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pastameshugana

The Food Photography Topic

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yes, the blue is most likely white balance (though you'd be surprised what a blue shirt or cook book cover etc can do) and is relatively easy to fix, depending on camera and software you use. Most of the time at least. What Baselerd said, take a picture of something white and find the white balance adjustment in your camera, adjust accordingly. I guess your camera only takes jpg images, if it can shoot RAW you can adjust the white balance later on the computer (easy, but an other topic).

As for your ice cream and other melting/flowing things, that's where you can use a stand in. Very often mashed potatoes are used for ice cream for example. Food coloring and a bit less liquid to keep it a bit 'crumbly' , for your purpose a mix with a similar color would be fine. Or just a ping pong ball or anything else that looks somewhat similar in shape and color. Once everything is set up (and you'll get fast with practice you'll know what to do and can maybe even skip that) you bring out the real dish, plate and photograph. I'd suggest making notes, printing the image you like on just a piece of paper and putting the notes with it, keep that in a binder or do it all on the computer. If you use lights, make a sketch of where they are to step back and take a photo of the setup. Also note where the window was, distances etc.) Little reflectors are easy to make yourself out of white board and you can use black board to reduce light (kind of an anti reflector). Maybe just set something up one day and play with these options, not changing the food, only the light, reflectors, camera position, etc.

If you really get into it you can get a DSLR, no need for anything super expensive and fancy. At least not for a while. And you're not looking into making posters or billboards. Or upgrade your pocket camera to something with more settings and options/controls.

The book you picked is pretty good, shows the basics, shows tricks, and touches on processing as well.

Once I visit Italy again I'll come by to taste some of those pretty things you make! :-D


Edited by OliverB (log)

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You can use flashlights and other home lighting in a lot of situations if you don't have a flash but need extra light on your subject, too. Just if you're using a flashlight try to figure out a way to rest it on something or clamp it to something - just so you don't have to juggle holding it just so and taking the picture at the same time.

One thing about white balance - if you're going to actually do a white balance test shot, make sure that your white sheet of paper/card/whatever is catching the same light source(s) that you expect your subjects to catch. That means you're best to put it basically where you'd be putting your subject, and then adjust camera position/framing accordingly so that it fills the frame, rather than moving the white thing closer to the camera. (We always had at least one kid who'd forget about this in film class, and you could tell that he'd white balanced with the card too close so it was only catching one kind of light because then as soon as you mix light sources (like sunlight and indoor fluorescents) the color would be all off unintentionally.

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Very good suggestions everyone. Just a few minor thoughts:

"---As for your ice cream and other melting/flowing things, that's where you can use a stand in. -----"

If you are planning to photograph ice cream, set up everything first, lights, tripod, etc. Most important, have thick plate in the freezer long enough first to be freezing cold. It will keep your ice cream from melting for a long time.

"------You can use flashlights ---"

Some LED flash lights may not work well. They do not produce good white color (LEDs cannot produce white color), furthermore, LEDs flicker and can be a problem for short exposures.

"--One thing about white balance--"

Our eyes do not see some whites the same way as the camera.

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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Very good suggestions everyone. Just a few minor thoughts:

"---As for your ice cream and other melting/flowing things, that's where you can use a stand in. -----"

If you are planning to photograph ice cream, set up everything first, lights, tripod, etc. Most important, have thick plate in the freezer long enough first to be freezing cold. It will keep your ice cream from melting for a long time.

"------You can use flashlights ---"

Some LED flash lights may not work well. They do not produce good white color (LEDs cannot produce white color), furthermore, LEDs flicker and can be a problem for short exposures.

"--One thing about white balance--"

Our eyes do not see some whites the same way as the camera.

Right, best to do some experimental shots with the lighting you're hoping to use, particularly before trying to get a shot of something time-sensitive like ice cream. My point was just that often you can find things that will work that you already have, so you don't immediately need to run out and spend money on a flash unit or some other piece of specialty kit. I think people can get discouraged when they're just starting out with something new and they feel like they have to have all the bits and pieces before they can get started. Specialty stuff obviously has a place, but you can do a lot without it, and your experiments without will often help inform your decisions on what you actually do need to get next.

Very good point about the way our eyes see whites. Our brain compensates pretty effectively, so it can be a big surprise to take a photo or shoot some film in lighting that you think looks good and then you actually look at the photo or footage and it looks completely different. This is why it comes back to experimenting again - with digital cameras it's so much easier to take tons of photos to try out various options and settings since you don't have to worry about the cost of film or developing. Anyone wanting to improve their photography skills, even just for a specific purpose like food photography, should take advantage of that.

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...with digital cameras it's so much easier to take tons of photos to try out various options and settings since you don't have to worry about the cost of film or developing. Anyone wanting to improve their photography skills, even just for a specific purpose like food photography, should take advantage of that.

