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An evening of fine food photography with Penelope Beveridge

October 2011 update: Penelope is hosting another food photography and styling session as part of the Good Food Month. To register for the 26 October event in Sydney go to: Food Glorious Food Gala webpage.


Friday. 5:15pm. The city is abuzz with officeworkers leaving their jobs to enjoy a catch up drink with their friends.

Erin of TheFoodMentalist and I are abuzz too. We are at the Sydney Institute of TAFE, waiting excitedly for our chance to see Penelope Beveridge present her first food photography workshop. The event is part of the Sydney Head On photo festival5 May – 11 June 2011, which coincides with the Institute’s 120 year anniversary.  Penelope, who graduated from the Institute in 2000 is one of the school’s 120 Ambassadors and one of Australia’s most prominent food and commercial photographers. She’s won the prestigous “Shoot the Chef” competition (2008) in the pro division and her beautiful work has appeared in publications such as Donna Hay Magazine, Gourmet Traveller and delicious.

As we enter the Muse building, a home to the festival’s Captured exhibition, we are invited to browse the exhibit while enjoying a great selection of liquid refreshments from Shaw Vineyards Estate. Then we spot Tammi from Insatiable Munchies who joins us just as the gorgeous canapés begin to work their way around the room. The whole event begins to feel more like a vernissage, a private gallery opening where fine food, wine and art intermingle, speaking a common language. It’s obvious this is not an ordinary photography workshop, after all Penelope is not an ordinary host, and we know we are up for a magical evening.

Erin and I admit that we tend to be shy when it comes to photographing food at restaurants and events, but it seems everyone is doing it here, so we whip out our own cameras and start shooting. Tammi joins in. Luckily, we have positioned ourselves in close proximity to the kitchen door, so we didn’t miss out on any [food] photo opportunities. We are later told that the person responsible for the beautiful food was Penelope’s husband, Sean Beveridge who is a lover of cooking and is in the process of writing his own cookbook – website coming soon.

The crowd is varied: food bloggers (Maureen of OrgasmicChef flew in from the Sunshine Coast just for the event), photographers, stylists, even chefs are in attendance. We all come from different walks of life, but we all have the same passion for food. And we all want to know the same thing: how to make our photos even more drool-worthy.

We sit down, watch and listen as Penelope opens up her treasure chest of food styling and photography knowledge to us. She shares her experiences and tips because she believes that it will give back – there is no point keeping the art of taking beautiful food pictures a secret, it’s better to share it around and enjoy the pleasure of watching other people grow in their pursuit of depicting the beauty of food on their plates.

I’ve found many of Penelope’s styling and lighting tips invaluable although I’m starting to kick myself for not getting a DSLR when I had a chance… Nevertheless, her advice is sure to help me make better do with what I’ve got. And with her permission, I would like to share with you a few of my favourite food photography tips of the evening.

Some of Penelope’s food styling tips and tricks will also be featured in the 2nd issue of  My Nikon Life magazine available in June. To sign up for a free copy of the magazine with an exclusive free subscription, all you need to do is become a member of My Nikon Life.

For other hints and great budget set up ideas you can also view Iron Chef Shellie’s recent post Photography tips and setting up for Winter.

Penelope’s 5 Great Food Photography Tips – Props:

  1. Natural fabrics photograph better. You’ll be able to see the detail that will come through and complement the food. Try not to use paper or plastic.
  2. When shooting glassware, try shooting low stem glasses because otherwise “nothing is the hero”.
  3. If it’s a shared meal place more cutlery around the plate. Same with the bread. To give bread a casual rustic feel, use torn slices, for  more stylized use slices, for kids use shapes.
  4. White props should not be distracting from the food.
  5. To make the plate and food the hero, go with something that matches the theme and use small cutlery to bring the food out.

Penelope’s 5 Great Food Photography Tips – Plating up:

  1. To pour soup or jus around use a little funnel – that way you have more control of the splash and splatter area. Do not rush the process, do it gently. Always do it last, once your mise en scene is set up.
  2. White gloves are great to avoid finger marks. Use cotton buds rather than wipe plates – the camera will see the wipe marks.
  3. Cut out a small piece of paper towel to place under chicken or steak to hold the juices underneath – it won’t bleed onto the potatoes.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to champagne, sparkling or beer to get the bubbles back.
  5. Arrowroot will thicken up sauces and chocolate for the alluring chocolate drip shots.

Penelope’s 5 Great Food Photography Tips – Camera and lighting:

  1. Avoid shadows and light reflections, especially in bowls. Turn off overhead light in low light situations or use light reflectors or boards to block out lights that interfere with your shot.
  2. When judging if food is looking good only do so by looking through the camera.
  3. Don’t zoom in too closely onto the food – you can always crop the image later to focus in, but you can’t zoom out if you have no surrounding space in the frame to start with.
  4. If you haven’t got a remote release, use a self timer. Tripod is a must when photographing food, it keeps your images still.
  5. Use a camera with interchangable lenses if possible, or learn the manual settings on your camera for better focus, white balance and depth of field.

For more information on Penelope and her portfolio, please visit


Sneh | Cook Republic May 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

What an awesome, comprehensive and extremely informative post Martyna! So bummed I didn’t know about this. Would have loved to attend! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Iron Chef Shellie May 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

Great post! I learnt a lot from reading it! The funnel and paper towel great ideas!

And thanks the link lovely! x

Erin@TheFoodMentalist May 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

What a great post! You managed to capture the evening really well. I loved the photo montages 🙂 Thanks again for the mini book I managed to collect both this weekend. Yay!!

Wholesome Cook May 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Thanks Erin! I still haven’t picked up my Sunday book. Fingers crossed my newsagent will have some left overs tomorrow…

Laura May 15, 2011 at 3:51 pm

thanks for this post – really interesting and helpful. I’ve even bookmarked it!

Wholesome Cook May 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Good one! Make sure you sign up for the My Nikon Life magazine – more photography tips from Penelope in June issue.

Julie May 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Great post! thanks so much 😀 I wish I knew about this :(!

Wendy @ obesebaby May 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Hey nice post thanks for that!

Mez May 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Great tips!!

Thank you, I like the use of q tips the most, such a good idea.

Lori May 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I was there too!! Only I had to leave before it ended as I was booked into a concert elsewhere. I absolutely loved the canapes, I was really impressed. Penelope gave a fascinating workshop, I had a ball!

Reply January 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

great tips! thanks for sharing!

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