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Food Shutter Bug Club


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#331 robyn

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 08:24 PM

"Note, the extreme depth of field in the photo above is something that's difficult to achieve with most point-and-shoot digital cameras - especially older models."

Amen to that. I am shooting with an older Kodak Easy Share. Just getting things in any kind of focus on close-ups can also be a chore (which is perhaps why I wind up throwing away 95% of what I shoot :smile: ). This is kind of typical of what you might wind up with. Note that this was a platter being passed around at an event in a restaurant. It wasn't moving faster than a speeding bullet - but it was pretty hard to get it at all.

Posted Image

Still - any old camera is good enough if you're learning composition - which is perhaps the most important thing in terms of taking good pictures. And if things come out a little fuzzy - you can always say that your pictures are "arty" :biggrin: . By the way - if you put pictures like this in a slide-show that dissolves "in" and "out" - you don't notice the imperfections as much. Robyn

#332 Toliver

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 12:11 PM

I didn't mind the wood background so much. The human eye performs unconscious selective editing, meaning when we say "what a great sunset!", we're not talking about the freeway in the foreground and the billboards flanking the scene on either side but are just focusing on the sunset itself. Everything else gets relegated to the "background" because it's not the subject of our focus.
That's where cropping of the photo (constraining how the subject is seen) and plating or posing of the original subject can take a so-so picture and give it visual impact as the others have posted.
Here's the same marshmallow picture, but cropped:
Posted Image
This was cropped in Photoshop but just about any photo post-processing program (Picasa, etc) should be able to do the same. I also adjusted the contrast and color and sharpened the photo a little which brought out the texture in the image.
So now, the wood wall in the background is just a dark backdrop and the tightness of the image constrains the viewer's eye to just the marshmallows, which was the intent of the original photo. I think a slightly stronger filler/kicker/reflector (see previous posts) on the right side would have lit the foreground faces a little better but it's still some nice marshmallows!
As for cropping, some do it when taking the actual photo, others do it after the fact like I did in this example. Keep taking oodles of photos and eventually your ratio of good photos to so-so photos will change to the better.

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


#333 snekse

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 12:34 PM

Here's the same marshmallow picture, but cropped:
Posted Image

This was cropped in Photoshop but just about any photo post-processing program (Picasa, etc) should be able to do the same. I also adjusted the contrast and color and sharpened the photo a little which brought out the texture in the image.  So now, the wood wall in the background is just a dark backdrop and the tightness of the image constrains the viewer's eye to just the marshmallows, which was the intent of the original photo.

I'm interested to know what exactly you did to adjust the contrast and color. It almost looks like the saturation was increased in the marshmallows. Also, you said you sharpened the image, but the background looks softened. Why would this be?

Original Image:
Posted Image

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#334 Toliver

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 05:16 PM

I'm interested to know what exactly you did to adjust the contrast and color.  It almost looks like the saturation was increased in the marshmallows.  Also, you said you sharpened the image, but the background looks softened.  Why would this be?

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The first thing I always do with a photo in Photoshop is to run the Auto Color, Auto Contrast and Auto Levels features to see whether the results look better or worse.
Sometimes it ends up a lot worse and you can always use Undo or the History palette to return the image to its original state. You can also use the EDIT>FADE function to soften the changes as you make them so, for example, any shift in color won't be drastic. The change in saturation was a result of the Auto filters.
When I increase the contrast in a photo, it usually makes whatever is light lighter and whatever is dark darker. This is why the background seems like it got softened. It's just darker. If it looks softer to you that's an optical illusion.
The sharpening (I used the Unsharp Mask...why it's called that, I have no idea) was to make the texture "pop" a little more which, to me, was one of the points of the picture in the first place. Sharpening didn't impact the background in this photo...it was the Contrast adjustment that changed it.

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”
– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”


#335 harlanturk

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Posted 21 March 2006 - 09:15 AM

TILT SHIFT Technique

Another good tool for Food Photography is the TILT SHIFT Technique.

If you do not own a Tilt Shift Camera, then there is a photoshop tutorial on how to "fake" it:

http://recedinghairl...rials/fakemodel

There is also a product called LENSBABIES, which is a selective focus SLR lens.
Michael Harlan Turkell, PHOTOGRAPHER
"BACK OF THE HOUSE" Project, www.harlanturk.com , PLOG: harlanturk.blogspot.com

#336 natasha1270

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 10:55 AM

Robyn, Toliver, Snekse et al.

Sorry I haven’t been able to reply sooner, I’ve had to be away from the computer for a while. Thanks so much for your comments.

