I’ve started getting some compliments on my photography, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I’ve mainly been teaching myself through trial and error, so it’s definitely still a work in progress. But, in the process, I’ve learned a few very basic things that I thought might be helpful for anyone else who is just starting out:
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that lighting is very important for pictures. Unfortunately, good natural light just isn’t available at all times of day, so you have to either time your picture-taking, or replicate natural light the best you can. I find that I get the best results if I set up a table right near my balcony door between the hours of 10am and 5:30pm, and use a white foam board to reflect light onto the shadowy parts of my food. Since those are usually working hours, I mainly cook/blog on the weekend. But, even then I usually have brighten my pictures on Adobe Photoshop as well.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve taken a picture, thought “awesome, this looks great,” then loaded it on my computer and realized that it’s actually fuzzy mess that looks like crap on the big screen. Then I discovered the Sharpness feature on my photo editing software. If you’re like me, and have shaky hands + no tripod, this is the feature for you. All you have to do is slide the little “sharpness” dial to the right, and voila! Instant crisp, clear, FoodGawker/Tastespotting-worthy photos. Just be careful not to over-sharpen — if your picture is too “clear” you start picking up details that actually detract from your overall photo (fault lines in your cup, chips in your ice, etc). The “Luminance” function on Lightroom is great for smoothing out noise in your photos.
One of the things that always frustrated me about my food photos back in the day was all the white balance/color balance issues I had. I was taking pictures by night under fluorescent lighting, and all my pictures came out looking weirdly discolored. Even now, when I shoot photos on an overcast day, my pictures can still look washed out or yellow-ish. There’s nothing appetizing about a washed out, off-color photo, folks. But again, Photoshop/Lightroom to the rescue. 9 times out of 10, if I tweak the “temperature” and “saturation” settings, I can flood my pictures with a warm, amber hue that gives them life. You have to play around with the settings, of course, but it’s a life-savor, trust me.
My mom always says that food tastes better when it’s visually appealing. I didn’t really know what she meant until I started blogging. Then I realized that it’s not enough that your food tastes delicious…if you’re trying to convince people to try your recipe, the food’s gotta look tasty too. To that end, how you plate and/or arrange each dish is important. You can’t just take a photo of your food…you have to take the surroundings into consideration too so that you form one cohesive scene. If you’ve ever been on FoodGawker or Tastespotting, you’ll know what I mean. I’m not very creative, so I don’t have an instinctive knack for knowing what accessory or decoration will make something look just perfect. But, I’ve read enough food blogs and looked at enough food pictures to have a basic idea for how to make my food look more appealing. This is definitely something that comes with practice and trial/error.
- For a great step-by-step tutorial on the basics of food photography, check out The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog.
- For an amazingly detailed but very easy to understand tutorial on everything you possibly ever want to know about food photography and photo editing, head over to the 6 Bittersweets blog.
- For great tutorials on lighting, ISO, aperture and shutter speed, check out the Sunshine and Smile blog.