From an aspiring accountant in Bangkok to a professional pastry chef in San Francisco was an unexpected career path for me. In 2003, my husband and I moved to San Francisco where I continued studying accounting. After living in the U.S. for two and a half years, we decided to open a bed & breakfast in the Caribbean, which was my start in the food business. When we returned to San Francisco in 2007 I knew I could bake for a living, so I decided to take the baking and pastry program at California Culinary Academy. Since graduating, I've been fortunate enough to work at two separate Michelin one star restaurants, Cortez and Luce. I started blogging to document my pastry work, and this is how I began my hobby as an amateur photographer!

As chefs, we understand the importance of presentation and as photographers, we should strive to make the photographs of our creations look every bit as good as they do on the plate. Expressing my work with mouth-watering photos is especially important for me since English is my second language. Although I'm just an amateur photographer, I think I can offer a few tips. Here's my equipment and set up.
  • Nikon D70 DSLR
  • Nikon AF-S DX 18-70mm lens (kit lens)
  • Tripod
  • Platform
  • Reflectors
  • Wax paper
My husband and I wanted an all-purpose DSLR that offered a balance between reasonable cost and advanced features. At the time, the Nikon D70 with the kit lens fit the bill. There are some people who don't like kit lenses, but I'm perfectly happy with my results.

Choosing a camera depends on what type of photos you plan to take as well as your budget. For example, if you can afford it, a camera with an aperture priority setting will give you many options when it comes to composing close-up food photograph. If you plan to use the camera for other types of photography, you'll have to consider other factors as well. For example, for sports photography you'd want to have a shutter speed priority setting, and for travel you might want a camera that's lightweight and portable. But for food photography, aperture priority is the most important consideration.

To get started, take a look at these two photos and notice the impact that composition and lighting can make. I'll show you how to use such a simple setup to achieve result like the photo on the right.

My rules of thumb
  1. Know your camera
  2. Understand the basics
  3. Technique
Know your camera
Before you can think about learning basics and technique, you need to understand how your camera works.. The best information is in the owners manual that comes with the camera. Getting to know your camera is very important. You should take some time to read the manual and take control over your camera.  The more you shoot, the better you understand your camera. There is nothing wrong if you start with the fully automatic mode or program mode for shooting. But after that, you need to get familiar with other shooting modes in order to create better photos. In food photography, Aperture Priority mode plays a big role. You control the aperture and ISO,  the camera will choose the proper shutter speed for the right exposure.

Regardless what type of camera, you need to learn the fundamentals of photography. It's really difficult to continue if we are not clear about the concepts of taking photos. There are 5 important terms in photography that you need to learn: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure and white balance. These are all related. I have to admit that having a DSLR is an advantage since it produces better images. However, the best equipment money can buy won't produce good images unless you know how to use it. I'm not going to explain all of these because information is already available on the Internet and in books.

In the coming month, I'll talk about rule# 2 understand the basics that involves composition and lighting.