It’s been exactly a year since I began doing my own food photography. So one year and one thousand food photos later I’ve discovered- through trial and error… and error- what works for me.
I’ll start first by saying that before November 2010 I was never interested in photography- neither as a hobby or professionally. To be honest I never really gave it much thought. I just grabbed my “point and shoot” and let it do all the work for me.
Now I’ve discovered that photography really is an art form. And what I mean by this is that you really can see an individuals intimate style and inspiration through their photographs. Now, I understand that many of you may be thinking “well, of course you can”. However, I didn’t discover this until only recently. I always only thought of photography from a technical aspect.
The Perfect Food Photo
I may not be able to speak too much about aperture, shutter speed or which mm lens to use for which photo, but I can tell you what has worked for me, especially when it comes to food preparation. So here are my tips to creating The Perfect Food Photo:
Tip 1: Lighting
Lighting is obviously crucial for any photograph, but has the most impact on food’s taste appeal. I’ve invested in a professional light box and umbrella photography lighting, and nothing- I mean nothing- compares to that diffused natural lighting you get at dusk and dawn.
Direct sunlight is too harsh and causes reflections on cookware and utensils, but that soft natural indirect light brings out all the taste appeal in your food photo. Here is an example of dish I photographed in a professional light box and underneath that is a photo using natural indirect sunlight.
On days that I’m cooking and photographing I end up running around during that special hour at dusk to get all of my shots. After a while you find certain areas that seem to get that perfect light, like the spot near my kitchen window that I know at exactly 6:23 is going to bring the most amazing lighting for my food, or the table outside in my meditation garden that at 6:43 will be even better.
And it’s truly amazing how trained your eye becomes after awhile and you can’t help but notice how certain lighting that makes even the most mundane thing look like a work of art to you. One day I was cracking eggs to make a breakfast frittata and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful they looked in the early morning light. I officially became one of those people who has to stop what I’m doing to take a photograph (which can get frustrating at times for my family- “ooh, don’t eat that waffle yet, I want to photograph it first!”), but they’re used to it.
Cloudy days are a gift for me living here in the desert. Whenever I hear a forecast of “mostly cloudy” I head off to the market to prepare for a day of cooking a photographing. No more running around to get my shot in before the sun sets; cloudy days give me an entire day of beautiful diffused sunlight.
Tip 2: Composition
Composition is really a matter of personal style. Tight up-close shots require very little composition- maybe just a napkin or utensil if that. While shots that have a lot of composition are typically time consuming and a lot of work. But again, it’s really a matter of the style of photo you’re looking for.
In the beginning I thought I needed a lot of composition and spent too much money of props. Now it’s really dependent on the style of photo I’m going for. Look at the difference between the next two photos; does the one that shows all the adorable tableware have more or less “taste appeal” than the up-close shot?
Tip 3: Do Not Overcook
Food, especially vegetables, that are slightly undercooked will photograph far better that something that is fully or overcooked. Here is an example of a photo from my where the taste appeal of the slightly undercooked version came out far better than if it were fully cooked.
Tip 4: Refresh
If food, especially bread or meat, is looking a little dull and needs a “pick me up”, simply give it a quick misting of oil. This is a tricky secret I learned early on. If you have a “Misto” (olive oil sprayer), keep it nearby.
Okay, Let’s Get Technical
The camera that I use and love… and have nothing to compare it too is the Canon Rebel T2i that was chosen for me because of its video capabilities as well.
I did invest in a macro lens which was an awesome decision for food photography.
Learning how to use and adjust your aperture is probably the first thing you want to learn before worrying about ISO or anything else. Being able to focus on your subject and control your viewers eye can be done through aperture.
Look at where the viewers eye is being controlled in the next two photos:
I shoot on the manual setting only, and only because this is what has worked best for me so far. I am still an amateur when it comes to most of the technical capabilities of my camera.
Tip 5: Trust Your Style
Everyone has their own style… including you. Find it and trust it.
Before I let you go I have to share one more shot that is a perfect example of artificial versus natural lighting.
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