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Photography tips

A journey in Photography and sharing of how I go about taking various types of photos. Discussions include software and camera equipment and how to make the most of your equipment in a given situation.

Food photography

04/25/2008 04:08

Everyone at one time has a go at food photography. Yes, I have had a go in the past and failed miserably! Taking photos of food and having it look good is not so easy.

I want to show a couple of my recent food photos and talk about how I made the shot. Over the last week, I set up 2 distinctly different "shoots" and worked them until I got what I was looking for.

Ok, lets jump right in with the Results of the first shoot and a shot of the "studio"

Technical Info of the Chocolate cake photo. ISO 100, F8, 20Seconds with 35mm macro lens.

The "studio" in this case was very simple - I took my trusty white sheet outside and laid it down on a log and chair! Then, I simply set up my tripod to get the shot. 

If you examine the cake photo for a moment you will see that cut edge that is facing us is all sharp and in focus. You will also notice that I was taking a photo of a dark cake on a white plate.

I literally waited all day to find the right time to take this photo - it was taken only once the sun had dropped leaving me a wonderful soft twilight to work in. This light had both advantages and disadvantages. Of course, the advantage is that there is no better soft, diffused light than just after the sun has dipped below the horizon! the disadvantage is that you get around 15 minutes a day to make the most of it, and then you will need to shoot quite long exposures.

I received a bit of feedback from a couple of photo forums on this photo and submitted it to my list of micro stock agencies (already accepted in 2 from 4 submissions). The feedback on the forums was invaluable on how to further improve this type of photos.

In processing the cake shot I had very little to do as I made sure I got it right in camera. All I needed to do was to set the white balance correctly so that the plate in fact looked white.

A few days later, I came across another resource online that had several excellent articles on food photography -

After reading all the articles I decided to put things into practice and see what I could do to get a better photo.

Lets look at the end result and my "studio" for this next shoot.

Technical Details of the Anzac Biscuits photo: ISO 1250, F9, 1/20sec, 117mm (equiv to 234mm on 35mm camera), plus flash.

As you can see, this time I concentrated on not only providing a main subject, but also to "style" the whole scene somewhat.

This time, I was of course inside and my "studio" was the edge of my desk. Being inside in controlled light meant that I had plenty of time to set things up and really work with the subject to get the best possible photo that I could. I tried all sorts of things with the setup and the light and took quite a few photos before I got something I was happy with.

You will note a few things from the scene such as the camera position and the placement of the flash - which were both important to getting the photo.

The Focal length of 117mm was just what worked for me to capture the scene I was looking for and to additionally totally avoid any unwanted elements in the picture.

You will notice that the flash was at about a 10 O'clock position and very, very low - probably about 5 degrees above the level of the plate. Also, you can see where I have propped up some white card to reflect some of the flash back into the plate to minimise the amount of harsh shadow and keep everything a bit soft.

As the room had a large fluro light in it and I was shooting with a fairly high ISO I only needed very low power on the flash to literally rake the light just over the surface. I was using remote wireless triggers to trigger it and opted for a 2nd curtain sync. The final shot, I was using a GN (guide number) of only 3 to provide the necessary highlights. 

Processing this photo was fairly minimal as well - after all, I spent a lot of time getting it right in-camera. What I did need to do was to adjust the White balance and warm it up a little. I wanted to make it look like the sun was shining onto the food. I had prepared the look with the very low lighting angle. I also needed to adjust the colours a little to bring back the rich golden shades that were a bit washed out under the fluro lights.

I hope I have shown you that even though food photos are difficult to get that with a bit of effort the results can be pretty good! I still need to take more photos of food at room temperature to get my techniques right before I attempt to take photos of freshly cooked food - as this can be a lot harder to get a great shot when you literally only have 1 to 2 minutes where the food looks it's best. 

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