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pastameshugana

The Food Photography Topic

101 posts in this topic

I have said you don't need expensive equipment, a lot of space or a lot of time to take very good food photos, but there are some easy things you can do to go beyond just "very good".

You have noticed that professionals use lens shade for their cameras, that is because even multi-coated lenses have internal reflections which can cause lost of contrast and saturation of color, or lens glare.

You can buy your lens a lens shade or you can make one with an empty medicine bottle. Cheap and easy.

To determine the exact shape to cut, just mount the bottle on the lens and mark the inside of the bottle with a marker while looking thru the view finder.

dcarch

shade5.jpg

shade2.jpg

shade.jpg

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Don't underestimate your little cell phone camera. It can do interesting things.

Scotch tape a magnifying glass in front of the lens, and you can take amazing macro shots.

dcarch

Grains of wild rice, on white rice

wildricea2.jpg

White and black seasme seeds

Cellphone3.jpg

One grain of brown rice

Cellphone.jpg

A seed on a strawberry

Cellphone2.jpg


Edited by dcarch (log)
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I'm not generally one to use fashionable, social media-type TLAs, but darch - OMG! Those shots are amazing. Can you provide a little more detail? Is the magnifying glass hard against the phone/camera lens, or do you need to build in some space?

Sony has recently announced a new phone in their Xperia line (Z1, I think it's called) which, along with a staggering number of megapixels, seems to have a reasonably decent lens anyway PLUS the ability to attach external Zeiss lenses. That might be worth looking out for. I think I read the external lenses will fit on other phones as well.

Edited to add bit about other phones.


Edited by lesliec (log)

Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

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dcarch, your photos are stunning as always. I would never have guessed they weren't done without some highly specialized and expensive gear.


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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That's fascinating, dcarch. I love the process of creating and modifying tools. I'm currently in the process of building an arduino controlled dolly slider for my video rig.


PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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Amazing shots, dcarch!!!

OMG! Those shots are amazing. Can you provide a little more detail?

More detail? He needs to figure out a way to duct tape a microscope to his phone cam :)

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

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-------------- but darch - OMG! Those shots are amazing. Can you provide a little more detail? Is the magnifying glass hard against the phone/camera lens, or do you need to build in some space?

---------------------

There is no way to attach external lens on most cell phone cameras, Scotch tape, or duct tape, is the only way. Not very elegant, but -------.

Only thing with having fun doing this is to keep very steady, any vibration will mess up the photo.

dcarch

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That's fascinating, dcarch. I love the process of creating and modifying tools. I'm currently in the process of building an arduino controlled dolly slider for my video rig.

Something like that is used in many commercial TV studios, robotic cameras.

dcarch

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for book titles, I'm currently reading Food Photography and Lightning, so far I like it quite a bit. Author is a pro and has one of the largest food photography studios (that I want to move into). Geared towards pro work for advertising etc.

Others I like are:

Plate to Pixel

Digital Food Photography

Food Photography, from snapshot to great shots (I think)

Thanks! Which one would you suggest to a total newbie?

Teo


My new blog: http://www.teonzo.com/

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Teo,

Tony Northrup has a book on kindle/iPad/print that is good. Not food related but gives a good general understanding of principles and equipment. I think it's called stunning digital photography but you can search by his name.

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PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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My vote goes to: "Teri Campbell" [has] a brilliant book on food photography. Teri is a great food photographer and more importantly a wonderful chap too.

Food Photography & Lighting: A Commercial Photographer's Guide to Creating Irresistible Images

The book describes both his journey and the process of various food shoots. His lighting style is super simple and is a snap to re-create. As a food photographer for 15 years myself I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am quite sure even newbies will not have trouble with it.

The Kindle version when viewed on an iPad or Fire is brilliant, but go for the printed version if you prefer that.


Edited by foodphotography.in (log)
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I have said that there are simple things you can do which doesn't entail a great deal of time and money to give you more options to achieve disirable photo effects.

