It's no secret. One of the driving reasons why people visit food blogs is to look at mouthwatering food photos. I see you now - coffee cup in one hand, mouse in the other. Oh yes, I know you read every single word. Pore over it. Sure you do! But nothing arrests the attention of a fickle surfer like a striking visual image.
I look back now on the photos I took eight years ago and wince. But you know what they say. Practice makes perfect. Over the process of publishing 1,600 posts (This is post number 1,601. Ack! I know!) I've honed a few skills, learnt a few tricks, and become much more comfortable pulling out an SLR in a fine dining restaurant.
Last year I was approached by My Nikon Life magazine to share some of my tips as a food photographer. I do use a Nikon D90 and here's the disclaimer, no, I'm not sponsored by Nikon. The final article appears in Issue 3 as a four page spread, incorporating a profile on me as well as some of my food blogger tips. I have to confess I wrote these tips off the top of my head without overanalysing it or giving them too much consideration. But then I think that's how photography should be - it's often about instinct and trusting your impulse.
I've reproduced my food blogger tips below. Let me know if you think I've missed anything!
Food blogger tips
The secrets to taking great food blogging pics
DON'T USE FLASH
This is a hard habit to kick, and can seem a little daunting but it's worth it. Trust me. No-one ever took an amazing food photo with their on-camera flash -- all you get is harsh blown-out images without any colour subtleties. Using a mounted flash can work but I find it's very obtrusive and the constant bursts of light will quickly annoy other customers, not to mention your fellow dining companions. If you're really stuck, I've gotten assistance from the torch function on the iPhone 4 or the backlight from an iPad! The iPhone 4 torch can be pretty harsh so I make a little filter by tearing off a bit of serviette and getting my friend to hold it over the flashlight so the light is diffused.
KNOW YOUR CAMERA
Take the time to read your manual and play around with the manual settings on your camera. I always shoot with Aperture Priority so I can control how much of the dish I want in focus, depending on how much light is available. To compensate for low light I will manually adjust the ISO priority.
USE A PRIME LENS
A prime lens means the focal length is fixed (i.e. you can't zoom) but this translates to sharper images and a faster shutter speed -- essential for low light photography in restaurants. The most popular prime lens that food bloggers use are the 50mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.8 or 35mm f/1.8.
CONTROL YOUR SURROUNDINGS
You know you're a food blogger if you arrive at a restaurant and immediately scan the room for the table with the best light. I will often ask to switch to a table with better light, or swap seats with someone if they have better light than I do. The best way to get good food photos is to eat during the day - go out for breakfast or lunch and relish the abundance of natural light that will be a godsend for sexy food photos!
EXPERIMENT WITH ANGLES
There's something almost meditative about taking food photos. I like how looking at the dish through a lens gives me a chance to really scrutinise the physical construction of a dish. When I first started food blogging I experimented a lot with different angles, and I often find that holding your camera at plate level will help to give a dish a sense of depth and height.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR POST PRODUCTION SOFTWARE
I use post production software for almost all my photos -- it won't create a miracle but a little tweaking with brightness, saturation and white balance can often work wonders. I also find shooting in RAW instead of JPG gives me greater flexibility when editing the images later.
Inside a food blogger shoot
- Nikon D90
- NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 lens
I usually carry around a spare memory card and a lens cloth but that's about it. I either use my D90 or a little point-and-shoot to take photographs of menus or do exterior shots of the venues. And it's always important to make sure to charge your batteries regularly.
In my profile I do emphasise that "I find that food photos are an essential part of my blog posts. You can describe a dish in intimate detail, but a photograph of an exquisitely plated dish will always stop someone in their tracks. Writing about the food is still important - a photograph doesn't convey how a dish smells or tastes or the textures you experience with every mouthful.
"I also find that people read blogs at work, on the train, on their phones - sometimes people don't have time to read every word, but compelling food photos are a powerful way to maintain their interest."
If you want to read my full profile piece, please click here and here.
Fellow food bloggers and photographers - do you have any food photography tips to share?
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2/01/2012 03:03:00 am