Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food Photography Tips and Tricks for your BEST Holiday Photos

You plan, shop, prepare, cook and serve the most beautiful and delicious dishes around the holiday season. You work hard for days to impress and fill your guests’ bellies. Why not capture that work in a photo to sit back and admire all that went into making your day delicious? Here are a few tips and tricks to take your food photos from yikes to yum in no time.

Let’s start with tip #1: Do not use on camera flash to photograph food. Just don’t. Whether shooting with a smartphone, a point and shoot or your DSLR, you can quickly and easily use light to make your food appetizing, not something that looks like a mug shot. I shoot with natural window light and artificial light when creating my food art. Which one I use depends on the situation and time of day. A simple window can give you the most beautiful light for food photography. Artificial light is very useful in situations when you are shooting at night or indoors with little or no access to daylight or windows.

Don’t have a fancy photographer lighting kit? No worries! A window with good light and a piece of white foam board or poster board to fill can work wonders. If the sun is shining directly through and is bright and harsh, diffuse it. If you don’t have a handy diffuser panel or a 5-in-1 reflector set, use a sheer white curtain or even a white bed sheet. I have even seen some people use white tissue paper taped to a window to help soften direct sunlight. Hard light can work sometimes for high contrast photos with hard shadows and bright highlights. Get creative! There is no wrong or right way to shoot, it just has to make the food appetizing.

A work light clamped to a table or pole and shining through a diffused material can be a great window substitute. Try adding in tin foil or borrow Aunt Suzie’s compact mirror to use as a fill for shadows and to add highlights to your dish. Using a light source from behind or to the side can cause dark shadows along the unlighted side of the dish. This is where the fill card/white board comes in handy. You are basically reflecting light back into your dish to soften the shadows. If you do use an artificial light source like a work light and a 200W bulb, try to use the proper white balance so your turkey is golden brown instead of a bluish hue. 

 Side lighting, diagonal and back lighting can all work great. I like to shoot dishes that have a lot of details like the swirls on top of a cupcake or pasta with sidelight because I feel it shows the most texture. I love to shoot drinks with a light source coming from behind. It really showcases cocktails beautifully while helping to eliminate unwanted reflections on the glass. These are just suggestions. Some photographers use multiple lights and fills to photograph food.

Here are some simple examples of lighting using a simple window, table, fill card and camera. I personally suggest using a tripod or bracing your camera to avoid camera shake and blurry pumpkin pie.

Sidelight Fig.1
Fig. 2
Artificial Light

Tip #2: Look at your dish from different angles. How does your pie look from above?  Try shooting your mashed potatoes at eye level or your green beans composed somewhere in the middle. Instead of having your photo horizontal, try shooting with your camera vertical/portrait. Move around and really look at your composition and you will be amazed at how many different ways there are to shoot a dish.

Tip #3-Get in close to your subject. If there are a lot of dishes and entrees on the table it can really distract from your main subject. I love using props and staging photos, but I only use what will enhance my photo, not take away from it. Shoot from close up to where your dish fills the plate and then step back or zoom out a bit and see which you like better. You might like both and you may even like everything in your photo. You are the artist so the choice is up to you.

Tip #4-If you are shooting with a camera that allows you to shoot on Manual or Aperture Priority/Av, choose which ever option you are most comfortable with. If you are able to expose properly on manual, try shooting around f/4.0. Maybe go wider to f/2.8 or even closed down to F/11. See how blurred out the background is (bokeh) at each setting and how much you are getting into focus. I am not going to get too technical, but this is a great way to focus the composition on your turkey, not the wall behind it.

Tip #5- Feed your guests. Photographing food can become an addiction…I should know. If you don’t have time to shoot everything the day of your special meal, grab some leftovers and have fun. Food prep photos can be fun as well. If you are anything like me you will start dreaming about your next food shoot in no time. 

Leave comments and questions below! I would love to answer any question you have.
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Bon Appetit! !

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Addiction

So I have to put it out and there admit something to all of you. I have a personality quirk. Only one. I am addicted to magazines. I realized this today as I practically skipped into my house after getting the mail and finding not one, but three new brightly colored, shiny new magazines gifted to me by my postman. I am addicted to magazines. I briefly even worked for a magazine/media company (Hi Greenspun). My husband knows the best day of every month for me is when the new magazines start hitting my mailbox. He will usually get an excited exclamation point email telling him so starting with the word "yay!"

I have always had some personality quirk with either books or magazines. It started as a kid when I read 80 books over my summer break at the age of nine. I had stacks and stacks of books which as I grew older came to incorporate magazines. Teen Bop, Seventeen, YM (remember YM?) soon took over my room. Of course I have matured and at 31 my YM is now Vouge and Bon Appetit. .

I love everything about magazines (sorry trees). The articles take me to places I can never afford to go. The designs in the photos and fabric is instant window shopping for me. I dream of cooking in professionally stocked kitchens like in Food and Wine where every place mat is quirky and every wine glass is full of some single vineyard pinot noir countries away. I imagine walking down the streets of SF in my designer jacket, Chanel red lips and carrying my portfolio to Sunset Magazine in the valley in my new sleek eco-friendly case. If I had the financial backing I would create my own so I would never have to subscribe again with those annoying little cards that always fall out. No digital copy for me. I love print.

My really big dream is to shoot for one of these magazines and open my mailbox one day to see my turkey dish on the cover with its perfectly paired napkins and aged wooden table top. Until then I will keep collecting and making sure to get to my chiropractor early every visit so I can see what new periodicals are waiting for me while I do the same.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall is here!