One of the annoying thing with picture taking is unwanted reflections. You can buy a polarizing filter for your lens and significantly eliminate them. The filter is not expensive from $5.00 to $20. just find one that fits your lens screw mount.

The following side-by-side photos show identical lighting, exposure, and angle of shot for the pictures. By changing the rotation of the filter, you can cut out a significant amount of unwanted reflections. This can give you better saturation of colors and sharper definition of you subject.

dcarch

reflection2_zps7aa8427e.jpg

reflection_zps1f1668c7.jpg

reflection6_zps05937c11.jpg

reflection5_zps529c2b51.jpg

reflection4_zps2d2bb8ed.jpg

reflection3_zps07c0ce0c.jpg

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I should add, polarizing filters come in two types. Linear polarizers and circular polarizers. Linear polarizers should probably not be used with modern cameras because it interferes with autofocus. No problem using it if you don't mind manual focus, or if you pre-focus the shot before you mount the polarizer. Circular polarizers do not interfere with AF, but are expensive :(


There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

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Unless you're using a lens that does not rotate during autofocus, such as most ultrasonic / piezo motor driven lenses.

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All good points regarding polarizing lens.

With photography as I said, you can spend a fortune and spend a life time and still have lots to learn.

OTOH, for those of you who suffer from Phood-photo-phobia, there are also the cheap, the simple and the quick to have something very decent. That's basically all I do with all my food photos that I have posted here on this forum.

Autofocus for digital cameras uses different techniques, and can have different effects if you use a polarizing filter.

The pictures above, I used "The cheap" I actually used my $4.00 (Linear) drug store polarizer sunglasses, duct taped to my Nikon Coolpix 8400, set to autofocus.

In any case, if you have problems, food pictures look better set to manual anyway, to give you more interesting depth of field control.

dcarch

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can't really recommend a book w/o knowing what one wants to do and knows already. The ones I mentioned are all good IMO, some more geared to the pro or aspiring pro food photog, others more general. See if you can get them at a library, some might have the "look inside" option on Amazon. My first check with any photography book is, do I like the photos? Surprisingly, that's often not the case, there are books (not on food photog) that are filled with what I'd delete and reshoot.

With food, there are the more basic ones showing you how to set things up, use window light and maybe a reflector etc, and there are those that teach you how to prep the food, the dishes, supports, etc. Use mashed potatoes instead of ice cream, spray this or that art supply on glasses to make them look cold and fogged up, hairspray or what have you on the food, making it inedible, but so much prettier (kind of like working with a model and MUA). I love food and I love photography. The books I listed all have something in them that's of value to me, but it's very subjective.

Look at them in the store (my Barnes and Noble always has at least two or three of these) or get them from a library.

I find it hard to recommend any photography book w/o knowing the person asking. Some books start at the basics (not quite "this is a camera", but somewhere about there) and others jump right into what ever topic they are about. Some spend a lot of time on lights, reflectors, accessories, others are more bare bones available light etc. Professional food photography can be very involved, needing assistants, stylists, maybe even the chef/cook on hand (add sauce just before shooting as it spreads, salad wilts, etc).

One book I looked at recently had not one single photo I liked in it, but it gets great reviews on Amazon.

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"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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You are right, I should have explained better my situation, my apologies. I'm a professional pastry cook (don't like being called chef even if my position should be that). I'm not working in this period, I'm making some experiments at home and putting them in my blog (linked below in the sign). I'm from Italy, so I can't find those books in libraries or stores.

About my photography experience, it's almost zero: I have a compact camera (Panasonic DMC-TZ6), I barely know how to turn it on and click to make a photo.

I'm not looking to become able to make high quality photos, it would take too much efforts than I'm willing to do. But I'd like to be able to make some decent photos, to understand how to get decent lightings, what "depth of field", "ISO" and so on mean (and how to set them). A bit of the basics to be able to correct my settings, knowing what I should do and how things would change.