+1

Usually when I'm taking pictures of anything (just yesterday my 3yo outside who insisted I 'go take pictures' of her!), I'll take many, many pictures. It allows me lots of experimentation, more chances of getting a good shot, and it's a piece of cake to delete the excess later.

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As for your ice cream and other melting/flowing things, that's where you can use a stand in. Very often mashed potatoes are used for ice cream for example. Food coloring and a bit less liquid to keep it a bit 'crumbly' , for your purpose a mix with a similar color would be fine. Or just a ping pong ball or anything else that looks somewhat similar in shape and color. Once everything is set up (and you'll get fast with practice you'll know what to do and can maybe even skip that) you bring out the real dish, plate and photograph

To be honest (and coming back to the opening post) my goal would be being able to make a realistic photo of the real dessert. I don't like any kind of faked stuff, I prefer to get a lower quality photo but depicting the real thing. Especially because I'm making these experiments while I'm at home, so I'm going to eat it after making the photo. I would like to be able to get a good shot after the first plating, without doing another one (as much as I like my desserts, I'm not happy to eat 2 of the same in a row). Plating a faked dessert would also lead to wasting some food, I try to avoid it as much as possible.

Once I visit Italy again I'll come by to taste some of those pretty things you make! :-D

You (plural meaning whoever is reading, not only you Oliver) are welcome! I live near Venice, if you come to visit Venice then feel free to drop me a pm to organize something.

Thanks to all the other users that explained the white balance and other details, much appreciated!

I received the book for noobs and started reading it. It's quite clear and I'm starting to understand how a digital camera works. I've bought a CFL bulb but I think I need a more powerful one (I bought a 15W one), so I'll go back to the store and ask for the most powerful one they have. I've also "built" a couple of reflectors using some cardboard and some kitchen aluminum foil (I suppose it reflects better than white paper). Next week I'll make a boatload of photos to get some experience and confidence, I'll try to use all the settings of my camera and see how the results change, so I'll get an idea of how they work and which are the best for my case.

Teo

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"-----I've bought a CFL bulb but I think I need a more powerful one (I bought a 15W one), ----"

That is not good enough. Get 50W to a lot more (Daylight balanced CFL). Stores do not have a very good selection. Go to eBay or Amazon. BTW, I am sure you realize, you need actual power wattage, not 50W equivalent bulbs.

Reflectors: Try looking into reflectors that you can fold to very small package and springs to full size. I don't know if there is a technical name for it. Also silver reflector umbrellas. Which also take very little room to store and quick to deploy.

BTW, fake ice cream is important for photo studios which use many thousand watt incandescent focused lights hot enough to BBQ. Not necessary for CFL bulbs.

dcarch

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That is not good enough. Get 50W to a lot more (Daylight balanced CFL). Stores do not have a very good selection. Go to eBay or Amazon.

I've ordered a LED globe (cool white, 5500-6000K) from an Amazon.it marketplace seller (costed 15 euro including shipping), hopefully I'll receive it in the next days.

Reflectors: Try looking into reflectors that you can fold to very small package and springs to full size. I don't know if there is a technical name for it. Also silver reflector umbrellas. Which also take very little room to store and quick to deploy.

Now I'm using just two pieces of cardboard with some aluminum foil taped over it, I'm keeping the cheap route to see what I'm able to learn and what results I'll get. While surfing on Amazon I've seen a set composed of 2 umbrellas (each one with a CFL bulb) and a big reflector screen (about 7 x 5 feet), it costs 120 euro. Maybe I'll consider it if I'll see I'm able to get quality pictures.

BTW, here is my last photo:

http://www.teonzo.com/immagini/cake_dolciviaggio/crostata_patatedolci_mandorle_favetonka.jpg

I made it this way:

- sunny day (one of the last until next spring I suppose), about 1 pm, table placed under a window facing South with a white curtain to diffuse the direct sunlight;

- placed a big sheet of white paper over the table, then set the white balance on the camera (luckily my cheap camera has this option);

- placed the pie on the paper (with something underneath to not be in direct contact, of course);

- placed the 2 homemade reflectors (if I consider South as 90° then I put them at 30° and 120°);

- put the tripod in place, set the camera at ISO 80, shutter speed 1/60, self-timer at 2 seconds (to avoid shatterings after clicking the button).

The only manipulation of the photo was resizing and saving it as jpg, I didn't change/touch anything else.

I'm quite happy with the result, now I need to find out if it was a lucky shot or if I'm really starting to learn.

If you wonder what the pie is, from bottom to top it's made of:

- Tonka bean flavoured shortcrust;

- sweet potato "jam" (don't know how to translate it in English);

- almond crumble.

