Laugh & Learn – Food Photography Workshop


Since 2009 I’ve had my food blog “At Home with Vicki Bensinger.”  From the start it was pretty much learn as I go.  I read online tutorials, and watched videos on how to set up my site, post articles, SEO, book after book on blogging, layouts, and food photography along with so much more, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. 

I’m now on my third blog design – although no one has mentioned that they’ve noticed the change from a black background to a white background.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, or if most view my site from their cell phone so haven’t noticed.

Since the start of my blog in 2009 my photos have gone from pretty awful to looking so much better and even appetizing now.  Who knew that the lighting, props, and background could make a photo look so appealing – I certainly didn’t when I started this in 2009.

Last month I attended my first Food Photography Workshop hosted by Todd Porter and Diane Cu-Porter in Costa Mesa, California.  Todd & Diane are also known for their blog WhiteOnRiceCouple.

Up until now I was so intimidated by other photos I saw online, I felt it wasn’t worth attending a workshop. Plus, I knew little about how to work a camera on Manual Mode, or the various settings for ISO, Depth of Field, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed and for that matter what those even meant.

When I saw Todd & Diane’s class was being offered I instantly signed up and decided even though it was more than I wanted to spend, it would be worth it.  I needed to take my photos to the next level.  Once I signed up I had 4 months to learn those things I lacked knowledge of.

As luck would have it I stopped into our local library one afternoon, a place I rarely visit – what a mistake!  There I learned that if I had a library card, which I do, then I have FREE ACCESS to ALL Creative Live online tutorials, along with so many other programs.  All I needed to do was login to the libraries website, enter my library card number and a password that I created, then go to Creative Live and find a tutorial I wanted to learn.  The list of classes is endless and FREE. Otherwise, without my library card the classes range in price from $20+ into the hundreds.  WOW!  I was in heaven, and so relieved that my learning curve over the next 4 months just got easier.  I’ve always been a visual learner so having Creative Live at my fingertips now, was ideal!

I’m sharing this information with you in case you’re like me – struggling with technology or another craft or subject.  Now you can be taught online with skilled instructors in a subject that you want to master.  It saved me, and made me feel more confident walking into my first Food Photography Workshop instead of feeling clueless.


Todd and Diane also have a Food Photography class on Creative Live that I signed up to take, however, being there first hand made all the difference in the world to me.  Actually working among others who too are trying to perfect their food photos was so inspiring.  Not only did I learn from Todd & Diane, but each student there had something worthwhile to offer.

Each morning we started off bright and early at 8:00am, for those that wanted to come for breakfast made by Todd & Diane.  We’d sit around the rectangular table in their studio kitchen, enjoy a warm breakfast, and discuss the day, the sites we all owned, what each did or didn’t do that worked for us, and got acquainted.  It was great!

Then it was down to business until 4:00pm with a short break before lunch and before ending our day.

Todd & Diane taught us about:

Lighting – how to shoot any time of the day, and at ALL angles.  Shooting at various angles shows a different mood and certainly creates more interest on a site.  We’ve all seen sites where the photos all look identical!


Food Styling/Props – how to create interest, and tell a story using props, backgrounds, and surfaces.  The same photo can look completely different if going from a black background to white, or by removing some props. What does the photo above tell you?

Fillers – if shooting strictly for the photo and not to eat, use fillers to save dollars and food waste.


I created this sandwich – The Dagwood Sandwich for those of you familiar with Blondie & Dagwood the comic strip, and TV show. The latter was a favorite of mine growing up as a child.

This photo looks like a triple decker sandwich packed with lettuce, tomato, meat, and cheese, doesn’t it?  Instead the front has all those folded over, but the back has filler to keep the sandwich standing upright, and having the appearance of being stuffed with goodies.

The trick?  We used Masa (sometimes called corn masa flour or masa harina) – is a traditional type of flour used to make tamales, tortillas, and many other Mexican favorites. Masa harina means “dough flour” in Spanish, because it’s made from dried masa.

What Todd & Diane taught us to do was simply mix the dried Masa with water.  It becomes almost like Play-Doh, where you can squish it around, and shape it to use as a filler. Whether used for sandwiches as in my photo here or as a base filler, like in the purple cabbage above. Who would know?  Did you?