I'm not looking for suggestions on how to plate beautiful but fake food (like some examples you made). I just would like to plate the dessert (the real deal, it's going to be eaten afterwards) and be able to take some decent photos without clicking randomly like now and wondering what the hell I should have to do to get a decent result.

Thanks.

Teo


My new blog: http://www.teonzo.com/

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Teo,

There is a thread some place in this forum you can post pictures and ask the members to give you suggestions for improvement.

I am at work now, perhaps someone here can tell you where that thread is and you can start there.

dcarch

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This is the current food photography topic. The prior topic can be found here.

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Teo - just a few quick points:

As you increase exposure time, you get a brighter image (more light hits the camera sensor), but the image will become blurry if the camera or subject move. Often times you can get away with using longer exposure times in food photography with use of a tripod.

As you increase aperture size (lower the f-number, also called the aperture stop), the image becomes brighter (more light hits the camera sensor), but depth of field is reduced. Each stop setting generally reduces the amount of light in the final image by half.

Increasing sensor gain (ISO setting, referring to film days where film sensitivity to light was sold according to International Standards Organization standards) will increase the exposure of your image, but will increase the noise in the image. Usually you want to keep this as low as possible to reduce the noise in the image, but this may not always be practical.

Depth-of-field refers to the amount of space that appears sharp or in focus. This is related primarily to the aperture (f-number). As you increase the f-number (decrease the aperture size), the depth of field becomes deeper, allowing you to keep more of your subject in focus. Similarly, lowering the f-number allows you use the shallower depth of field to dramatic effect sometimes.

An important concept to think about is the camera sensor, which is made up of a 2-dimensional grid of light sensors. These sensors (pixels in the final image) can only produce meaningful measurements if the amount of light that hits it during an exposure is within its dynamic range (which can be altered with your ISO control). The whole goal of all of these settings (mainly exposure time and aperture) is to get most of the image details within that range so you can show contrast between the desired parts of the image. I'm sure you've seen overexposed photos before, which indicates so much light hit each of the pixels that they can no longer resolve any contrast between pixels.


Edited by Baselerd (log)
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Depth-of-field refers to the amount of space that appears sharp or in focus. This is related primarily to the aperture (f-number). As you increase the f-number (decrease the aperture size), the depth of field becomes deeper, allowing you to keep more of your subject in focus. Similarly, lowering the f-number allows you use the shallower depth of field to dramatic effect sometimes.

Also, an easy way to understand this is, when you focus your eyes on something close to you, the objects in the distance become out of focus, and vice versa.

But if you look thru a pin hole, then everything close and far will be in focus.

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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thanks for the clarification, did not know you're in italy. I'd suggest to google and youtube "food photography" and if your local sites don't turn up good results go to the .com version instead of .it. Most websites should show up fine for you in Italy, some youtube content might be restricted geographically, you'll just have to try. I just did the above and found several interesting looking sites and videos.

I don't know your camera, I'd suggest to get a tripod (can even be a table top one or something cheap) and then set up one piece of your food and try different things. Set up close to a window that does not have full sun.

Get something white, a box, a sheet, etc to use as a reflector on the non window side of your food, move it around, remove it, take photos. You should quickly see the difference that makes.

Get a large sheet of white strong paper (what they might sell to make posters etc) or a cheap poster of something and use the white backside.

Moving your table and the reflector around should quickly show you how the light changes. Maybe also use color backgrounds or surfaces, colors that complement your dish.

If you don't have a window or can only work when it's dark already (it's dark by 8pm here in California) then get a table lamp of some sort and try to find a daylight balanced bulb or better florescent bulb (they don't get that hot usually) and use that. If you're careful, you can maybe somehow tape some white paper or baking paper over it (don't set your house on fire!) to diffuse the light and make it softer.

Try different angles, from straight above to very low on the table. Focus on the "hero" part of your creation. Some of the other terms have been explained above.

Maybe also get a basic photography book if you're just starting out.

