Through the Lens of Jeff Mindell- OTIUM | Hedley & Bennett // Handmade Chef Gear

Jeff Mindell

The Photographer, the Storyteller, Jeff Mindell

Fate brought our H&B founder Ellen Bennett and Jeff Mindell together... or at least his Instagram did...

After drooling over his AWESOME pictures and FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC ability to tell stories that capture the essence of restaurants, Ellen reached out to Jeff to pick his brain.

Jeff Mindell X Hedley & Bennett

(Take a peek of his Instagram feed, we dare you!)

And what better place to meet than at APRON SQUAD MEMBER and former Chef de Cuisine of French Laundry, Timothy Hollingsworth's Otium Restaurant, right in our 'hood and next to the Broad Museum??! 

With life-changing Pork Belly and Hamachi in their stomachs, they got down and dirty with the nit and grit of good food storytelling.

In this post, Jeff dissects which elements of his pictures make them KICK ASS and what restaurants can do to improve their Instagram feeds.

Why? 

Social Media is only becoming more important in today's marketing strategies. Angles, lighting, and framing pictures well can often make the difference between a line of hungry fans outside the door, and a ghost-town cafe. Consider this a stellar CRASH COURSE for the restaurant folk, who need to SHOW people their culinary creations, amazing staff and kitchens through Instagram. Or for those who love to meet & eat in beautiful spaces and want to share the experience on their feeds!

1. FRAMING:

"I love seeing lines and finding when nothing is dead center. I try to find some instance of natural framing within my composition and also love to incorporate natural light"

NOT THIS:

Hedley & Bennett X Jeff Mindell FRAMING

THIS:

Jeff Mindell at Otium, Good Framing

WHY THIS ROCKS JEFF'S SOCKS OFF:

"I worked in marketing for a Real Estate agency for a long time and now I don't really like seeing that kind of 'corporate-looking' shot that might maximize the size of a space. I would much rather find a vignette to capture a specific moment. It helps tell a story in my final image and leaves some mystery and maybe a reason for someone to visit the restaurant for themselves".

NOT THIS:

Jeff Mindell Otium Bad Framing

THIS:

Jeff MIndell Otium Good Framing

THE DIFFERENCE, IN JEFF'S WORDS:

"By taking a few steps to the right, the heater is no longer the focal point, making room for that beautiful tree in the background. The tiled counter is now centered, making the image more visually-appealing. The roofline above acts as my natural frame and I love that patrons of the restaurant are included as well. This simply looks better than an empty patio."

MORE AWESOMELY FRAMED PHOTOS AT OTIUM:

Otium with Jeff Mindell- Good Framing

Jeff Mindell X Otium Good Framing

2. TOP DOWN PHOTOS 

NOT THIS:

Jeff Mindell X Hedley & Bennett

THIS:

Jeff Mindell X Hedley & Bennett Top Down Good

OR THIS:

Ellen Bennett at OTIUM LA

HOW JEFF SEES IT:

In comparison, "the first picture lacks story, there is nothing going on. It is also asymmetrical and distracting with the beam running through it.

'I go back and forth with throwing in a hand because it is filing a space. If I'm happy with the composition (as is), I don't think it's necessary."

3. Angles, Angles, Angles

NOT THIS:

Jeff Mindell Bad Angle Otium

THIS:

Jeff Mindell OTIUM IDEAL SHOT

HOW JEFF USES LINES AND LIGHT TO MAKE MAGIC:

"The architectural lines of this space is basically God's gift to me. It is a larger space, but there's still people dining below. I think this image gives the cavernous space context and makes it all the more interesting.

'In terms of natural lighting, shoot next to the window. I wouldn't advise shooting directly into your light source.

'I just don't like the diagonal, the straight on POV is just more me." 

4. Different Ways to Shoot Food Photos

OVERHEAD:

Jeff Mindell Otium Overhead

"I don't like to stand on chairs, so if I can't get the shot, I can't get it.

'Focus on the details of your dish, getting in tight enough so it doesn't look flat and can appeal to a wider audience".

AT AN ANGLE

Jeff Mindell Otium At an Angle

GOING PAST THE CROP: Jeff Mindell Cropping

Jeff often prefers to have the picture cropped so what he's focusing on is literally going 'beyond the crop' or outside the frame.

Jeff Mindell on Cropping

"For the fish, the rectangular tray they are lying on is not the prettiest, so I have the fish going out of frame. You can also really enjoy the beautiful textures that way."

5. On Instagram Feeds:

Jeff advocates a varied and symmetrical aesthetic, "I'm not going to have two similar shots directly next to each other. It's the same with colors and subjects. I'm not going to have a landscape next to another landscape. It would be next to a food (shot), or fashion, so it's always mixed up.

'So if I'm taking a picture of a plate, it's a circle, but if there's another circle above it in the feed, I'm thinking about every fourth photo, because that last photo on the line will bump down."

Jeff Mindell Instagram

@JeffMindell

Who You Should Be Following on Insta, According to Jeff: 

1. @AGuyNamedPatrick- "his lighting is great and very well composed"

2. @Lina_Lomelino- "this is a restaurant fav. Take a note from her. She has the moody light composition down"

3. @ArtfulDesperado- a Vancouver based Food Stylist

4. @Kessara- "...she has a similar feed composition aesthetic. Just beautiful shots"

5. @LifeandThyme-documenting food culture around the globe

Linda Lomelino's Instagram

@Linda_Lomelino

Concluding Thoughts/ Jeff's Last Minute Tips

1. Off Center is much more interesting

2. I generally have the shot edited before I even bring it into Instagram. At the very last minute, I will always tweak something, be it shadows, saturation, or highlights.

3. For that overhead shot, always align your food shot at a 90-degree angle with no tilts. If you have a slight tilt, there are apps for that ;)

4. When doing a overhead shot where one element such as a water glass is a lot taller, I might remove it because it fucks with your depth of field.

5. Shoot it before you eat it.

6. Be courteous. Just a general rule of thumb. I'm not standing on chairs if the restaurant is white tablecloth.

7. In the kitchen, find a natural frame with something going on. Tell a story with your photo.

8. If the space feels empty, you can pull table salt, creamers, other table 'accessories'. If you're eating with a ton of people, you can introduce hands. 

Jeff Mindell X Hedley & Bennett

But....where can I find Jeff?? Click here to see (more of) Jeff's work. Prepare to be mystified. 

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