I’m Sarah Toomey, based in a village nestled between the moors and the sea in South West Devon in the UK. I do, however, love to travel – especially when there are food adventures involved.
I’m a food photographer (as well as a lifestyle and wedding photographer under my other business, Sarah Lauren Photography).
I shoot mainly for brands, restaurants, foodie businesses, chefs and health professionals. I also run bespoke workshops teaching food photography and styling.
I’ve been in love with all things food for as long as I can remember. I love trying out new restaurants, visiting markets, exploring flavours and creating recipes, and where travel is involved, so much the better. My favourite cuisines are Indian, Mexican and Japanese.
I started my career working in marketing for a couple of food multinationals. My initial love of food photography was ignited at this point, even though I was briefing the photographers not taking the photos.
Fast forward 10 years… a few children later and years capturing weddings, lifestyle and families… and here I am on the other side of the lens shooting food.
During this time, I also trained to be a nutritional therapist which has been massively useful when collaborating
For me, food photography is as soulful and fluid as my portraiture work. Behind every food image is a story to be told, whether that be the origin of the food, the grower, the way it’s produced, prepared, sold or cooked.
There are endless ways to document a food story and the addition of props, the styling of the food and the choice of lighting further dictate the style and feel of the image.
Food photography often requires lots of planning in advance as most dishes usually look their best for a finite amount of time. Having everything ready in place is crucial in order to maximize the potential of the shot. Sorbet and frozen desserts are a good example of this as they are quick to melt. However, as mentioned above, the melting of the dish can actually tell as much of the story as the perfect finished article. It really depends on the scenario and context of the shot.
My first DSLR camera was a Canon EOS 400D which was quickly replaced with a pair of Canon EOS 5D Mark II cameras. These were upgraded to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III models. Then in 2018 I switched over to the Sony mirrorless system and haven’t looked back.
I’ve made a real effort to keep my kit quite streamlined since the switchover as my Canon collection of lenses was getting slightly out of hand.
My current kit is:
Sony A7III: I love these cameras and especially the accuracy of the focusing and the image quality. Being able to see exposure adjustments in real time Live View is a much more efficient way to take photos. I also love the weight of the cameras and my back and neck are thankful for the switch.
My favourite lenses are:
Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8: I love this focal length and it’s usually my first go-to lens for flat lays and overhead shots where I am trying to capture quite a few elements. When looking to add a text element as an overlay and negative space is key, this lens is ideal for food photography.
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8: I love everything about this lens and I really enjoy using it when I prefer to get a touch closer than my 55mm. It’s ideal for shooting portraits so I take this opportunity to capture more people in my food stories. I love adding human elements into my food images because of the storytelling aspect it provides.
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2: Although I don’t use this lens much for food shots, it can still be useful on a shoot when capturing wider shots of the restaurant/location.
My next purchase will undoubtedly be new macro lens. I sold my previous Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 when I switched over to Sony. I wasn’t a massive fan of that lens so I’ll be hunting for something special.
Flash guns: I prefer natural light for my commercial work as much as possible. If I do ever need a bit of flash, I use a couple of Godox TT350s.
Iphone: I’ll often use this while setting up a shot just to see how things are looking. I’m also a massive fan of music and edit to lots of upbeat funky tunes to keep things fun whilst at my desk. I’ve therefore included my TaoTronics Noise cancelling wireless headphones which are usually glued to my head whilst editing.
Tripod: I use a Manfrotto Aluminium 3 Section Tripod with XPRO Ball Head + 200PL plate. It has a horizontal arm that can be extended for shooting overhead. I use a tripod a lot as it leaves my hands free for perfecting the setup and also enables shooting at slower shutter speeds.
Diffusers and reflectors: I use lots of diffusers and reflectors to help control the light and primarily use natural light when shooting food.
Hold Fast Money Maker dual camera leather strap: I love the way my cameras sit and leave my hands free.
Card Wallet: The Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket is a convenient folding wallet for 10 memory cards that fits easily in my pocket or attaches to my bags.
Props and Backgrounds: This for me is one of the best parts of photographing food. Some clients will often have their own crockery etc to use or I will work with a prop stylist. However, I also own a large collection of my own props including cutlery, tableware, and washed linens. I spend a lot of time sourcing characterful accessories online and in charity shops. I also own lots of tabletops and surfaces to shoot on (concrete, wooden, metal and stone), and battered baking trays, etc. I sometimes paint my own backdrops and this helps me to mix the exact paint colours needed.
Food styling accessories: My kit includes tweezers for rearranging food on a plate, a bottle of oil for adding sheen and to reflect light, a spray bottle full of freshwater for helping to make foliage, herbs, vegetables and fruit look fresh and a cloth for cleaning drips on the plate.
NAKD bars: a healthy way to stay full on a shoot day as let’s face it, it’s hard to photograph food if you’re hungry.
www.lifeonaplate.co.uk | @life_on_a_plate_
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Thanks for the feature Shotkit!