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.