Some interesting comments re: composition. I was treating the marshmallows as a bit of still life…trying to capture color, texture and light. Not necessarily magazine-style photos. But I agree it winds up looking “static”. I guess “movement” is one of those qualities I will try to play with more in the future. I've not played around with photoshopping much either, are most digital food photos heavily altered? So far my photos are pretty straight off the camera with occasional cropping.

Earlier in this thread, I think there was some interest in having everyone photograph the same object (ie egg, fruit, slice of cake, etc). Is anyone still interested?


N.
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#337 snekse

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Posted 24 March 2006 - 11:43 AM

Earlier in this thread, I think there was some interest in having everyone photograph the same object (ie egg, fruit, slice of cake, etc). Is anyone still interested?

There's actually a blog meme that's doing something like that called Foodography.

http://www.flickr.co...s/foodography3/

On a somewhat related note, has anyone seen this site?
http://foodography.m...429823578/29838
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#338 robyn

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 04:44 PM

Robyn, Toliver, Snekse et al.

Sorry I haven’t been able to reply sooner, I’ve had to be away from the computer for a while. Thanks so much for your comments.

Some interesting comments re: composition. I was treating the marshmallows as a bit of still life…trying to capture color, texture and light. Not necessarily magazine-style photos. But I agree it winds up looking “static”. I guess “movement” is one of those qualities I will try to play with more in the future. I've not played around with photoshopping much either, are most digital food photos heavily altered? So far my photos are pretty straight off the camera with occasional cropping.

Earlier in this thread, I think there was some interest in having everyone photograph the same object (ie egg, fruit, slice of cake, etc). Is anyone still interested?


N.

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I would be interested - but it will have to be a "summer project".  We're getting ready to go to Japan now - will be back in late April - and I'm sure by the time we've caught up once we get home - we'll be talking near end of May.

I'll be taking lots of pictures in Japan - and if I wind up with anything worth while - I'll post them here.

Right now - I am working on the pictures I took last week at The Players Championship.  Wish golfers would stay put like food!  Robyn

Edited by robyn, 27 March 2006 - 04:45 PM.


#339 jeniac42

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Posted 29 March 2006 - 06:54 PM

OK, so it's been a long while since I had anything better than a point-and-shoot camera. This week Amazon was having a sale, so I got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 to play with. Since I'm at my office, the most interesting thing available to photograph was a steak and potato pizza in its delivery box.

Like I said, it's been a long time since I did any real photography, so I'd be interested in any comments on this photo. I used aperture priority at f/2.8 to try to achieve some depth of field. It proved extremely difficult; this might partially have been due to the fact that I'm just learning to use the camera. Focal length was, apparently, 19.4mm; I used the flash to try to compensate for the fluorescent lighting and let the camera auto-focus on the large piece of, um, steak on the right before framing the shot. I wanted to crop out the back, where you can see the pizza box edge, but if I'd done that I'd have lost what little DOF I did have.

I'm hoping to get more into food photography; at any rate, here's my contribution to keeping this thread hoppin' for now:
Posted Image
Jennie

#340 snekse

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Posted 30 March 2006 - 08:28 AM

I used the flash to try to compensate for the fluorescent lighting and let the camera auto-focus on the large piece of, um, steak on the right before framing the shot.

Just out of curiosity, why did you use the flash to compensate for the fluorescent lighting vs. adjusting the white balance? I've found recently that using the flash tends to flatten the image some how.
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#341 jeniac42

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 12:00 PM

Snekse, I think you're right about the flash causing the image to look flatter. I did it because it was the only technique I could remember, and for some reason using the camera's WB feature didn't occur to me. Whoops!

I will play around with it more once I have a dining room table (ie place to take reasonable photos) and a larger memory card. I've only got a 16MB SD and we all know how inadequate that is!
Jennie

#342 LaraF

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 04:08 PM

Hi All,

I'm fairly new to eGullet, so I'm hoping that adding this reply to the original message was the right thing to do... also, I'm hoping folks don't mind me linking off to another site for the photos. Feel free to guide me if I'm doing this all wrong!

Anyway... I'm hoping to get some good, constructive critical feedback on my food photography work. Feel free to tell it like it is. For some context, I'm completely amatuer at this point, although I do have hopes that I might do more than that someday. But, I realize that I have lots of work to do before I get there.

I'm shooting with a Canon20D, and tend to gravitate towards my 100mm 2.8 and 50mm 1.4, always on a tripod. My shooting location is a nook off of my kitchen, so I use natural light when I can... but on most of these I am using a couple of Tota halogens (generally there is natural light leaking in as well)... and I'm using a Mole Richardson mini-mole spot in a couple. I haven't moved to strobes yet.

