Meet food photographer Mike Tsang who’s capturing mouth-watering motion

Food photographer

Meet food photographer Mike Tsang, who’s capturing mouth-watering motion

Mike Tsang
Mike Tsang

Food photographer @freshmikeeats

Renowned Magnum photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin talks about his experiences using the new EOS 5D Mark IV for the first time, and how it compares to previous DSLRs in the EOS 5D series.

Renowned Magnum photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin talks about his experiences using the new EOS 5D Mark IV for the first time, and how it compares to previous DSLRs in the EOS 5D series.

When he shoots his unique brand of documentary photography, Paolo Pellegrin has a way of getting under the skin of his subjects to reveal the most intimate moments. His approach requires as much tact and diplomacy as it does skill with a camera. In fact, Paolo’s ability to build relationships with his subjects is crucial if they are to trust him, and let him into their lives.

For one of his latest ventures, Paolo took a pre-production model of the EOS 5D Mark IV to Rome, Italy, where he spent time with a gypsy family living in the city, documenting their everyday lives and culture. The project is a perfect example of why Paolo has had such a long and fruitful relationship with the EOS 5D series – the cameras’ combination of full-frame image quality, responsive performance and portability lets him capture everything from street portraits to low-light landscapes.

When we spoke to Paolo about his experiences with the new camera, he was already busy documenting events in Iraq, working in towns like Ramadi and Fallujah. Down a very crackly phone line he told us about his first impressions...

“I’ve used the EOS 5D from the beginning, and I’ve seen the evolution of the cameras as they have progressed through the years,” Paolo says. “Although I only had the EOS 5D Mark IV for a few days in Rome, it made a big impression on me, especially when I was using it in low light.”

"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."

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.

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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 – 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.

Written by Sasha Newbury

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