arts • 04 Jul, 2017
Insta Elite @imducbui
Duc Bui’s fine food photography
Duc Bui is a food photographer and blogger. His Insta-feed @imducbui is eclectic, or as he describes it “very chaotic!”. Without doubt the standouts are his food photos — think ready-to-eat bacon and egg breakfasts, perfect seafood spreads and architectural towers of cheese. He’s also snapped the interiors of some of our favorite places around town, like Maison Marou and L’Usine.
We caught up with him to learn more about his work and how much planning goes into his Instagram feed.
When did you first start taking photographs?
I’ve always been interested in photography. I guess it started in my third year at university when I bought my first camera. Since then, it’s been through many adventures with me… for 6 years now.
How has your photography style changed over that time?
I didn’t have a smartphone back then. I was using a Nokia 1280 at the time, so most photos were taken with my camera. Even now, I don’t use a smartphone to take pictures. Standing in front of a beautiful scene or object I usually take my time to enjoy and appreciate it, then if I have my camera to hand I will take a photo.
How did you get even get into food photography?
Haha, the obvious way — I love food!
Well, there are other reasons of course. Firstly, because I like food I also like discovering it, and that’s especially true of Vietnamese cuisine. I love Vietnam. It’s a beautiful country. But I do feel our self-promotion isn’t always very effective. Our neighbouring country, Thailand, has a food culture similar to ours, but they know how to do branding, and they know how to create beautiful images that make people crave their food. However, in Vietnam, we have delicious food, but no branding to leave a good first impression. This is probably the biggest reason I wanted to get into food photography.
We hear your girlfriend is a food stylist too?
Yes, that’s my second reason I got into this! She’s a food stylist @meothuyduong, and she’s also a very special person. She saw my potential in photographing scenes like table settings and food. And she introduced me to some pioneers of the style, like @monkeyminh, who inspired me to explore more and follow this art form more seriously.
Do you spend a lot of time planning your Instagram posts?
I usually don’t follow a plan. Sometimes it depends on my mood, sometimes it’s to make my feed look nice. And sometimes I have so many photos that I don’t know which to choose, and I end up not posting any!
What do you use to edit your photos?
I use Photoshop because I take most photos with my camera.
To you, what makes an Instagram account stand out?
I think a stand-out Instagram account has a story on its feed everyday. It’s not tied to just one colour, and it probably has a sense of humour and beautiful photos of daily life. To me, this makes viewing the photos more fun and pleasant.
Can you tell us some of your photography secrets.
So, here are the basics. Ask yourself which angle is best to make the food look good. You can turn the food plate around, stand up or sit down and compare the angles, and then you will be able to choose the best one. Ask yourself ‘What’s the most “sensual” thing about the food?’ Pay close attention to the most beautiful feature to make people hungry just by looking at it! Think about the story you can tell with this dish? And what accessories could you add to elaborate on the story? Finally, consider how to arrange the lighting in order to make all of the above work.
And how can we take great flat-lay photos [grouped items shot from above]?
I think of the flat-lay image as a simple, gentle little meditation that should be eye-catching and beautiful. I usually put the most important objects in the prime position in the square frame, then I add props and other favorite items around the main objects.
If your Instagram feed was a dish, what would it be?
Definitely Vietnamese food. Maybe bún đậu mắm tôm (rice vermicelli with shrimp paste and fried tofu), haha!
Photo: Duc Bui
Words by AA