Teo

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A quick tip:

If you photograph your food with very dark or black background, it will cost you a fortune in using up ink when you print your photos.

dcarch

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Great picture! Keep it up, you're on the right track.

I've read this entire thread with great interest. I, too, was a cellphone food picture taker for many, many years. It was because of several notoriously dark restaurants that I decided to "upgrade" to a Canon G12 point and shoot camera (which was an expensive upgrade at the time because it was brand new to the market) figuring that a more expensive camera would certainly produce better pictures. When I returned to said dark restaurant for round #2, I was disappointed to find out that all cameras, from your cellphone to a very expensive DSLR take crappy to mediocre pictures in challenging light. I also learned that regardless of how many features are built into the camera, good to great pictures are a result of the photographer taking a picture, evaluating the outcome, and adjusting the camera's setting to make the next picture more in-line with the vision you have in your mind. Taking the camera out of automatic is usually a very first good step.

Teonzo, your image has a lot going for it. You obviously understand the use of soft, diffused light and filling in shadow spots with reflectors. It's also nicely in focus. I'm assuming that the crostada has been dusted with powdered sugar ... which should be white. My only real criticism is that the image is underexposed. In this particular case (not knowing exactly what shooting mode your camera was in), try increasing the shutter speed from 1/60 of a second to 1/30 of a second. That would give you one stop more exposure and make the image brighter. This is the subjective part of photography. If 1/30th does get you where you want to be, try 1/15 of a second. I also checked out your website and noticed that several of your images there also suffer from the same issue.

It took me a LOOOOONG time to figure out what a properly exposed picture should look like. For the first six months, everything was way underexposed (whites appeared gray). Then I spent six months making everything hi key (white plates would disappear onto white backgrounds). I finally learned how to expose just by practicing and critiquing my own work and looking at the work of others.

Think of it this way ... when you are looking at the food, what should be white and what should be dark (or black)? Adjust the camera settings so that the same things are white and black in the final picture.

I know you are looking to keep things on the cheap, but if you ever find yourself with an extra US $100 laying about, check out the X-Rite Color Checker Passport (http://xritephoto.com/ph_product_overview.aspx?id=1257). It contains a 24 patch color target (including white and black) that is awesome for setting proper exposure and a white balance card you can use to neutralize any color shifts in the lighting you are using. I find it invaluable in creating my images. It especially speeds up the process because you get all of the technical settings out of the way at the start and then all you need to do is just shoot the food.

Good luck!

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As for books, there are also good resources online. I'm sad to find Edwin Leong's Camera Hobby isn't around any more, but Philip Greenspun, founder of photo.net, has some good articles here and photo.net's learning section is here.


Edited by Blether (log)

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Testing.

DSC00930.jpg

That's how you plate up baked potatoes and baked beans!


Edited by Kerala (log)

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Hey guys,

 

My name is Simon and I'm a trained chef from Switzerland. I'm currently living in Australia.

I've been reading in the forum for a while now and have learned a lot so I thought it would be fair to give something back.

 

I have seen some posts about food photography on the forum and thought this might be interesting for some of you. I’m not a professional photographer yet but I'm working on it haha.

 

The equipment:

 

Canon EOS 7D
I shoot with my trusty Canon Eos 7D. You can use any camera to take good food photos but a DSLR gives you more possibilities to shoot under difficult conditions.

 

IMG_3951.jpg

 

Lenses
My main lenses are the 17-40mm L and the 50mm 1.8 from Canon. When it’s a close up I use the Canon 100mm 2.8.

 

Extras:

 

Wacom tablet
When I edit my photos I use a Wacom tablet. It really speeds up the process of retouching dirty plates or working with techniques such as dodging and burning.

Tether-cable
Im always shooting tethered so I can see the photos on a bigger screen. It helps me judge whether or not everything is in focus and if the composition works. I find it nearly impossible to check photos on the small screen of my camera.

 

Tripod Vanguard Alta Pro
If there were anything I wouldn’t want to be without, it would be my tripod! My tripod allows me to take photos that are properly exposed, even in low light conditions. It’s also an advantage to have the camera in a fixed position allowing me to arrange the food or a composition.

My tripod is an essential item i use for the stop motion videos i create. I take a picture, plate the next layer of ingredients and take another photo. If i didn't use a tripod the movie would appear unsteady.

 

The Light:

 

Natural light
I try to work with natural light when ever I can. In my opinion, food looks best in soft, natural light. If it gets too late in the day or the natural light isn’t soft enough, I use my Speedlights. 

Canon Speedlight 430ex II
I’m not a professional photographer so I can’t afford big studio flashes. I have two Speedlights from Canon which work absolutely fine for food photography. I also have some cheap reflective umbrellas and light stands to modify the light.