For most of these photos, I did everything soup to nuts... recipes, cooking, stying, shooting, etc. I'm really looking for more tips on the photography itself, but if you have styling feedback, that's ok too.

A small sampling of my photos are here:
http://flickr.com/ph...57594181896104/

Feel free to leave feedback here, or on the individual photos on Flickr.

Thanks!
-L

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#343 Pan

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 05:02 PM

I love the photos of the sesame noodle salad, the chanterelles, the yogurt pops (great composition!), the red sauce with the egg and the steam coming up in front of the pan handle (Babbo's eggs), the glass of white wine with asparagus soup and toast, the stacked up cinammon rolls, the spoonful of ice cream, the goat cheese ice cream with a tongue of it facing us, and the mint iced tea, and there are great things about some of the rest of the photos (e.g., the beautiful arrangement of the red onions in the salad and crisp focus in the foreground of "21 Steps"; the beauty of the rhubard scone cake and interesting interplay of diagonal planes in the photo; the colorful fingernails and vivid strawberries in another photo). The question I'd ask you is what effect you're trying for when the subject of your photo is cut off or cropped. For example, in the photo with the painted fingernails and strawberries, I'd like it better if the woman's left hand were fully visible. The composition of the rustic cherry pie photo is interesting but seems tense to me. I look at the composition of photos with the same eye I use to look at compositions in paintings, so I find compositions like the goat cheese ice cream sandwich tense and lopsided, much as I would if it were a painting of an incomplete circle of one color on a background of another (the composition actually reminds of the Legers). The lopsidedness is intentional, but do you intend tension? To me, a harmonious composition has a feeling of completeness, which is why I find the photo of Babbo's eggs so appealing. The pan is cut off, but the composition is balanced, with fascinating interplay between the center line and the sides, and between the light and dark areas of the photo.

I only wish I were 1/5 as good a photographer as you, but if my reactions were of any use to you at all, that would make me happy.

Edited by Pan, 01 July 2006 - 01:05 PM.


#344 LaraF

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 10:13 AM

Michael,

Yes! Very helpful. Thank you so much!

As for the cropped out composition thing... it is mostly intentional, but as to the theory behind it, um, I really don't have one. It's something I've seen in other photographers photos that I like, so I've given it a try to see how it goes (ie, that's my very typical way of learning). Most of the time, though, I kind of like the tension from only telling part of the story. To me, it often adds energy... and helps the viewer to see the food differently.

That said, the fact that not all the hands were in the photo? That was a mistake... I hadn't noticed the problem until working the photos later. I definitely agree that the full hands (but not necessarily the face) should be in the shot.

Thanks again for the detailed feedback! It's great and definitely gives me something more to consider as I shoot!

-L

#345 Pan

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 01:10 PM

I agree that it's good not to have the woman's face in the shot of the strawberries. I'm glad my comments are of some use to you.

#346 oakapple

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:52 AM

I've been food blogging a while, but just got my first digital camera a few weeks ago. It's what I'd call a basic consumer model (an Olympus Stylus 710, which lists for about $250).

I've started including food photos in my blog (here). If you look at a few of the posts, you'll see that most of the food photos are just barely passable. A few have turned out well, but I'm not able to do it consistently.

Like most digital cameras, mine has a ton of options. I've played around with different settings: flash, or not; fully automatic, or not; high ISO, or not; manually adjusting the brightness, or not. I've found several sites that specifically recommend against using flash, but this has been no guarantee of success.

Although I enjoy being able to take photos for my blog, I don't want photography to become so all-consuming that it interferes with my companions' or other diners' enjoyment of the meal (or, for that matter, my enjoyment).

Does anyone have any suggestions?

#347 Jmahl

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:30 AM

Good photos are, to a large degree, about light. You might want to look at a thing called a "Lowelego" Its a self contained digital imaging light. I have one and I like the results.

Good shooting,

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#348 Sararwelch

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:36 AM

I just started a food blog about 6 weeks ago, and I've found with the photos that it's really just a matter of practice. My pictures are getting better and it definitely helped to read the manual that came with my camera.

#349 oakapple

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:48 AM

I just started a food blog about 6 weeks ago, and I've found with the photos that it's really just a matter of practice. My pictures are getting better and it definitely helped to read the manual that came with my camera.

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Sara, what did you change to make your photos turn out better?

#350 johnder

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:11 AM

Get a mini tabletop tripod. Never use a flash. Turn the camera so you can adjust the manual settings and manually set the exposure and use a macro setting if the camera has one.

