In December I photographed The Old School Nashville for Native magazine. The Old School is a farm to table restaurant in Nashville, TN. Executive Chef Kristie Bidwell heads up the culinary team, she has worked at other awesome Nashville restaurants including Pinewood Social. Keep reading if you want to see more light, airy and beautiful food photography. You might even catch some inspiration along the way for your next photo shoot.
The Creative Brief
My brief from Native was simple. The magazine wanted 4 different components to work with. They needed a portrait of the executive chef, some specific photos of menu items, some interior images, and some shots of local produce or the farm.
My Thought Process
My thought process for photographing an editorial at a farm to table restaurant is pretty basic. Farm to table restaurants screams authenticity. So I want to keep everything as untouched and real as possible. I went into the shoot wanting to shoot natural light with some diffusion or reflection as necessary. I wanted to shoot on a wooden floor or table to get that earthy vibe. I also considered shooting outside if it was possible. I wanted to get as much farm into these shots as possible for being mid-winter.
Farm to Table
One of the coolest things about The Old School is not only are they farm to table, they have their own farm. They create jobs within the Nashville community for farmers and that is awesome. They also use foods from other local farmers. They have a constantly rotating menu based around what is fresh and what is local.
In the photo to the left, we can see some of the produce that was grown on the farm in December. They have a beehive and chickens.
The Old School got its name because it was previously a school building. I actually looked at this building as a potential studio space in 2010. I am super impressed with how well The Old School has renovated the space. It is really cool to see people renovating spaces in Nashville instead of tearing them down and putting something new up.
Working with Natural Light for Editorial Food Photography
The restaurant has some amazing natural light coming in from the windows in the main dining room. I almost never use natural light for my food photography, but the light was beautiful coming through the windows here at about 3:30pm. With the vibe of the space and the natural light, it was the best option to show off how real and authentic this restaurant is. Natural light really gives editorial food photography a great look. If needed add a bit of diffusion and maybe a reflector can even bring it to a higher level. For these shots, I did not diffuse the lighting, but I did add a white reflector so that the images were not too contrasty.
Dessert is always my favorite part of the meal. Above is a flourless chocolate cake which was totally amazing.
The main dining room at The Old School is absolutely beautiful. It has light streaming in from the big windows. The chalkboards having above the bar really help to bring in the school vibe.
Above are a few portraits of Executive Chef Kristie Bidwell. It was awesome getting an opportunity to photograph her. We were able to discuss her thoughts behind the farm to table movement, and why it is a movement and not just a passing trend. My favorite part of photographing restaurants is getting to photograph portraits of the people who make the food and have the ideas behind the food. I think that the biggest part of eating at a farm to table restaurant is getting to know the chef. The chef is really the head of the show where they pick the ingredients and help decide what the farm grows. So it is really cool to get to have a relationship with the chef. The relationship between the chef and the diners is also super important. So for these photos, I wanted something engaging and authentic.
The Old School has a fantastic outdoor eating area. I could only imagine how awesome the space would be in the spring, fall or summer.
Wrapping it Up
I had a fantastic time photographing The Old School Nashville for Native magazine. I got to try some amazing farm to table food. I was able to capture some awesome food images, some great interiors, and some engaging portraits. It is really cool that I get to be part of the Nashville restaurant scene. I get to contribute to this awesome scene on a regular basis by bringing attention to new and existing restaurants with photos. In the comments let me know how you like to photograph editorial photos for magazines!
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Nick Bumgardner is a food photographer and educator based out of Nashville, TN.
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