I also found a book called fotografia de alimentos de alta calidad on amazon.it, maybe that's something worth looking at? I don't speak much italian, can't tell from the description.

Also Wolfgang Petersen's book "Understaning Exposure" is available from amazon.it - a very good book. Also available for tablets/kindle on amazon.com

I hope that helps!

Have fun, play around. Use a black background (I sometimes just use a t-shirt) and also maybe use accessories, for example break a piece off a cup cake with a fork and have that and the fork in the photo, to show the inside texture of your creation.

ETA: just looked at your site, your food looks great! Do you have software to edit your photos? I use Adobe Lightroom, there are others. Your photos could maybe use some color correction and saturation increases (can't tell, since I did not see the original food), might be worth looking into using Lightroom or photoshop elements, neither are very expensive.


Edited by OliverB (log)
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"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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You don't even need a proper tripod to start experimenting. You just need the camera to sit nice and stable where you put it. I've occasionally used a sandbag for a 'tripod' when I needed to get really low with the camera and I had one handy - a bag of rice or dried beans might work similarly. (Something where you can nestle the camera in a touch so it's more held than just perching on top. Although I've used fence posts as a makeshift tripod in the past also, so you really can make do with what you have.)

Don't get me wrong - a tripod is super helpful because of how stable it is and how easy it is to make adjustments and know that the camera is being held securely, but if you just want to experiment a bit without going out and buying anything new to start with, you can manage well enough with stuff you have around to decide if a tripod is going to be worth it for you or not.

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Baselerd: thanks for explaining some of the basics!

Oliver: thanks for appreciating the desserts I make. And thanks for the suggestions about the white sheets and so on. I'll look for a fluorescent bulb, since during winter natural light will be scarce. Maybe the best option should be buying a basic set-up with 2 lights with umbrellas (don't know how they are called in English), Amazon IT sells a set for about 100 euro. But I suppose the priority should be buying a reflex camera. I already have a cheap tripod.

I bought this book:

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

it seems a good starting point for a noob like me, worst case I wasted 15 euro.

My main problem while taking photos is with plated desserts, especially the ones with ice-creams. The ideal thing would be setting up the plate, the camera and everything, so when I plate the ice-cream I just need to take few quick photos and done. But I need to get skilled about lights and so on. First time I tried to take a photo of a dessert with a one-spoon quenelle all the photos were crap (as I said, I just click random hoping to get something decent), I had to plate it three times before getting a decent photo. Now I freeze the ice-cream, so I have more time to take photos. But it's a problem, since one-spoon quenelles don't keep the shape well while freezing (they tend to sit on the spoon and flatten a bit). Plus you see the frost on the surface, while a good one-spoon quenelle should be polished and "shiny".

Here is an example:

http://www.teonzo.com/immagini/dessert/tabacco_banana_peperone.jpg

(another sign of my ignorance, I just don't know how the plate has blue shades, since it's perfectly white and there weren't blue things in the room)

Thanks for the suggestions about editing programs, now I'm using Gimp, but I can use just the basic options.

Teo


My new blog: http://www.teonzo.com/

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You have the idea right. If I'm taking pictures of what I'm cooking, I get the camera set up before I plate the food. If you're unsure of your photography skills, try even a few test shots on a non-food subject in the exact configuration you plan on taking the photos in. Once you get it right, plate the food and take the photos. The more photos you take, the higher chance you'll get one that works for you.

As far as your lighting goes - are you shooting in automatic mode? What camera do you have? I would strongly recommend against using an on-camera flash without using some sort of reflector or diffuser. If you are taking your photos during the day, near a bright window would be a great spot to take photos. If you don't have access to natural lighting, get a flash unit (if your camera supports one).

As far as the blue plate goes, this indicates your white balance is off. Most cameras have a white balance program feature (access it in your camera settings), which you generally use by photographing a plain white subject (a sheet of white paper) under your lighting conditions. The camera can then calibrate itself to the correct white balance. You can also correct the lighting in post-processing using photoshop, lightroom, gimp, etc.

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