This week we go “Behind the Lens” with Alanna, aka food blogger @sikfeinei. She shares with us some great tips for documenting her dining experiences through stunning food photography on social media and our Dishtag app.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What do you do besides your passion for food?
My name is Alanna, and I’m a law student — just barely, with online classes! In non-pandemic times, I was based in London during the academic year.
I’ve enjoyed photography as a hobby for a number of years now, and I quite enjoy exploring different places and walking about in my spare time. I’d say that I’m usually quite active, so I have quite a high tolerance for walking… I’m also an avid reader, and I’m hoping to get back into language learning more consistently in the near future.
What is your favourite type of food to photograph?
I love to shoot multiple dishes or multiple portions at the same time. I like multilayered shots, and I like “action” shots — which translates into meals shared/taken with a group, with multiple courses. Small dishes in Asian cuisine, salads and cakes tend to be quite colourful and multilayered, so those are often very exciting to photograph.
So action shots are your favourite, but what kind of food is the most engaging on your socials?
Chinese/Cantonese food and noodles tend to receive the most engagement. Maybe it’s due to the popularity of dumplings and noodles — or the large Asian diaspora across the world? Pastries and bread are also very popular these days. It does pay to be aware of food trends, though following the trends are not necessarily conducive to better numbers in my personal experience.
Are your followers more engaged by your photos or by your restaurant reviews?
It’s hard to say that the photography itself is not the most central part of my account, or the main portion of my content that attracts or inspires my audience the most. I started my accounts on social media to showcase some of my photography after being inspired by lots of excellent food photography. But as time went on, I came to appreciate the importance of writing good reviews and actually talking about the food. I still wouldn’t say that my captions are the most inspiring part of what I put on my account, but I hope that I can help other people to decide for themselves whether they would like to go out to try or make the food that I showcase.
Your photos on the Dishtag app definitely are inspiring! As a frequent user of the Dishtag app, what do you like most about it?
I love that Dishtag doesn’t crop photos as Instagram does. The lack of crop really allows me to upload the original composition. I also found the food camera function pretty cool!
Could you give our readers a few tips on how to take great food photos in non-optimal situations?
I’ve seen other bloggers use mini portable light boxes to ensure adequate lighting while out, and I think that would be a great choice if you’re willing to invest in a lightbox. You can also make use of the lighting that is present at the scene, such as candles/tealights or swapping seats with a friend.
Otherwise, it definitely pays to shoot in high resolution in less-than-optimal lighting conditions so that you have more options during post-production.
A lot of my very dimly lit photos tend to be very red or orangey when I try to increase exposure and soften shadows, and I counteract this in Lightroom by changing the colour of the shadows and adjusting other colour aspects of the photo to increase cool tones. This is why the dimly lit photos you see in my posts tend to have more bluish/greenish shadows.
What gear do you use to document your dining experiences?
Currently, mainly my Canon 6D Mark ii with the kit lens! I upgraded to this camera after two years with my Canon 77D. The 77D remains my trusty travel companion when fitted with this super convenient 16-300mm Tamron lens, but the full frame experience and sharp quality of the 6D is really great — in my amateur opinion!
I’m not that great at iPhone photography honestly, and I really admire food bloggers who take excellent shots just with their phone cameras.
What is your very favourite food shot on your social media accounts? What’s the story behind the photo?
My favourite shot is the only shot that I genuinely feel that I styled very well — a photo of one mooncake and many props! My family had some utterly scrumptious lotus paste and salted egg yolk mooncakes from Shangri-La last year, and I wanted to share some Mid-Autumn festival-related content, so I did a little shoot for this one mooncake that we were going to slice open that day.
Favourite restaurant in HK?
I’m afraid that I don’t have a straight answer! I’d say Butao for ramen, L’atelier de Joël Robuchon for fine dining and French cuisine, An Nam for Vietnamese cuisine, Rempah Noodles for laksa, either Sabatini or Angelini for Italian food.
What advice would you give to new food bloggers?
I’d say that the type of content that is most likely to succeed should also be content that you enjoy making. If you don’t enjoy doing something, it may well be difficult to find your niche and excel at it. Food blogging should be something that you enjoy and done in a manner that is also enjoyable for other people.
I try to integrate food photography into my life, and often have to stop myself to make sure I remain a reasonable person who doesn’t make my family and friends consume their food cold…!!!