Lately i've been doing a lot of food photography. I really should say I've been going places and eating and taking lots of photos of my food. I've been supplementing my Instagram feed with new exciting places i've found to eat.
That's how I feel about my photography, my work; it doesn't feel like work. I love doing what I do, taking photos and living my life the way I want. So lately it's been taking photos of burgers, pastries or whatever else is beckoning to me. So I wanted to share a little bit more about food photography. I know it's been written about it a more glorious fashion in books, online articles or magazines but I wanted to share my little view of it.
So i'll be perfectly honest, a few months ago I really knew nothing about food photography. I knew the basics, some lighting and what not and adjusting colors after so everything looks great. I didn't realize how much went into it. Often times the location is not well lit and whoever has prepared the food doesn't know about food photography and you're given a little less than perfect presentation of the food. So when you show up and get the food to work with you either get something thats pretty damn good looking or you gotta fix it up a bit.
So the first thing I want to try and get is a clean plate. I bring my own, a few different sizes and colors because sometimes whoever is giving me the food might have a god awful ugly plate that ruins the presentation. I have a huge variety of plates that I collect from Target, Wal-Mart, Savers and any other place that I go. I also am consistently on the lookout for unique glassware and bowls. So the plate is the base, it's where the beautiful food will sit and pose for me. Now the next thing is making sure the plate remains clean throughout, I would rather not do photoshop after the fact to fix it.
The next thing is the food, it's gotta look amazing. I will usually work with the chef and make sure that they understand what i'm looking for. I want a picture perfect piece of food, no flaws and all ingredients showing. Sometimes this may mean adding extra ingredients or putting less of something else on something. I typically only need one side of whatever i'm working with, so it can be built up on one side.
So the next is location. I don't want to take the photo in the back of the kitchen or on a steel table. I don't want a white background that looks like it belongs on Amazon either. So I usually scout around the area where i'm going to take the photo and select a few locations. Depending on the location I will use a flash or strobe. But the best thing that I usually use is a simple reflector.
So someone asked me which is harder, taking pictures of people or food. It's definitely food because it's all on me to get the photo right. I can't blame anyone else on the photo not coming out. The food is just sitting there, looking sexy and I have my camera and tools to get it done. When i'm shooting a person, they could have a bad hair day, a bad attitude or simply just be wearing something horrible. So again, food is hard.
So back to food photography. We left off at starting to take photos of the food. So there's a few different ways you can take photos of food. You can take really close ups of it, if it's a sandwich you might get meat hanging out of it or the crumbs falling off the bread. The next is maybe one of the more recent popular ways, straight down; birds eye view. You take a photo looking down on the plate, highlighting the shape, portions, colors and textures of the meal. The next is simply at an angle, showing where the food is and maybe a few accessories (fork, knife, drink, napkins, table cloth, ketchup bottle, other table wear). The other way I like to get photos is straight on from the side. I think this is one of the best and unique views of the food. So whichever way you decide to shoot you have to make sure everything looks picture perfect before you start. So if you have to lift up a steak and clean the plate or ask for a new vegetable because the one you have looks kinda dumpy then do it. Don't be scared to squeeze, stretch, adjust and move things around so they look perfect.
So the rest is up to you, theres no wrong way to do food photography. It's whatever you make it. My food photography is always developing. I'm always learning more tricks and techniques to get my shots looking better and better. Sometimes i'll shoot wide open, sometimes i'm shooting at f8. It's whatever you do to get the shot and then properly post processing that image. One little thing that I don't always share is I use my Iphone to do some of my food photography sometimes. I usually use a reflector and pose the plate right by a window. I'm still doing a little post processing with apps on my phone.
I do have a little bit of an advantage though, I love eating food and I also work part time at a Mexican Restaurant which is part of a restaurant group in Worcester with ten different restaurants in two different states. So i'm usually around food quite often.
You can see some of my food photography on Gerardo's Italian Bakery's website. I've provided all their photography and it's been a real learning experience.