This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to tour Pike Place Market with master food photographer Lou Manna, arranged by the Frantic Foodie herself, Keren Brown.

Lou is a great guy and quite a character. In fact, one of the first things he demonstrated was how he uses his personality to engage with the people around him and get them to help make great pictures. He had every vendor in the market chatting and eager to rearrange their produce and accommodate a group of shutterbugs.

I never set out to be a food photographer, but photography has become a big part of what brings people to Herbivoracious, and I’ve really enjoyed improving my skills over time. I came to Lou’s class eager specifically to tune up my lighting, and he was full of very practical, hands-on advice for how to do that.

In the picture of the heirloom caprese above, from Steelhead Diner (yum!), Lou was holding a reflector to fill in a shadow area in the front right. In my initial shot, that area was so dark that the contrast was distracting.

These next two pictures of nectarines show the concepts even more clearly (click on them for a larger view). Not one of my best compositions, but check out the lighting. The one on the left is pure natural light. Note the harsh, directional shadows from the sun. On the right, we used a simple folding fabric disc to bounce some light back onto the other side of the fruit. See how much more evenly lit and appealing that picture is? From there it would have been a simple matter to use a mirror to add a highlight or two for even more interest.

I think my biggest takeaways from the class are to be more sensitive and aware of the light in all shooting situations, and more active in modifying it when I’m not in my studio. (Do you call it a studio when it consists of a tiny piece of seamless paper and a couple of diffused fluoresents on a tablesaw top? Next to the water heater?)

Anyhow, it was a fantastic experience, and I’m really grateful to Lou and Keren. I’m looking forward to finishing Lou’s first book and taking my food shots up a couple of notches.

This content was originally published here.