They say a picture says a thousand words, and that's a good thing because if you're looking at Chris Connolly's photos on Foodspotting, you'll be left with no words at all. I first came across Chris' work a month ago and I revisit his profile from time to time to see the latest lucky dish to be captured by his lens. It's like stepping into a gallery where you reflect, not on what's on paper, but what's on a plate.
By day, Chris is a user experience designer in the San Francisco Bay Area, currently leading the user experience for a project called Tunerfish. By mealtime, however, he's one of our most active Foodspotters, which gained him a place among our first hundred Super Spotters who were announced yesterday. Here is our food pic-focused Q&A with the photog himself.
You've been to some of the most renowned restaurants in California. Is that where you're from?
I'm actually from Arizona, which is a desolate land in terms of food culture (although I've heard it's become better over the years). I spent some time in the Los Angeles area before moving up to the SF Bay Area, which is where I fell in love with food and the culture around it. There are so many amazing places up here, and the culture of emphasizing simple, local ingredients really shines through in the end products.
Which foods do you think are the most photogenic?
Desserts and cocktails tend to be pretty easy shots, meaning you don’t have to try hard to make it look good. As for main courses - anything with a lot of green, leafy bits tend to photograph well. Also, put anything on a pure white plate, and it will photograph well as long as you’ve got good light.
Seeing that you take quite a few photos at high-end restaurants, what has your experience been like as a customer with a camera?
Largely very good. Most high-end restaurants have no issues with you breaking out a digital SLR camera as long as you follow some basics. Always attempt to ask if you can photograph - 99% of the time, they’ll give you the green light - and never use flash. If you don’t disrupt other diners' experience, and don’t let the act of photographing your meals ruin your own experience, then there is little harm in it. Also, restaurants tend to like when their creations are photographed well – I just hope I’m doing their food justice.
The Foodspotting team is in awe of the Salad Emmanuelle photo you took at Benu. What camera and lens did you use? What was the post-production process like for that photo?
I shoot all of my shots with a Canon 5D Mark II camera, and most of my food shots are with my trusty 50mm 1.4 lens. Post-processing is all done with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop – but with the 5D Mark II, you don’t need to do much work to make the food look good. It’s mainly just color correction and centering photos within Foodspotting’s wacky (and lovable) square crop. I think that photo just required a bit of color and contrast alteration. Glad you like it!
It looks like you've been eating a lot of dessert, breakfast, chicken, and ice cream. Would you say those four foods sum you up pretty well?
Oddly enough, I’m not a huge dessert guy, but it does tend to photograph well, so I always end up posting those shots. Breakfast food, yes, I can eat it at any hour of the day. Sadly, my favorite food of the moment is Korean BBQ burrito, which does not tend to photograph as well.
Any tips for aspiring food photographers?
I suppose the biggest thing is learning to control light. Try to pick outside tables with lots of natural light. If your table doesn’t have good light, don’t be afraid to adjust your table’s lighting so that you can get your shot. Also, be patient and respectful to the restaurant staff. More often than not, they’ll stay out of your way. In some cases, they even help by removing unnecessary items from the table to help you get a better shot. Also, come out to the Bay Area. We have great food and great light over here :)