Sunday, May 1, 2011

Will Work for Food Photography

Sometimes I wonder which part of this I like best. Is it eating the dishes? Is it taking the pictures? Or is it writing about the food? Then I wonder what the readers like so feel free to comment on whether you want more words or pictures, or whether should I keep doing the same as I've been doing.

The photography part all started when my daughter lived in Chicago and I started to take pictures of all the places we ate when we visited. That escalated into taking pictures of what I ate and the blog came when I had a whole bunch of food pictures and needed to do something with them.

Now, let me share a few secrets with you on how to take better food pictures. First, start off with a good camera. I've taken quite a few very good food pictures using a simple Kodak point and shoot digital camera, in fact the photo of the seafood dish was taken with that camera. Now I use a Nikon DSLR, the D3000. My favorite lens is the 35 mm f 1.8. It allows close-up shots, the close focus is about a foot. I usually shoot in program mode and I have the ISO set to automatic with a minimum shutter speed of 1/30th. I use the program shift mode to decide the aperture when I want to blur out the background.

I don't eat many desserts when we go out, but they photograph so well. This was shot with available light at the New-Cavu and the white plate set off the desert perfectly. I use the camera flash when the lighting is dark, and sometimes as a fill. The idea is to fill the frame with the food and make it the star of the photo. Keep in mind the fact that I'm usually shooting just after the food arrives and I'm trying not to get noticed while doing it. I've had a few waiters and waitresses see my taking the picture, but no one has objected to my doing so. If I were doing this without trying not to be noticed I would take the food near a window or search for a good background.

Even food that isn't all that great can photograph well, case in point this panini. It was a bit dry but the picture came out great. For something like this I like to get in close and make it bright. A shot of the whole plate would have been too much, and uninteresting, but the close-up makes your mouth drool. The restaurant was bright and we were seated near the window, so the available light worked out well.

Burgers and fries can be a bit too brown and tend to wash out. I ordered this one with salad as the side so there was plenty of green to give a balance, as well as the red from the tomatoes. I often have to do some rearranging on the plate for a burger to make it look better. Some places deliver the burger with the lid off and the bacon placed on it in a cross configuration. I put it together and it looks better. This one from The Basics at the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington didn't need any doctoring. This is how I got it.

For the cupcake photo I went in close too and I blurred the background by using a wide aperture, about f 2. The tabletop had a cool pattern which set it off nicely. By the way, this is indeed a bacon cupcake and it's from the Hot Pink Cake Stand in Wilmington.

To get back to the secrets of food photography there are only a few things to be mindful of.

1. Lighting. Try to use available lighting when possible and use the camera flash as a fill.

2. Composition. Don't shoot straight down on the food, it usually looks looks terrible. Get a good angle and try a couple of shots.

3. Background. What's behind the food can make or ruin the photo. A dirty plate or a person's hand is not what you want to see.

4. Exposure. Play with depth of field to get rid of the background, or to make it clearer.

5. Have fun with it. Remember, you get to eat it when you are done.

6. Some dishes just won't photograph well at all. For instance a Fetuccini Alfredo on a white plate sitting on a white tablecloth will just wash out.

Lastly, if you are a restaurant owner and you need some good photos taken, e-mail me and we can talk about my taking pictures for you. That is if you are in the Hudson Valley of New York, Southern Pennsylvania or Wilmington, North Carolina. Just click on my profile and you'll find my e-mail. Prices are reasonable and I'll let you have the photos on a memory stick and you'll have all rights to them.

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