Meet the food photographer Mike Tsang who’s capturing mouth-watering motion.
Capturing motion has always been a passion for Mike Tsang, but it was a love affair with food that helped create a unique perspective on gourmet photography.
We chatted with the Instagram prodigy about his delectable and dynamic stories.
Tell us a bit more about yourself Mike; how did you get into photography?
I grew up using disposable cameras. As a family, we’d take pictures of our adventures and then put them into photo albums. I remember I had my own camera and was really nervous taking photos because there were only 25 pictures on a film. So, I would only snap when I thought I had the perfect shot.
I bought my first DSLR camera when I was 25. I used it to document my day-to-day life, making memories and showing the world my point of view. My friends and I would go on photography adventures. We’d find abandoned buildings and spend hours capturing the little details and textures of the urban landscape.
I love finding beauty in unexpected places, and then sharing it with the world.
Your photography focuses on “capturing the motion” of food – where did this interest of movement and food come from?
Originally, I wasn’t a food photographer; I preferred to capture street and lifestyle stories. I wanted to shoot the urban side of London, and was particularly interested in capturing the essence of darkness in a building.
It wasn’t until I met my girlfriend that I started shooting food - she’s a massive foodie. She taught me everything I know about food. That’s when I started mixing street photography with food photography.
When growing up, I loved making things move. I used to make flipbooks, they wouldn’t make much sense but they’d have a small story – maybe someone flying a kite. For me, it was about creating motion. From then I wanted to create motion for a living, so now I’m a motion designer. It’s this background that’s been incorporated into my photography. I like to photograph things that are hard to capture, like freezing time.
Your stories seem very spontaneous - how much planning goes into capturing each one?
My girlfriend and I will start by choosing somewhere to eat. Then we’ll go to the area and I’ll shoot the journey to the restaurant or food stall to get a feel for the atmosphere.
I also film regularly. I find recording inspires me - I notice motion that I could then try and capture as a static image. From there it’s quite spontaneous. It’s also emotional too, you have to follow your instincts a lot and feel when it’s the right time to shoot.
In regards to your Canon EOS M5, what modes and settings do you use to catch these fleeting food moments?
I shoot in manual because I feel as though I get maximum control over my stories. I can control the lighting, shutter-speed and aperture. I like to shoot in raw because then I can take my images to a Lightroom and edit them if I want. My stories tend to come out quite moody, which I think is a hangover from my street photography, abandoned building past.
When I’m aiming to freeze motion I shoot in manual and then f/1.0 when trying to focus on a specific element. In terms of shutter-speed and aperture, I tend to flick through until I find the one that I like.
What story, or collection of stories, are you most proud of capturing?
One story does stick out for me - it was when I nailed a new technique for the first time. I was in Finks Salt & Sweet in North London, it was lunchtime and the lighting was perfect. I thought ‘wouldn't it be cool if I captured the splash of coffee, just as the sugar cube dropped into it?’ I managed to get the shot first time, in one burst, and I felt like I’d won the lottery. Everything in life happens so quickly and being able to freeze that single moment and see every little detail, it inspired me to carry on.
You’ve got us thinking about which food festivals to attend this summer – what does your diary look like?
I went to Market Hall recently; it’s a new market in Fulham Broadway that’s the first of three to open. It’s an Eastern inspired market that sells predominantly Asian street food and has lots of seating. It’s ideal for buying tactile food and having somewhere to sit and shoot.
I went to Meatopia last year, which consists of famous chefs cooking meat on open fires. I want to check it out again this year as there’s a lot going on. Most of the chefs prepare and cook directly in front of you, so there’s loads of movement to capture.
Cheese Street is another food festival that I’m planning on attending this summer. I find cheese is a great food for capturing motion (we’ve all seen stringy pizza shots and creamy toasted sandwiches).
Other than your Canon EOS M5, what other kit and platforms do you use to share your stories?
I use Instagram the most to share my stories as it allows me to use relevant hashtags to connect with other photographers and food-lovers. It’s also a great tool to see what other people are doing and how to find new food haunts.
In terms of equipment, I’ve got a Canon EOS 2000D that’s great for on-the-go shots. I sometimes use a tripod to get sturdy shots, an extra light to achieve the desired highlight (though, I usually pre-warn the restaurant staff before) and then spare batteries. Always, always take a spare battery.
You must have shot a lot of food in your time – what’s your favourite to eat?
That’s a hard question. I really like Asian food, anything with rice or noodles. I recently went to Japan and fell in love with the cuisine, such as sushi and ramen. They have a lot of culture surrounding their food, they take a lot of time to prepare it and you can really taste the love.
What would you like to do in the future and how do you see your dynamic food photography developing?
I want to be more adventurous with my shots, maybe throwing food and then trying to capture the organic flow and fall of it.
I’m still learning and there’s always room to improve. My shots aren’t as smooth as I’d like them to be and it’s a big subject to learn. It’s just practise, the more you do it the better you get. My very first story is leagues behind my more recent ones. So, I imagine my photography will organically grow in-line with the new techniques and tips that I learn.
Mike’s Kit Bag
Answers edited for clarity and pacing.
Interview credit: Written by Sasha Newbury