Hudson Stuart

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine September 2017


Hudson Stuart (52) is an American photographer who currently lives in Coimbra. As a kid, he’d stare at photos of food and beverages in magazines or on T.V. and wonder ‘How did they do that?’ Every burger, every scoop of ice cream, every bottle of beer, looked almost magically perfect, and infinitely desirable. Fast forward a few decades, and now he’s making exactly those images.

Hudson: “Food is a joy to photograph, because it’s something everyone has a visceral connection to. Rich or poor, modern or primitive, we all need to eat. Food is more than just sustenance. It’s a shared experience with meaning and emotion, suffused with ritual and identity, which engages all the senses. Photographs of food are capable of genuinely reaching people, connecting with them in ways that other subjects might not. I find eliciting these kinds of connections very satisfying, creatively.”

In the past, food photographers used a lot of tricks to imitate ingredients that withered under hot lights before a picture could be taken. “Nowadays,” says Hudson, “almost all the food is the real McCoy, which is fantastic, because you can eat it after you shoot it!” However, certain things are still done artificially. In his studio, Hudson has a large collection of artificial ice (from perfect cubes, to tiny grains of slush and snow) and he never goes anywhere without his food styling tools. His favourite ingredients to photograph? “Anything shiny! Fish, olives, melted cheese, meats, cut fruit. I love the way light plays on shiny surfaces.”



Hudson: “Portuguese produce, particularly what you find at the public markets, is a food photographer’s dream. Apples with the leaves still on them! Tiny strawberries still connected to tiny little stalks! Gorgeous leafy vegetables with wonderful imperfections everywhere. Nothing is the same shape, colour, or size which is wonderful, because the almost perfect specimens of produce sold in the chain grocery stores just don’t elicit the emotional impact in a photograph that their imperfect home-grown cousins do.”

He’s especially enthusiastic about the Portuguese fish and seafood. Hudson: “If you photograph food, or just love food, spend one morning shopping at the Mercado de Olhão, and you’ll never want to shop anywhere else. Fill up your bags with produce and seafood, then head home and pour your heart and soul into making a cataplana, arguably the most Algarvian dish there is.”

“As you eat, realise that you’re having what is simultaneously one of the most immediate and yet culturally unbounded culinary experiences you can have. Yes, that’s a dish of the Algarve you’re tucking into, but the spirit of the Moroccan tajine is clearly discernible, and there’s all those Moorish spice influences dancing about, and you’re cooking with pressure, which is decidedly French in origin, and somewhere – in the background, and almost inaudible – a Spanish guitar is playing. Now, as you eat this food you made with your own two hands, from local ingredients you sourced yourself, try to tell me you don’t live in one of the best places on the planet, and that you can’t taste that fact in every bite you take. It’s impossible.”


Food photography:

This month’s Picture Perfect shows a seafood pizza. It was taken on a Sony DSLR-A900 camera, settings: f/10, 8 sec., ISO 100.

Like this pic? See more on Hudson’s website.

Want to try and make a perfect picture like this one as well? Here are Hudson’s top three tips:


1. Position your camera opposite to your light source.

If you think of your food in the centre of a circle, then your camera should be on one side of that circle, and your light source on the other. Anywhere on the other side of the circle can work, even directly to the left or right of the food. However, once your light source moves into the camera’s half of the circle, everything starts to fall apart. An easy setup would be to put a table up against a wall next to a window, and position your camera on the side of the table opposite the window. Set your food down on the table so the window light is shining on it. Your camera should be looking down a bit (not facing directly into the window light). From that simple foundation, you can start building to more advanced techniques.

2. Focus on the food.

The most visually weighty thing in every shot, should be the food. It doesn’t matter if you really love that garish yellow dish you picked up in Tunisia, if it’s screaming for attention, it has no place in a food photograph. Swap it for something that doesn’t compete with the food. Same goes for napkins, cutlery, or anything else in the shot.

3. Come in close.

Use a longer lens, open that aperture, and come in close! A shallow depth of field is a great way to focus a viewer’s eyes exactly where you want them, while obscuring details that are unimportant to the shot. And above all, have fun.



See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine September 2017

Posted in Picture Perfect.