The problem with most indoor dinner type photos is you are dealing with low light. As a result you need to have a long exposure. If you don't have a tripod it will be blurry and out of focus as the camera is moving around.
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#351 philadining

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:20 AM

Good photos are, to a large degree, about light.  You might want to look at a thing called a "Lowelego" Its a self contained digital imaging light.  I have one and I like the results.

View Post

It's absolutely true that good photos are largely about light. Also true that the Lowel Ego is a cool little light, but not so good for schlepping to restaurants!

http://www.lowelego.com/

If you're mostly shooting in restaurants, my tips would be to try to sit in the best-lit area, there's an amazing range in some places. I would generally NOT use the flash, it's not bad for just getting a shot, but it tends to give a pretty clinical, blown-out, soul-less photo. And it annoys other people in the restaurant, including me. DO use as high an ISO setting as you can. That will often make for grainy images, but grainy is better than blurry, and a high ISO setting will allow you to use a faster shutter speed, which should reduce the odds of blur. Additionally in the fight against blur, prop your elbows on something, use the optical viewfinder (if your camera has one) just because holding the camera up to your face provides another point of stability, and squeeze the shutter REALLY gently. It sometimes helps to use the camera's shutter timer, which delays the shutter after you press it, that way you aren't in the process of pressing the camera, which can shake it, as the shutter opens. Put it on delay, press it and hold very still...

If you don't feel too self-conscious about it, a tiny little tripod can really help too, although it's sometimes hard to get the right angle/elevation like that. This one gives you great flexibility, but is not very subtle!
http://www.joby.com/

Another thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to your white-balance. If your shots are coming out with a blue or yellow cast, the camera was set to the wrong white-balance setting. Many cameras have auto white balance, but they don't always get it right. Most have manual settings where you can specify whether you're shooting under incandescent, florescent or natural sunlight conditions, each of which have different weighting of the various color components of white light.

Additionally, don't be afraid to move the plates around a little, it only takes a second, and won't embarrass your dining companions ALL that much! I'm (only a little) reluctant to admit that I've physically dragged my table into a better pool of light, put plates up on a nearby windowsill, and exchanged plates with table mates in order to get a better angle or lighting. Just pay attention to where there's light and get the plate there. You can't always do it, and sometimes you might just have to bail out or live with a mediocre photo. But sometimes there's a solution available with minor physical moves of the plate. And look at how the light is falling too: directly overhead or behind you is reliable, but sometimes dull-looking. If the light can come in from an angle, that can be more interesting.

But I think the biggest tip is to do some tweaking in a software photo editor. Photoshop is the most commonly used, and the basic Photoshop Elements, which sells for under a hundred bucks, is excellent, and has most things you'd need. The basic iPhoto that comes free on new Macs is surprisingly versatile, its adjustments panel has gotten much better. There are plenty more that will work fine. No software is going to save a really crappy shot, but it can vastly improve a mediocre one. Much magic can be achieved by tweaking the "levels" adjustments, not just brightness, but color-balance too. Mess around with it, there's always the "undo" command...

You're not in bad shape: your shots are pretty good right now. And as already noted, you'll just get better as you get more comfortable with your camera too.

Hope that helps...

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#352 eje

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:47 PM

A couple notes taking photos.

Buy a big memory card and take lots of them. Take the same photo with different camera settings. Take it at different distances from the subject. Different angles.

The beauty of digital is you don't even have to develop film and print up a contact sheet (if anyone still remembers what that is...) to have some idea which pictures are keepers.

Also, the problem with white balance is, it is very difficult to correct in post production. If the colors aren't there, it is hard to add them to your picture.

Even though you would think camera manufacturers would have figured out how to detect tungsten or fluorescent light automatically by now, with many (most!) cameras it is necessary to adjust this yourself manually to get the correct white balance.
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#353 Ellen Shapiro

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 01:02 PM

Many of the photos of plated dishes that you see in food magazines and newspapers are taken without flash, however the cameras those photographers are using have much greater light gathering capacity than your Olympus. They're also not shooting on the fly while eating. When using my digital SLR with a fast lens, I may skip flash or just fill with off-camera flash (you'd be surprised how many "natural light" photos do rely on some artificial light). But when I use our Canon A620 to take snapshots for online, informational use I always use flash unless it's an extraordinarily well lit dining room. Flash eliminates a host of lighting problems, camera shake isn't a problem, white balance isn't a problem . . . . While it is true that flash can flatten your images and take away their soft arty look I don't know why that's so bad if the point is to show the dish in as much detail as possible. It's okay to sacrifice art for information. To avoid flatness, experiment with angles. I promise if you shoot a stacked dish from the side it won't look flat. Also experiment with holding the camera as far away as possible and zooming in. This can cut the harshness of the flash. Also when postprocessing consider cropping away the plate edges where you're most likely to see flash reflections.

