If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know I briefly had a food photography series. While I loved writing those posts, I started to feel a bit outside my comfort zone when it came to giving food photography advice, since I’m by no means a professional photographer. But in the last few weeks I was thinking over the things I’ve learned since I started shooting food three years back, and realized there was probably a thing or two I could share with you guys. I’m always so flattered by the nice things readers say about my photos- so here are my tips and tricks for getting the kind of photos I share on the site!
Practice The number one reason why my food photos have gone from this to this is straight up practice. I had no idea what I was doing when I purchased my SLR, but I started messing around, endlessly reviewed blog posts and articles online, read Helene Dujardin’s Plate to Pixel, and just kept shooting. If you want to get better, you have to practice and work hard in the process. And you really have to learn to use your camera. Even just understanding what all the basic functionalities on my SLR mean has made a world of difference- and you really should know those capabilities if you went to the trouble of purchasing this type of camera in the first place.
Lighting Want to know a secret? I shoot all of my food posts in our bedroom- as in, on our bed. But see those windows above? Look at all that natural light! I’m an absolute stickler about only shooting in natural light. There’d be a lot more recipes on the site if I could shoot our dinner every night, but it’s important to me that I don’t compromise the quality of the photos. If you’re not shooting in natural light and eager to up the quality of your images without a bunch of equipment, you need to switch to all natural. I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned that having the food surrounded by light on all three sides, or really from behind (as our bay window does) is important when it comes to the lighting of the photo. The best thing I can tell you to do is experiment- test out different spots in your home, try shooting at different times of the day, try different windows, test against different plates or backgrounds, try it outside, etc. Did I mention you need to practice?
Get on the Food’s Level A photographer friend once told me you want to shoot food in a way that stimulates eating food. Ever notice that certain blogger’s food posts will cause that knee jerk reaction of “OMG I need to pin this ASAP!”? It’s likely because the photo is soooo good you’re literally salivating- you want to eat the food! The photo stimulated actually eating the food. This is largely caused by the angle at which the food is shot (along with the lighting, composition, etc). That angle will vary depending on what you’re shooting. It usually takes me some time to find that sweet spot- I shoot from a ton of different angles, moving around the dish, reviewing photos along the way- identifying what’s working and what’s not and figuring out how I can make what is working even better. This is where you really can’t rush- the fewer photos I take, the worse the post. You need to take your time. The granola picture above is a good example. It took forever to figure out the right positioning of this photo, from camera angle right down to the oat pieces! And truth be told, it could be even better. But with each post I improve. One key thing worth noting- my 50 mm lens plays a huge roll here. It allows me to take those close up photos where only one ingredient or component of the dish is in focus and the rest is blurred. I’m not sure what the equivalent is for a Nikon, but I’m sure you could do some online research and find out.
Photoshop My photos would not be at all what they are today without the help of Photoshop. Like shooting food in general, I’ve learned to use Photoshop to my benefit through classes, online research, experimentation, and – full disclosure – downloaded Photoshop actions (which I discovered via Jacquelyn). Per Jacquelyn’s advice, I’ll begin by “auto-toning” my photo (sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t). Whether it works or not, I’ll then utilize Carrie of WishWishWish’s downloadable actions. Finally, depending on the photo I’ll either do some additional brightening or specific color enhancement, or perhaps remove some of the actions from Carrie’s structure if they made the photo feel overly saturated or unrealistically enhanced. The downloadable actions don’t work on all photos, but overall make the majority of my shots look way better. I currently use Photoshop CS5. It’s a big investment, but they have a free trial for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (a more affordable tool from Adobe). If you’re really serious about your photos- I’d download the free trial and get to work! Youtube videos come in super handy when teaching yourself Photoshop.
I think that about does it for now! Was this helpful? I’ve covered quite a bit, but I’m happy to do more posts like this from time to time if you guys find it useful. And also, if you’ve got any other specific questions- feel free to pose them in the comments. Here’s to better photos!