5 Important Lessons Learnt from Food Photography Workshop with Penny De Los Santos

48909894Workshops are great way to learn, in fact in some workshop you always learn more and retain better with hands on training. Penny De Los Santos conducted a food photography workshop in Seattle on December 11th 2009. In this post I am sharing 4 important lessons that I learnt from this workshop.

I badly wanted to be in the food photography workshop by Penny De Los Santos. Unfortunately, with a full time job and being in Midwest, I had no option but to stare at my screen and learn about the workshop remotely through social media. Many thanks to Valentina Vitols (Blog: http://valentinavitolsphoto.blogspot.com), Lorna Yee (Blog: http://www.thecookbookchronicles.com) and Shauna James Ahern (Blog: http://glutenfreegirl.com)  for using Twitter to share the updates. And Kudos to Seattle Bon Vivant (Blog: http://seattlebonvivant.typepad.com) for sharing pictures from the session.

5 Important Lessons from Penny De Los Santos

Below are the four five important lessons that I remotely learnt from the great food photographer Penny De Los Santos.

Use Natural Light

 Penny Delosantos 03

Penny says “ natural light is best for food photography.” Natural light makes things so simple, it is amazing. The color come out perfect accurate, you don’t have to think and adjust the white balance in your camera. 

Try Different Angles

 Penny Delosantos 02I read in one of the photography books to move around your subject a lot and take lots of shots. Same thing applies in food photography, sometime a 45 degree angle works best, other times a simple top view make a photograph eye catching.

Use Real Food


Penny Delosantos 01

I am just so happy to hear that. I have written about ethics in food photography before and although some think it is “okay” to use white glue and motor oil, this just strengthens my belief. As you may have read before I have a simple principle, “if you can’t eat it, don’t shoot it.”



Penny Delosantos 05

I think this is by far the most important thing in food photography. To celebrate. When you start to celebrate lot of things fall in place automatically. The music starts playing, the lights are dimmed and the mood is changed. Power of attitude at best.

Added: Observe Photographs


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I have experienced that the best way to learn photography is to observe and look at photographs not only of your own but of others. For your own photograph, critique it very brutally. “Look at photographs like it’s your job.” What do you think is missing? How can it be improved? What needs to change?

Update 1: Some time back I wrote what I think is a Complete Guide to Process of Photographing Food. This post explains various phases of food photography and several steps involved.

Update 2: – Added the following section with recent updates.

More About This Workshop Elsewhere:

  1. Food Photography at Fat of the Land – This blog has published a good summary of the workshop. A good article for anyone who would like to know what goes in workshop like these. Reading time is less than 2 minutes in my opinion.
  2. Food Photography Workshop at Aldente Blog – Rebekah gives a good 7 point summary of lessons learnt. Wonderful description and quick summary of lessons learnt for those of us who couldn’t attend the workshop.
  3. Food Photography Workshop: Penny De Los Santos at Paula Thomas Photography – Paula has written a very comprehensive post about the workshop including the assignments in this workshop. I think this post is a must visit if you want to learn more about this workshop.
  4. Photography Workshop with Penny De Los Santos at Chakula Blog – This post is a visual retreat. Lots of photographs from the event.
  5. Food Photography: Penny De Los Santos, workshop with at 1 Family Friendly Food – If you want more visual retreat, Nurit has posted tones of photographs and not just event photographs but also beautiful food photographs.
  6. Food Photography Class with Penny De Los Santos at Wright Food Blog – Wonderful tips from the Workshop with Penny. Do visit this.
  7. Flickr Pool – This is a great place to treat your eyes with more food photographs and all of them from this workshop. This pool has some very awesome photos. Gives you a complete idea of what happened that day. Paula also has started a discussion with links to other posts with experiences from this workshop.
  8. On Twitter – Twitter is one place, that has real time information about this workshop. Visit the link above to learn more.

Update: Found this Useful – Let Her Know

This workshop was organized by Viv (Blog: http://seattlebonvivant.typepad.com) and as you may have some idea, this is a lot of work. If you found this even a bit helpful, please let Viv know. I am sure she will appreciate your feedback.

