• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

Behemoth

Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 1)

585 posts in this topic

I don't have "the eye", but I really want "it"

This thread has such a wealth of information,  so much to learn, it just might be possible for me to achieve the eye.

i8880.jpg

Hiya,

The one thing about this photo that keeps bugging me is that my eye keeps getting drawn the the space between the two pastries, towards the middle of the picture. If I were to take that shot, I would try to maybe have the front pastry much more dominant in the foreground, and the other one more blurry and hidden in the background.

Having said that, I wanna come to your house for dinner! I really should never look at this thread before lunch...

I love the composition of the crab photo -- though I've noticed glare coming off food and plates on a lot of pictures, including this one, can be distracting. This is something with which I've also been having trouble. Does anyone have any strategies for avoiding that?


Edited by Behemoth (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've noticed glare coming off food and plates on a lot of pictures -- something with which I've also been having trouble. What are some strategies for avoiding that?

Under studio conditions you can control a lot of it with lighting and also with matte sprays that you apply to the items. In the real world your best bets are natural light and careful planning of the angle of your camera versus the angle of the light. Even if you are using point and shoot flash the angle and distance will make a lot of difference. You can even fabricate a diffuser of sorts out of a piece of translucent material in order to cut flash glare, although some cameras will freak if you do that. If you have the ability to choose your background surface you will do better with less reflective materials (duh!) than with ones that tend to glare back. For the food there's no harm in a little reflectivity, it can add dimensionality, but if you're getting a lot of glare your food is probably too "wet" -- blotting with paper towels can help, as can repositioning yourself until you find an angle from which the glare is less apparent. Shiny chocolate things will always be challenging, though.


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread is moving very quickly, both in posts and in techniques. I had assumed when this thread was started that it was going to simply center more on how to shoot your dinner for the "Dinner!" thread or for the Food Blogs but it has certainly grown beyond that.

One thing that has been missing from a lot of the posted images is any mention of the equipment being used to shoot the pictures. I think that should be one of the rules of this forum since it's important information, IMHO. Listing the type of camera should be a "must".

That being said, I think what fifi mentioned, stating your intentions, is also important so viewers/critics can decide whether the photo was a success or not.

I can see any eventual eGCI class spread out over quite a few classes like the Stock classes were spread out...Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or Lighting, Composition, Post-Production, etc.


“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”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
These high-contrast photo compositions also often work spectacularly when photographed from directly above rather than from diner's eye perspective.

Yes. Yes. I've been waiting for someone else to say that.

Sadly, if camera shake is a big problem that's a tough angle to photograph from, but it's usually the most arresting shot.

As for the issue of something more "official" based around single subjects, lets hold off for a short while on that and let the eG staff try and figure out the best way to produce and manage something like that. I can't make any promises.

I can see any eventual eGCI class spread out over quite a few classes like the Stock classes were spread out...Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or Lighting, Composition, Post-Production, etc.

It's something which has been discussed before, but finding the right (available, authoritative and willing) teaching staff is an issue. Ellen, for example, is an excellent and skilled photographer, who knows bucket-loads of stuff, but is not primarily a food photographer. Do we have anyone here willing to fess up to professional credits in that direction?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jason,

Regarding your Chicken Mole Poblano, I, too, prefer the wider shot. If you're taking a picture of what you had for dinner, then I don't mind seeing a plate at all. Your plating is part of the subject matter so the plate itself becomes just a background note.

The closeup of the black beans didn't do it for me due to their lack of texture. Now a closeup of the rice or the sesame seeds on the chicken would have been, texturally, better pictures.

Having read the original discussion where it was first posted, fifi's lard picture was perfect for it's intent. The lighting is good and if anything, it could have been cropped a little tighter, but overall, it was well executed and made its point.

zilla369 - The first image (the bottles) needs either a less complicated background or more depth of field to put it out of focus. If the purpose of the photo was to do a study of the bottles and their contents, the background pulls the attention away from the foreground. Plus, it looks like the background has a sharper focus than the bottles do. AutoFocus is like a temperamental two-year old...if you don't take charge of it, it will do what it wants and can end up ruining your picture.

The Yolks pic...as it's been said, it's out of focus. I would also crop tighter, losing the exterior bowl rim completely and going more towards an abstract image.

The Salads Pic...the chefs are "soft"/out of focus. I would recommend either focusing on them or lowering the camera so the first couple of salads are front and center and in focus and then the chefs would be out of focus but the intent of the pic would still be communicated.

