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Behemoth

Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 1)

585 posts in this topic

Host Note: For a more current topic click here http://forums.egullet.org/topic/145603-the-food-photography-topic/

Thanks to FG'S most brilliant suggestion, we are starting a little crit-circle for food photography. As I have absolutely no shame and a boundless hunger for knowledge, I have decided to submit a couple of photos for your amusement. Tell me what I did wrong, tell me what I did right, tell me how I can make it all better.

First one I kinda liked. Following the example of heidihi, I shot this in daylight. The annoying thing is the sweat on the top of the egg (it came out of the fridge), which I only noticed once I had put everything away.
i8560.jpg

The second one was less successful. I wanted to replicate a restaurant situation, shooting in low light. I didn't bother with shutter speeds or anything, just used night mode on preset, and steadied my camera on a piece of cloth, on the back of a chair. The good thing is its not too blurry. The bad thing is...eh, pretty much everything else. Advice?

i8357.jpg


Edited by heidih (log)

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Okay, you asked.

I can't address things like f-stops or apertures or techno, but I do know the language of composition and design.

In the second shot, I would have come in closer or stepped back more, so that the bottom of the glass doesn't rest on the bottom of the picture. And I would have framed it with the glass and bottle off center, farther to the left. As it is, the bottle has the effect that a telephone pole "growing out of someone's head."

In the photo of the egg, I really like the texture of that mat. It's visually intriguing: it looks both metallic and organic.

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In the second shot, I would have come in closer or stepped back more, so that the bottom of the glass doesn't rest on the bottom of the picture. And I would have framed it with the glass and bottle off center, farther to the left. As it is, the bottle has the effect that a telephone pole "growing out of someone's head."

I absolutely agree...my probelm with that one was, when I tried to get closer the auto-focus wouldn't work, and from farther away you couldn't read the label. Also, you can see I failed to turn off the reading light in the other room. But the shot glass could definitely be better placed. Pretty sloppy overall, actually. As I said, I have little or no shame :wink:

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Actually, the reading light in the other room is not a distraction for me. It's compelling. Like, "What's back there?" Moody, even.

Nothing beats a good macro lens for focus, in my book. It's one of the first features I made good use of.

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While it won't help your short-term goal of improving your camera skills, both of the situations you show can be improved (at least for web-use) by digital post-processing. The egg sweat can probably be lessened or even eliminated with some kind of use of a blending tool or a targeted contrast reduction just on that little area, and the dark dinner scene could certainly be brightened and the colors (mainly the yellows, since there aren't many others present to enhance) brought up a bit.

i8553.jpg

In terms of composition, I'm no expert, but it helps to be able to see stuff in the first place. :biggrin: It does look a little unbalanced though. I'd have changed the angle a bit so that I was closer to the glass, but also swung clockwise around the table a bit. Or maybe have moved a few of the pieces of that table--there's a real empty space on the left that needs to be filled.

Also, technically, I guess it's a bad thing that we can see you in the mirror. :raz: Or is that indeed another room beyond? I admit I can't quite tell.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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While it won't help your short-term goal of improving your camera skills, both of the situations you show can be improved (at least for web-use) by digital post-processing.

That's actually a fantastic point, and what you did with my photo is great incentive to start looking into that. I am really a low-tech person at heart. I have a visual arts background but until now my usual medium had been pen and ink. (I've done some semi-professional illustration.) I've been wanting to get into photography for a really long time but usually lacked both funds and nerves. Finally, after years of borrowing other people's stuff, I decided to take the leap. Anyway, please don't take what I posted too seriously, I merely wanted to stick something up there so that other people would get brave and post something too. I learn a lot from just seeing what other people do.

Oh, there's no mirror, that's the living room.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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Well dangers exist with digital post-processing, at least at the amatuer home levels.

For example, look at the photo I enhanced--specifically at the floor behind the table (it's hard to tell--I'm talking about the light area behind the table--that is the floor and not a backing wall, right?). It's subtle, but do you see the blocky splotches? Those are annoying artifacts of the enhancement process.

You could, of course, just crop the photo. I'm not sure if that totally fixes the compostion problems, but it does focus things a bit more on the bottle and glass. You'd never do this for printing out a photo, but again, for web-use, it's just fine.

i8554.jpg


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Regarding the Egg picture, again it depends on what you want to convey. If your purpose was to show off the food (as will be the purpose of most eGulleters posting pictures of food..."Here's what I made for dinner last night", etc) you need a fill light so the egg will look better.

I'd suggest placing a white card (like white cardboard or posterboard...the pros call them "reflectors") off-camera to the right of the egg which will bounce the light coming from the left back onto the right side of the egg. It won't be as bright as your Key Light (which is what your main source of light is called) but will help to fill in the underlit areas/shadows. You can prop the white card up with a salt shaker or whatever is on hand.

If you actually used a low powered light on the right, it would be called, of course, a Fill Light.

And if this were video production there would also be a back light which helps separate the subjects from the background. But depth of field will help do in still photography what a backlight does in video.

