Notes from today’s photography, social media, and better health session I led with @BangkokGlutton. Thanks, @MORUBKK!

I’m on a personal leave from The School at Columbia University this semester. My best friend, Chawadee Nualkhair (aka @BangkokGlutton), invited me to stay with her in Thailand and collaborate on creative projects including a TV pilot, a web series, and/or another book. Since relocating to Bangkok in 1995, Chow has become an expert on Thai street food and acts as an ambassador to the world of delicious, fast, inexpensive, culturally significant, varied, and omnipresent curbside dining through her photos, tweets, interviews, blog posts, television appearances, and books.

Today, Chow and I were led a half-day workshop on using smartphones to take pictures of food, and/or people in food settings, and sharing these photos via social media. Here are some topics we discussed:

  1. Who shares? What do you share? How do you share?
  2. Everything you put online is public, permanent, and traceable so make wise choices.
  3. Stake your claim (reserve user name on various social sites).
  4. There are great free apps out there for taking photos including:
    • Skitch for marking up photos with text and shapes
    • Squareready for making your rectangular photos fit within a square border
    • Touch Color to make part of a picture color and the rest of it black and white
    • Pic Stitch which creates quick and easy collages using a variety of free templates
  5. Photo tips: rule of thirds, depth of field, lighting, angles, no flash, ask permission if you include others in the photo,
  6. Photo ideas: focus on food and crop out most of the person’s face, include half-eaten food or food with a bite removed, don’t try to include everything in the photo, focus on an ingredient, show before-and-after plates, show empty plates.
  7. This project is using Facebook. Consider also sharing with other communities (ex. Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.)
  8. What is a hashtag and why? Sample hashtags to consider: #eeeeeats #foodporn #foodgasm #healthyfood #healthyeating #diet #getfit #superfood #fitspiration #cookinglight and many others
  9. The best way to get better at photography is to take a lot of pictures yourself and look at other peoples’ photos. Suggested people to follow who take good pictures: @Infatuation @bkkfatty @bangkokfoodies @bangkokglutton @karenblumberg @jessvsworld @christao408 @nat_catandnat @migrationology @huffpostfood @bkmagazine

The organizer of today’s event, Phaik Yeong Cheah (aka PY), works at MORU, the Mahidol Oxford Research Unit, a tropical medicine research collaboration between Mahidol University in Bangkok and the University of Oxford in the UK. PY organized this photography seminar to kick off the FACEBOOK FOOD PHOTO CHALLENGE. As it was described to me, “This project aims to understand a bit more about sharing food photos on social media and to explore its potential uses in health and health research. This is part of wider Wellcome Trust funded Food and Drink Initiative on global food issues including food production, transport, packaging, storage, shopping, cooking, eating and wastage.” More info can be found here: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/Funding/Public-engagement/Funded-projects/Major-initiatives/Food-and-drink/index.htm

Some of the questions that arose during today’s workshop were:
1. Can sharing food photos on social media help those who are on some kind of diet?
2. Can sharing help promote healthy eating and cooking, and reduce food wastage?
3. Can social media offer an advantage by utilizing a peer support group when users upload photos and have their peers comment or ask questions?
Chow and I joined the Facebook group and committed to take photos of every meal for at least 14 days and post them to the group. You too can be a part of it! Please consider reading the guidelines, joining the The Facebook Food Photo Challenge group, and posting images with us!

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