I absolutely love Autumn! Coming from the Midwest, the three weeks you got every year where the temps were mild, the air smelled like crisp leaves and those little pumpkin face Little Debbie's came into the house with jugs of apple cider was heaven. Having a feeling of fall again for the first time is years is really influencing my photography. One of the first for the season is a butternut squash soup with red pepper flakes and chives. This soup is a great way to warm up on a chilly rainy fall day. Enjoy! And if you haven't liked my facebook page yet do so! You can stay up to date with posts, photos and my daily food writing of what to shoot next.

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Is it happy hour yet?

I had the privilege to shoot cocktails and entrees for a very popular nightclub here is Santa Cruz called MOTIV. It is owned by the same person that owns Suda, so you know the food is going to look amazing. What I did not expect was how awesome this place is. The downstairs is a nightclub where the young and hip college kids come out to play. The upstairs is a rustic sleek lounge with  a bar to die for . The staff  was super awesome to talk with which always makes a shoot so much more fun. The one downside was the shoot was upstairs. Yes, climbing steps with all of my gear without an assistant this time gave me my daily workout. Although I am not much for cocktails to drink, they are quickly becoming one of my most favorite items to shoot. They are colorful, fun, and the light play you can get is fantastic. I plan on a shoot a personal holiday cocktail next so stay tuned, but in the meantime, enjoy a little MOTIV.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Pics! New Website!

Check out my new desserts inspired by fall and a brand spanking new website to go a long with the yummy goodness. Cheers! 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Süda-A Feast for Your Eyes and Your Taste Buds

Warning-Reading this post will make you hungry.

 Since moving to Santa Cruz I have been fortunate to taste some of the freshest food in my life. It is almost as if it is taken straight from the farm to your table and in the case of Süda in Capitola, it is! I have been lucky enough to not only dine on their delicious food, but I have also had the opportunity to photograph some of their menu items and hopefully more to come in the future.
The menu that Süda has created since opening this past summer is as eclectic as their decor. Creative, rustic, farm fresh but with an edge. I had the opportunity try a few items and so did my husband and we were both in love! The Ahi Tower was a first for me to try and man was it tasty. The appetizer is stacked Ahi with avocado, wonton crisps with a delicious sauce and a cute little wasabi shaped leaf. The Lettuce Wrap appetizer with rice noodles, chicken and of course lettuce was so good. The chicken was light not fried, the Thai-chili sauce I could eat by the gallon and of course, the produce is from their farm in Corralitos close to Santa Cruz. I opted for the peanut free version because of an allergy, but it did not disappoint. My husband also really loved the fish tacos. Although it is considered a small plate dish, the fresh fish and savory black beans were enough to fill him up.

I have heard people rave about their cocktails, but I am more of a wine kind of girl. Their wine list is also local and was reasonably priced. I would love to see more pinot noir varietals (hint hint), but the Alfaro pinot I had went perfectly with my light Greek salad.  For a Friday night they were pretty packed early in the evening and the bar did get a little loud so I may opt to dine outside on their heated patio if returning on a weekend night. All in all I am very impressed with what Süda has to offer and I look forward to eventually eating… I mean photographing everything I can sink my eyes into.

Bon Appétit!


Friday, August 3, 2012

A Whale of a good time! Whale watching on the Bay

Last weekend my husband and I were able to check one more thing off of our bucket list-whale watching on the Bay. What an awesome adventure this was. We decided to take a tour out of the Santa Cruz Harbor with Stagnaro Charter Boats. The morning was dark foggy (as usual) as we all went aboard for our four hour whale sightseeing excursion.
   The boat was a bit smaller than I expected and was packed with tourists from front to back. The crew filled us in on the rules and we were off! First we headed passed the always adorable seals lazily waving us by. The pelicans had a blast of their own diving in the wave trails left by our boat. Some landed on their feet and some, well, did a face plant. The kids really loved this scene and I have to admit I did as well. As we drove out to the  Bay, the brisk wind and water really gave you a chill. Thankfully I was dressed for a Midwest winter and stayed relatively comfortable. Ladies, don't bother trying to look cute for this trip.

The further we moved out into the Bay, we could see the water spray way off in the distance. It was a Blue whale! The largest animal that ever existed was just beyond our boat. That was a really wild thought! Although there were no fancy breaching jumps or fin slaps, just seeing this amazing creature out in its own habitat was out of this world!  The ship crew were just as excited as we were and made sure to give us specific areas to look to and information about their spray, size, behavior and answered all questions we had. At all times the crew was respectful of their area we were in knowing this is their feeding ground and habitat.
Blue Whale

Humpback Whale Fin

Humpback Whale

A little further into the bay we hit Humpback whale alley! Boats from around the area quietly crept forward to catch the most animated scenes ever. These large creatures seemed as if they were out there just as curious about us as were were of them. At one point three humpbacks were feeding near each other and swam yards from the boat. It was so close you could feel the water spray rush over you. I never expected to see so many whales and so close! I am a PBS Nature nerd so this was just simply amazing.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Fin
The waters were very rough and it was not easy to stand without hoping not to get tossed overboard. The day was sadly coming to an end and we had to say so long to our new whale friends. As soon as we hot the Santa Cruz Harbor the sun decided to come out. Next time, I will take the later cruise for sure. 

I am a much better photographer than a writer so I hope you enjoyed the photos from the day. If you are ever in need of something to do, go whale watching! It is an experience you will never forget.