Regarding the candle/wine pic, you could also use a little reflector (again, off-camera) on the left side to add a little highlight on the left sides of all the glass.

Also, compare the light in both pics. You have very warm, inviting light in the 2nd picture but the light in the egg picture has a blue tinge (fluorescent?) which lends a "coldness" to the image. Perhaps a reflector would help, or maybe a filter change to adjust for the blueness of the light (if you have that option) or some post-tweaking in an image processing program like Photoshop to shift the ambience more towards the red to gain back some warmth.

That being said, when we (the company I work for) shoot food for video (a whole different animal), we put the Key Light in back (so it's pointed towards the food & camera) and place a reflector or soft Fill light in front. Works like a charm for us.


“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”

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Also, compare the light in both pics. You have very warm, inviting light in the 2nd picture but the light in the egg picture has a blue tinge (fluorescent?) which lends a "coldness" to the image. Perhaps a reflector would help, or maybe a filter change to adjust for the blueness of the light (if you have that option) or some post-tweaking in an image processing program like Photoshop to shift the ambience more towards the red to gain back some warmth.

The egg picture was taken in daylight. The bluish cast comes from the mat, and is fairly true to life. I don't mind it so much since I liked that it contrasted with the warmth of the egg. I suppose I could try it with the WB set to flourescent. The nice thing about digital photography is you can't waste film.

What I wanted to capture was the difference in texture between the mat, the cup, and the surface of the egg. You are absolutely right, the egg is too dark. I think a reflector will make a big difference. I have a piece of white mat board somewhere.

I think what I will try to do is recontruct the same two images. The reason I chose two very basic subjects is because I wanted a scene I could replicate at will and practice with, and the content wouldn't be distracting. For the second image, apart from the composition, the macro setting automatically sets off the flash. I plan to go back to the manual to figure out how to override that.

I really appreciate your generosity with both time and advice. I hope other amatuers won't be shy, this is really helpful stuff.

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I think a little shadowing is okay sometimes. It's more the shadow on the base of the egg cup that's distracting as opposed to the shading on the egg itself.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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We're going to all have to give each other permission to "borrow" each others' images in this thread, if we are going to use them for own own tweaks and suggestions.

Right?

I, for one, will hereby grant permission to anyone in this thread to take any photo I submit in this thread, if they want to "borrow" it, tweak it, and upload their results into their eGullet images folder.

No copyright violations in this thread.

Sound good?

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There's also an interesting point someone once pointed out to me regarding "Photoshopping." In traditional photography, a certain amount of tweaking still happens in the darkroom so no one should feel like an inferior photographer if they have to do some digital tweaking.

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Here are my fiddles.

I used the airbrush tool a little on the shiny spot of the egg, and did some adjusting with the levels (command-L on a Mac) in Photoshop.

i8559.jpg

This I cropped, turned into greyscale, then back into RGB. I added three layers and scaled back their opacity to 20% or less, and filled each layer with a certain red, yellow, or ochre. I also adjusted the levels a bit.

i8558.jpg

EDIT: the second one is completely different for me, emotionally. The mysterious nighttime aspect is gone: I can see the things on the wall, and what once looked like a light on in the other room is not that at all.

Not better or worse, but different. Interesting.


Edited by tanabutler (log)

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This thread is a great idea. I do have one suggestion. My monitor is an old fashion standard size, 15 inches I think, and I can't see the whole photo. I can't be the only poor slob reading on a small screen. Could we pick a standard size that we know will fit on all screens? I did not get the full effect of the first two pics because they were too big to see all at one.

Rant over. You may not return to your regularly scheduled critiquing.


True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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You can see the effect of a Back Light in the egg picture. The Key Light in this picture is at such an angle behind the egg that it is acting almost like a Back Light. Note the whitish arc along the top edge of the egg which makes the egg "pop" from the background. This is what a backlight (usually placed up above the subject) will achieve.

I noticed another thing "wrong" with the Egg picture. Take a look at it and ask yourself where is the center of focus? Not in a composition sense but in a technical sense. If you look at the mat that the egg is on, it looks like the very front of the foreground is in focus. As you move your eye to the back you can see about where the egg cup is that the focus is not as sharp. If the intention of the photo is to show the texture of the egg, then this wouldn't be a good photo to illustrate that.

If it's to show the texture of the mat, then it's a succeful image.


“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”

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I tried to redo the egg photo but there are a lot of things I need to adjust -- will need to look through the manual again tonight. I will make a pledge to write down what settings I am using for future reference. Hillvalley, I would be happy to resize the original photos -- just tell me what would be good.

We really need some new photos now, and photoshoping mine doesn't count anymore. :wink: In the meantime, I have lots of homework...

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I tried to redo the egg photo but there are a lot of things I need to adjust -- will need to look through the manual again tonight. I will make a pledge to write down what settings I am using for future reference. Hillvalley, I would be happy to resize the original photos -- just tell me what would be good.

We really need some new photos now, and photoshoping mine doesn't count anymore. :wink: In the meantime, I have lots of homework...

