Putting meals in motion with Effi Tsoukatos

Meet your Mentor Effi Tsoukatos

Effi Tsoukatos is one half of the creative food duo @sydneyfoodsisters. Effi creates some pretty epic and drool worthy imagery with a great appreciation for seasonal produce. Amongst her mouth-watering styling, she has a beautiful knack of adding motion to her images or cleverly alluding to movement. It makes you just want to dive into the image and start feasting! We chatted with Effi to learn a bit more about her, and to get some valuable tips on getting moving with our food styling.

Q&A with Effi

Hey Effi! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared foodie challenge, meals in motion. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in Sydney, Australia, where I was born and bred. I wear many hats, including mother to two young humans, food photographer, social media manager and co-director of Sydney Food Sisters (to put it in some sort of a nutshell!). After graduating from law I decided that I needed to explore my creative side. For the most part of my working life, I ran an events styling business before transitioning into the world of food photography, content creation and social media when the Sydney Food Sisters was born 3 years ago. Food and photography has become a passion and it is wonderful that the passion has translated into a career.

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

Apart from using Instagram to interact and socialise with a creative and food-loving community, I use the Sydney Food Sister Instagram account as a portfolio of my photographic work. For that reason, the Instagram feed is a collection of my favourite photos of the recipes that Caterina (my business partner) develops for the clients we work with. We try and share the 'hero' shots that best express how we felt about a recipe.

I try and share photos that will make people happy or make people drool and crave food, in the hope that they will be inspired in some way.

I also try and share a seasonal journey through with the posts so that people are educated about what food is in season and how best to enjoy it, so that also goes into the creative thought process when deciding what to post.

This challenge is all about meals in motion. You are so talented at food styling and creating a sense of movement in your captures. What are your three top tips for capturing this sense in an image.

Firstly, concentrate on creating a food scene that looks great without any movement. Movement shouldn't be used to mask any negatives in the original scene or hide any blemishes, instead it should be used to enhance an already beautiful looking scene. 

Secondly, ensure the scene is uncluttered and clean, so that when you do add movement, the main focus will be on the movement and not obscured by the viewer's eye focusing on other details. The movement needs to be the hero of your final image.

Thirdly, lighting! Lighting! And more lighting! Anyone can capture movement. Capturing movement using your available natural light is when the true magic happens. Playing and experimenting with light to enhance the sense of movement is where you can get creative. 

Any tricks or tools which aid in using food in your captures?

Too many!

* Great quality ingredients to start with

* A great camera lense 

* A pair of chef's tweezers (to easily adjust things without disrupting the scene)

* Plenty of olive oil (to make things look freshly cooked)

* Make enough food to create a second plate of of food. Food scenes can be easily ruined especially when creating movement shots like icing sugar dusts or sauce pouring. If there is another plate of food available for a second take, it's always better!

* a second pair of hands to help model. It is always easier when you can focus on being the photographer rather than the model  AND photographer

What equipment do you use?

I use a Canon Mark III to shoot all my photography, however it is time for an upgrade and I have my eyes on the Mark IV. I NEVER shoot with a smartphone, in fact I am hopeless with taking photos with a smartphone!! 

My favourite lens to shoot with is my 85mm. It is a magical lens and, apart from overhead shots, it is my go-to.

In an ideal world I would only ever shoot without a tripod because I feel more freedom to move around and play with the scene, however because a lot of my work is for clients and cnd ends up in print, I now try and make it a rule that I always shoot with a tripod, to ensure minimal camera shake and maximum quality.

I edit all my photos in Lightroom (both on my desktop and a phone version). I just bought an apple iMac desktop and I don't know what I was thinking trying to edit photos on a smaller laptop all this time. It has changed my editing life!!

Who eats all the food once you have finished styling up a storm? Your family must be very well feed...lucky them!

We fiddle, fuss and play with the food on scene A LOT some shoot days. Sometimes it takes time to get that hero shot and if that means the food has been sitting around for hours, the garden gets treated with added compost.

When everything goes to plan and the food is still safe to eat, yes my family and Caterina's family relish in the feasts!! They are all very well fed with a great variety of food.

As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials, low budget or environment we have available to us. Do you have any hacks for those that are facing the same challenges, especially when it comes to using food to avoid wastage?

Food is never wasted! There is always a use for food, even if it can't be eaten. Yes, you might have to buy 2 kilos of lemons for a photo shoot, but there are always things to do with them!

My top tip here is to eat seasonally and create seasonal content. When you do, the produce is generally cheaper, looks better for the camera and tastes better. Turn discolouring bananas into banana bread, freeze wilting herbs for use in stews and casseroles, use all your food scraps to feed your garden, dry out sad looking orange slices to garnish a Negroni down the track.... there are endless ways to deal with food waste!!

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

It is very much a love hate relationship. The most wonderful thing about Instagram is the opportunities it has given us to work with businesses that allow us to work our magic. We have also had the great fortune of making some wonderful friends because of it.

We started with an account that seemed to grow very easily and rapidly, without too much thought from our part. In the last year especially however, gaining traction with posts has become increasingly difficult, which can be very disheartening when you have put so much effort into it. For that reason, we have changed our attitude towards the way we use Instagram. We focus on creating great content for the businesses we work with and are more selective with what ends up on our feed. Rather than posting constantly and religiously like we were, we have now dropped to fewer posts a week on our feed, in a more random fashion (which, yes, goes against all the 'posting consistently' theories!!).

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Effi is the guest mentor for our July 15-21 creative challenge ‘Meals in Motion’ and will be featuring her favourite entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Effi at @sydneyfoodsisters on Instagram. We invite you to join Effi and the rest of the Creatively Squared community for another moving week of experimenting with motion in food styling. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.