Getting Started in Food PhotographyFood photography is one of those subsets of general photography that makes people stand up andtake notice. Tell someone at a cocktail party you’re a food photographer and the response you’relikely to get is “wow!” The next question after that is generally, “How do you get into foodphotography.” I was lucky enough to have a formal education in commercial photography and thenapprentice with some wonderful photographers. But don’t rely on others to teach you what youwant to know. There is no substitute for doing.It’s important to understand that all specialties of photography require a particular skill set andattitude that are individual to that specialty. If you’re a move fast, shoot from the hip, f/8 and bethere kind of photographer, food’s probably not going to appeal to you. If you’re methodical,studious and like to study a scene and tweak it for hours at a time, you’ve got the right rawmaterials.1. Understand how food works.It helps to be a foodie. First, it just makes life easier to be around things that you like all the time.Also, it’s important to be able to converse with clients and others in the business about food. I’m nota chef by any stretch but I like to cook, I certainly like to eat, and I enjoy learning about new foods. Itmight be important to know the difference between ice cream, sorbet and gelato one day.Remember that to illustrate the essence of a food you must first know what makes it special.2. Understand how light and composition work.This of course applies to all photography, but more so in still life/food work. You don’t need a lot ofexpensive equipment to light food well (although certain types of shots, like splash and pour shots,do call for specialized gear.) But you need to know how to use the tools you have available. For most
beginners, good window light, a sturdy tripod and some reflector cards are sufficient to get theimages rolling.3. Understand that food produced for consumption is not the same as food produced forphotography.You don’t need to be a food stylist, but you do need to understand the processes and methods thatgo into food styling. One of the best ways to learn this and to understand it better is to carry acamera with you and for one week. Shoot everything you eat just before you eat it. You’ll quicklyunderstand how much work needs to go into manipulating and styling food for photography.To learn about a recent food shoot and a quick description of our workflow view this video.4. Understand what creates an emotional response in your audience.Pay attention to how you and others around you react at a great meal. Find what set’s off theiremotional and biological responses and incorporate those triggers into your work. This can be verychallenging. When we’re at the table we eat with all of our senses. The aroma and feel of food inyour mouth can be just as exciting as the flavor itself. Of course with photography you’ve only got atwo dimensional visual representation so we’ve got to work extra hard to make those visual cuesstand out. Get close to the food, use all of the visual tricks up your sleeve like selective focus, hardlight, chiaroscuro and contrasting colors.5. Understand what others have done before you and how you react to their work.Look at the work of other photographers and artists who do the type of work you enjoy. Study theirwork and find out why you like it. Incorporate those aspects into your work.Finally, understand that, like all lifelong pursuits, it’s a process. One great thing about foodphotography is that you can work on it at your own pace. You don’t have to arrange models andlocations and wardrobe, just go to the store, buy food and shoot it. Remember Thomas Edison,“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So go shoot something Food Photography – An Introduction
Visit any bookshop and head for the cook book section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array ofbooks filled with scrumptious recipes accompanied by wonderful photography of the meals beingwritten about.Colorful stacks of vegetables drizzled with rich sauces on a clean white plate with glistening tablesettings – you know the shots. Sometimes the photography is almost the true focus of the book withthe recipes taking a secondary role.But how do you photograph food and get such great results?1. LightingTreat the food you’re photographing as you would any other still life subject and ensure that it iswell lit. Many of the poor examples of food photography that I’ve come across in the research forthis article could have been drastically improved with adequate lighting. One of the best places tophotograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – perhaps supported withflash bounced off a ceiling or wall to give more balanced lighting that cuts out the shadows. Thisdaylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural.2. PropsPay attention not only to the arrangement of the food itself but to the context that you put it inincluding the plate or bowl and any table settings around it. Don’t clutter the photo with a full tablesetting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. Theseelements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot.3. Be QuickFood doesn’t keep it’s appetizing looks for long so as a photographer you’ll need to be well preparedand able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changescolor. This means being prepared and knowing what you want to achieve before the food arrives.One strategy that some use is to have the shot completely set up with props before the food is readyand then to substitute a stand-in plate to get your exposure right. Then when the food is ready youjust switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting.
