Portrait of @foodieleaf_hk

Behind the lens @foodieleaf_hk

Posted on April 23, 2021 by Alexandra Leung

This week, we go ‘Behind the Lens’ with Hong Kong born and raised food lover Natalie, aka @foodieleaf_hk . Natalie shared with us stories behind some of her favourite food shots, and also gave us some useful food photography tips.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What do you do besides your passion for food?

Hello! My name is Natalie. Born and raised in Hong Kong, I always love exploring different great food and hidden gems in this city and around the world. With a deep interest in writing and photography, I started recording my food adventures in 2019 when I was still in university, with my Instagram account @foodieleaf_hk (“leaf” is the English translation of my Chinese surname “Ip”!). Apart from capturing the blissful moments in my life, I also hope to share this pure happiness with food through my lens and bring positivity to the others. Besides eating, I am also a big fan of hiking!

How do you see the role of food photography on your social media accounts? Do you find your followers more inspired by the photos or by the comments?

Food photography is a crucial element to my accounts because photos are the first thing that entice viewers when they browse my feed or posts. Yet, as a graduate from translation studies, I always believe in the power of language. Apart from posting eye-catching food images, I pay a lot of attention to writing reviews with details in both Chinese and English. Sometimes photos can’t capture the full dining experience, such as the service, speed and affordability. Therefore captions really help a lot! 

To me, authenticity is the key to building connections with my viewers, and it comes naturally when I share my real feelings wholeheartedly. Taste is subjective, but I hope my sharing will be a useful reference in their food hunting journeys, as well as a way to support our local food community, especially those small eateries.

What gear do you use to document your dining experiences?

Most of the time I use my iPhone 11 Pro. Sometimes also I use my dad’s camera for higher quality photos, but it is not that convenient to carry it with me every time when I go out. 

Can you share your very favourite food shot? What’s the story behind it? 

This shot was taken in Reaction Coffee Roasters in March. I happened to pass by Happy Valley that day and discovered this lovely café in that neighbourhood. This is their blueberry bagel with yogurt and granola – the plate looked amazing with that beautiful purple and the cute little edible flowers on top of the bagel. I also love the natural lighting here which creates a sense of tranquillity and warmth.  

Blueberry Bagel from Reaction Coffee Roasters, Happy Valley
Blueberry Bagel from Reaction Coffee Roasters, Happy Valley
In your point of view, what kind of food image is the most engaging content on your blog?

Photos taken at cafés usually get more comments and likes from my viewers. As new cafés are springing up in the city, café-hopping has become a popular trend especially in the younger generation. Beautiful latte art plus cool interior designs, cafés are undoubtedly the best place for taking Instagrammable shots!

Black Sesame Latte from Pause It, Mong Kok
Black Sesame Latte from Pause It, Mong Kok
Your photos on the Dishtag app also look great. As a frequent user of the Dishtag app, what do you like most about it?

I really like how Dishtag provides a platform for foodies to connect and share our dining experiences with each other. The app also has different templates for taking quality food photos. They’re extremely useful when you have difficulties in choosing the right angle for your shoots!

Your photos look so yummy and inspiring! Could you give us a few tips on how to take great food photos even when dining out in non-optimal situations? 

1) Focus on a clear subject: try to differentiate the subject and background to create depth in your photos. The iPhone’s portrait mode is super useful because it can automatically blur the background. You may also use of different props to add more dynamics in the photo composition: tableware, plants, or simply your hand will help! 

Seasalt Caramel Waffle by ARF Café, Sai Wan
Seasalt Caramel Waffle by ARF Café, Sai Wan

2) Find the right angle to present the best visuals: 45° is probably the most common camera angles for taking good close-ups, but sometimes straight-on or overhead will be better depending on the types of food. For example, straight-on is optimal for layered food such as burgers and ice cream, while flat dishes like pizza look good from overhead angles.

Salted Egg Yolk Burger from Burger Begin, Hung Hom

3) Define your own style: Everyone has their aesthetic eye and style. Some may like dark and moody tones while some may prefer light and airy presentations. For me, I love vibrant and bright tones, so I like my photos to be more highly saturated and colourful. Natural lighting is important as well. And remember, be consistent over your posts to keep your feed neat and attractive in your unique style.

What is your favourite type of food to shoot?

Any food with eggs. Scrambled, sunny side-ups, omelettes… all egg dishes are just alluring!

Tamagoyaki Rolled Omelette from Tamago-EN, Mong Kok
Tamagoyaki Rolled Omelette from Tamago-EN, Mong Kok
Croffle with Scrambled Eggs, Truffle & Mushroom, Al Forno Cafe and Bar
Croffle with Scrambled Eggs, Truffle & Mushroom, Al Forno Cafe and Bar
Favourite restaurant in HK?

Hong Kong is full of brilliant restaurants so it’s really hard to choose! But the first one that comes into my mind would be Torihana Tei Ramen in Wan Chai. No eye-catching storefront or gimmicky menu, this small ramen place has one of the best chicken broths in town. With its quaint décor and incredible food, it just satisfies my constant craving for ramen and makes me feel like in Japan!

Lemon Chicken Soup Ramen from Torihana Tei Ramen
Lemon Chicken Soup Ramen from Torihana Tei Ramen
What advice would you give to new food bloggers?

Stay passionate about what you’re doing right now. Gaining likes or followers may give you motivation to post more content, but don’t be stressed by that. After all it’s only a number, and what values the most is the quality of your content. Also, enjoy each bit of your foodie journey – from booking a table at your long-wished-for restaurant, picking your favourite dishes, finding the best angle for the food, to editing those wonderful shoots and posting them online. It’s always full of fun and surprises!

Discover more ‘behind the lens’ photography tips from fellow foodies:

Behind the lens with @sikfeinei

Behind the Lens with @foologerhk

Behind the Lens with @holhomei

Alexandra Leung
Author: Alexandra Leung