My second annual gastronomic tour of London is well underway and with well over 40 restaurants shot and edited, I'm taking this time to reflect on how far I have come since last year, my first year of shooting with Food & Drink Guides, the business end of Fed Up & Drunk, a fantastic foodie blog.
Around August 2013 I was still exploring where I stood within the world of photography. I had yet to shoot my first wedding, which I later booked for October the same year, and was still very much stuck in the rut of late night clubnight photography and the occasional portrait shoot. Surfing Gumtree one fateful afternoon I came across an interesting advert: "Amateur Food and Interior Photographers Needed In London." Now, I'm a total foodie and had shot food before (the first Cronuts in the UK came across my lens before any customers lips) so I figured 'why not?' and applied. Flip to a month later and I'm frantically contacting 30 restaurants around London, booking them all in before my two week deadline. I had an absolute blast visiting previously hidden gems in mysterious places around the Capital city I thought I knew so well (I still to this day have absolutely no idea where Mortlake is or how I got there and back!) and the photos turned out fantastically, and looked even better in print. My photos were even comparable to the other photographers included in the guide, which was an absolute bonus for me as I fully expected to be totally rubbish, seeing as I'd never shot this style before. The editor of the guide, the wonderful Sally Webb, obviously liked my photos too as she praised me highly and invited me back for the next time they required a photographer around London.
Fast forward a year or so and I receive my list of 25 restaurants for 2014. I make my bookings, visit the restaurants and contact Sally to enquire as to when my deadline for the photos will be. "We're hoping to go to print around January time, so we'll need all the restaurants completed by December earliest." Now I get anxious, December? Thats an awfully long time for just 25 restaurants. What had I missed? I asked with trepidation; "Just how many restaurants am I shooting this year?" The answer shocked me. "Well seeing as you're our only photographer in London, its entirely likely we'll need you to shoot all of them" I was their only photographer for London in 2014. Usually I don't allow myself to be phased by being told I'm the best photographer etc as I've always been taught to never let praise go to my head and to try to stay as humble as possible, but when a nationwide restaurant guide selects you to be their sole photographer for their biggest market and gives you the full responsibility to ensure their guide actually goes to print to the standard they require even I was taken aback.
So, from last year being part of a photography team to this year being the sole photography contingent for the UK Food and Drink Guide the pressure is on! My first 25 have been produced, edited and processed and are available for each restaurant to peruse and purchase at their discretion. I have selected my favourites from each restaurant in round one to display below, with each photo leading to the gallery for each restaurant. I apologise in advance for the big ol' watermark stamped all over the photos but, unfortunately, I have been burnt by sneaky venues screengrabbing photos and using them without paying for them, so I have to go to my last resort. Hopefully the photos stand out enough without being marred too much by my logo but if you'd like a better look please get in touch and I can send you a sample.
Round one was a lot of fun, especially knowing what I was in for after my first foray last year. I met some of the most passionate businessmen and women in London who really care about what they do and as I travelled to and from the edges of London I was mostly greeted with a warm smile and open arms, as well as all the tea and coffee I could drink. Occasionally I was offered a full meal, on the house, with the caveat being that I had to photograph it first! I always take any photography opportunity that presents itself so of course I gladly shot some of the most wonderful food I've ever seen, with Apero being a specific delight, but I didn't always hunker down to it afterwards. Mostly it was because I was already late for my next appointment (time management is not my strong suit!) but often it was simply that I wasn't hungry! Visiting up to 7 restaurants a day with each offering me something small meant that I never actually felt hungry, but neither was I ever full, it was kind of a nice middling feeling. I had also promised myself to eat far less at each venue due to the fact that the previous year I had put nearly 1/2 stone (7lbs) in the two weeks I shot for the guide, due to the sheer quantity of decadence coming my way. I have tried to curtail my temptation this year and it is mostly working, but I'm not even halfway through yet so we'll have to see...
Keep your eye out for round two coming very soon.
Until then, thanks for reading!
All Images Copyright Oli Sandler 2014
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