Egg Wash....very funny pic. Could have gone with a tighter crop so you can better see that you've got eggs there or perhaps a bigger bowl of them to stress the joke.

Ice Sculpture - The pineapple is out of focus and the reflection of the people in the window is in focus so, again, it makes me ask what is supposed to be the intent of the image?

Ellen - Beautiful soft lighting on the tofu shot. It's a little wide for my tastes but the background does help tell the story of what's happening. I am assuming it's one in a series.

Again, beautiful lighting and, again, the salmon in the steamer/wok shot is a little wide for me. I'm assuming it's supposed to show the chinese steaming/wok technique but the hungry man inside of me wants to see a closeup of that darn salmon. :laugh:

esperanza - I'd like to see a larger size version of this. Can you repost it larger?

spaghetttti - Both pics are great. The crab shot is a little tight for me. What is it? Is it dinner or "A Study of Crab"? I'd either pull out to show more of the pot/serving dish or go to the other extreme and do a Jason-like closeup on the center claw, showing the pincers in the middle or focus on the meat at the bottom center.

The Onde picture is very, very nice. You can almost feel the texture of the seeds and the texture of the tabletop. One quibble would be the upper right quadrant background is dirty and is a wee bit distracting. If this is a "Stufy of Onde", then it should have been cleaned up to leave all focus on the Onde itself. If it's a picture of dinner, then I think it's forgivable.

jinmyo - I agree with a lot of what's been said about your photo. The reflection in the table glass is distracting. Perhaps cropping would help eliminate this. Your simple presentation showcases the food. Girl, you know how to plate! :laugh:

Personally, I could care less about napkins and forks. I want to see and taste and smell everyone of your creations so I would have preferred a tighter shot to concentrate on the food. The Zoom function won't work as well as physically moving the camera closer which would allow the flash fill to better light your food, which, in turn, would have made me drool more. :wink:

helenas - The greens photo is great. The lighting seems to be the same intensity overall. Next time I'd recommend placing a piece of cardboard off-camera to the right to cut off some of the light coming from that direction. It'll provide some contrast to the image. I think the pros use something like a round disk of black netting to achieve this...don't know the real name of the tool.

The photo of stuffed mushrooms (?) is very busy. Do you want me to look at the food or the pattern on the plate or even the wood pattern of the table? I'd recommmend putting the mushrooms on a solid-color plate, even a simple white plate so it won't compete for the viewers' attention and will showcase the mushrooms.

edited to clarify


Edited by Toliver (log)

“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”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Here are a couple of mine (to get started with).  I tend to do shots with unusual centers of focus (as with the frozen berry shot) and I am not sure if they work.

i8839.jpg

i8835.jpg

i8838.jpg

I like everything about the cherries except the composition of the picture. The subject isn't clearly defined. I would have liked one cluster of cherries near the center of the photo - or 3 clusters - whatever. But I'd like to see something near the center of the photo. I think the second photo is kind of blah - again - no real subject. The third picture has great composition. I think that's the kind of picture you should be looking to take. Just my two cents. Robyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have a question, and I mean this very respectfully. Do you wear glasses or otherwise have impaired vision? Because the beans and other shots aren't really in focus--a very slight camera shake might also be the culprit...

I take a lot of closeup photos (everything from details for Ebay sales to butterflies) - and it's easy for them to come out blurry. Most of the time - I find that the "close-up" setting on my camera will do the trick. But sometimes it doesn't. Robyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So this was my lunch...Pad Thai.

i8851.jpg

I used dynamic focus so it wouldn't focus on nearest thing. I used "vivid" setting to punch up the greens a little. (They were just pale things.) Shot the photo in front of a window, with white balance set to shady. I think it's too dark a photo, still. Bah, shoulda probably used some sort of fill light, huh? The flash tends to really glare off these dishes. This is like trying to put a t-shirt on an octopus, so many things to do all at once! I'm hoping with some practice at least 4 or 5 of those will be semi-automatic.

Ellen, where and what would I buy to make a diffuser?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Behemoth, the easiest thing is a piece of single-ply toilet paper or one ply of a Kleenex. You hardly ever find yourself in a situation where you can't at least come up with that, and it works pretty darn well. With my current gear I have two Sto-fen diffusers which cost about fifteen bucks each but they don't accomplish anything that any translucent piece of white material doesn't do. They just look a bit neater.

