I’m Sven Benjamins, and I’ve been working as a professional photographer for the last 23 years. I shoot mainly food, interior, still life, and lifestyle photography. I love to make cookbooks, because it allows me to work on a single project for a longer period of time. It is really special to work with great chefs, and a huge bonus to be able to taste their recipes.
Occasionally, I like to push myself with a fashion shoot. This change of pace inspires me and helps me discover new creative ideas and workflows for my food and interior shoots. For example, on a fashion project I might try out features in Capture One that I don’t frequently use in my other work. I try different styles and adjustments, and when it works well, when it creates an interesting effect or workflow, I am inspired to use this for my other shoots.
The perfect recipe for a food photoshoot
As a food photographer I work within teams of stylists and food artists. To ensure that we are all working in the same direction, each project starts with a briefing. Many times, this is just done by mail, but in bigger projects, we have a pre-production meeting (PPM). Once we are in my studio, the food stylist starts cooking according to the recipe. Prior to the shoot, the stylist will have already shopped for props at their own secret shops and suppliers. I set up the camera and lighting.
For food photography, I mainly shoot with the XF IQ4 with the Schneider Kreuznach 120mm LS f/4 Macro lens. This lens is the perfect length and has a very nice bokeh, and the leaf shutter is perfect for the use of flash. I usually use an open lamp, which I bounce against a wall or window. In some cases, I even use the flash directly on my subject. Speaking of learnings from fashion photography, this is something I discovered during a fashion shoot where I had forgotten my lamp hood! Now I use the technique a lot. In food photography, it’s very common to use daylight. I choose to shoot with flash lighting for a very simple reason – the sun goes down. I shape my light so that it looks like daylight, but in a more controlled environment.
With the food, camera and lights ready, it’s now time to do the final set up and composition, and get shooting. In the studio, my camera is always tethered to the laptop and Capture One. Even on location, I prefer tethered shooting because it gives me so much control. In the studio, my laptop is connected to two calibrated monitors. This means I am able to get the shot much closer to the final version in the studio, rather than spending a lot of time in post.
Shooting medium format
I get asked sometimes why I shoot medium format. I chose to shoot with Phase One because I was missing the depth of color I required. Medium format also gives me the ability to get much more out of my pictures. I started with the IQ2 50MP, which was a huge step for me compared to DSLR. As my photography has progressed, I have changed my kit to reflect that. I now also have the IQ4 150MP, which is in a league of its own. The images are so rich and full of color. It’s pure joy to work with. It has given me new possibilities for shooting, and also new possibilities for what can be done in post.
The images in this story are a part of a book that will come out at the end of October 2019, which I made with Michelin starred chef Jonathan Zandbergen, from restaurant Merlet.
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