I’ve gotten a bunch of emails asking for advice about food photography. So, here it is. =)
- In my oh-so-humble opinion, photographing is a very small part of food photography. People who tell me they love a photo often follow it up with “What camera do you use?” Of course I’m willing to share what camera I have, but a good camera doesn’t guarantee a good photo. The unsung heros on all sets (be it food, fashion, or film) are the stylists, set designers, and art directors. These are the people who create something beautiful to photograph. It doesn’t matter how talented a Director of Photography or photographer is, if there is not something beautiful to capture, they won’t get the photo. The best move I’ve made was putting aside my camera and spending some time really focusing on what I’m photographing.
- A photograph is a piece of art. When setting up for a photo I find it helpful to keep the elements of art in the back of my mind the entire time. The elements of two-dimensional art are line, shape, color, texture, space, and value (a range of light from very dark to very light). When setting up a photo I go through a mental checklist of-sorts. What line will my eye follow? Do I have repeating & overlapping shapes? Do I have a good color scheme (I try not to have more than 3 colors)? Do I have a variety of textures- liquid, cloth, paper, metal, etc.? Do I have the entire value scale? If I answer yes to all of these, I’m usually headed in a good direction.
- I try to tell a story or give a sense of environment in my photos. The first step toward making this happen is to decide where I want my scene to be. Is it morning at the breakfast table? Is it a bar? A library? Once I decide, I try to make every element in that photo work toward creating that feeling. That means the props, the lighting, the color scheme, the color tone, etc. are all working towards conveying that sense of place.
- Collect props! The image above is just a small amount of the props I’ve accumulated since starting food photography. I always have my prop radar up. I have found some really great stuff at yard sales, thrift stores, vintage stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pearl River, Etsy, and Specialty Bottle - just to name a few. Feel free to leave some of your resources in the comments. =)
- I find planks of wood and stain/paint each side of them a different color. These become my tabletop.
- I buy lots of foam-core and spray-paint each side a different color. These act as my wall/backdrop.
- I am constantly studying food photography that I like – trying to put my finger on what it is that I like about a certain photo. Here are some great food photographers that I find inspiring: Tartelette, 6 Bittersweets, The Sophisticated Gourmet, Minimally Invasive, Honey & Jam, Great Food Photos, Chasing Delicious, Roost, La Petite Cusine, PureVege, Licking The Plate, What Katie Ate, In The Little Red House and Chris Court. If you know of a great food photographers, please feel free to share their website in the comments.
- …The camera. Let me start by saying that you don’t need a crazy expensive camera to get great photos. I’ve seen some amazing food photos (with great light and styling) taken with the iPhone. However, if you want to take your photos to the next level, you may consider buying and learning how to work a DSLR camera.
- The lens. For those of you going the DSLR route, I will tell ya that I rarely take the 50mm lens off my camera. I highly recommend it.
- Undercook the food you are photographing. Cooked foods shrink and lose their color.
- Spray cold food w/ olive oil to make it look hot.
Please feel free to ask me any questions or share your tips. =)