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Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 2)


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The reason I'm asking about apertures and lens speeds and so on is that this camera has manual controls for those things on the body. That's the reason I retired the old one.

I really don't want to get into the whole buying-a-whole-bunch-of-lenses-and-filters-and-whatnot-and-getting-married-to-a-brand thing, and even the old camera was a bit too bulky for me anyway. Of the pocket-sized ones with manual controls this one apparently has the better low light performance, as well as being rather less expensive. (I ended up blowing the putative savings on spare battery, cards, etc. anyway).

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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Thanks, C. sapidus. I think I'll spare your puny planet, for now.

Is there any way to get that flat, narrow DOF besides using a longer length of focus, such as manipulating aperture and/or shutter speed?


If by "narrow DOF" you mean shallow dof like this:
PC042227-2.jpg

It's tough to achieve with a small sensor camera. But can easily be done in post using Photoshop. This works best with photos taken at low angles. Here is Sobaaddict's photo:
6541692139_1582d68c4d_o.jpg

This is how it looks after one minute in Photoshop:

6541692139_1582d68c4de_o.jpg



Open your photo in PS. Click on the layers menu and choose "duplicate layer". In the dialogue box click "ok".

Untitled-1.jpg

Click on the filters menu and choose "Gaussian Blur". In the dialogue box choose a number between 5 and 20. Click "ok".

Untitled-2.jpg



Create a mask by clicking on the square icon with the small circle in the middle, at the bottom of the Layers pallet.
Choose the "Gradient Fill tool". Place the pointer at the tip of the piece of fish in the foreground (bottom of image), click and drag a straight line to the top of the image. That's it. If you don't like the effect, just undo and place the pointer in a different spot, click and drag up to the top again.

Untitled-3.jpg
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The nicest thing about taking good photos for a non-professional is CFL bulbs.

You don't need $1,000 1,000 watt studio lights that only last a few hours and that would also BBQ your food while you are taking pictures.

BTW, slave flashes (very cheap)are actually wireless, a very good suggestion.

Tripod tip:

Get one that will allow you to reverse the center post (camera mount) up side down, so that you can take top views of your dish. Not all tripods can do that. This may also make it nice to have a camera with an articulated view screen.

dcarch

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Short DOF without Photoshop isn't actually that difficult with the subject distances used in food photography, even with APS format (small sensor) cameras, and it tends to look more natural than Gaussian blur. Just select a wide aperture (low f:stop number), and you will narrow the focus range of the image.

Depth of field is generally a function of the f:stop (wider aperture, less DOF), subject distance (closer for less DOF), and the focal length of the lens (longer for less DOF), and sensor/film size. In the macro range (magnification of 1:10, image size on the sensor:actual size of the subject), DOF is effectively a function of aperture and magnification alone, regardless of focal length, setting aside the issue of format size for the moment.

(You don't have to worry about the role of the format size too much, but it's one of the things that most people who think they understand DOF tend not to get. DOF is always understood with respect to an average size print at a normal viewing distance for that size, not with respect to the image projected on the sensor/film, so if you wanted to calculate the DOF range for a given subject distance and aperture, you would have to plug in a somewhat subjective value for the "acceptable circle of confusion" for the sensor/film format, and sometimes the usually accepted value is inadequate for a given task--i.e., you might need more DOF than the calculated aperture gives you, so you might stop down a little more for more DOF.)

Here are some photos from my flickr stream made with an APS-C format camera (Canon 40D). Most food photos, most using selective focus (short DOF), no Photoshop blur or tilt/shift lens tricks on these--

http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/tags/canoneos40d/

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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with computer designed aspheric lenses and better glasses of index of refraction, they are doing better to minimize distrotions. For food photos, a perspective correcting lenses can be useful, but they don't make that kind of lenses much anymore.

dcarch

Actually, there are more perspective control (tilt/shift) lenses available for SLRs now than there have ever been. Canon used to make only the 35mm TS, and now they make them in 17mm, 24mm, 45mm, and 90mm, and there are offerings from Nikon and Schneider, and you can even get Hasselblad medium format lenses on tilt/shift mounts for 35mm and smaller format cameras. I have two of the Canon T/S lenses, mostly for architectural photography, but occasionally I use them for food, and I also have a sliding mount that lets me put my Canon DSLR on the back of a view camera with very extensive camera movements, or I can just use film in a view camera and scan the result. This adds a lot of complexity to the process, and there are many ways of making good food photographs without perspective control.

