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Exposure: Chef April Bloomfield on smartphone food photography

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To some food professionals, smartphone food photography is an epidemic. For chef April Bloomfield (@aprilbloomfield), it's a new medium to share her passion. Bloomfield is the chef at The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and The John Dory Oyster Bar in New York City.

With Instagram, she uses her iPhone 5 to share a look inside her kitchen. Her photos are sometimes abstract, sometimes appetizing, and almost always edible. She is showing the soft delicious underbelly of the NYC food scene, and her over 41,000 followers are eating it up.

Connect: How would you describe your photographic style?

Experiential and colorful. I try to show my everyday life through my photos.

Connect: When you take your own food photos, how do you compose your shots?

I like to take multiple shots and then I spend time choosing which one is the best by the sharpness and the general attractiveness. 

Connect: Your Instagram feed shows a behind-the-scenes view of a restaurant, including all the steps that go into a meal, as well as some fun personal shots. What are your favorite photos from your feed?

My favorite photo is hard to say. They are all such special moments to me, but I guess if I had to pick one, I would choose the picture of Paul Liebrandt in the pass. It's blurry, but shows him in his pristine kitchen and his mis en place. I also like the sea urchin photo and the photo of the hot dog - these are photos of food in their prime. 

Connect: As a chef, how do you feel about the smartphone food photography trend? Do you like when diners snap photos of your plates?

I am the first person to take a food photo, but if you don't have the proper lighting, you shouldn't take the photo. There is a time and a place - if the restaurant has good lighting then go for it; but if not, you should just sit back and enjoy the food. 

Comments

Total comments: 42
VadymA

I make my own breakfast every day; is this enough to interview me for a cooking website? Seriously, if this is the best of instagram, I am happy I never looked at it.

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
zebediah

Where does it say this is the best of Instagram then? I take it your photos are mindblowing beyond comprehension - oh wait, all I see is the usual 'test shots' on your dpreview gallery. Typical troll behaviour - why don't you try posting something half as good as what this guy has done before leaving a negative comment.

4 upvotes
grock

I love all these "just think what she could do with a good camera" comments. Well, duh. Just think if she had a nice Hasselblad in the kitchen with her and a soft box and a tripod... She could take some great pictures of some terribly-made food. God, photography people are so insecure.
Sorry guys, this is photography now. Like the music industry before, technology is reshaping this field, and the old school just can't deal with it. A bunch of unpaid, untrained amateurs using (comparatively) low-res cameras are getting the love now, and it's driving a lot of people who paid a lot for cameras insane. Hey, I'm one of them. I get it. But at least I'm realistic about it. You know why these kinds of pics and stories are successful? Because they suggest anyone can do it. It's relatable. It has a low barrier of entry.
A chef took some pictures. A lot of people like them. Success. Get over it.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 49 seconds after posting
8 upvotes
2eyesee

Well I'm an "unpaid, untrained amateur" (to use your words) and to me these pictures just look awful. If they look this bad at such a tiny web size, even a small printout will look horrendous.

It's not like there aren't pocket cameras around that the photographer could have used to actually achieve a half decent image.

I don't see any envy in the comments here - just people calling it as they see it.

0 upvotes
Jake64

Good way to capture moments of your day in the kitchen but that's where it ends.

1 upvote
David Myers

Polaroid rang: They want their 1970's SX-70 snaps back!

4 upvotes
Carlos Loff

I know is just a smartphone but many 10 year old kids are doing much better photos than these with smartphones, for heaven sake - Are the criteria for showing up at Dpreview that low ???

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Adamaflex

really i have yet to see any, i personally thought these photos are quite charming

2 upvotes
breivogel

And these are the "good" photos! Hate to see the rest.

Lack of talent + crappy equipment + poor PP = rubbish.

4 upvotes
Daniel Lauring

Agree with the overall consensus. These pics aren't that great. Might have been better with a better camera (shallower depth of field) but still they don't come across as very artful. Have a friend who is a decent photographer & he is constantly Instagramming everything...including when we go out to eat. His pics are with a smart phone & many are pretty good. They definitely capture the atmosphere.

Specifically, here are some things "wrong" with the photos.

1. Like the foreground. Crooked & too much DOF.
2. One of the better ones. Light colored shelf in background is distracting and messes with balance.
3. Light colored background on lower right is distracting. Could have easily been better by photographing such that background was dark & not distracting.
4. Crooked ceiling. Feels like it was awkwardly cropped.
5. Cropping issue (pan on top) & pans to left don't add and line on wall in background is a distraction.
6. Cropping, straightness & background.

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Adamaflex

can you please post your photographer friends instagram for us to have a look at.

i could imagine the photos are better, saying hes a photographer and all, but how is his cooking?

this is a chef taking photos, give her a break

4 upvotes
KL Matt

Kindof like trying to julienne a bell pepper with a pocket knife. Sure, you can do it. But what serious cook would ever want to?

0 upvotes
SeeRoy

"smartphone food photography..."
I admit defeat.

3 upvotes
bigdaddave

There is a big difference between 'food photography' and shots of bits of kitchen stuff and parts of food and chickens. Yes these are pleasing images, but food photography it is not.

2 upvotes
rurikw

Very enjoyable low-fi pics with good composition, light, color and above all that humorous twist. Really make me want to try Instagram if that's what gives the look.

