Plant based food photography at Matthew Kenney Cuisine – part 1

Many people asked me. Why are you taking a food photography course? Your pictures are so beautiful already! My answer is because I never really learnt this. Everything I do and looks good, comes naturally. Without anyone ever telling me what is good and how to do it. In order to believe and know that I actually do the right thing, as professionals do, I decided I have to learn this. So first I got lots of books from my husband. As I was reading through them, I realized I was doing the right thing, just never knew this is how professionals doing it.

And by now I got to a point where I felt the need of a structured, brief course that takes me through from the beginning to the end of food photography, using natural light. To make sure I covered everything, I know what happens and why and when a shot is great I will not be standing there and asking myself. OK, it looks amazing. But why? And how did I do it? And how can I recreate it next time? Without thinking about it and trying? This is why I am doing this online course now. The first part is about using natural light in food photography and it takes 2 weeks. The next course lasts 2 weeks again and that is an advanced course introducing studio lighting and other techniques to your photography.

DAY 1 was all about getting closer to your camera,

using manual mode, having the right settings for shooting, image size, image format, white balance etc. For those of us who already do photography this is a good summary and also help from professional photographers if you have any problems with settings on your camera. You will be taking random shots of any kind of still life to experiment with aperture and shutter speed, over and under expose images.

DAY 2  is about lens

Lens choice for food photography, focal length, capability of lenses. If you are a beginner in food photography, this will help you chose the right lens and makes you understand why that will be good for the task. This will make you experiment with your zoom and prime lens at the same focal length to see whether there is any difference or not. To me it turned out that my old Sigma zoom lens can take similar quality shots at 50mm like my Nikon 50mm lens I have for food photography. But it doesn’t mean that there was no point buying the prime lens 🙂

Nikon 50mm
Sigma 18-250mm

DAY 3 is about the exposure triangle.

You will be taught how ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture affect each other and how to compensate one with the other. You will get into details to see what different ISO settings mean to your image, how the size of aperture changes your photo and what different shutter speeds can be used for.




shutter speed 1/40
shutter speed 1/320
shutter speed 1/8
shutter speed 1/20


DAY 4  Let’s get immersed in selective focus and depth of field

You will learn what depth of field means, how different depth of field settings change your image. Experiment with same settings, but different aperture. Which one suits your image more? Which one helps you tell something in your photo?

Also learn about selective focus. In any given shot focus has to be somewhere. But where? Today is about taking shots of the same setting but different focus points.

In my examples selective focus is shifting from foreground to background.

And since this is a plant based food photography course, the food that we shoot is always blant based. For certain assignment you will not only shoot any kind of food but will also make something, raw and vegan for the assignment. You will get a recipe guide for these so you can make everything taste really good and eat at the end of the well deserved working day! 🙂

We had the first food related assignment when we got to practicing depth of field.

Here we had to prepare these raw, vegan “cacao mint cremes” and take shots using different depth of field.

I warn you! These cremes are not easy to make. And not because of the complexity of the recipe, but the fact that they melt very easily and they have to be kept in fridge or even freezer if you want to make sure they look good in the shots.


You can see the difference it depth of field. In order to see more details in the picture, outside your focal plane, you have to adjust the aperture. Which shot do you prefer? Which one suits the topic and image more? I think picture 1 is better here, because you get more details of the cremes, and at the same time a bit of blur, to achieve a nice feel to the shot.

And how to make these cookies?  Recipe adapted from Matthew Kenney Cuisine with some adjustments I made, so the overall taste is not that sweet. It is still sweet though!

I didn’t add the mint leaves either, that the recipe calls for, I left it in.

My instructions, based on the experience 🙂


To make these cremes, first I blended the nuts, then added all the other ingredients from the list below, except for the coconut flour, and blended it to a creamy texture. Once I had a nice creamy mix, I removed it from the blender and mixed it with a spatula with the coconut flour in a bowl. We are using coconut oil so when the cookies are cool, they firm up. Place the mixture covered, in the fridge and wait until it firms up. Then remove from the fridge and shape it to a nice log. At this point I covered it in cling film and put it in the freezer. Once it was frozen, I took it out, waited just until my knife was able to cut it and quickly slices into medallions. That point I put them back in the fridge and prepared the chocolate maple glaze. Once the glaze was mixed properly into a smooth texture, I took out the medallions, dipped them in the glaze, placed them on a rack, sprinkled over the raw cacao nibs and immediately back in the FREEZER! 🙂 If the glaze starts to firm, warm it up a bit so that you can use it efficiently. Once it is frozen, ready to be photographed. For consumption, keep in fridge until you eat them. ENJOY!


  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1⁄2 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 1⁄2 cup coconut oil, melted

For the chocolate maple glaze mix until smooth:

  • 1 maple syrup or agave
  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 2 tbs coconut oil, melted

To garnish: raw cacao nibs


And eventually we got to DAY5, last day of the first week.

Day 5 was all about practicing everything we learnt in the first 4 days and bringing all the knowledge into plated food and try and present them in the best possible way.

We got to prepare two very simple raw salads. One is a fruit carpaccio of our chosen fruits and the other one is a fresh, green salad with a simple vinaigrette. The beauty of the raw vegetables and fruits was the best possible subject to practice everything we learnt and start taking shots of plated food that defines our style as food photographers.



For the fruit carpaccio I chose to use peach and strawberries.

They taste really good together and the colors are amazing in the photo. According to the recipe I made a simple syrup with wild flower honey, lemon juice and rose water. I drizzled it over and carefully around the fruits. Pistachio and dried rose petals decorated the dish. I also decided to add some lemon balm and later lemon verbena leaves to bring some green in the shot and add some interesting element especially for the close up.


As for the green salad I chose greens that can keep their shape, in this instance mache rosettes and the firm leaves of a head of romain lettuce.




These greens helped me to create a nice plate of food without just piling leaves on top of each other. After adding the salad leaves on the plate I felt that the images do not look good. And that is when I decided to use up all the negative space on the plate for the dressing. I finished off the salad with some garlic chive blossoms and marigold petals. These are both edible flowers and not only bring some color to the dish but also deliver flavor. The purple garlic chive blossom tastes like garlic and chive and the marigold petals have a peppery taste. Perfect with the simple herb infused – lemon vinaigrette.



And now I am ready for Week 2 when we will be learning more about natural light, light shaping tools, composition and framing, height and angle of view. See you back in a week for the second part!




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