Food Photography tips for beginners – a blog post for Blurb

After publishing and printing my blurb book, I was approached by blurb to do a blog post for them on food photography. Here is what I gave them:

We use all of our senses when eating. We eat with our eyes first. We anticipate what our experience is going to be at first sight. Then we use taste and smell of course. But the texture of food, the sounds it makes are just as important. All of the senses have to be indulged when looking at a food photo. The photographer has to draw on memories of the viewer and use a two dimensional image to create a sense of taste, smell, texture and sound. In addition, the photographer has to tell a story and draw on the emotions of the viewer. Food photography is not easy.

The task is a little easier if you start with beautiful food but not all food is beautiful. Much of the time, it is brown mush. When the food is beautiful, show its beauty and do not distract from it. If the food itself is not a work of art on the plate, use props and of course light to make it beautiful.

roasted tomato salad

Find the image within the image.

Many photographers just starting out simply point the camera at the food and accept what the camera records. But, this may not be what the photographer has seen through their mind’s eye. Once the plate is placed in front of you, the work begins. Here are some tips that for beginning food photographer that will greatly improve his or her images.

1) Don’t use the on-camera flash.

Light coming straight at the food from the direction of the camera is not flattering. Place the food near a window and have the light come in from behind or to the side. Using a tripod helps tremendously. If you use the clock analogy, with the food in the center of the clock and the camera at 6 o’clock, the light should be coming from somewhere between 9 o’clock and 12 o’clock (or 3 o’clock and 12 o’clock).

2) The bigger the window, the better the light but, don’t use direct sunlight. Direct sunlight causes harsh shadows and high contrast.

Filter the light or use indirect sunlight. A white translucent shower curtain makes a good filter.  A white reflector card can be used on the opposite side of the food to lighten the shadows. You can even use mirrors to create highlights but be careful and don’t over do it.

pastries and coffee from above

Shoot from above if your food does not have height and is graphical.

3) If your food has texture, show it. Light from the side and show the texture. Shadows show textures so don’t be afraid of shadows. Keep shadows soft by using reflectors and large light sources. Harsh, dark shadows are usually not pleasing (although there are always exceptions.)

mushrooms three ways.

Show height with a low point of view.

4) If your food has height, show it. Shoot at a low camera angle. If your food is flat, but graphical, shoot from above. If you can’t decide, try shooting from a diner’s point of view. Shoot if from all points of view.

5) Watch your background and make sure that it doesn’t take away from what you want to say in your image. Your photo has one hero and that hero should be the food-not the props or the background. Don’t overdo props. Props are supporting characters for your hero. If the prop does not bring your attention to the hero or the story you are telling, you don’t need it. It is just a distractor.

oatmeal

Keep your props and color palette simple.

6) Carefully consider your colors. Colors of the background and props should compliment the food. Choose your plate carefully. Don’t let patterns on your plate distract from your hero. A white plate is usually a safe bet.

7) Depth of field is important…do you want to show detail from front to back or do you want to blur backgrounds to direct the viewer’s eye. You control depth of field with your aperture so I never let the camera pick the aperture. Shoot in Manual mode (M) or Aperture priority (Av on Canon or A on Nikon). If you have shallow depth of field (large aperture), be careful of out of focus subjects in front of the hero. These tend to create a barrier and block the eye from exploring the image. Keep out of focus foreground subjects in the corners and on the edges.

pickled beet salad

Use a shallow depth of field to direct the viewer’s eye.

8) Use all of the compositional tools to make the food your hero. These include depth of field, leading lines, cropping, curves, balance and color. You want the view to look at the food, not the napkin, the fork or the background.

9) Food must always look fresh. This may require you to undercook to prevent drying out, brushing on water or oil to keep it looking moist, spraying with water to make it look fresh. Nothing makes a hamburger look worse than dry meat and wilted lettuce.

10) Work the subject, change your angle and change your distance. You will be surprised at what you find when you come in closer and find the image within the image.

 

 

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Taking your food photography to the next level

What do you do with time on your hands and a credit at Blurb? You write a book of course. Based on the the most common comments made at our Food Photography Critique site on Facebook, I compiled a list of helpful hints and put them into a Blurb book with images to illustrate the concepts.

blurb Food Photography

Fine Tune Food Photos

This book is designed for beginning food photographers and food bloggers that have started their craft but now need some tips to get their images to the next level.

Fine Tuning Your Food Photos by Jerry Deutsch

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Time to Upgrade

I’ve been looking into upgrading to a medium format camera for some time now but, my business didn’t warrant that large a format – especially at that high a cost…very high cost. But, Canon has raised the bar for the Digital SLR and came out with a new series of cameras that are extremely sharp at 50 Megapixels. So, of course, I had to order the Canon EOS 5DS-R. I was intrigued by the fact that they have removed the effects of the high pass filter, one of the things that made the medium format cameras so sharp. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the sensor is much smaller and will not have the dynamic range of a medium format camera but, I think it will be an improvement over the 5DMark II.

I pre-ordered from B&H Photo and Video and I’ve been waiting and waiting for delivery. Well, it finally arrived yesterday  I studied the new features, ran some tests and even upgraded my software so I can use the new camera in the studio. So, now, I am ready to rock and roll. 

When I get the chance, I’ll do some photos with the new camera and show you the results.

Please visit my new portfolio at www.photography-by-jerry.com and I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did shooting it. My latest photo book can be seen HERE. You can always contact me by e-mail at jerry@photography-by-jerry.com. Thanks for reading.

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Vacation Expectation

TangineI just went on a great trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I got some great photographs and memories. But, as a food photographer, I am expected to take photos of food in these countries. Bread, Olives and CucumbersWell, I was on a tour and with my wife and six friends and a full bus of people. Dinners were always in large groups. I really did not have an opportunity to shoot food, the way I would like to or am expected to. That being said, I did get a few shots that I thought I would share with you. I can also share all of my vacation photos of Spain as well as those in Portugal and Morocco. (I needed two photo books for this trip…sorry. Just be happy that I am not showing your the 939 images that I narrowed down to.)

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Tomorrow is my presentation

As you know from my last post, I was asked to do a presentation on food photography for food entrepreneurs by Foorpreneur. What do I talk about? This is supposed to be an educational experience for the students but, it does have a self promotion aspect to it as well. After all, that is why I am donating my time.

I decided to do a powerpoint presentation with three objectives.

  1. What is the value of good food photography?
  2. Helpful hints on doing the food photography on your own.
  3. What to expect at a professional photo shoot.

So where do I begin? We’ve all heard the expression “We eat with our eyes” but what does that mean? I decided start my talk with how an image must substitute for all of the senses that we use for eating. I’ve already posted the original version of this presentation but it keeps changing. So, have a look at the final version. I guess that after I do this tomorrow for the students, and entertain their questions, it will change again.

My Presentation

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My First Presentation

I’ve been asked to make a presentation at a bootcamp to Food Entrepreneurs to tell them the importance of good food photography, and how to achieve it. It is an educational program to train people new to the food industry. The company doing the bootcamp is appropriately called Foodprenuer. Here is the information on the bootcamp.

I am preparing a Powerpoint presentation…boy, it’s been a very long time since I’ve used Powerpoint…it looks so different and I’ve had difficulty navigating but, I found all the functions I was looking for.

Here is my Powerpoint presentation…tell me what you think. (t’s a PDF – scroll down to see the slides.)

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Death Valley

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I took a week and flew to Las Vegas and then headed out to Death Vally for a couple of nights. I wasn’t expecting 105 degrees in April but, as they say, it was a dry heat. I took almost 1000 images and am having difficulty narrowing it down. Here are a few…

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