Monday, March 14, 2011

Food Photography Tips (6-10)

2006 Baron Herzog Chenic Blanc with smoke chiecken polenta and Pancetta-1

In my last post I discussed a few tips to help with your food photography.  I want to take a moment to emphasize that I am not a professional food photographer and these tips represent what I have learned over the last month or so while focusing almost entirely on food photography.

In Food Photography Tips (1-5), I presented the first set of tips:

  • Tip #1:  Shoot Low – Angle Matters
  • Tip #2:  Composition Rules Work for Food Too
  • Tip #3:  Fill the Frame
  • Tip #4:  Find Some Action
  • Tip #5:  Eat Well

And now on with the next 5.

Tip #6:  Shoot with a Shallow Depth of Field

A shallow depth of field minimizes the attention drawn to other parts of the photograph other than the heart of the subject – the elements in sharp focus.  As you look through the examples throughout this post, you will see they each have a very shallow depth of field.  Shallow depth of field is accomplished by using a large aperture (low f-stop).  In my case, nearly all my food photography shots are taken at f/2.8.  Also, the longer the lens, the greater the contribution to shallow depth of field.

Polenta spinach ricotta and pancetta

Tip #7:  Shoot with a Long Lens

All of my food photography to date was taken with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS.  Most of my food photography is taken at the long end that focal range.  In addition to enhancing the shallow depth of field (see tip #6), the long lens does a great job of compression for added visual interest.  I understand that most of you do not have a lens like my 70-200.  And I know many of you don’t even have a DSLR.  No worries.  Shoot with what you have and make the most of it.

Happy Gnocchi

Tip #8:  DO NOT Use the Flash Installed on Your Camera

If you photograph food using the flash installed on your camera, or even a flash in the hotshoe of your DSLR, you will get some harsh shadows, halos, hotspots and unnatural contrast.  I plan on talking a bit more about lighting in a future post, but for now, use any lighting except on-camera flashes to improve your photography

Tip #9:  Add Color

Food is more appealing when it has a balance of different colors.  If your chef or recipe did not include much color, it is now up to you as the photographer to add some interest.  The most common way to add color is by garnishing with parsley, cilantro, slices of fruit, a dollop of yogurt, slices of peppers or radishes, etc.  You can also trick the eye a bit and add color off the plate with pretty much the same effect; flowers, colored glasses, napkins, fruit bowl, etc.  You all know my natural affinity for b/w photography.  B/W food photography just doesn’t work.

Butternut squash

Tip #10:  Capture the Textures

In addition to color, texture is immensely important to capturing the essence of a dish.  Food is often defined by texture; creamy, smooth, crispy, grain, etc.  The key is to ensure that when you select a focal point, make sure you are highlighting the natural textures of the dish.  Unlike color, it is generally not necessary to augment the photograph with textures.  An exception might be the case of a soup that has no real visible texture such as the curried butternut squash in the following photograph.  In this case, the garnish adds just enough texture and color to maintain interest.

Butternut Squash Soup

Check back later this week when I continue with more food photography tips.  In the mean time, if you want to read more about the wine pairings and recipes that go along with the photographs in this post, visit “Craig’s Grape Adventure” where I combine my love of food, wine, and photography.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


1 comment:

  1. Craig, this and the previous are great posts (and shots to boot). One caveat - Eat Well, but before the shoot. CF cards don't work well with drool on them (glad I didn't ruin your 5D).