The small screens are 640x480. So no photo should be taller than 480.

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Eggs dew.


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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I don't take photos, but I have to edit them. So, my 2¢ follows:

Shoot big then crop and enlarge. This is the best tip I ever paid money for.

Ground your image. Your main subject should just touch or maybe run off the border of the photo. Also known as anchoring.

Our brains like to process images from the top left corner to the lower right corner. So compose your photos with this in mind. Flop Behemoth's candle shot and see if it doesn't improve. I'm too freakin' tired to edit it and post.

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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My Canon Powershot Pro1 came today. It is light, small, gorgeous, ergonomic, and as mysterious and powerful as a newborn baby.

It has more buttons than a shipful of sailors, and it pops open even quicker. :raz:

I have much to learn, and meanwhile I am knock-kneed, honeymoon, bleary in love, smitten with this camera.

Maybe y'all with your big heavy cameras think you're closer to God than I am. I can live with that.

I look forward to learning how to use this tool. I took them both out tonight on a date at Ristorante Avanti (glorious local/seasonal/organic), and wound up using my G1 Powershot for most of the shots. This is only web work, and the G1 is beautifully suited for that, and more.

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Ground your image. Your main subject should just touch or maybe run off the border of the photo. Also known as anchoring.

Disagree about the "just touch" thing. I need to see proof. This is something I would just never do.

Can you link to some images that show this, because I'm likely misunderstanding.

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Behemoth, I really like the cool subtle blue cast to your egg shot. V. nice and contemporary looking- I think it actually works better than the more technically 'correct' color balanced version. For the sweaty egg, just let it come to room temperature before shooting next time :)

Just to go on the record re: altering images after the come off the camera. I try to do as much as possible at the time of the shot. I do as little in post-production as possible and mainly just fidget with the levels a bit, rarely crop at all, etc --I stay clear of "auto" anything; auto contrast, auto color, etc.

Someone requested a few outdoor food market shots. I have a couple from a recent trip to Thailand (below) -- not my favorite market shots, but they are the ones right here on my desktop. Generally speaking Behemoth, outdoor at high noon is going to be a problem -- harsh shadows, glare off the subjects, etc. I try to find shots under umbrellas or overhangs. If you _must_ shoot in full-on broad daylight, turn on your flash and shoot that way using "fill flash"....These were all shot under overhangs or in a stall.

thai3.jpg

thai1.jpg

thai2.jpg


*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Heidi Swanson

101 Cookbooks

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

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Our brains like to process images from the top left corner to the lower right corner. So compose your photos with this in mind.

Ah, unless you read Hebrew. :biggrin: It's all "where your eyes go first", I guess.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Our brains like to process images from the top left corner to the lower right corner. So compose your photos with this in mind.

Ah, unless you read Hebrew. :biggrin: It's all "where your eyes go first", I guess.

Ha, I actually thought of that too, as I grew up with languages that go in both directions.

heidihi -- the pig photo is humbling. What I like about your photos is they have this sort of very formal structure but with informal content. What you said about photoshop is about where I am -- it is something to look into but for now I am really trying to learn the ins and outs of using the camera first.

By the way, I figured out what went wrong with the egg photo in terms of focus -- this might have been obvious to you guys but my camera defaults to focusing on nearest object. I can change that very easily now, and may try to redo the pic to show the result (need more light than I have right now).

For the darker pic, there are several things to try. I've found out how to change light sensitivity and the digital cameras' equivalent to film speed. For the most part what I am getting out of this is learning what technical options I have when I take a picture, and what effect they will have. I think that is something that most beginners reading this will get out of it, too.

My not so secret ulterior motive in buying a large camera: I live in a small town that has 1) a newspaper with a really lousy food section and 2) a great farmer's market. The farmers avoid growing a lot of things as people don't know what to do with it, so I thought it might be fun to pitch a weekly mini-feature that would run from June through October, pick some obscure vegetable coming into season that week, show a photo of it, explain what it tastes like and give a really easy way of preparing it.

Also, I really wanted to finally learn all the technical camera stuff, and have somethng I could really take a long time growing in to.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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Our brains like to process images from the top left corner to the lower right corner. So compose your photos with this in mind.

Ah, unless you read Hebrew. :biggrin: It's all "where your eyes go first", I guess.

So, if you're Chinese it's top to bottom? :laugh:

I'd agree it is a learned cultural bias. (I'll flop the photo and post it as soon as I recover from spending the past few days ridding the office box of the "look2me" virus.)

Disagree about the "just touch" thing. I need to see proof. This is something I would just never do.

Can you link to some images that show this, because I'm likely misunderstanding.

tana, it's not so much a rule but a technique that has its place. Jason has been using the crop and enlarge trick relentlessly as of late and has come up with some really nice images. Chad's salt cellar avatar is also noteworthy. The cellar itself is centered in the frame but the lid and shadow bleed off.

PJ

Edit: Enjoy your new toy. :smile:


Edited by pjs (log)

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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