Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I guess I’ve said this a thousand times: Photography is one of my greatest passions.
I consider it as a creative outlet, be it for work or leisure. Sometimes, I even find myself romancing my DSLR and phone camera to get a better understanding of how I can achieve dramatic effects with just one click.
As much as I want to work on my style and technique, I plead guilty for not practicing proper camerawork beyond my own comfort zone, aka motherhood. Time is such a luxury I cannot afford these days. I only have enough to allow me to enjoy hobbies and interests within the confines of work and mommy duties. For friends and colleagues who are connected to me on social media, my usual choice of subjects is evident in most of my posts: if not my daughter, it’s about fashion, career, and shameless selfie’s. 

Looking back, I have always been fascinated with food photography. Straight out of college, I walked the streets of Makati in dire hope of landing a job in an advertising agency. With that goal in mind, I knew I had to train my eye and learn more about product and food photography. Both required specialized techniques focused highly on superlatives and sensation through details and colors. Less than a year after college, fate led me to a slightly different path, regions away from the advertising capital of the Philippines. Despite the turn of events, I’m lucky that I found my true calling in public relations and multimedia. I get to work on projects that require photography and design, thus the opportunity to touch base with my background in film and audio-visual communication.
For years that I have worked on food photography for special menus, flyers, and print ads, I’d say I have made quite an achievement, but I am still far from being a pro or an expert. Practice makes perfect, so they say. To this very day, I believe I am still a neophyte. If there is any opportunity to learn more, I’d take it.

And so that great opportunity came when I was invited to sit in a workshop directed by none other than Mark Floro, master in food photography for advertising. He flew to Davao last weekend to take part of the 3-day Travel Foto Expo in SMX Convention Center. I consider that 3-hour workshop a privilege, seeing the master in action, showing us the tricks of the trade. Aside from giving tips and lecture, he welcomed us to his “makeshift” studio and called for our participation in an actual photo shoot. 

A graduate of Art Center College of Design in California, Mark is one of the most sought after food photographers in the country and he has been doing advertising / commercial photography for over 30 years. His clientele include some of the biggest names in the food industry. He is a past president of the Advertising Photographers of the Philippines, and former director of the Advertising Suppliers Association of the Philippines (through the photography sector). On the side, he is one of the instructors at Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (PCCI) where he teaches food photography, business in photography, and basic studio lighting.
Mark Floro’s images come alive with the help of his favorite food stylist: his wife, Linda. She has made a name for herself with her trademark ingenuity in adding “movement and texture” to any food shot. She has, over the years, dug deeper into trade secrets and developed her own techniques in enhancing and maintaining consistency of any food or beverage product during a shoot. Challenging, I must say. Imagine shooting an ice cream or halo-halo under the scorching heat of studio lights. Mashed potato disguised as ice cream used to be the trick in the old days. Mark proudly says that his wife has discovered a new “secret” technique for ice cream shoots.

“My philosophy in photography is ‘Get it right the first time,’” Mark said. “Photoshop is just a secondary tool I use if there are instrumental factors in the environment which I cannot control and manipulate to my favor during the actual shoot.”

“I use continuous light for most of my photo shoots, depending on the intent. Personally, I like shadows and drama in food shots… Telenovela, as I put it. Advertising is a totally different story and clients would usually stick to cheery and happy mood lighting. But, please, whatever you do, never ever, ever, ever, ever use your pop up flash. It’ll just give you a flat and washed out image.”

“For food, I prefer the look of a natural light. It’s best to shoot at lunchtime and position yourself next to a window. Window lights are the most romantic—they’re free and of the best quality. It may be challenging to shoot in a studio since you need to achieve the look of a natural daylight. But there, you are in control. You can move and filter your light, evade stark shadows, and do some little tricks to add motion to your food.”
 “It would be easier for you to visualize your frames if you talk to your client and graphic designer to discuss shot list and selling point. Light your subject according to your intent. Go for texture, separation, colors, and character. Always look for an angle that will speak strongly and convincingly about your subject. Your shot should provoke emotion from the audience, therefore you should give them texture and movement. By movement we mean caramel syrup dripping from an ice cream, strings of cheese peeling off the slice of pizza from a pan, or cream dripping off a strawberry.  These movements are best achieved with a professional food stylist at bay.”

“It’s highly recommended to shoot food on earth-toned or white plates, or those with very little or no design at all. You don’t want the color of the plate to compete with the color of the food. Try to get more full shots than tight ones. Most likely, the graphic designer would need space allowance for the copy. Give your client variety and freedom to crop the photo according to their requirement. Never shoot your food on a 50-50 ratio. Play around the rule of thirds and give the image a good depth. Use selective focusing if needed.”
“Experiment on different lighting and angles first before you attack the subject. You can either move your light or your plate, until you find that moment wherein you can already imagine and taste the food. Focus on that angle and shoot it dead on. I like straight-to-your-face food shots --- luring you to take a bite.”
For more about Mark Floro's works and profile, please visit
Story published on my newspaper column, Metro Mom.
A1, INdulge, Edge Davao, Vol. 6 Issue 53, 16 October 2013.


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