Friday, September 16, 2011
To a hungry tummy, even the mention of food stirs a mad craving. Now imagine the reaction if it’s presented with mouth-watering photographs detailing every luscious ingredient. To my recent visit to the Little Tea Shop, I had to recruit Chip Chockley, one of the best food photographers I know, to visually turn a seemingly simple plate of comfort food into a complex landscape of enticing layers. Plus, I had the secondary motive of picking up a few food photography tips from Chip, who recently was hired by several of my favorite restaurants like Las Tortugas to lure in customers with his mouth-watering images.
Before I go any further into the food photography tips, I also wanted to continue the discussion from the McEwen’s post on what makes a restaurant so well established. The Little Tea Shop definitely has the previously mentioned ingredients of good food, good atmosphere, and good service, but everyone including Chip seems to agree that the draw to this 93 year old restaurant, the oldest in Memphis, is greatly due to the gracious personality of Suhair Lauck, who owns the restaurant with her husband Jimmy and is ever present at the front counter greeting all the customers, either loyal or new like me. The fact that Suhair is the sister of Ameerah, the co-owner of the Peanut Shoppe nearby, is much more than trivia since Ameerah and her husband Ridda suggested I try out the Little Tea Shop to support their sister’s business. Always with a heart for hard-working people coming to the U.S. to find a better life for their family like my parents did for ours, I made it a point to try it several times then give it a worthy post with photographs that truly show off Suhair’s personality and her dishes she works so hard to prepare every morning.
In a roomful of suited regulars and the more casual tourists, Chip confidently pulled out his camera and professional lighting gear in a fairly challenging lighting atmosphere. There was one very important lesson I learned from Chip about lighting – avoid direct lighting on the subject trying to place the lighting source to the side of the subject to create more depth. In the first set of food shots, he tried the Photo Soft Box Pro app on the iPad but then switched to a Nikon SB-700 flash inside a little Lumiquest Softbox III, which he’s holding in the photo I took of him. Chip also let me try out his macro lens, which seems to be a must for me if I want to take this food photography thing seriously. The detail needed to show off the complexity of the dish is captured using the macro lens./ Photo Details - Chip: Nikon D700 with Tokina 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. The exterior shots: 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
The famous corn sticks were served when we sat down. The dishes we ordered were the Lacy Special – chicken breast served between corn sticks and topped with gravy; and the catfish with fried okra and mashed sweet potatoes. Sorry for the straightforward description but the photographs truly speak for themselves. / Thanks so much Chip for the great photography and of course all the tips and encouragement.
The Little Tea Shop has been featured on the food network an insane number of times and part of the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives show you can see here.
The Little Tea Shop
Memphis, TN 38103