Posts Tagged ‘Food Photography’

This will be a short post as it’s Friday and my attention span is dwindling….BUT! I wanted to start a little series called “Food Foto Friday” wherein I show you my latest experiments in food photography.

Note: I am NOT a professional photographer! I’m learning. But I’m hoping that my learning experiences will help you. Or at least interest you. You can let me know.

First up: Experiments in Natural Light with Lana Bars.

I first posted about Lana Energy Bars here. And recently I made about 18 more batches so that I could bring them to practice with me and share them with my team. I used this opportunity to take some photos and practice what I learned at the House of Brinson Food Photography workshop.

What I learned at House of Brinson: You can take awesome photos with just natural light. Even if there isn’t that much of it.

What I learned in my apartment: This is true.

Consider the below comparison image:

In the image on the left, I turned on the fancy-pants light with umbrella diffuser thingie I bought at Adorama. Holy red overtones, Batman! That seriously looks terrible. Or at least requires some serious Photoshop color correcting. Which I don’t feel like doing, people.

On the right-hand image, I turned off all the lights in my apartment. I mean ALL of them. And put this tray on the floor. Not extremely close to the window. The window is on the left side and really doesn’t let in all that much light to begin with. But look at the improvement. NO PHOTOSHOP! None, I promise.

Also, House of Brinson taught me to love my tripod, which I now do. I attached my camera and pointed it to the floor – at the tray of bars. No shaking – which is great because I had to slow the shutter speed WAY down to let in enough light.

So there you have it. Natural light is better. The tripod is my friend, and there are energy bars for all (literally):


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This past weekend, I attended a food photography workshop run by House of Brinson. If you haven’t checked out their blog yet, you really should. It’s brimming with beautiful photography and recipes. Naturally, when they announced their workshop, I signed up immediately.

This was, hands down, the most helpful and informative food photography class I’ve taken yet. There being only three of us in the class, the small student-teacher ratio really allowed us to get in all our questions, and get as much information and assistance out of the class as we could.

We each set up a total of three shots. William, the photographer was on hand to give us advice on topics such as lighting, exposure and white balance, while Susan the art director would supply styling tips – as well as cooking up a storm (for both eating and photography purposes).

Here are the photos I took, with some notes scribbled in for helpful hints.

My first shot was of a bunch of golden beets (pictured above). I kept the styling simple so I could concentrate on the veggies. That being said, we did get to pull from the Brinson’s vast supply of cool vintage props. Like the soap stone that the beets are seated on.

You may remember from my previous food photography post that white and black cards can be used to reflect light and create shadow. I used two black cards in this shot to make the beets a little more moody. Who doesn’t like moody beets?

In fact, roasting beets is a great way to make them both moody and tasty. Here’s how to make Roasted Golden Beets:

What You Need:
1 bunch golden beets (about 4), rinsed with the stems cut off
tin foil to wrap them each individually
sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap each beet loosely in tin foil.

Place in the oven, wrapped and on a cookie sheet and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife and soft on the inside.

Remove them from the oven and peel off the skin (be careful – they will be HOT).

Slice them up into chunks and place in a bowl.

Season with sea salt and the olive oil. Rosemary is nice too if you have some fresh on hand. Serve alone as a side, or throw them in a salad.

My second shot was of a Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Zucchini Savory Pie that Susan baked from Martha Stewart’s Pies Cookbook (we also ate a duplicate of this guy for lunch).

A filling of zucchini, tomatoes, and cheese was enveloped in a buttery crust like an enormous pocket. Check out Martha’s book for the recipe.

Two challenges faced me when photographing this pie:

1. It was a little lopsided – too much crust on the lower right hand side.

2. It smelled really good. Even after eating it for lunch, I wanted another piece.

I cropped out the lopsided portion of the crust (you really don’t need to see the whole pie anyway), and tried my best to ignore the smell of the cooked veggies and cheese. As an added trick, we used gray cards for white balance/color temperature control.

My final shot was of four leek and puff pastry squares fresh out of Susan’s oven. They looked so nice on their parchment paper that I scooped them up in the pan and started clicking away. Eventually, we decided that the pan wasn’t working in the shot, so we removed it, keeping the parchment paper.

We didn’t use any artificial lighting – all of it was natural light coming in through the windows. It happened to be a VERY cloudy day this past Saturday. If you were in the NYC area that day you might recall it being downright unpleasant: horizontal rain and whatnot. However, we were still able to achieve nice lighting by slowing the shutter speed waaaaay down.

And speaking of puff pastry, it’s something that’s ridiculously easy to make. I even recommend getting the store bought variety and then topping it with any number of things. Take for example this recipe from Bon Appetit for a Honey Roasted Onion Puff Pastry Tart. You could also use many of our suggested pizza toppings, like the Fig Prosciutto and Ricotta topping.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks I will have much improved food photography for you. Although, I will still be inserting many a wonky iPhone shot just to balance things out.

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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:

La Tartine Gourmande


What Katie Ate

Cannelle et Vanille

101 Cookbooks

I also check out Foodgawker and Tastespotting, as they both feature excellent food photography.

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.

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