This is a guest post by Lisa from the blog Lisa is Cooking. She has wonderful recipes and we tweet sometimes on Twitter so I asked her to write something for us and share her behind the scene learning experience and tips. It’s about the learning curve, right?!
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I confess to knowing almost nothing about photography. The technical terms are meaningless to me, and using my camera and lenses has been a matter of trial an error. I’m much more interested in the visual aspect of photography and the subject matter of most of my photos (food). Sure, I’ve read my manual and I’ve experimented with settings to find what works for me in my house with the existing lighting, and that’s as far as my education in photography has gone. I use only available light. I don’t own any professional lights or discs for bouncing light or any other equipment other than a tripod which is extremely useful. I take that back, I have one piece of very fancy equipment that I use regularly. It’s a 79 cent piece of white poster board (what I referred to in a previous post as a “reflector” – Nurit). I place it on my dining table to create a white background for some photos. As I’ve said before, when it comes to photography, I wing it.
I shoot a lot of photos of each dish from several angles. Basically, I just keep trying new angles by turning the plate and adjusting the tripod until I feel like I have a few shots that are possibly worth using. Speaking of trying different angles, I can’t say enough about just continuing to shoot, turn, adjust and shoot again. I’m always surprised at how something looks in the photo compared to what I see standing above it. Then, it’s all about post-processing, and that’s an area where I’m much more comfortable.
In the past, I rushed to complete posts and didn’t do much work in Photoshop other than cropping and sizing, but I later realized that correcting the white balance takes very little time and makes a huge difference. I’ve adjusted my camera settings to get the best results I can despite the fact that the rooms in which I shoot are filled with dark colors. All other color adjustments take place in Photoshop. For example in the past, when I didn’t correct the white balance, white plates looked not quite white as seen in this photo with the paprika palmiers. Also, in that photo, the shadows are a little too dark.
A more recent example in which I did adjust the white balance is the linguine with frenched green beans. The plate looks white as it should. Of course, there’s always some additional reflected color in the plate, and some shadows give nice depth, but I’ve been trying harder lately to keep whites bright and shadows less harsh.
Another visual aspect of photos that I think is important is cropping. I enjoy taking very close shots that show texture, and I sometimes crop in on the photo to allow the sized, final image to show as much detail as possible. Other times, cropping is useful for centering or intentionally off-centering the plate depending on how the photo was taken. With the persimmon flan, I cropped in the photo to make the subject matter as large as possible in the final sized image. (Photos shown before and after cropping.)
With the beet salad, I cropped to center the salad in the photo and keep it as large as possible. (Photos shown before and after cropping.)
I’ve mentioned final, sized photos and thought I should explain what I mean by that. For my blog, my content area is sized at 500 pixels wide, and that’s the width to which I size my photos. After fixing colors, white balance, and cropping, I size all my photos down to 500 pixels wide by whatever height is proportional at 72 dpi. So my close-up crops are all about showing as much as I can within those 500 pixels.
I realize I should probably take the time to learn something about all that technical stuff about photography, and I probably will at some point. For now though, I have fun figuring it out as I go and relying on Photoshop.
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My questions for Lisa:
How many photos do you take for each dish?
I take about 4-10 photos during prep, and then the plated shots may number from 10-20. Depends on the dish and if I take some shots in a pan vs on a plate, etc.
What is your “available light”? Can you explain more about “the rooms in which I shoot are filled with dark colors”?
Available light just means that I don’t set up any spotlights or flashes. My kitchen is painted a medium blue color, and my dining room is dark red with a dark wood table, and those are the rooms where I take all my food photos.
What time of the day do you usually shoot?
A lot of my photos are taken at night–right before dinner. Occasionally, I take photos during the afternoon if I’ve baked cookies or something that’s not been made for dinner.
Do you use a point and shoot or DSLR? What lenses do you use?
I use a Canon Rebel XSi with an 18-55mm lens and a Sigma 50mm macro lens.
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If you would like to guest post about your food photography, contact me via this e-mail nurit AT familyfriendlyfood DOT com
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Categories : Food Photography