Food Photography Lessons Learned
This adventure started with me, a kitchen and a camera. And even a year and change later, I’d like to think it still is just me, my kitchen and my camera – plus a 1 or 2 extra pounds. Whew, at least it was only a couple, I’m still in the same jeans as college. Crisis averted.
The one thing that has changed over this year at least is my photography. Food photography is tough, oh man. I learned loads of wonderful things when I was in college taking a black and white film class with Beka our senior year – best move of my college education – but transferring what I learned there to the kitchen was another hurdle that I am still hoisting my arse over.
Or well rather, shimmying my arse through the doggie door to the patio where I’ve been taking my photos of finished dishes lately has been…never mind.
Last weekend I took a three day (really I only watched the first two – had stuff to do Sunday) online food photography class hosted by Penny de los Santos right here in Seattle. And the best part was that it was free. You can’t get better than that. This is the same online seminar that you may have found out about on PW’s photography page, but I found it first. So, there PW! (Okay, I take it back – I heart you Ree you know that.)
Penny’s photography is exceptional, amazing, awe-inspiring, and absolutely yumtastic. She’s been featured in practically ever major publication from Nat-Geo to Saveur. I learned a ton and got refreshed on all those pesky little rules every photographer needs to know about food photography, or photography in general.
Here is a quick list of what I compiled from her seminar. Some of them you’ll pull a “no, duh”, and some are truly enlightening tidbits for food, photography and life.
~Don’t forget the foreground, mid-ground and background of your photos.
~ Think beyond the assignment you are shooting.
~ Redefine your business occasionally and feed your soul.
~ Know what works for you – it may not work for everyone else.
~ Find the story that relates to you.
~ Conceptualize the story you’re looking to shoot.
~ When critquing or being critiqued – Never lie, be honest, but try to coach and identify the positives as well as the negatives.
~Natural light, natural light, natural light!
~ Don’t zoom, it’s a crutch. Move to find your frame, get intimate with your subject, push an envelope, get into your story. (Probably the single best thing I learned, seriously.)
~ Look for the new angles – overhead in particular.
~ Photograph with the dishes you use everyday or that you’ve had for years. They help tell your story, you’ve both done the work together – it will help convey your story and journey in the kitchen.
~ Use a white or black card stock to shadow or lighten angles of your photographs. I totally forgot this technique!! It’s so basic and easy.
~ Play with your food – make it art.
~Ask questions, be polite.
~ Wait for your photo, it will come to you when it’s ready.
~No matter what – do three photo assignments just for yourself. Find your story and shoot it for your soul.
~ Feed your soul – often.
Thanks to these tips, tricks, lessons and snip it’s I’ve come a long way in the last couple of years.
All of this helped me go from this….
(Boob cupcakes for my friend Peggy’s Breast Cancer Party)
Egg White Breakfast Sammie
And still, so very much to learn.
So – what are the tricks that you use with your photography, food or otherwise?
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I am so sad that I missed out on this amazing online course! I've heard it was amazing! Im so glad you posted some helpful tips. Especially the zoom one! I am a major zoomer and I think it hurts my photos. I don't have a photo shop so I need to get better at making sure that I get my photos as in focus as I can otherwise they are really unsharp. I really need to get a photoshop!
I'm bummed I missed out on the class too! Love how your photography skills have grown…it's really obvious how you have grown!
your breakfast wrap looks awesome! great tips 🙂
I missed the course too so thank you so much for sharing some key points! And your photography has definitely grown-I'm hoping mine does the same eventually! 🙂
Great tips, I am not photographing food but do need to improve my photos for my Etsy listings. I am curious, do you use any photo editing software or are you just relying on technique?
I'm glad you're finding this stuff helpful!
I do have a photo editing program – Apeture for my Mac. But most of my pictures I take and don't edit other than lightening the exposure a bit and cooling the pictures a bit. It really is all about the natural light. And not taking my photos between 11am and 2pm when the sun is at it's highest – it will lead to washed out pictures.
Hope that helps!
I'm still SO astonished by what a difference natural light makes. Shooting something at it's own level is what makes all the difference for me.
Post-shot, I treat by upping the brightness and contrast and saturating the whole thing just a touch. I like to feel like the photo looks the way it did when I lived it.
Wow, I don't know a lot about photography and maybe wouldn't have known better, but I can see a huge improvement between your then and now photos when they are posted together like that. How cool to see how far you have come. Maybe someday I can do better than snapshots! We'll see!
Another great tip, thanks!
I had fun taking that class "with" you. Your photography has always been good, so I can't wait to see where you go from here. I know I have a tendency to cringe when I look at my old food photos. 😉
And you have a Costco pack of Diet Dr Pepper outside your door…this really is fate!! 🙂
Yeah, we got the Doctor outside our door. ‘Cause we’re classy like that. hahaha Glad we’re not the only ones. haha
food photography is really great, i love both foods and photography at the same time.’
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