These lenses let you control the shape of objects in the frame and to control the plane of focus. So if you have to photograph a tall building that you want to appear square in the photograph instead of trapezoidal, you can level the camera so the building appears square and raise the lens so the whole building fits into the frame, within limits. Or if you are photographing a plate of food and you want the whole thing in focus, but you don't want to do an overhead shot, and you can't get it all in focus by stopping down to a smaller aperture, you can tilt the lens to get the whole plate in focus. You can do this, because of the Scheimpflug rule--the film/sensor plane, the lens plane, and the plane of focus all meet in a line, unless they are parallel (which would normally be the case with a lens that doesn't tilt).

Tilt/shift lenses are more expensive, larger, heavier, and slower (smaller maximum aperture), than lenses that don't have movements. Most people don't need them for most kinds of photography.

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... Here are some photos...

That bramble & custard tart is a beauty, food & image both.

Thanks. The hardest thing with those is to get the edges of the shortbread crust to stand up so it looks good in the photograph, without cutting back on the butter or using a higher protein flour, so it still tastes like a good shortbread crust.

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Short DOF without Photoshop isn't actually that difficult with the subject distances used in food photography, even with APS format (small sensor) .....

......

APS is not small, with a crop factor of~1.5 versus Dakki's 1/2" sensor with a crop factor of~5.5.

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Thanks, I missed the link up there in Dakki's post. That is way smaller, but I still think of anything smaller than 35mm full frame (which itself small, thinking historically), as "small sensor" by today's standards.

So that's going to make short DOF even harder to do, but not impossible. If you can control the aperture, select a wide aperture, and get as close as you can to the subject. It's hard to do, if you can't focus manually, or at least select the focus point.

As far as a tripod goes, I always use a tripod for food shots, unless I'm just getting a casual snapshot in a restaurant while I'm eating. I even have a tripod mount for my iPhone.

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Thanks for all the advice, guys.

How critical do you think is the shallow DOF for decent food photos?

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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Thanks, C. sapidus. I think I'll spare your puny planet, for now.

Is there any way to get that flat, narrow DOF besides using a longer length of focus, such as manipulating aperture and/or shutter speed?

If by "narrow DOF" you mean shallow dof like this:

PC042227-2.jpg

It's tough to achieve with a small sensor camera. But can easily be done in post using Photoshop. This works best with photos taken at low angles. Here is Sobaaddict's photo:

6541692139_1582d68c4d_o.jpg

This is how it looks after one minute in Photoshop:

6541692139_1582d68c4de_o.jpg

Open your photo in PS. Click on the layers menu and choose "duplicate layer". In the dialogue box click "ok".

Untitled-1.jpg

Click on the filters menu and choose "Gaussian Blur". In the dialogue box choose a number between 5 and 20. Click "ok".

Untitled-2.jpg

Create a mask by clicking on the square icon with the small circle in the middle, at the bottom of the Layers pallet.

Choose the "Gradient Fill tool". Place the pointer at the tip of the piece of fish in the foreground (bottom of image), click and drag a straight line to the top of the image. That's it. If you don't like the effect, just undo and place the pointer in a different spot, click and drag up to the top again.

Untitled-3.jpg

I agree that in general the knowledge/experience of the photographer is more important than the quality of the camera. But on the other side once a photographer has a certain level of knowledge/experience there is a clear point where a P&S camera can't compete with the decent DSLR and you can see a significant difference in the quality of the photos. One argument I often hear than is that photoshop wil take care of it but unfortunately this is hardly ever the case. Nearly all photos from a P&S camera which are "significantly improved" through Photoshop always look artifical and have a low quality. And, with all respect, this "narrow DOF" is a good example. "Narrow DOF" isn't just blurring parts of the photo with "Gaussian Blur" and the final photo has not much to do with "real" narrow DOF and looks artifical and obviously photoshoped.

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... there is a clear point where a P&S camera can't compete with the decent DSLR and you can see a significant difference in the quality of the photos...

I agree with a lot of what you said, but not with this part.

There are things you clearly can't do with most P&S cameras: sophisticated remote flash is one of them; changing lens is definitely another.

You can get round parallax by knowing your P&S. The only point I can think of beyond which SLR leaves P&S in the dust is well beyond an A4 image size: it's simple resolution and the difference only shows when you blow the image way up.

And just to drive the point home, I give you the Sigma DP2s and a gallery of an owner's global samples - you can work backwards from the linked page. (I wouldn't recommend the Sigma and its fixed-focal-length lens for the casual user).