4. Style itThe way food is set out on the plate is as important as the way you photograph it. Pay attention tothe balance of food in a shot (color, shapes etc) and leave a way into the shot (using leading linesand the rule of thirds to help guide your viewer’s eye into the dish). One of the best ways to learn isto get some cook books to see how the pros do it.5. Enhance itOne tip that a photographer gave me last week when I said I was writing this was to have somevegetable oil on hand and to brush it over food to make it glisten in your shots.6. Get Down LowA mistake that many beginner food photographers make is taking shots that look down on a platefrom directly above. While this can work in some circumstances – in most cases you’ll get a morebetter shot by shooting from down close to plate level (or slightly above it).7. MacroReally focusing in upon just one part of the dish can be an effective way of highlighting the differentelements of it.8. SteamHaving steam rising off your food can give it a ‘just cooked’ feel which some food photographers like.Of course this can be difficult to achieve naturally. I spoke with one food stylist a few years back whotold me that they added steam with a number of artificial strategies including microwaving water
soaked cotton balls and placing them behind food. This is probably a little advance for most of us –however it was an interesting trick so I thought I’d include it. Styling Your Food for PhotographyI’ve never had the luxury of working with a food stylist; if you aren’t well-known, you will most likelytake on this role yourself. While I lack the massive collection of props that a professional stylistwould own, I do have at my disposal some place settings, backgrounds, and typically some degree ofcontrol over how food is presented. I don’t tend to use stand-ins or other tricks to get the resultsthat I want, but remember that those are available if you need them. Whether I am at home or outshooting at restaurants, I am always challenged to use my on-hand supplies and creativity to createthe right mood and draw the viewer in without distracting them. Getting started in styling food isnot as difficult as you might think: • Place solid or simple patterned papers (available at a scrapbooking store) as a background. Figure out what works and does not work in terms of contrast and similarity. Also, make sure that you have enough paper to completely cover the entire field of view. • Experiment with incorporating serving pieces, whole place settings, napkins, placemats, and tablecloths. Set the table with silverware, drinks, and even candles to convey the right mood. If you’re budget-conscious, you can always find these items at thrift and resale stores, flea markets, and garage sales. • If you have multiple food subjects available to you (like two dozen cupcakes from which to choose), use only the best examples. A blemish can easily ruin an entire photoshoot. • Mist fruit, vegetables, and glassware with water to create condensation and make them look more appetizing. Shiny food appeals more than dull food, and anything you can do to make your food shine will make a more interesting photo. • Incorporate elements from the food you’re shooting or place appropriate condiments in the frame. Slice cucumbers thinly and place them on top of yogurt soup to lend it some freshness. Accompany Thai food with small bowls of sugar, chili, fish sauce, and fresh limes. Some ideas will work, and some won’t.
Food Photography CompositionMy natural inclination when I startedphotographing food was to anchor myselfsomewhere, pick one zoom length for the entireshoot, center the food in the frame, and lookdown on it at a 45-degree angle – after all, thisis how food appeared when I sat down to eatdinner. What I realized is that it didn’t make forinteresting photos. Better shots play with anglesand perspective: • Zoom – with both your lens and your feet – to put the food in its place. Whether you are using a prime lens or a zoom lens, you can always get in close to magnify a detail of the food or loosen the shot up to show the food as a component of a larger meal. • Rotate along all three axes. Some food looks best when looking directly down on it, while other food has an interesting side profile that can only be seen when shooting across the food at its level. Slightly tilting the camera clockwise or counterclockwise can add some interest to an otherwise dull photo. Take advantage of the low cost of experimentation since you’re shooting digitally. • Use the rule of thirds. In general, the rule of thirds helps to easily give you compositionally strong photos, and this holds true not only for landscapes and action shots but for food as well. Practice following it to learn when you should treat it as a suggestion rather than a rule. • Take advantage of the fact that your subjects won’t walk away. While a lot of food stylists say that you only have a short time to work with food after it’s served, that hasn’t been my experience (ice cream being the exception). I always feel that I can walk around, zoom, hover, and poke and prod to get the shots I need.
Remember Established Photography TechniquesYou should apply to food photography all of the other general photographic principles that you readabout or already know. Aim for soft shadows, good exposure, and good color rendering. Experimentwith your focal point and available apertures. Pay close attention to white balance and color casts orconsider shooting RAW. Use a tripod if you aren’t going to be stable enough to keep your food fromshaking. Finally, don’t be afraid to add some artistic flair to your images through creative post-processing. 11 Great Camera Angles for Food PhotographyChoosing the best angle, when shooting food, comes from a good observation and an inner feeling.Before composing your image, try to enter into a visual meditation, move calmly around yoursubject and simply observe with your bare eyes. Just keep in mind that this meditation cannot belong-lasting, as you know that freshly prepared food will not continue to maintain that “fresh look”for more than a few minutes.Food Photography is very similar to photographing people in a sense that each person has her bestside. Considering the variety of food out there, diverse cooking and presentation styles, the finalresults are endless. This array of unique subjects creates an opportunity for infinite camera anglechoices.What is the best angle? Here are Top 10 Angles for Food Photography:Angle 1: Head-on Zen:The camera is completely centered to the subject. This created a very clean contemporary look andfeel. Tip: Keep the props to the minimum.
Angle 2. From Above:Camera is positioned directly above the subject and perfectly centered. This angle produces a verycontemporary, graphic look.Angle 3. Lost in Space:For this shot, food was placed directly onto the white plexiglass surface, a soft box was positionedbelow the plexi. This created a seamless and shadow-less environment. When you do not have apoint of reference (no horizon line, no plate, no sense of environment) you can shoot from mostunusual angles and get away with it.
Angle 4. Tilt Towards:Camera is tilted right, so the subject tilts counterclockwise and the dish is welcoming you in,motivating the spectator to indulge in image.Angle 5. Tilt Away:Camera is tilted left, so the subject tilts clockwise, pulling away from you, engaging the viewer thedesire to follow.
Angle 6. Close up and personalDon’t be afraid to get close to your subject. It won’t bite. Or will it? When you are shooting closeups, the point of reference loses its importance, so any camera angle will produce an appetizingimage or not?Angle 7. Above with Perspective:The camera is positioned above the front of the subjectd, then the camera is tilted up until thesubject fills the frame. The photograph will maintain a graphic dynamic composition that willengaging the eye to scan the image from the foreground to the background.
Angle 8. Diagonal:Turn you camera so the subject starts in one corner and ends in the opposite corner, breaking thespace diagonally.Angle 9. With respect to the Line:When looking through the viewfinder align the edge of the frame to any line you see in your subject.In this case I chose to align three parallel lines (left and right edges of the slice). So I turned thecamera until these 3 lines ware parallel to the vertical edge of the frame. This created a very
monumental and unusual composition, granting unprecedented importance to this slice of a regularcheese cake.Angle 10. Gentle tilt:The camera was tilted just slightly to the left. Why? Because the human brain likes to scan things bysection. If the camera had been leveled, then the middle wedge would create a horizontal line thatwould divide the composition in two sections and forcing the eye to travel away from the center. Butin this case, I wanted the eye to flow freely though the whole image while stopping only at the focalpoint. So “gentle tilt” solved the problem.Conclusion:Try to forget about the rule of thirds and everything you just learned, just move around your subjectand really try to see it and when you see it, draw the camera to your eye and start framing. Keepyour mind clear, no thinking. When you start getting a warm fuzzy feeling entering through yourstomach and spreading to your chest, just push the button.
10 Tips to Improve Your Food Photography StylingWhile portrait photographers need to be skilled in the art of getting their subjects to relax in front ofthe camera to get a great shot, we food photographers have things a little easier. At least oursubjects (mostly) can’t talk.But that doesn’t mean you should forget to apply a little charm in the food styling department.The more time spent making the food attractive as possible, the easier things are when it comes totaking the shot.So here are 10 tips to help you improve your food styling, naturally.1. Use less food than you normally wouldWhile it may seem more generous to serve plates piled high with food, an over crowded plate canlook less appealing than a minimalist spread. Think about how you can use the white space of theplate to frame your dish.
