Before Sarka Babicka begins our food photography workshop she asks the group of female twentysomethings to raise their hand if they have never taken a photo of their food before they have eaten it. All hands remain by their sides. And so we begin.
Food photography is so popular now that millennials are paying hundreds of pounds for tutorials on how to make their pictures stand out from the crowd.
Miss Babicka, 35, a self-taught photographer, knows all the tricks for capturing a perfectly foamed latte or poached eggs with just the right amount of dippy yolk. “I’m that annoying person who won’t let my friends eat something until I’ve taken a photo,” she said.
Miss Babicka, who is originally from Prague and has 140,000 followers on Instagram, where she predominantly posts pictures of food, started running the classes in London four years ago. Each year demand for her workshops has risen with clients paying £200-£300 for a day session to learn how to style and shoot the perfect meal. She said that demand has doubled since the first classes.
“When I started it was just bloggers attending my courses,” Miss Babicka said. “Now ordinary people who want to take great photos are attending. They see the impact social media has and want to be part of it.” A recent study by Mintel, the market research company, found that 29 per cent of those who had eaten out for a sit-down meal or ordered a takeaway said that they liked taking photos of their food for social media. The figure rose to 52 per cent among those aged 20-24.
Not everyone is fond of this trend. Richard Corrigan, the Michelin-starred chef, has lambasted the “snap snap” culture of people under 30 prone to Instagramming their food. “I hate it and if I notice it going on too much in my restaurant I would ask them to leave. I do not encourage it,” he said.
Martin Burge, head chef of the two Michelin-starred Dining Room at Whatley Manor, Wiltshire, introduced a no-camera policy in the restaurant in 2013 and Michel Roux Jr, head chef of the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in Mayfair, said that photographing food in restaurants was “disruptive” and “incredibly poor manners”.
Alexandre Gauthier, the award winning French chef at La Grenouillère, said: “People just won’t disconnect any more. Before, they used to take photos of their family, of their grandmother, but now it’s photos of dishes. It’s tweeted, liked, comments are made and replied to — by then the dish is cold.”
Miss Babicka, at least, will not trouble them. “I never take photos in restaurants as they have dim lighting so create no atmosphere for the picture,” she said.
- Props are essential, says Sarka Babicka. Take an ordinary bowl of soup and pour it into a rustic bowl next to an unusual napkin with a jam jar containing flowers in the background
- Always take photos overhead to get the best sense of perspective
- Odd numbers work best. Shoot three plates of food as opposed to two
- Garnish your meal. A plain pizza never looks as good as one oozing with fresh leaves and slices of chilli
- Above all, make it look natural. If you get a splodge of stew on the table, leave it