Looking back to when I first began blogging in 2007, it’s clear that I knew virtually nothing about taking pictures of food. My process back then went something like this:
Make something, put it on a plate or in a bowl, put it on the counter or table, snapped a picture and eat. At some point in the future, upload it and post it online. No fancy camera, no editing… it was all bare bones.
It wasn’t until months later, when I was still blogging and photographing food on a very regular basis that I realized I had quite a bit to learn about how to make the food that I knew tasted fantastic look just as good on the screen. It’s been an extremely large learning curve over the last 7-plus years, but I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way. I receive a lot of questions about the photography on this site, so I thought a little overview might be useful. Be sure to read the whole way to the end; the folks at Adobe are sponsoring an awesome giveaway!
The number one piece of advice that I can give, no matter what type of camera you’re using, is to shoot as much as possible using natural light. I am lucky in that there is a breakfast room right off of my kitchen that is covered in windows, and that’s where I take all of my photos. The only exception is if I’m taking step-by-step photos while preparing a more complicated recipe – those are almost always shot at my kitchen island, under artificial light. The photos just don’t have the same life, pop and color as the ones shot in natural light.
One of the biggest challenges that I faced at the beginning (and that I still face today), is “styling” the shot. This means thinking through a background, the type of plate or bowl, garnishes, props like silverware or drinks, colors and the like. This might be the thing that comes least naturally to me. I am not inherently creative and I don’t have an eye for design, so trying to set a scene is sometimes challenging for me. Many times I go the minimalist route and just let the food shine through and speak for itself. I’ve found that referencing a color wheel can sometimes help with matching colors, and that food pops on white plates, as opposed to colored or patterned plates. Lately, I’ve been using more dark backgrounds; depending on the color of the food your photographing, it can really make it stand out!
While you certainly don’t need a fancy camera to get started taking photographs of food, you will notice a different in the quality of the photos once you start using one. When I first began blogging in 2007, I used a Canon PowerShot point and shoot, then moved on to a Panasonic Lumix point and shoot. In December 2010, I began using my first dSLR, a Canon Rebel T2i, which was a fantastic entry-level SLR. Two years later, in December 2012, I upgraded to the camera I am currently using, the Canon 5D Mark III. Although I’ve been using them for nearly four years now, there is so much to learn about SLR cameras, and I’m constantly Googling questions I have. There are a ton of great blogs and resources out there, but getting familiar with all of the settings and how they affect one another is best done through an insane amount of practice. Using that camera not only to photograph food, but people, pets, landscapes, sporting events – anything you can think to take a picture of – will help you familiarize yourself with all of the intricacies of the camera.
As for lenses, I started out using a 50mm 1.8 lens, which I retired after upgrading to the 50mm 1.4 lens. While I now have a variety of lenses that I use depending on what I’m photographing aside from food, the one I use for 98% of my food photography is a 100mm 2.8 macro lens. There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal with an awesome macro lens to showcase the texture of the food you want to photograph. I find that even if I’m not taking a super close-up shot, the macro lens still tends to pick up the most amount of detail in the food, so it is absolutely my default lens.
Once the photos are taken, I upload them into Adobe Lightroom, which is what I use to organize my photos and do all of my editing. I typically don’t do anything too drastic, as I try to get all of the important settings nailed down on the camera before I start shooting away. I love the preset function that Lightroom has, so with one click I can make a batch of edits all at once. The adjustments that I usually tinker with are white balance, exposure, contrast, whites, saturation and clarity.
While I don’t use Photoshop on a regular basis, I will load photos into there if I need to do any advanced smudge removal, or sometimes to create collages. I would love to get some more in-depth practice at using everything that Photoshop has to offer!
The folks at Adobe have an awesome giveaway for you – they are offering up a one-year subscription to their Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which will give you unlimited access to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Lightroom Mobile. Throughout the course of the subscription, the software will automatically update to the newest versions; no need to wait for a new release! Be sure to enter below for your chance to win! GOOD LUCK!
Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Adobe, but all opinions are my own.