Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shooting food

See it, like it, shoot it, eat it!
I have it from a respected source that at one time photographers specializing in food photography were paid thousands of dollars for an image destined for a national magazine. When I went to art school in the '60s shooting great food pictures was an accepted art and craft.

When shooting soup, drop clear marbles into the broth we were told. These would settle to the bottom and force the vegetables, or whatever, to the surface. We were instructed to use shaving cream for whipped cream as it would hold together longer under the lights. Spraying food with glycerin to give it a "wet look" was an accepted practice. Bluntly, we were taught to cheat. But those days are gone.

Today it is very important to shoot honest food pictures. If the picture needs trickery, you may need a lawyer. This is especially true when shooting product shots for ads and the like.

So, if you like to shoot food, go for it. Take your time, pick your subjects, and you can produce pictures as good as the big shots. Today's picture shows a blueberry and cauliflower salad served on a bed a baby spinach with a fig and lemon balsamic vinegar dressing. It tasted as good as it looked.

Like so many of my food shots, this was shot in our kitchen in the seconds before sitting down to eat. It is illuminated by soft light pouring in through a large window. I admit that I chose the blue placemat for the picture but other than that this salad is just as it appeared.

My wife's the food artist. I'm the photographer. (This image could be even better if it was taken into a photo enhancement program to have the shadow at the bottom of the image lightened.)

Shooting food:
1. Use food that inspires you.
2. When starting out, keep it simple. One slice of back-lit lemon can be enough of challenge for a first picture. My favourite subjects are fresh plates of well-prepared food immediately after they have been brought to the family table.
3. Soft but directional light is often best. This light minimizes deep, dark, harsh shadows. Large windows work well but the glass cannot be tinted, as does bouncing one's flash against a white ceiling. This is where a TTL flash shows it strengths.
4. Try different lens. In tight with a wide angle gives a dramatic perspective to your image. Shooting from farther back with a long lens can make some parts of the subject 'pop' on account of the decreased depth of field. Speaking of depth of field, play with shutting down your lens and teaming this with a slow shutter speed; Often a bit of depth of field looks good with food pictures.
5. Keep the light clean to keep your colours faithful.
6. Be creative and gives this all the attention that you would give any picture.
7. With some subjects you must learn to work fast as bubbles break, froth falls and steam vapourizes and all disappear in seconds.

So work fast, shoot lots, try some different approaches and above all, "Have fun!"

Good luck!

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