Since I am hungry, I think a quick Food Photography recipe is in order. Here’s food, from the other day:
My way of shooting food:
- I shoot from a 40 degree angle, roughly.
- I use selective focus
- I use one soft light, and a back light. This can be natural light, or flash.
- I crop tightly.
- I like to make it look natural – with cutlery, etc.
- I arrange things as carefully as I can, and clean plates etc. after arranging.
If you use flash, here’s what you need: a table, the food, a flash with an umbrella above the food, and a flash behind the food aiming at you, possibly with some kind of modifier too, to provide what in portraits I would call “shampooy goodness”, and in food “yummy goodness”. That is all (well – that and the camera).
That’s what it looked like the other day, when I helped a student do some food shots.
And the shots looked like the one above, and like this:
Student Rhonda was kind enough to leave me the fruit cakes, and I ate them. Yum.
Every time I have dinner, I try to use that as an excuse to do some food photography, before I eat it.
And often I can. In those cases, as on the evening of August 10, I do the following:
- I whip out my 35mm or 50mm prime lens;
- I go to manual or aperture mode;
- I set a very large aperture – a small “F”-number, like f/2.0, or in this case, f/2.5;
- I compose carefully, to remove distractions. So I tilt, get close, move things, and blur out backgrounds, all to get a simple image;
- I get close! Cutting off half the plate is good. Fill the frame!
- But I include some of “plate, fork, glass”: things to indicate that this is food in a nice setting.
- I expose well, ensuring a fast shutter speed;
- I turn the plate, or reposition the food on the plate if needed;
- Ideally, I want open, soft light, and backlight. So I reposition the food to obtain that, if at all possible.
If I do this right, I now get this:
And then I eat (Pork Tenderloin – yum).
And while the food lasts mere minutes (knowing me, seconds), the image lasts forever. I thus see restaurant food as an investment. I eat, and I get a stock photo into the bargain.
Another note about that recent food shoot (see post of 29 July).
How do you get a shot like this – what are the important factors?
- Good lighting: diffuse from front, hard from back. That gives it that lively, alive, shiny, yummy, vibrant, fresh look.
- Good colour – white balance correct.
- Good colour – add green to red, if you like – the garnish is essential here.
- Good exposure – “to the right”.
- Good composition.
- “Food make-up” – again, that garnish. If food is older, use a brush with olive oil – that sort of thing.
Oh and that was a hurried shot – high-pressure shoot, no prep time. One reason you hire a pro is to ensure that he or she shows up, and that the shoot gets done as well as possible even if conditions are adverse.
Note that I teach specialized subject like this to interested individuals all over the continent. And also note, Joseph Marranca and I will do a “preparing and eating food” workshop this year. Stay tuned!
I am glad that I always carry everything in the car. Lights, light stands, umbrellas, pocketwizards, cables, lenses, and so on. So that when a restaurant shoot yesterday involved food instead of interiors, there was no problem.
As the restaurant set up a table for the food (which was long enough so I would not need a backdrop), I prepared the following:
- My Canon 1Ds Mk3 camera with 100mm macro lens;
- A tripod;
- One stand-mounted 480EX flash fired by pocketwizard, with an umbrella above the food.
- One stand-mounted480EX flash, also fired by Pocketwizard, behind the food, firing forward;
- On the second flash a Honl Photo speed strap and a 1/4″ grid;
- I set the flashes to half power and quarter power, respectively. This is convenience and experience.
- I set the camera to 200 ISO and f/8. (and 1/125th second, but this was almost irrelevant).
- I slightly adjusted the umbrella position.
- I checked an image’s histogram: great. Highlights in white table blowing out slightly, none of the food blowing out: perfect. This is experience – I could have used a light meter but this was a hurried, high-presure shoot (the restaurant was about to open).
All that looked like this:
And it got me shots like this:
Straight out of camera that is not bad, what?
Take the above recipe and copy it if you like – see how you do with food!
…delayed post. Things in my life are intervening, but here is a snap: a food shot. Inspired by the feeling that at 2am, I am hungry.
How do you shoot that?
- A soft light above the food (a flash in an umbrella).
- A back light from behind the food, to give it that extra sparkle (and to light up the steam).
- A simple composition.
Simple once you know, as always.