Hello! I am very pleased to have a guest blogger today: Ellen @ Hurrayic!
Ellen has a lovely blog and she posts about life, crafting, food and family. The thing I always notice about her blog are the lovely photographs, and I am especially drawn to her food photographs. Ellen can take the simplest food and make it look lovely and delightful, and let me say that I know that is a talent. Food can be hard to photograph!
When Randi asked me to guest post on her blog, I was at first flattered. Then she asked me to give some photo tips on how I take photos of all the food I post about. The flattery soon turned to panic on my end. Really? I'm not a professional photographer. Randi, it's only a hobby for me. But she insisted, and since I like her so much, I agreed. (smile) So today, I'm sharing some things I do when taking photos of that bowl of soup or that plate of cookies or terrific veggie salad that you have to share. For this example, I'm using a cup of Coconut Red Lentil soup that I recently made. My 'tips' are broken into three categories: Before, During and After.
1. Dress up the soup itself. So you made a bowl of soup and know it tastes lovely, but somehow the color of it is not that eye-appealing. Think about adding in color by using a spice sprinkled on top or some grated cheese or perhaps a little bit of sliced scallions. For the red lentil soup, I stirred in a bit of turmeric for a more warm yellow color.
3. Pick out props for your 'photo shoot'. I don't always do this because my family is waiting for me just to snap a picture so they can eat the soup. But when I cook during the day and have more leisure, I like to choose a napkin or placemat or other object to place the bowl of soup on/near. I've placed the bowl of soup on a pile of books for a more artful photo. Flowers are a great prop to use or a lit candle is nice too. (although lit candles are basically for nighttime use)
4. Walk around your house and observe the lighting. Where is the best natural light in your house? Which window(s)? I try not to take photos with flash. I really hate using flash. It's too strong and sharp, usually. So if taking a food shot (or any shot) inside the house, do so near the window.
are definitely no-nos for this photo.
with unnecessary items. Remove them!
1. Lighting - half the equation to a good photo. Read your camera's manual and experiment. I'm still learning new things about my camera. The best lighting i.m.o. is natural light. Take the soup outdoors or set it up near a window if you can't go outside. Try to take photos of the soup during the daylight hours (early morning and late afternoon is the best lighting!!!!) So soft and beautiful. If that's impossible or impractical, take them at night and use a tripod. I confess, I don't use a tripod. My daughter and my son both have a tripod; I'm deprived! (smile) A tripod will help a whole lot with camera shake and lighting possibilities. (You can take a photo of that bowl of soup with only a candle lighting it and still have it come out beatifully if you're using a tripod and a timer or shutter release.) When I take a photo of the soup at night (and not using the tripod) I'm at the mercy of the lightbulb in the lamp. But...
some yellowish...all these are particular white balance settings
and their effects on a natural lighting daylight shot.
3. Take lots of photos of that soup. Don't just take one or two. You may be sorry after you upload your photos to the computer and find out that the lighting and sharpness of the photo was really awful and now the soup has been eaten...
4. Vary your shot. Walk around the soup and shoot it from different positions: above it, next to it on the left or right, from far away, close up, shoot at eye-level or from below. Only photograph a part of the bowl of soup instead of the entire bowl. Eat part of the soup and show an empty bowl. Pick up the soup spoon and try to one-handedly take a photo of it. (hard!) Better yet, get someone else to hold the bowl or the spoon for you. Have them eat it, and you take a photo of them. (if you're shooting cake for example, show it whole, sliced, crumbs on empty plate with a dirty fork, etc). Use your imagination. Try to mimic what you see in a magazine.
photo is blurred. Not a good photo.
We want to accent the soup. Not the napkin!
6. Remember the Rule of Thirds. Rule of Thirds applies to the general layout of the image. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board on your viewfinder. If the soup bowl lies on a point where two lines of the tic-tac-toe board criss cross, that will produce a better looking photo. Try not to place the bowl directly in the middle of the photograph. That's typically a no-no. However, sometimes a very symmetrical photo of a soup bowl smack dab in the middle can be pleasing. Truly it's up to your intent.
7. Remember the Rule of Odds. This simply means that it's more pleasing to take a photograph of a single soup bowl than 2 soup bowls. Or shoot 3 soup bowls, but not four. Typically, a photo is more pleasing to look at when there are an odd number of items in the photo. A soup bowl and a napkin and a spoon resting on the table might be good. Of course, once again...rules can be broken.
1. A little touch-up can help. Ideally, it would be great if I never had to 'touch-up' my photos. But I do. Not all of them; just some. And for some that I touch up, I try to only use the simple brightening or darkening of the image. Or the sharpness if I didn't get it in focus quite right. Cropping is another handy feature. I mainly use the software that came with my camera, but I also like to use Picasa (a free photo editing software you can download on your computer). I'm sure there's other programs out there. My daughter likes to use Photoshop Elements for adding interest to her photos. You can do some pretty wild things using a photo editing program, but when it comes to that bowl of soup, I try to keep it natural-looking. Who would want to eat a neon blue bowl of soup anyway?
1. Look at blogs, magazine or cookbook photos for inspiration. What catches your eye? What colors are used? What bowl and utensil is used? How is the shot set up? Are there a variety of viewpoints when looking at the soup? Does it tell a 'story' ? Start to become more aware of food styling. I love looking at the three categories mentioned. Some food photos will set a mood or use a filter to change the look of the photo. I'm sure there's lots of tweaking going on in those photos too. Yes, there are plenty of tricks the professional food stylists use (I've heard of using white glue instead of milk), but the food I take a photo of is the food my family actually eats. (unless you're talking about my picky 11 yo)
2. Shhhh! Sometimes I take a photo of that bowl of soup the NEXT day. If I make a big pot of soup and it's nighttime and the lighting stinks, then I might use leftovers from which to shoot my photos. Just sprinkle on a few fresh slices of scallions or dashes of paprika to liven up the look of the soup. Or let's say, I make the soup (ahead of time) at night for next night's dinner? I'll photograph it during the following day and eat it that night. Know your recipe though. For example, some salads like this quinoa salad I made, looks best the day it's made. This method of photographing it the next day of course is better for that batch of chocolate chip cookies (after you've sampled a few!) or a recipe that will hold its own in the looks department.
Keep cooking and baking and eating. Critique the recipes you make. If you like them, photograph them and share with the rest of us bloggers. Or share them even if it the recipes bombed. That can be a fun post too.
Thanks, Randi, for letting me share the way I'm learning to take photos.
***Thanks so much, Ellen, for putting together this infomative post!
Be sure to check out Ellens blog, Hurrayic. You might want to spend some time browsing her baking and food sections. There are lots of great recipes to choose from, including yesterday's post, Cinnamon-Sugar Pull Apart Bread. All I can say is "yum" to that one!
Please feel free to leave comments for Ellen here in this post.
Have a great day!