that is interesting to you. Don’t shoot something just because it looks like something else you have seen. There is no substitute for originality. And, to throw a spanner in the works, it’s also okay to break all the rules I have suggested!