Food photographer Tomas Malave

Tomas taking picture.jpg

Tomas Malave, doing his thing.

By Jessica Pasko

Local photographer Tomas Malave says that taking his amazing pictures of food comes easily.

"The food just speaks for itself," he told me.

Hmmm. I've taken food photos and I'm thinking that if the food speaks-- it's clearly choosey about who it talks to.

No, taking delicious pictures like Malave's requires talent. Tomas Malave's talent for photographing food was nurtured right here in Albany.

Where? Bombers Burrito Bar.

Plenty of artists work as bartenders and waiters to support themselves, but Tomas Malave found his way to his art career while tending bar for Bomber's Matt Baumgartner.

Tomas, always had an interest in art. He came to the U.S. from Venezuela when he was 14 and started taking pictures as a freshman in high school. He did a stint as an art major at UAlbany but gave up on it because he didn't like how the program was run.

His primary interest was -- and still is --- in painting, but a few years ago he was working as a bartender at Bombers when owner Matt Baumgartner asked him to shoot some of the joint's food for Bombers ads. That led to more photos at Bombers, which in turn led to bigger shoots at 677 Prime, the Wine Bar and other local restaurants.

That photo of the duo of ahi tuna on 677 Prime's Web site and menu ? Yup, that's Tomas' work. So's the cowboy steak, and the chocolate lollipop tree and well, a bunch of other mouth-watering photos.

Tomas very nearly gave up on taking photos forever just a few years ago, when someone broke into his car and stole at least $10,000 in camera equipment, leaving him heartbroken and without part of his livelihood. Instead he managed to save up and replace it, bit by bit.

The commercial work, he says, isn't his ideal. But it helps pay the bills along with carpentry jobs and of course, bar tending gigs. Tomas also shows his paintings, drawings and photos around the region, including a recent solo landscape show featuring black and white scenes from Cape Cod. In the meantime, you can catch him slinging drinks at Wolff's Biergarten.

Here's a sample of his non food related work:

Tomas 1.jpg

Tomas photo 3.jpg


Very cool. From what I understand, food photography is a tricky thing - It's a lot more difficult than one might think making the food look appetizing and fresh under studio lights.

I love the last photo, too. Does Tomas have a portfolio site or photostream?

@Paul: as an amateur photographer and a guy with a serious sweet tooth problem, I concur, food photog is really tricky (to me). There are numerous blogs and web sites dedicated to this art. From what I read, pros can have a whole army of assistants and stylists helping them shoot a product; some dedicated to the background behind the food, some placing tiny hand-made mirrors that will bounce small amounts of light on specific sides of a cake. etc etc. Lighting seems to be even more critical than "regular" photography...

I try to practice now and then, and end up throwing a lot of shots (except this cake and my tuna quiche). My foodie/photo buddy Kim (yeah, that one again) has a better eye.

A few links:
- The Ten Tastiest Food Photography Tips
- Still Life With...
- How to photograph food - Food photography

His show at the CDFI was definitely tops. All those colors and huge murals - awesome!

@Paul - he's working to get a full online portfolio set up.

@AlbanyJane I loved his CDFI show. I was talking with a certain someone the other day about the CDFI. It was pretty interesting. Why I don't pick up the phone and call you about it, I don't know. Seems better than using AOA. But the strep!

@S: aw, look, this was taken on the same day as your cake photo. i love when we converge on Crisan as the food paparazzo. I think they're getting more used to us now, though. :-P


@Keegs - sorry Mike! I forgot to put your credit down. Everyone, my dear friend Mike Keegan took that awesome photo at the top. For the record, he's the absolute best and I miss him now that he lives in San Fran.

I can't tell you how many cold dinners I've eaten in order to "take a quick shot" of a dish. Start adding a tripod and or off camera lighting and the kitchen starts to look like a studio really quick!

You know things are getting out of hand when you consider hanging a roll of paper from your pot rack for quick and clean backgrounds! Beats having bananas behind your lamb shanks! (

The composition of the photos on the Angelo's website are great. I like the place setting for one a lot.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine