Monday, August 17, 2009

Your Food is Ready for Its Closeup

Since I can't fit all of you into my kitchen when I'm whipping up some dish, I have to try to share it the best way I can. Since the last time I tried to e-mail an aroma did not work out, I have to take photos. Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

1) Shoot your food RAW. While you may indeed be taking a photo of uncooked ingredients, I meant to take a photo of your food in the RAW format if your camera can do it. RAW is an uncompressed format that basically saves the info from the sensor in your camera as is. It allows the photographer to fix a multitude of sins later without affecting the original image. You can always revert to the original without any ill effects. Every time you save a JPEG file, it degrades a little bit from the compression. Downsides to RAW files are that they are huge compared to a JPEG and you will have to convert it to a JPEG at some point if you want to share it.

2) Play with your camera. Without film processing costs hanging over one's head, digital photography lets one shoot with abandon. Just look at all the photos on Flickr, Picassa, etc. Feel free just to shoot at things you see around the house. Be sure to try all the controls on your camera and learn how they affect your photos. Play with natural light, flash, etc just to get comfortable with the effects. When taking a photos of your food, take a lot. You can just delete them if you are not happy with them.

3) Take off the training wheels. You can take great photos letting the camera do all the thinking. I take many photos this way myself. Learning how to set aperture, shutter speed, etc your self will open up new creative outlets for your shots. Aperture is especially important to food photography as it allows you to control how much of the dish is in focus. The larger your aperture(small f number), the less depth of focus. So if you want to concentrate on that perfect tomato in the front, open up that aperture and focus on the tomato. Done correctly, the background will be rendered in an agreeable blur. This blur is call bokeh in photo lingo.

4) Get up close and personal with your food. Taking a photo of the entire dish is great. However, sometimes just concentrating on one part of the dish makes a more compelling photo. You can choose to make a grill mark, the pooling of juices on the plate, or a bit of parsley garnish on top to be the focal point of your photo. Try shooting your food from different vantage points. Look for interesting angles that will make your food pop.

Taking photos of you food opens up an another creative channel in which you can express yourself. It's also lends a more lasting quality to something as ephemeral as food. Long after the dish is eaten and the dishes washed, you have a photographic souvenir of you deeds in the kitchen.




8 comments:

ladyberd said...

Thanks for the tips John. I've been looking at getting a better camera - any recommendations?

John D. said...

I've been very happy with my Cannon Rebel XSi. The current model is the XTi which has a few more megapixels and the ability to do video. I would just buy the body and pick up the 28mm-135mm lens to go with it to start.

tickled pink said...

Thanks for the info John, I've never been camera perfect with regular cameras. I'm going to buy a digital one, just got to figure it out.

Frank said...

Great post! I've posted a link to this page on the discussion forum of food photography we've got going on Foodbuzz...

squintingeyes said...

Great info on food photography. My camera is a cheap digital one. So, I can't shoot it in RAW format. I did take some photos in my kitchen for the first time yesterday, but I found out that I didn't have enough lighting and other necessary equipments in my condo. Anyway, I did manage to get it done. It's going to be a while before I can afford some proper equipments and a decent camera:)

CheapAppetite

Your picture looks really good though.

Ryan said...

This info is greatly appreciated as we're just getting into food photography more with our blog.

We just bought a Canon Rebel XSi a few days ago, so it's great to see you like the camera. We were debating getting the Canon or Nikon D60, but the Canon seemed to better suit our needs.

Thanks again

Lo said...

Great advice -- I used to try to get just a few good shots, but now I take bunches and really look at them all before posting. Takes time, but it's totally worth it.

We've been looking to upgrade to the Canon Rebel for a while now -- but I'm a bit freaked out by the learning curve that's inevitable with a camera change. I'm just starting to get used to all the quirks about my current camera :)

Lo said...

Oh -- and I wanted to ask.
What's your favorite way to get decent lighting when natural light isn't available? I've gotten spoiled by all the summer light. But, I'm looking at the impending fall/winter... and before I know it, the kitchen will be dark by 6pm. Baaaaad for my photography...