Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Challenges with Food Photography

Plated Empanadas-2

I recently launched another blog “Craig’s Grape Adventure” that combines my passions for food, wine, and photography.  The blog is not just about wine and food as two distinct elements, but completely focused on the glorious union of wine and food.  The real fun of writing this blog is paying close attention to the wine, equally close attention to the food, and most importantly the interplay between the food and the wine.  And to top it all off, I have the opportunity to improve my food photography.

Empanada Filling

So far, my biggest singular challenge has been that of light.  Ha – no big surprise – nearly all photographic challenges have their roots in light (not enough, too harsh, not in the right place, wrong angle, and the list goes on).  With most of my photography falling into the genres of street photography, landscape, and waterscapes, I have not had a pressing need for a lighting kit.  Sure, I’ve long been toying with the idea, but I simply could not rationalize the cost with so much of my photography relying entirely on natural light.

Shrimp and Grits with Cuvaison Chardonnay-1

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a “natural light” purist (more times than not your neighborhood natural light purist is someone who simply does not understand lighting and therefore declares themself a seeker of natural light), I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  It may be time. 

Sautee Shrimp and Bacon

So far I have been successful in getting adequate shots such as those featured here and on Craig’s Grape Adventure, but at times it has not been easy.  Further because of the lighting restrictions, the creativity of my shots is somewhat limited.  So until I break down and buy some lighting (probably a couple of flashes paired with soft boxes and pocket wizards – or maybe cables as a start), this is the strategy I will continue to employ.

  1. Use as much available light as possible.
  2. Supplement installed lighting with whatever else you can find (desk lamps, night stand lamps, and one of those tall spider looking lamps, work lamps from the garage, etc.).
  3. Use white paper and sheets to modify the lights (diffusion and reflection)
  4. Use a fast lens and big aperture (shallow depth of field works well with food photography – more on that later).
  5. Push the limits of your ISO.  My Canon 5D is not as good in low light/high ISO settings as the 5D MkII or some of the Nikons, but all the shots taken here were between 800 and 1600 ISO.  There is noise, but no so much that it detracts from the shots.

Lamb and Cauliflower Puree

In a future article, I will provide some tips on shooting food.  I am not a trained food photographer, but necessity is the mother of invention, and I have been learning a great deal lately.  And fundamentally, it is no different than any other photography – it is all about light, composition, and subject.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.  And when you get a chance, check out Craig’s Grape Adventure.


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