Your Food Photography Challenges

In the comments section below, please add what are your photography challenges. It will be interesting to know what aspects of food photography you would like to learn and what you find confusing or tough.

Photo Credit:

Lorna Yee (Blog: http://www.thecookbookchronicles.com) graciously granted me the permission to use her photograph. Lorna, thank you for that. Readers, be sure to visit her blog for more stunning photographs.

Disclaimer: I did not attend this workshop and all information was gathered by doing little research on social media sites. Kudos to Twitter for making this possible.

  • I’m so glad you were able to join us through Twitter! If you’re interested, I posted about it here: http://www.chakulablog.com/events/photography-workshop-with-penny-de-los-santos-2/

    • Rosemary, Thank you for updating your twitter. Some of us may not have attended, but we appreciate it. I heard from lot of people on Twitter that it went very well.

  • Hello from Malaysia! Glad to have found your blog, great for me as a novice in food photography & styling! Will keep coming back to learn more! Keep it up, yea?


    • Thank you for visiting from such a long distance :). I am humbled that you found this blog helpful.

  • I am so happy to read your blog.I found this post pretty interesting..looking forward to more of it.Thanks so much:)

  • Thanks for sharing these tips — I was hoping to attend in-person but wasn’t one of the lucky folks.

  • Nithya,

    Thank you for your kind words. Hope to be able to help you and share more about food photography.


    Thank you Jenn, I many of us were very desperate to attend this workshop. But constraints 🙂 and for me it was location location location, if it was closer to some place, could have attended if was closer..

  • Hi Neel,
    First of all, thanks for the nice comments on my blog. I appreciate very much.
    Thanks also for sharing those insights from Penny de los Santos. Love the quote: “if you can’t eat it, don’t shoot it.” I very much adhere to that philosophy too. Wish i could do more natural light photography though. Not always easy in badly lit professional kitchens but looking forward to do more of that in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  • Viv

    As the person who organized the Food Photography Workshop with Penny De Los Santos at Spring Hill (http://pennyinseattle.eventbrite.com/) I thank you for your blog post.

    Perhaps one of these days you’ll be able to join us in Seattle for future events.

    Best regards,


  • Nate Burnett

    \My job is to celebrate what is\

    I love that quote! That goes for all artists, and humans as well.

    Great post, by the way…

  • I like to use natural light as much as possible, in general. Not surprisingly, it compliments natural objects.

  • When I shoot food (generally fruit and vegetables), I tend to find examples that are not perfect. I think the slight blemishes make the object more unique, and less processed.

  • I just went to check out Penny’s site… really inspiring. Thanks for introducing me to her!

  • Kate

    Thanks for sharing. It is not so easy to attend those workshops when you have small children. I appreciate site like this where I could read and learn when I have time to do so. Thank you again.

  • selena

    Hi I really enjoyed reading your post. I look forward to reading more. I have always been interested in food photography however seem to still get them all under exposed! Need to work on that.


  • Jessica

    HI !

    Thank you for the information. Was a Good read. Looking for more information
    This is a fantastic service — I had no idea this kind of help would be available.


  • Great post.This should be helpful.Thank you for this great advice.thanx for sharing .This post is really interesting and quite informative.

  • I think a good practice along with observing photographs is to attempt to recreate them. That way, you can learn through the process of trying to achieve a specific outcome. This way, you should also discover many happy accidents that you can use in the future.

  • wow.. there is some really good information here.. thanks for sharing it with us

  • Blair A.

    I’ve always believed that a dish’s presentation has just as much impact on the foods taste, as the cooking itself. Food styling is truly a fine art. Nice post!!!

  • Some interesting and well researched information on food-photography. I’ll put a link to this site on my blog. Thank you!

  • Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information?

    It is extremely helpful for me. Italian restaurant Carlton

  • McKenZie

    thanks to you for this information .

  • Its really amazing blog i have ever seen brfore. The information about food-photography is wonderful. Please keep on update your blog.

  • good photograghy . Where is it take place ? Specially i like to take pictures in food items , becaus i feel enthusiastic

  • Nice post, i cant predect the event so good …

  • Good one. very intrest to all the above comments and the food related photograph is nice

  • Good post, how can i analise the photography related food and user friendly ?

  • Thanks for this post very informative, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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