2. Use paper to add texture to platesLining plates with parchment or baking paper helps to add visual interest and soften the lines of yourplates.3. Look for contrast with backgroundsWhile there are times when all white on white can be visually striking, I find I get better shots if I gofor contrast. So a pale coloured food and plate gets a dark background where as a vibrantly coloureddish tends to be best with a simple white background.
4. Allow food to spill over naturallyGetting a bit messy really helps to add movement and life to your photographs, rather than havingeverything confined to plates and bowls.5. Choose simple crockery and tablewareWhile highly decorative China and napery are beautiful on their own, they can detract from thevisual impact of the food. Plain plates, especially classic white allow the food to be the star.6. Emphasise the natural beauty of the foodTry and think about what it is that makes a particular dish look delicious and then serve it in a way toflaunt it.For example, I love the golden, cripsy skin of a well roasted chicken. Rather than carve the chookinto individual slices with tiny slivers of skin visible, the whole bird tends to look best.7. Get some work-in-progress shotsIt can be easy to focus on getting the final plated-up food shot and miss out on some greatopportunities along the way. Try taking a few shots during the preparation and cooking process.
8. Try and capture the ‘yum’ factorThink about what makes your subject really delicious and then aim to highlight this characteristic inyour shot. Ice cream is a great example. It’s all about smooth creaminess and licking drips from thesides of your cone or bowl.9. Always be on the lookout for ideasInspiration can strike from anywhere. When you’re eating out or even just flicking through yourfavourite food mag, take note of what looks appealing and what doesn’t.10. Dig in and reshootOnce you have a shot of the whole food that you love, eat or serve some out and then take anothershot. Often a half finished plate is more appetizing than the original whole.
10 Tips for Mouth Watering Food PhotographyFood is in front of us every day – 24/7. On our plates, in magazines, on TV and even on computerscreens.If we are not eating it we are talking about what we just ate or about what we are going to eat! Weare what we eat; our diet reflects our lifestyle, our choices and our beliefs.I am a food photographer and I love my job; but I haven’t always been just a photographer of food…I am actually a qualified chef and I spent 15 years of my life in kitchens around the globe; I love myfood and I love to photograph it!Let me give you 10 great tips for taking mouth watering pictures of food.1. Choose fresh and locally grown ingredients, don’t over manipulate the food and keep it simple.Let the food speak for itself and tell its story. I am bored with seeing pictures of strawberries, but Ihaven’t seen as many pictures of custard apples!2) Let the food tell you how it wants to be photographedIs there something about the food or dish before you that has caught your attention, what was it? isit its shape or is it the texture? Answer this and you’ll know if you are going to need a hard or a softlight, answer this and you’ll know which angle is gonna be best to photograph your subject from. Letthe food inform your approach to photographing it.
3) Keep observing your subject.Is it colourful and vibrant? Food is the king, select props and background that complement your foodwithout being overwhelming; keep an eye out for contrast.4) Get the shot you had in mind, then switch camera angle.Explore and experiment: the best shot is often not the one you planned.5) Use a TripodI can never stress enough how crucial this is. A tripod will reduce to almost zero any chance ofcamera shake and will allow you to take longer exposures – which is handy in low light situations –i.e. restaurants and bars with dimmed lights.6) Since I mentioned restaurants and bars, my 6th tip is about White BalanceWhite Balance (WB) – every modern camera, even point and shoots, have a control for WB, so use it.Sometimes an orange cast makes for a warm and intimate mood but sometimes it’s just annoying.Besides this, the white balance control can be used as a creative tool; just explore the differentoptions.7) Coming back to our subject, and how we are going to capture it – which type of lens is moresuitable?Generally speaking, shallow depth of field works very well with food because it isolates the mainsubject against the background – drawing the viewer’s attention straight to it. If I had to recommend
just one lens for food photography, it would be a 50 mm f 1.8: it’s small and light, it’s not expensive.It’s a fast lens and can be used for any other type of photography too.Sometimes less is more, especially when food is the hero.9) Try to get the picture right in the cameraDon’t rely too much on Photo Shop to correct mistakes; post processing should only take between 2to 5 minutes per image.10) Take lots of reference shotsi.e. take shots of the lighting set up, shots of backgrounds and props. Take notice of your mistakes,let others inspire you and seek other people’s feedback. Amen!
