Looking Good: Food Styling & Photography | Visa Wellington On a Plate

Do you love taking photos of your foodie adventures, enjoy food styling and perhaps even blogging about your food experiences? Then I sure hope you were one for the fortunate folks who managed to secure a spot at the Looking Good: Food Styling & Photography event organised as part of this year’s Visa Wellington On a Plate festival! I had my eye on this event when I first got hold of the festival brochure and was lucky enough to successfully purchase the $89 general admission ticket back in June. The event was so popular that all of its sessions sold out fast, even the additional session that was added a couple of weeks ago.

Looking Good: Food Styling & Photography is a hands-on food photography, styling and blogging workshop held at Zibibbo where local experts presented tips and tricks to their trade. I attended the 12pm session last Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find my good friend Chris in the crowd of eager participants. We were split into smaller groups of 9-10 people and rotated over the different workstations set up for each segment located across the two levels of the restaurant. 

Our group started off with the photography segment with Lucy Mutch Food Photographer, a seasoned photographer who in recent years specialises in food photography and works extensively with restaurants, cafes and artisan food stores in the Wellington region showcasing their amazing creations in beautiful images. Lucy was such a friendly and down-to-earth person, sharing her personal stories and tips on how to take that eye-catching photograph. She talked about exposure, lighting and composition, as well as what equipment to use and how to style using props, textures even fresh flowers and herbs to make the star of the photo i.e. the food pop. Did you know a spritz of oil can liven up your dish if it starts to look lacklustre? So many wonderful tips that I'll be sure to leverage off when taking food photos from now on.

We were then given the opportunity to put all the information we’ve just digested into practice with our cameras and phones taking photos of the plated dishes at hand, experimenting with different exposure settings, angles and props. Most of the participants shot using their phone and only a handful of us came with a camera. I still have much to learn and discover with my Sony a6000!

Experimenting with composition

Getting up close and personal with the subject

Truffles on a bed of rice

Use of natural lighting

Attempting the Flat Lay

All this food photography is making me hungry! There wasn't any food served at this point and it was quite a long wait before we were ushered over to the next part of our workshop. Around 1.15pm, our group finally moved on to the food styling segment. Though our handout sheet prints ‘Food Photography & Styling Workshop with Chef Adam Newell & Food Photographer Lucy Mutch’, Michelin-starred Chef Adam Newell was nowhere in sight today and his segment of the workshop was presented by his right-hand man, Zibibbo’s head chef Ariki Rei. Ariki took us on a food styling journey from preparation to plating - he showed us how to layer a grilled haloumi salad very simply yet elegantly, and the art of food plating, how to ‘smear’ and dollop sauces using a spoon to create stunning plate presentations.  And the best part, we got to sample the food! Since this was a hands-on workshop, everyone got a chance to plate up their seared scallops before photographing our creation and devouring it. Using good quality seasonal produce and the ‘less is best’ approach to adding finishing touches were Ariki's key tips for making food taste good and look good. 

Haloumi with toasted pumpkin seeds

Grilled haloumi salad

Head chef Ariki Rei presenting the art of plating

Searing scallops

Food plating and finishing my seared scallop dish

Our final segment on blogging was presented by the lovely Lucy Revill from The Residents, a blog about the people, places and events that make up the city of Wellington. Lucy’s blog is increasingly popular with 14,000 unique hits a month and a huge following on her social media platforms. Her contributions towards promoting our wonderful city haven't gone unnoticed; she was recently awarded the Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Award by the Wellington City Council for her efforts. As we nibbled on delicious Zibibbo tapas, Lucy shared stories of her blogging journey and tips on how to create a winning blog. Consistently publishing new content, great photography and strategically sharing on social media platforms were some of the top tips to her success with The Residents. Though most of what was presented in this segment were not new to me, it was a good refresher and motivated me to get back on the horse and try blogging regularly again.

For those of you heading to the event this weekend, I would highly recommend that you have a decent snack prior to the workshop. Those tasty morsels served weren't sufficient for a lunch serving plus all the photographing and discussion about food would just make you feel hungrier on an empty stomach. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and would love to see more of such events held in Wellington. Two hours (and a half hour overrun) was only a taster; there is so much more to be learnt from these experts!


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