On our first day everyone created their own dish and asked to take photos of them, plus everyone else’s if we wanted. Mine was the Dagwood Sandwich above.


The last day we had a test (so to speak) on what we had learned. We were allowed 60 seconds at numerous stations, each with different light, from full bright window exposure to basic window light, to dull and muted light.


The key of course was to see if in those 60 seconds we could determine how to set our camera, and shoot great photos.  Each of us had our strengths in certain light as well as weaknesses.  When the test was done we could go back, taking our time to figure out how best to set our cameras to shoot those scenes we felt lacked perfection – to perfection!

This was an amazing learning experience and certainly eye-opening. Imagine being hired to take photos for a company when natural light is never the same for long, in a single day.  This certainly helped prepare us for the task.


This two day workshop with Todd & Diane was so worth it, not just for what they taught me, but for their warm & friendly approach to learning Food Photography!  For those of you that struggle with your photos, I highly recommend checking out Todd & Diane Cu-Porter’s Food Photography Workshops coming up.

I’m hopeful that you’ve been able to see some improvement in my photos over this past month.  Each day is a learning experience, and with every new post, I hope to share better photos.

The photo above is of Diane Cu-Porter taken on the second day in their studio kitchen. Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of Todd and the other students that attended. We were all so busy shooting food and having fun!

I am in no way being compensated for sharing this information and had hoped to post this weeks ago.  I’ve only touched on a few topics taught in this 2 day workshop.  To learn more, check out Todd & Diane’s Food Photography for yourself – you won’t regret it!

Note: The above photos were all taken by me during Todd Porter & Diane Cu-Porter’s Food Photography Workshop.  

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  1. That sounds like a wonderful experience…I love the photography from White on Rice. The click of those eggs with different colours is really beautiful.

    • It was a great experience and I’m so happy I decided to sign up. The photos on this blog post were all taken by me. I agree that the photography on Todd and Diane’s blog are stellar!  

      It was fun learning from them. What I failed to mention in this blog post is that while other photographers that I’d hired from time to time might tell me my vision and how I may shoot my subjects/food was wrong – Todd and Diane taught that every individual has their own vision, and how we see our photos. How we choose to portray those images is up to us – there’s no right or wrong, it’s learning how to capture them and share them in our minds eye that matters.  For me that was so refreshing and allowed us to be creative without being criticized. Yet when needed they would explain how we might best achieve the look we were going for, by making adjustments on our camera, backdrops or positioning.

      They were without question the type of instructors I choose to have and hope to be with my culinary art students. Allowing ones creativity is the best way to foster growth and passion in whatever one is trying to achieve. IMO!

  2. My friend, Kim, and I have been planning to attend one of Todd and Diane’s workshops for the past couple years. The timing hasn’t worked out, but hope to get to one soon. Thanks for sharing your tips—your photos are gorgeous!!! P.S. I love the white background! Nice update 🙂

  3. Food photography is hard! And I can see how it’d be helpful to have a pro to show you how to do it. Sounds like a terrific experience. I have noticed a difference in your photos lately. Better lighting, and it looks like you might have switched cameras, too — I’m seeing deeper color depth in your pictures (although maybe that’s the lighting). Good post — thanks for the info.

    • I needed the help as I’m sure you’re aware. Not just because I’ve emailed you for advice, but because my photos weren’t that good. Everyday is a little bit of a challenge but in time I will get better.

      Yes I got a new camera, and even though people say it’s the photographer not the camera, I’m not sure I really buy that. Although it does help to know a little bit about shooting and manual mode which I do solely now – good or bad.

      Your photos are always stellar. I’d still like to take some lessons from you if you’re ever willing to help me. Or is it the Mrs. that takes the photos? In which case maybe she’d like to tutor me a bit!

  4. Hello Vicki! Wow, what a fantastic post and we’re happy that you were able to attend and spend time with us. It was a blast to photograph with you and we’re so impressed at how quickly you learned. We’re excited to follow your progress and see more of your pictures on your blog. 
    hugs and keep up the great photography! 

    • Thank you Todd and Diane. I wanted to share a bit of the workshop with my readers since many of them are food bloggers.

      I wish I had signed up for your workshop years ago. Now I have a better understanding of my camera and how to work with it when shooting subjects in various lighting conditions. Better late than never!

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