Edited by Ellen Shapiro, 17 January 2007 - 01:03 PM.

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#354 philadining

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 01:28 PM

I'll agree that in a dim dining room, the average flash shot will look "better" than really low-light photos taken with a pocket-sized digital camera. Taking that shot will also very likely irritate the heck out of someone nearby. Of course there are contexts when it's fine, but even as an avid photographer of restaurant food, I'm almost always annoyed by camera flashes if I'm trying to have a nice dinner. It happens semi frequently these days, it's more often people taking snaps of themselves or posing with a celebrity chef, than lunatics like us shooting the food, but I know it bugs me. And I've noticed other diners visibly annoyed by it too.

So I generally discourage it mostly as a selfish attempt to make my dining experiences more pleasant.

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#355 Dianabanana

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 11:17 PM

Okay, so I've been making bentos for my husband and myself almost every day for about a year. I take a picture of them every morning before packing them up, and the quality of the photos varies drastically depending on the weather. I don't have really good natural light anywhere in my house, and although I can get pretty good pictures by the sliding glass door in the warmer months, it's incredibly gray and dark in the mornings from late fall through early spring. In fact I never noticed just how gray and dark it is until I started this project.

I want to stop hoping for good weather and start taking things into my own hands. I am willing to spend some money and time on this, but whatever I do has to meet the following criteria:

1. It has to be compact; i.e., no big cardboard boxes or other space-hogging equipment. I have a super tiny house and just don't have the room.

2. It has to be quick to assemble and disassemble. I want to be able to set it up, take the picture, then put it away and still make it to work on time.

3. It has to be utterly independent of any source of natural light.

I really know nothing about photography, so anything you can tell me, no matter how basic, is bound to be helpful. I've looked through all the eGullet photography threads and didn't find anything on this particular situation, but if I missed it, feel free to point it out. Thanks!

#356 markemorse

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 06:57 AM

I wouldn't give up on the natural light: we have pretty challenging light here as well during the winter months, but I've found that by using a tripod, no flash, and then nudging up the brightness and saturation in a photo editor, I can get something that looks reasonable.

Edited by markemorse, 01 March 2008 - 06:58 AM.


#357 jumanggy

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:34 AM

Diana, I'd love to see you post some of the shots you've taken so far :smile:
I'm not a great photographer but I am a Photoshop nut.
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#358 nakji

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:47 AM

Diana, I'd love to see you post some of the shots you've taken so far


Yes! The bento thread could use more posts!

I've struggled with the same problem for my bento photos. Recently I moved into a new apartment with great morning light, and my pictures have brightened considerably. In fact, some mornings, the light is too harsh and casts a lot of shadows. I'd like to know how to neutralize this.

I've been experimenting more with low-light food photography in the evening with dinners, and I find a tripod makes all the difference - check out this photo. It was taken with only a lamp and 40W bulb as a light source, but a tripod makes it fairly light. The tripod takes up a little space when it's out, but can collapse and be tucked into the closet when not in use. (Theoretically, that is. Ours sits around and clutters up the place. I know for small spaces - I live in Japan. :hmmm: )

Posted Image

What kind of camera are you currently using?

#359 monavano

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:49 AM

The EZcube would probably fit your needs. I made my own lightbox with a cardboard box and some cheap clamp lights and 100 watt full spectrum Reveal lights from GE. It's a photo saver in the winter!! Not as good as natural light, but not bad at all...especially because it cost me only about $20!! Good luck.
http://www.ezcube.com/

Oh.......download Picasa from Google. :wink: :wink:

Edited by monavano, 01 March 2008 - 07:50 AM.


#360 K8memphis

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:54 AM

I am such an expert photographer :rolleyes:

Super random camera thoughts:

But I once took a great picture of a cake that I had sitting in my refrigerator. My frige has an overhead light that is placed forward closest to the door. If you had sucha light in yours you could use that and keep your refrigerated items on a tray for easy removal and made a backdrop that you could fold up otherwise when not in use this might be an idea. Or any kind of overhead light that you could toss up a background behind?

A tissue or piece of paper over the flash gives some more control too.

Another idea is that I have one of those 'natural light' lamps right here in my desk. Like $20 at Sam's Club if you are in the states. Maybe something like that?