Last year I had the privilege of having two Thanksgiving feasts. I took part in a pottery/cooking class with Chef Robin Leventhal and one of the classes centered around Thanksgiving dishes. The class assisted as Chef Robin showed us how to make everything for a Thanksgiving feast including turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, salad, salad dressing and even brussel sprouts. How we were able to make all of this in one class session I have no idea. I enjoyed photographing this unique way of celebrating the holiday. The photos at the end of the blog post were all taken during that class using an Olympus E-P1 and no flash.
One thing to keep in mind when photographing the holiday is to capture not only the food but the people too. Try getting some photos of the cook in action. Take photos of the turkey being basted, potatoes being mashed, the table being set and most importantly the carving of the turkey.
If you have any control over the food presentation, make the turkey platter the star and really stand out by dressing it up with fresh herbs and vegetables. Sage, rosemary and/or thyme are great herbs to use as a garnish. Grapes and/or cherry tomatoes, fresh or roasted, also make good garnishes that contrast well with turkey and photograph well.
I like to like shooting Thanksgiving food from over head, however the most important thing to remember is to shoot at different angles. A lot of people tend to shoot things at the same angle all the time. Don't be afraid to try shooting different angles. From above, at a 45 degrees and at eye level are the three main angles. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you get when you experiment with angles.
After the table is set with food, you'll want to get some photos of the dining table with your family/friends in the shot. This shot should be done with a wide angle lens to fit everything and everyone in the frame. Set the turkey platter close to you, on one end of the table and make that the main focus with everyone sitting beyond it. To get everyone in the frame you will need to shoot just above the turkey. If you don't use a flash it will be difficult to get both the turkey and everyone at the table in focus since you will probably need to shoot at a large aperture (low F-Stop value) if there is not a lot of available light. Using a flash is recommended for this shot, ideally an external flash on your hot shoe, bounced off the ceiling at close to full power. This will allow you to use a small aperture to make more of the scene in focus. If you don't have a flash, try taking a few different photos focusing some on the turkey and some on the people behind the turkey. Also, the further away you are from the subjects the more in focus they will be. So you can try that and then do some cropping in post processing. Try taking some photos standing up for a higher perspective. Take one or two with everyone looking at you and some candids of people in conversation, smiling and laughing.
Most people serve Thanksgiving family style and pass around plates of food for you to dish onto your own plate. Try to capture some close up photos of people passing food to each other or dishing food onto their plates. Don't forget to serve some food for yourself! You'll want to get a photo of your plate full of food. Try to get at least a little bit of everything on your plate. Think of it as a family photo, you don't want any food left out of the shot. This is the one I like most to photograph from above so you can see everything on the plate easily. Between bites of food, take a few photos of people enjoying themselves.
Lastly, try to get everyone together for a group shot after dinner. Use a tripod and bring a remote or use your camera's timer so you can be in the shot too.
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