10 More Food Photography TipsThis post is a follow-up to an earlier Digital Photography School guest post on 10 Tips for MouthWatering Food Photography. Check out the original first before reading on to this post.If there’s one thing people love more than eating their food, it’s taking photos of it. Whether a quickcamera snap or an elaborately lighted, high-production image we just love seeing photos of food.Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful while creating my own food photos.1) Work with professionalsAs often as you can, avail yourselves of the talents of great chefs, friends in culinary school, a rockingfood stylist or the best BBQ dad you know. People who know how to cook and present food well willhelp up your game. In food photography it’s not just about great tasting food, but the littleproduction elements behind each dish that help give it an authentic, stylistically simple or extra zestof eye-appealing deliciousness. Don’t know or can’t find any of these types of people? No worries.Treat yourself out to an early dinner (before big crowds arrive and the sun disappears) at a nice localrestaurant and try to get a seat next to a window or at an outdoor, shaded table. Put any self-consciousness aside for 15 minutes and order some colorful or well presented food and startsnapping away. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!
2) Get overheadThis won’t work for all dishes, but shooting directly down on your food from overhead can providesome pretty striking images. You’ll get to better see the direction the light is hitting and lighting thefood from an open window, creating interesting contrast and sometimes a little shadow mystery. Trynot to shoot too wide (distorted food doesn’t always look so great) and stand up on a chair (a stableone) if you need to. Even better, if you’re doing this at home, set down a table cloth on the floor andif you’ve got a tripod with a ball head, rig it up to shoot directly down for extra stability.3) Shoot slightly above sitting eye levelI utilize this particular angle all the time when I want to lead the eye across and out of an image. Itworks great for full table settings, multiple dishes or an obscure background element. The key is toget just above sitting level so that you can capture the entire spread in the frame while minimizingnegative space in the background.4) Fill the frameCreating the effect of a packed table full of food and utilizing all the space in the frame shows a niceatmosphere. It gives the eye a lot to absorb. Just try to make one of the dishes the clear subject ofthe frame. You can even leave spaces in and around dishes as long as you try to utilize the space in away that makes the photo feel complete.
5) Clear out everything and go for minimalismOn the other hand, there’s something to be said for a big chunk of negative space. In editorial oradvertising imagery it leaves plenty of room for copy, and really hones in the eye where you want itfocused. Look for an angle that doesn’t make you feel like you’re wanting for more substance in theframe. It can be tricky to master, but take lots of shots and at different angles to develop a feel for it.6) Get deep overheadWhile not a hard and fast rule, I often find it more pleasing to shoot as deep as possible whenoverhead, and fairly shallow when at a lower angle. Shooting deep overhead allows you to get theentire table surface in focus instead of just the top of a dish or two. However, a shallow depth canwork well too, as long as you ensure your main subject (often the highest point of it) is in focus.Nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a great photo of a pasta dish overhead, only to discover lateron the monitor you got the bottom of the bowl in focus and a soft top of the dish where your eye ismost drawn to.7) Shoot shallow down lowWhen you’re at a lower angle, it helps to shoot at shallow apertures and really isolate your subjectfrom the background. This allows you to also create a pleasing fade away from your main foodsubject. It works especially well in food that has a number of items in a row – like the scallops below.I recommend a prime lens like a 50mm for this. Adjust shooting at different shallow apertures untilyou’re happy with a good background blur, while still keeping enough of the dish in focus.8 ) Show food in the stages of being eatenCrumbs scattered about a half eaten pie dish hold a particularly charming appeal. Food is meant tobe eaten, and we all generally find it pleasing to see bits and pieces of dishes picked out – a sign thatsomeone is enjoying it. So take a timeout after a few shots of the perfectly prepared dish and startdigging in! Then, reset your frame and show a few crumbs scattered about, a rumpled cloth napkinin the corner of the frame, an open sugar packet and half drunken espresso – you get the gist.
