Up for Discussion – Food Photography
After my call out recently for people who would be interested in writing a guest post for me, I got lots of emails, well a few, and one of them was from Jane Reed, and she does food photography. I though a post on food photography would be great. I don’t know about you, but I find food photography one of the hardest things to do. I haven’t tried it a lot, but it never seems to look good when I do it. I hope you find what Jane has to say very helpful.
5 Essentials for Improving Your Food Photography by Jane Reed
Food photography has grown in popularity over the past few years, yet it still remains one of the more difficult types of photography out there. I liken it to painting a masterpiece. You begin with a blank canvas, add your subject, manipulate the light, compose it properly, add surroundings and viola, you have a masterpiece! Starting out, however, can be quite overwhelming but with the right tools in your tool belt creating beautiful photographs is just a few clicks away.
If you have chosen to embark on a food photography journey it is safe to assume that you already have a love of food and a desire to share it with the world. The ideas have already started flowing, the recipes have been chosen and the food has been cooked. You are ready to tell the story of this amazing dish and you have begun to photograph it yet something is just not right.
If you are standing in this position right now, unsure as to why your photos are not turning into the masterpiece you envisioned, don’t worry. With just a few adjustments in a few areas you can begin to create the vision you have in mind.
1. Lighting is one the most important aspects of any type of photography. Proper lighting brings the subject to life while improper lighting can steal the life away. In this example the dragon fruit on the left is sitting in bright direct light from the window. The shadows are dark and take away from the beauty of the brightly colored fruit. The example on the right shows the exact same shot with diffused light and light bounced in from the backside of the fruit. You can see the enormous difference between the two. To show how simple this can be, I simply covered the window with a plain white sheet to diffuse the light and used a white board behind the fruit to bounce light back into the fruit and limit shadowing.
2. Composition I have found that the rule of thirds applies greatly in food photography. The rule of thirds is one of the main “rules” in photographic composition and is based on the theory that the human eye naturally gravitates to intersection points that occur when an image is split into thirds. In example 1 you see the dragon fruit on the left is centered and because of its color it still commands your attention, however, if you move the dragon fruit just slightly to the right it changes the composition into a more appealing and eye catching photo.
In example 2 you can see that the rule of thirds also applies to close up full frame shots of your subject. In this example you can also see how changing the composition just slightly not only changes how appealing it is to the eye but also changed the lighting effect as well.
3. Angles There are only so many angles that a photographer can use in food photography. One of the more popular angles is the “top down” angle in which you photograph the subject from the top looking down. While this is only one angle, you can actually use this angle in a creative way by how you choose to shoot the angle. In this example you can see that I shot the dragon fruit from the top down, but at different focal lengths and stances. The last two photos in this example were taken at the same focal length but I had leaned in closer to the subject. I usually start with a top down shot or a 12 o-clock shot and then move on to a 2 o-clock shot, then a side shot or 3 o-clock shot. The following examples follow the movement I explained and also show a range of focal length and stance.
4. Props This is where I differ slightly from other photographers in that I do not like to use a lot of props. I like to use minimal props so the food can speak for itself. Food is art and art always speaks loudly in its own way. I let the food do just that by minimizing the distraction. I also have a rule about using only what is relevant to food. A popular prop I use is linens. In this example you will see that one piece of linen can change the entire look of the photograph and can make or break the look. Another prop to consider is the plates you use. Never underestimate the power of the plain white plate. I shoot the majority of my foods on white plates and let the environment around them compliment the food. As you will see in these next examples, a busy plate can take away from the subject you are shooting.
5. Personal Touch Each photographer has their own personal touch. They have something about them that makes them perfectly unique. It is that personal touch that truly makes your photos your own. Armed with the above four tools, you can take your photos to the next level when including your personal vision. You will see a plate of food differently than the next photographer. You will envision different props and different scenes. Tap into what truly makes you who you are and use that to create your art. It is then that you will create a masterpiece that tells the story of the food you are photographing.
Jane Reed is a 25 year photography veteran located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her love of food and the stories it can tell are shared internationally on her blog The Green Tomato Experience. Her work can also be seen on her website www.janereedphoto.com. Feel free to interact with her on her blog, Facebook, Instagram & Twitter (@janereedphoto) as she loves to hear from others with a love of food and photography!
I hope you will all join me in thanking Jane for her post on food photography. She has included links where to find her, so please go and take a look. Here is a gallery with the above images and some more of her food photographs. Thank you Jane.