 

When ever I shoot with artificial light I try to simulate natural light. Essentially, I use a large white reflector umbrella and place it as close to the food as possible in order to achieve a beautiful soft light.

Reflectors
I use white cardboard and styrofoam boards to reflect light to certain areas of my subject in order to light up shadows. Mirrors are also a great way to bring light into dark areas.

 

Light Setup
These are the basic light setups I use.

The first one is natural light only.

 

_MG_0225.jpg

 

 
window.jpg

 

Ideally, you would use a north facing window in order to avoid harsh direct sunlight. Unfortunately, I only have east facing windows, so I only have a limited amount of time to shoot my food before the sun is shining directly through the window. In my experience, cloudy days provide the best light. On sunnier days, when the light is too harsh, I use a DIY diffuser panel to soften the light.

 

IMG_3394.jpg

 

Diffusor panel to soften natural light.

I keep my light source (both natural or artificial light) between 9 o'clock and 3 o’clock.

 

Backlight.jpg
 
_MG_9910.jpg
 

For my close ups or shots which aren’t top view, I position my lights sideways. This adds more depth to the image and helps with the appearance of texture. 

 

Light and reflector.jpg
 
_MG_9888.jpg

 

The Software:

 

EOS Utility
To shoot tethered I use Canon’s eos utility software that came with the camera. I have the program setup so that it exports my photos to a special folder where Lightroom can import them automatically.

Lightroom CC
I use Lightroom in combination with EOS Utility to shoot tethered. I take a picture with my camera and it opens straight away in Lightroom where I can view it.

I also process every photo in Lightroom. I do basic adjustments like exposer, white balance and sometimes some curve adjustments.

 

Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-01 um 17.30.19.png
 
Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-01 um 17.30.35.png

 

Photoshop CC

Photoshop is not going to save you if your photo is crap. I try to get everything right when I take the photo. Things like dirty plates are a pain to fix after you’ve taken the photo. I probably only process 20%-30% of my photos with Photoshop. I mostly use it to do my plating stop motion videos.

 

I've got more photos and some recipes on my blog (Link in signature ;) )

 

If you’ve got questions feel free to ask!

 

Cheers,
Simon

 

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I wish I would be able to make such great photos! Thanks for your post!

 

 

 

Teo

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"-----My name is Simon and I'm a trained chef from Switzerland.----"

 

Typically a good chef is not a good photographer, and vise versa.

 

You are an exception.

 

Show us more, please?!!!

 

dcarch

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Very nice. Thank you for the information.

 

I have the identical Forschner knife, bought 40+ years ago at Coutellerie du Mont Blanc, in Genève. From what I can tell, though, the company is no longer in business.

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"-----My name is Simon and I'm a trained chef from Switzerland.----"

 

Typically a good chef is not a good photographer, and vise versa.

 

You are an exception.

 

Show us more, please?!!!

 

dcarch

 

Two of my biggest inspirations in food photography are Francesco Tonelli and  Tuukka Koski. Both were very successful chefs before they changed their career.  :wink: I believe that most chefs already have an eye for aesthetic, beauty, presentation and so on. A good base to become a good photographer.

 

Show us more, please?!!!

 

dcarch

 

 

 

Thank you very much for the kind words  :smile: By clicking the link in my signature you will end up on my portfolio where i have a lot more photos and even some recipes in my blog  :wink:

 

 

 

Very nice. Thank you for the information.

 

I have the identical Forschner knife, bought 40+ years ago at Coutellerie du Mont Blanc, in Genève. From what I can tell, though, the company is no longer in business.

 

 

The knife in the first picture is a Victorinox carving knife. I did a very quick and dirty google research and I believe that Forschner is related with Victorinox (reseller?, bought by Victorinox?) :wink:

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Two of my biggest inspirations in food photography are Francesco Tonelli and  Tuukka Koski. Both were very successful chefs before they changed their career.  :wink: I believe that most chefs already have an eye for aesthetic, beauty, presentation and so on. A good base to become a good photographer.

 

 

Thank you very much for the kind words  :smile: By clicking the link in my signature you will end up on my portfolio where i have a lot more photos and even some recipes in my blog  :wink:

 

 

 

 

 

The knife in the first picture is a Victorinox carving knife. I did a very quick and dirty google research and I believe that Forschner is related with Victorinox (reseller?, bought by Victorinox?) :wink:

 

Yes, sorry. I meant to say Victorinox. They're sold as Forschner in the US.

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Having just visited the blog of @ProfessionalHobbit and seen his stunning photography made me think we should have a food photography thread.  Of course a quick search brought me here.  Bumping the topic up for now, I'm looking forward to reading it through over the next couple of days.

 

My own photography skills are extremely limited but with my husband I'm working on a food blog that needs better pictures than I often produce.  

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