With more than three decades in the food industry, and twenty years as a head chef at some of Europe’s top five-star restaurants, John Philippe Baudey (also called JP) has a love for food that few can match.
Twelve years ago he suffered a heart attack, after which he retired from cheffing. He jokingly says that it’s the best thing that could have happened, because it was then that he chose to turn his passion for fine dining into a new vocation as a food photographer. We sat down with JP to find out how he got into photography and the essential camera kit that he can’t live without.
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“Growing up in sunny southwest France near Toulouse, a horn of plenty for French cuisine, I’ve been surrounded by food from a young age. After a baccalaureate in hospitality, I started a career in cheffing all around Europe. In 2003, a series of events put me on the track towards what I do today.
“I was leading the kitchens of a five-star hotel in the Republic of Ireland when a photographer came to shoot the interiors and some of my food. However, the images looked like they were from a 1960s recipe book and very dated. Having seen brighter and more minimal food photos in a recent magazine article, I ran to the nearest camera shop to buy my first camera, a Canon EOS 300. For the next seven years, I practiced photography at the same time as working.
“On November 21 2010 I had the luckiest day of my life, as I survived a heart attack. This gave me the revelation to focus on my passion for photography, and my life changed forever. For a few years I balanced cooking and photography, but put down my knives for good in 2014.
“Working in hospitality for years gave me a knowledge of food, the terminology and how good-quality produce should look, which has been an invaluable insight for my photography. I’m now living the dream, having managed to unite both of my passions.
“For any aspiring amateur photographers, I just want to say that my story proves that anything is possible.”
To see more of JP’s beautiful food photos you can visit his Instagram (opens in new tab), and there is more information available at his website (opens in new tab).
“I have two Canon EOS 5DS R bodies and to call them my workhorse DSLRs would be an understatement – they are battle horses. My two EOS 5DS Rs have endured a lot in the kitchens, with the heat, cold and steam, and on outside shoots. I’ve even dropped them a couple of times and one even ended up in a river. But they lived to tell the tale. The 51.6MP resolution is amazing and makes the food look as mouth-watering as possible.”
“The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM has a versatile focal range of 24mm wide-angle to 70mm short telephoto, so it’s permanently mounted to one of my EOS 5DS R bodies. It’s fast, great in low light, super-sharp and has minimal distortion, and it means I don’t miss the moment if I don’t have the correct prime lens mounted on my other DSLR.”
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“The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a fast macro lens capable of great 1:1 close-up images and is ideal for capturing all of the details of food, especially smaller dishes and plates. It’s also great as a portrait lens, so it’s very flexible. Because it’s a short telephoto lens, it appears a little zoomed in, and I like the compression it adds for food photos.”
“For a long time this lens stayed in my bag unused, then I realized the power of it, its consistency and natural rendition. I usually set the aperture between f/1.2 and f/2.8, which is brilliant for working in darker scenarios, but it also adds a very shallow depth of field, so I can artistically draw the attention to the most important detail on the plate.”
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“A telephoto lens may seem like an odd choice for food, but it does have its place in my kit bag. It’s ideal for close-ups and also if I need to shoot a table or a specific item in the middle of a busy background. When you’re in a kitchen, farm or factory, you might not be able to get as close to your subject as you’d like, so this is a great lens for these scenarios.”
06. Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC USD
“My photography isn’t exclusive to food – I also often photograph the people behind the food, such as the chefs, butchers and bartenders. My favorite lens for portraiture has to be my Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC USD. The maximum aperture of f/1.8 is brilliant in low light and the Vibration Control stabilization is fantastic, too, allowing me to take dramatic, moody low-light portraits.”
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