From Desktops to Donut Delights: A Sweet Journey in Food Photography

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of diving into the art of food photography with my students at the Ulsan Support Center for Foreigners. Normally, our classes cover a wide array of photography techniques, but this term, I decided to shake things up and delve deeper into the delectable world of food photography.

Week 1: Instagram 101 – Capturing Daily Delights

We kicked off with the basics, focusing on the everyday meals that my students encounter. Think of this as Instagram 101. We explored how to position food and identify the best angles to capture those mouth-watering shots. In a city like Ulsan, where culinary delights are abundant, mastering these basics is essential for any aspiring photographer.

The results were spectacular. My students produced stunning images that even pushed me to sharpen my own skills. Although my primary expertise lies in landscape photography, I’ve dabbled in food photography for magazines covering local hotspots, and it was invigorating to revisit this genre with fresh eyes.

Week 2: Practical Session – Snacks, Drinks, and Staging

Last week’s session was particularly exciting. My students brought in an assortment of snacks and drinks to photograph. I supplied tripods, reflectors, and various backgrounds to assist with staging. Watching my students in action, experimenting with different setups, was incredibly rewarding. Their enthusiasm and creativity were palpable.

Week 3: Photowalk to Donas Donuts

The highlight of our unit was the monthly photowalk, which took us to Donas Donuts. Emily, the owner, graciously allowed us to use her café as our studio. Her donuts, some of the best in Ulsan, became our delectable subjects. The challenge was to capture their essence without devouring them first—a struggle, I assure you!

The turnout for this class was unexpectedly high, filling Emily’s cozy café. My students were respectful and appreciative, fully immersing themselves in the experience of on-location shooting. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Emily and her staff for their hospitality and patience.

Gratitude and Guidance

I must also thank Skyler Burt, a leading expert in food photography who once lived in Ulsan. His guidance and tips were invaluable for this unit. Having friends like Skyler, who are not only exceptional photographers but also willing to support emerging talents, enriches our community and fosters a nurturing environment for creativity.

Transferring Skills Beyond Food Photography

One of my students expressed frustration, questioning the time invested in “just taking pictures of food.” I explained that the skills honed in food photography—handling different lighting situations, using reflectors, staging scenes, paying attention to detail, and working in challenging environments—are transferable to many other areas of photography. As we transition to portraiture next week, I’m confident he’ll recognize the value of these foundational skills.

Thank you to Emily (center) and your amazing staff.

Closing Thoughts

I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to help my students capture the vibrant food culture of Korea through their lenses. Special thanks to Emily for hosting us at her café and to Skyler Burt for his expert advice. For those looking to dive deeper into food photography, I highly recommend checking out Skyler’s YouTube channel for some fantastic tutorials.

Until next time, keep experimenting and finding beauty in every frame, whether it’s a sweeping landscape or a sumptuous donut.

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Jason Teale 

Photographer, educator, podcaster

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Photographing Korea and the world beyond!