Even before starting this blog, I have been an admirer of good food photography. Sometimes I even get confused as to whether I like the food or the food photography better. Don’t worry, it’s the food. BUT! I love a beautiful image, I am a designer after all. So when John and I started this blog, I used it as an excuse to start learning how to make my food photos look better.
Originally, I was just using the camera on my iPhone. Laugh if you will, but it’s actually a pretty good camera. These were taken with my phone:
What I don’t have in photography skills, I have been making up for in Photoshop skills. I’m pretty good in Photoshop. However, I wanted my photos to be good, not doctored to be good. And anyway, you can only fix a photo so much. Photoshop is not always the solution.
So I signed up for some classes. The first class I took was Food Styling and Photography at ICE. They had two professional photographers and a food stylist on hand to help out. The photographers snapped the actual pictures and we cooked, styled and messed with the lighting. Here is my favorite photo from that class:
I cooked those pancakes! We had someone SLOWLY pour the syrup over the pancakes as we took pictures.
The next step was to get a camera. You just can’t take photos like the above with an iPhone. You need a good lens that creates some depth of field. I bought my first REAL camera, a Canon Rebel T1i with a Sigma 50mm 1:2.8 DG macro lens. I took it to Italy with me when Marmo and I went back in October and was pretty astounded by the difference it made:
But I really didn’t understand anything about lighting techniques, I wanted to improve my styling and…just. get. better.
I study food blogs daily for their photography, and I’ve even compiled a binder of images that I like and refer to when I’m trying to think of photo setups. Here are some that I read often:
I realized I could only get so far on my own, so I thought I would take another class. I registered for a food photography class at ICP taught by Susie Cushner who is a professional food photographer. I liked her style: natural, well-lit, and simply styled.
Class spanned four days. For two days we were in a shooting kitchen. We had a chef and food stylist preparing food for us, and we worked in groups to style a shot, arrange the lighting and take the photos. This time, I actually took the photos. We used white and black foam core to bounce light (white reflects it creating highlights, while black absorbs it creating shadows). We used natural light coming in through the windows, and supplemented it with strobe lighting when needed. We also used diffusers to soften the light (tracing paper or sheer curtains work for this in a pinch).
We photographed all real food. We didn’t use anything inedible to coat, laquer or otherwise beautify the food. In fact, sometimes we ate it after we shot it (a potato and tomato pizza comes to mind…). Many stylists do use things like white glue (for milk) or glycerin (for liquid beading on a glass), but this happens most often in commercial styling. Editorial has experienced a shift toward more “natural” styling. That’s what we focused on here.
Please keep in mind that I am just a beginner at this food photography thing. I’m still learning. And it’s quite a challenge. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have with my limited knowledge, and if you have anything to share, please feel free!
Here are a few pics of me, concentrating really, really hard:
Above photos of me by Tom Mendes. You can check out Tom’s photography here.