Who of us doesn’t enjoy a well-planned feast? Dinner parties involve some of my favorite things – good friends, food, and alcohol! As the photographer, it’s important to be able to prepare for the different scenarios that you’ll encounter at a dinner party. We’ll discuss specific tips to help you capture the best moments of the social gathering. These tips can be applied to any party that is carefully planned and includes food and alcohol.
Believe it or not, many people put a lot of effort into making their food look picturesque. Food decorating is an art, and chefs even learn to present their food in culinary school. Try to learn to appreciate the beauty of the arrangement and colors in each dish. The effort that people take to cook a delicious meal is well worth the effort of documenting. Start with the appetizer(s), and then move on to photographing the main dish(es) and other entrees. Finally, don’t forget to snap a photo of the dessert when it comes out! This is often the most anticipated part of the dinner, and people will appreciate the photographer capturing the most memorable part of the night. Don’t forget to capture the place settings and the center pieces on the table. A great shot would be to stand on one end of the table and take a portrait photo of the entire table with the food and table settings ready to go. Another option is to stand on top of a chair and take a top-down photo of the part of the table with the food and utensils ready.
Isolating individual plates after the food has been served is a good technique also. This requires self-discipline on the part of whoever’s part of your photograph, because they cannot eat any of it until after the photo is taken. Try to arrange the food in a way that looks appealing and appetizing. Make sure it is a balanced meal on the plate, with some grains, meat/seafood and vegetables or greens.
Whoever brings alcohol brings enjoyment to many dinner parties. It helps people loosen up, relax and have a good time. Before the party starts, take some shots of the unopened bottles of wine or beer. Look for nice, clean backgrounds or place them next to the food to have some background context in the scene. Compose the photo so that the focus is on the drinks, and not on the people. This kind of photo provides a different perspective on the dinner party. A good example of this type of photo is seen above.
Later, when the drinks start getting poured out, take a few action shots of the pouring. This can be tough due to the timing of the shot. A good way to make sure you don’t miss this shot is to tell the group at the dinner party that you are looking forward to taking pictures of the alcohol pouring – thereby causing the group to be responsible for notifying you when the bottles of wine start popping open. This can also be a challenge in the dark, as seen in the photo above. Make sure you are equipped with a fast lens that works well in low light, such as the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM lens. Bringing a low light lens will ensure that you don’t miss any opportunities for shots in the dark outside or in a dimly lit home. Another cool shot to take is of all the wine glasses lined up and filled up, ready to be served.
Decorating is an often forgotten aspect of dinner parties. A great host will always take the time to decorate, both in big ways and small. From balloons in the front of the house to ribbons on the silverware on the table, the little details combine to form a wonderful experience. Make sure you bring a lens that can get in close to the subject/object so that you can bring attention to the little details. By photographing the decorations around the house, you show both respect and appreciation for the effort that the party host has put into decorating.