Photo Challenge: Food


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Article Courtesy by Denise Gormish

The most challenging type of photography can be food photography - the ice cream melts, the lighting is bad and the background is distracting. While it can be difficult to shoot food, it is not impossible. Here are some tips to get great photographs of food.

Equipment. A good camera and lens is a must for good, consistent food photography. If you have a digital SLR, then use a good fixed lens like the Canon 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 or a good macro lens. It is important to have an f-stop around 1.8 to shoot food indoors when there is less natural light and to get a shallow depth of field. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, make sure your camera is on the macro setting.

Lighting. Utilize all-natural light whenever possible. The best location is next to a window. If it is too bright, use a thin, white curtain to diffuse the light. Avoid direct light. If you're in a restaurant, choose a table near a window. Avoid using a flash whenever possible because the flash will flatten everything in the image and give your food a fake glow. Use a high ISO, if necessary, to shoot without a flash. If you must use a flash, bounce it off the ceiling or walls and set your color balance to compensate for the artificial lighting. In my photograph of cookies, I set my tin of cookies next to a large window, zoomed in and took the photograph.


Food Arrangement and Props. Before shooting your food, decide on the arrangement of the food itself and the props. Consider how you want the food placed (laying down, standing up, against something, etc.) and consider what you might want to add to the photograph. You don't want to add too much but sometimes an element or two can add a nice touch. Make sure all of elements, including the plate of food, are clean before shooting.

Backgrounds. Remember that unless you are taking a close-up shot, there will be some background. Plan ahead so that the background works with your shot. Use a cloth, large cutting board, or paper as your background. You can use several sheets of solid cardstock or patterned paper under your plate as a background. I find that a white plate or background helps with color balance and contrast.

Composition. When it comes time to take the photograph, try to take it from various angles. There's a natural tendency to look down at the food but shots from the side, ground level or close-up make great photographs. Experiment with different angles. Try to get in close to photograph the details or step backwards and get the food and a few elements. In my photograph of a cake, I arranged the cake pieces on a slant and shot from a side angle. The background is simple cardstock.


Timing. Try to shoot the food as soon as it's ready. It will never look better than when it is first ready to eat. In my photograph of my pasta, I had to take the photograph immediately, because the pasta and the sauce would not stay looking good for very long. I set up the arrangements and background ahead of time. I quickly moved the dish to my spot and took the photographs


At your next meal or restaurant visit, get out your camera and try your hand at food photography.


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