1 upvote
Spectro

instragram is somewhat different beast in photography. It is all about using multiple filters and heavy processing. You see a lot of mundane subject, but how they edit it, it look interesting. I use flickr, 500px and instragram. I know my cameraphone photos don't hold up well against other hipster younger cellphone photographers, they use some many apps and filter. I don't really like looking at instragram photos as they all looked over process and photoshopped, but there are quite a few that do wonderful job. flickr and 500px is somewhat similar crowd, it is a different mindset then instragram.

0 upvotes
0MitchAG

I don't think photographing slaughtered fowl is particularly artful; poor taste really.

3 upvotes
BigEnso

Well, they definitely look like they were done with a camera phone. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

3 upvotes
Rupert Bottomsworth

These photos would be so much better if they had been taken with a decent camera. They're not bad, but these instagram type filters have just become so cliché now. If only she'd used something like a Sony RX100 or Panasonic GM1 (small, compact cameras with good image quality).

5 upvotes
laueddy

Those are some terrible photos...!

3 upvotes
RichRMA

Smart phones should be restricted to photographing fast food only.

2 upvotes
Kim Letkeman

A little skill, a compelling subject, and heavy processing from apps like Instagram et al generally helps mask the negative effects of crappy equipment. The problem, of course, is that everyone is doing it so they stultify the work and the audience ...

1 upvote
corbus

Nice images!
The IQ of them is similar to pictures taken with Polaroid cameras some decades ago...

2 upvotes
ijustloveshooting

everything which has ''photography'' at the end of it is serious.So no place for mobile phones in this place...

2 upvotes
KL Matt

The limited dynamic range and low sensitivity of the sensor really hits these food images hard. Food photography is (to me) at least partly about texture, contrast, and detail. When nearly every single scene you photograph has a dynamic range that is pushing the limits of your camera at both ends, it's going to impact your results. Even at these magnifications, I'm missing details in the tardivo, I'm seeing blown highlights in the chanterelles, and I'm sorry but I'm not getting any sense of mis en place or a pristine kitchen from the one people shot at all -- the details that would actually tell that story are lost to blown highlights and blur. The photographer sees that story in the shot because she was there. Sure these are fun and interesting images to view anyway. But any number of photographic devices not much larger than an iphone, some of them decades older, could have been a superior tool to tell these stories.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
wudyi

Think this all you want, KL. In the meantime publications far and wide will gladly continue to use images just like these.

2 upvotes
KL Matt

Publications will do as they please. As for me, I will continue to enjoy those that publish photography of a much, much higher quality.

1 upvote
babalu

Makes me steer clear of restaurants.

0 upvotes
DWMurf

Unappetizing, sorry to say.

4 upvotes
stevo23

My has food photography come down in quality.

4 upvotes
dgeugene1

Why do you keep saying a picture was made with a smart phone? It was made with a camera that happens to be in the same container as a phone...so what?

1 upvote
Vlad S

Because the image is made with a device, where imaging is not the primary function. This notion puts the contents before the quality of the pixels. We evaluate such images based on different criteria, than images taken with a purpose-built cameras.

4 upvotes
wudyi

And that divide will continue to close.

1 upvote
Mir_ro

A hipster photo filter do not make a good photo

8 upvotes
Jim Salvas

Just think what she could do with a good camera.

0 upvotes
Droogie45

Not really feeling the love on the photos. The composition and subject matter is good. But the quality is so lacking.

1 upvote
Ferling

I think it's time that we drop the "smart" or "cell" phone monicker and consider this and other collections as what they are: Photography. These articles tend to suggest that credit belongs to the tools, and not to the artist.

She admits, as expected, that it requires several takes and ensuring that the lighting is good. Because she has adequate access (being a chef and working in the environment for hours on end) she is almost guaranteed a result.

A real paid professional (and it's not just food) does not have such luxuries. Being limited by a finite amount of time and budget, must utilize a significant of gear to build/provide the required lighting and environment to get the shot, (a cell phone will not be one of those tools).

This by no means belittles April's work or technique, as she's good. It just means we have to step back and consider all the elements before we consider an all assuming title that smartphones are capable of killing the professional market.

2 upvotes
Model Mike

"Because she has adequate access, she is almost guaranteed a result". What total nonsense.

2 upvotes
Ferling

@Model Mike

Because? (Enlighten me).

0 upvotes
wudyi

@ ferling...the "real, paid professional," as you know him, is on his way out. Mark my words.

1 upvote
Ferling

Wudyi. You and I live in a different reality. While I agree that the market has changed, those whom refused to change with it (refused to go digital, relied solely on prints for profits, and never took up video), went under. The technology and their refusal to accept it, killed them off.

Why on earth would I drag out a van full of lighting and support gear and then use a Smart Phone as the capture device? I would be laughed out of the studio, or never asked to come back.

Second. Anyone whom swears by a smart phone today, has forgotten that it was much higher end technology that got them there, and are just using their name alone to sell it.

Common sense isn't common.

0 upvotes
wudyi

I like these pictures. Very interesting. The hanging feathered fowl shot against the white background is very intriguing. Would have been nice to have have come at it a slightly different angle. Maybe unrealistic in that environment?

4 upvotes
Total comments: 42
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