ETA: going backwards, you'll find the first significant volume of P&S shots from page 154.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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The funny thing is that the shot of the cod with the cranberries was a cropped picture that's partially blown up. It just seems like it was taken at a low angle.

My main point is that anyone can take great-looking photographs, and they need not spend hundreds of dollars to be able to do it.

Someone elsewhere asked about the camera specs, tripod, etc. My set up is really a Nikon Coolpix L3, an adjustable pair of overhead lamps and a piece of tissue paper or paper towel to mimic a lightbox effect. It's like taking digital pix with string and glue. :wink:

I'm sure it could be improved if I had better equipment and a more in-depth knowledge of the technicalities. That being said, I don't think that's absolutely necessary.

Here's a couple more as a case in point. FYI, these days I try to do very little post-processing other than a lighting-related touch-up in Picasa.

5778331470_c88964e3c1_o.jpg

5829795273_421fa7fce4_o.jpg

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... there is a clear point where a P&S camera can't compete with the decent DSLR and you can see a significant difference in the quality of the photos...

I agree with a lot of what you said, but not with this part.

There are things you clearly can't do with most P&S cameras: sophisticated remote flash is one of them; changing lens is definitely another.

You can get round parallax by knowing your P&S. The only point I can think of beyond which SLR leaves P&S in the dust is well beyond an A4 image size: it's simple resolution and the difference only shows when you blow the image way up.

And just to drive the point home, I give you the Sigma DP2s and a gallery of an owner's global samples - you can work backwards from the linked page. (I wouldn't recommend the Sigma and its fixed-focal-length lens for the casual user).

ETA: going backwards, you'll find the first significant volume of P&S shots from page 154.

It might depend on why you are using a camera. We very recently bought our first DSLR also driven because we were quite unhappy with the quality of the photos on our blog. We mainly use it foodwise for restaurant visits and the capturing of our cooking at home. In both cases the lightning conditions are in general are very dark and don't allow for any kind of flash or other kind of "extra" light source. Since we mainly cook in the evening even at home we hardly have any natural light to photograph our dishes (and the different cooking steps). In addition, (and that is just personal preference) we like food photos of dishes with a certain type of bokeh/depth of field which we haven't really seen with P&S cameras.

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SobaAddict70, your system has very good saturation.

dcarch

I worry about using saturation sometimes, because there is a tendency sometimes as if you're in Candy Cane land, if you know what I mean.

I think the strawberry pic might have had a touch of saturation but I can't be sure without looking at the original pic. I'm at work right now so can't be quite sure.

I consider it a "win", for lack of a better term, if I don't have to do anything. Not even lighting.

One argument I often hear than is that photoshop wil take care of it but unfortunately this is hardly ever the case.

Pretty much the point I wanted to respond to. If I have to use Picasa to really doctor a photo, that's not a pic worth posting IMHO. Though it is a useful tool in a certain percentage of cases.

Edited by SobaAddict70 (log)
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Now you guys have me regretting I didn't get the S95/100 with the larger sensor.

On the other hand, this one's low light capability is also a pretty attractive feature.

And either one is much more capable than I am, so... :raz:

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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Now you guys have me regretting I didn't get the S95/100 with the larger sensor.

On the other hand, this one's low light capability is also a pretty attractive feature.

And either one is much more capable than I am, so... :raz:

Dakki, the s95 has the same size sensor as yours. You have a good camera.

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Thanks guys. It appears the Nikon has a slightly smaller sensor than the Canon, but the comparative review I'd read before made a really big deal out of it.

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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My first reaction on seeing these was "390 yen dinner in Shinjuku?!" The second was "Man, Blether sure knows a lot of strip joints and hotels." :raz:

What sort of camera did you use?

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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The Indian joint gives as good eating as you'll get at places charging JPY3,000-4,000 for the same amount of food; in the end the noodle dinner (tried later) showed its price more.

The Camera's a Fujifilm Finepix F80 EXR (the other one in the comparison I posted - you can read reviews for each via the link near the top of the column). I too bought this particularly for its low-light capabilities - and because I'd been using a Fujifilm for years and like knowing my way around the interface - including for example layout and function of the buttons, not just 'interface' in the narrow software sense.

I think you might have the wrong idea about me...

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Oh yes - I didn't particularly buy it for the feature, but I think it's the EXR sensor-jiggery-pokery that gives the kind of dynamic range you see in the second photo here - look for the definition both in the black frills of the oysters and in the white highlights on the shells.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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