9) Show ingredients and food being preparedIf you have access to a restaurant kitchen – or want to set up your own Martha Stewart cookingepisode in your home – showing the ingredients that come together to make a dish, the food as it’sbeing cooked, or the chefs cooking it are a great way to add a story to your food photography.Everyone is curious how a dish is made or what special ingredients go into it. The people making ourfood can often be just as important. Note the popularity of TV chefs.10) Learn to work with window lightThere are plenty of different ways to light food, but many food photographers and magazines holdwindow light in high regard. You can create very pleasing contrasts, fill in with white cards, backlightfor a fade away affect and much more. Generally, it gives food a very earthy and wholesome feel.Place a dish down on a round table with a window in one direction and take a new photo of it fromevery 15 degrees. You’ll get to see how the light affects the dish from a variety of angles and find afew you really enjoy. A Basic Food Photography KitMany of the photographers I know are gadget hounds. They love their toys. They love to talk aboutthem, read about them, argue about them and drool over the ones they can’t afford. I’m not somuch of a gadget hound. I have my share of gear, and it will occasionally (ok, regularly) spill out ofthe equipment room and into the rest of the house, but I’ve made a point to try and keep thingssimple in my business, and in my work. For those looking to get started in food photography I’vecompiled a list of equipment that I would recommend getting, in order.1. Any Canon or Nikon DSLR.I don’t care how many megapixels, or if it shoots video, or whether its full frame or dx sized. Just soyou like it and you’re comfortable using it. I know Sony, Fuji, Pentax and others make perfectly good
dslrs, but Canon and Nikon have the largest user base and accessory range, and that will beimportant to you some day. Also, when it’s time to upgrade, Canon and Nikon usually have a betterresale value. My primary camera is a Canon 5D.2. A Macro LensManufacturer branded lenses are best, and of course most expensive. Most of the majoraftermarket brands are fine (Sigma, Tamron) but do your research on those first and I’ve heard ofsome quality issues from time to time with aftermarket gear. I would not recommend the close upfilters that screw into the front of a lens and allow you to focus closer. They’re terrible in terms ofsharpness and flatness of field. My primary lens, Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro.3. A Good TripodSince food photography is all about slowly building the image from test shot to test shot, a sturdytripod is a must. One commonly overlooked spec on tripods is the minimum height when in use. Ihave several tripods but the one I use the most often is a Bogen/Manfrotton 3001 with a 3035 head.It’s a relatively light tripod and a heavy head, but I shoot in a lot of restaurants. Standard tableheight is 30 inches and sometimes I want to be right at that height. My larger, more sturdy tripodswon’t allow me to get that low.4. Homemade ReflectorsA trip to the art store will set this up for you. A couple half sheets of fomecore, some silver boards, autility knife, some funtak and a couple of artists manikins and you’ve got yourself all that you needfor making reflector cards and a means to keep them in place.5. A Computer Workstation Capable of Shooting TetheredSpecifying a computer workstation setup is a whole other can of worms, but chances are you’realready working with one so the big thing to notice here is the ability to shoot tethered. I shootCanon and EOS capture came with my camera. I don’t know if Nikon includes their Capture programor not but it’s worth getting if need be. Again, shooting food requires you to shoot, look, repeat. It’s
a whole lot easier to evaluate your shots on a laptop screen than on that little lcd viewer on the backof your camera.6. A Color CheckerSomething like the Expodisc or a Macbeth color checker is crucial. I ALWAYS shoot a color chart onevery shoot. This is even more crucial when using available light since available light rarely matchesthose preset white balances on your camera. Nothing looks less appetizing than a green banana.7. Studio Strobes or MonolightsThese can be fairly expensive, or relatively cheap. It all depends on how much you shoot and howhard you are on your gear. One key factor to keep in mind is the availability and diversity of lightmodifiers for your particular system. A typical studio setup for me contains 2 or 3 lights with fairlyfocused light modifiers like grid spots or snoots and 1 soft fill light, usually a softbox overhead orslightly behind.You’ll notice that the strobes are at the bottom. It’s entirely possible to do some great shots withjust available light and some basic gear. If you have the first three I think you’ve got all you need todo some top notch work. Sure, if you’re going to hang a shingle and start selling yourself as a pro,you’ll need more. But if you want to get started and learn your way around food photography thiswill get you moving. I think a lot of photographers use their lack of funds to buy really cool gear as acrutch – don’t.Source : http://www.digital-photography-school.com/