Toliver, thanks for those comments. I was hoping you'd ring in on postprocessing. Those images are I think unprocessed except for the resize. Maybe I could e-mail you the originals and you could show how you'd crop and improve them. I find that the Canon D60 has a consistent underexposure problem (this is noted on plenty of photography sites). I'm not sure if it has been corrected in the 10D and Digital Rebel, but if not you will want always to shoot with positive exposure compensation on the Canon DSLR line. I chose those photos because they were part of a few dozen taken the first or second day I had that camera, so they're especially ripe for a lot of commentary. By the way, I'm sorry your hunger for the salmon was not satisfied. I hope this will help:

i8893.jpg


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Very educational thread.

Please critique:

i8884.jpg

i8885.jpg

There's nothing to critique about the first photo. It's the best picture I've seen in this thread. Really terrific.

The second picture just doesn't work. I think after looking at a lot of these pictures - I'm getting the sense that it's hard to take great pictures of prepared food. If you're too far away - they don't look like anything. If you're too close - they look like something you'd rather not see :wacko:. Gives me a lot more respect for professional food photographers. Robyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The second picture just doesn't work.

It sure does not: since Toliver mistook those eggplants for mushrooms :biggrin:

it's hard to take great pictures of prepared food

Once again, agree: that's why on many occasions i felt like taking a picture just before some dish would go to the oven - way bettter looking than when it would come out :rolleyes: ...

but pondering at so many pictures in cookbooks i have a suspicion that there are many trucs that we, amateurs don't employ not only because we're not aware of them but also because our ultimate concern is to make a dinner: the picture is just a nice souvenir :smile:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cooked food, I think, often loses color, and softens or blends texture. Even in the best of these photos, I think The greens, reds and especially yellows start to become more brown, tan, or black. Except on the raw (or mostly raw) parts you add on top. :smile: The textures get runny, or melty, or shiny.

It's not really a surprise, is it?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cooked food, I think, often loses color, and softens or blends texture. Even in the best of these photos, I think The greens, reds and especially yellows start to become more brown, tan, or black. Except on the raw (or mostly raw) parts you add on top. :smile: The textures get runny, or melty, or shiny.

It's not really a surprise, is it?

Definitely, that's why, for example the pad thai recipe asks for half the scallions and sprouts to be cooked, the other half to be added raw at the end. Makes good plating sense, never mind the photos. I have to say, though, while I've always been aware of how I serve things, having to take photos of the fished product really forces the issue of "what will look good".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Restaurants typically pay much more attention to the appearance of food than home cooks. It is often a fundamental consideration when composing dishes. There are plenty of great-tasting items that never make it onto restaurant menus because chefs decide they're unappetizing to look at. Home cooks are much more oriented towards cooking for flavor and almost never think about appearance until it's time to assemble the final dish, so they are usually limited to garnishes as the primary tools for brightening up plates and adding contrast.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some people have suggested that they want a bit more structure in this thread - and Ellen suggested a "leader". I'm not sure we absolutely need a "leader" unless there's someone who knows what they're doing who would like to lead. I certainly don't fall into that category.

But - to give a bit of structure - I suggest we try one subject a week. And that each person can post 2 photos of the subject - one "plain" and one "arty" (the second being optional). I also suggest that the first subject be "fruit" (which would include berries and the like) - because I think it's relatively easy to do - this is the height of the fruit season - and all of us should have some around the house (and if you don't - shame on you - start reading the nutrition threads :smile: ). All in favor - say aye - all against say nay. I'm open to other ideas - but this seemed like an easy painless way to start. Robyn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also suggest that the first subject be "fruit" (which would include berries and the like) - because I think it's relatively easy to do - this is the height of the fruit season - and all of us should have some around the house (and if you don't - shame on you - start reading the nutrition threads :smile: ). All in favor - say aye - all against say nay.

Fruit. Eh.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Restaurants typically pay much more attention to the appearance of food than home cooks. It is often a fundamental consideration when composing dishes. There are plenty of great-tasting items that never make it onto restaurant menus because chefs decide they're unappetizing to look at. Home cooks are much more oriented towards cooking for flavor and almost never think about appearance until it's time to assemble the final dish, so they are usually limited to garnishes as the primary tools for brightening up plates and adding contrast.

I think even home cooks can sometimes make those choices. Okay... Red Holland peppers probably DO taste somewhat better than good old ordinary Green, but haven't you ever caught yourself using them to make something look a bit better? Ground up Basil leaves might distribute better, but occasionally you present them as an intact garnish and not a spice.

Tonight, quite by accident, I had a meal that might have photographed really well if I'd had a digital camera around, or thought of it. I had to make due with ingredients lying around and it just worked out that way. I had frozen ground turkey burgers, but no rolls. So I looked around and noticed I had tortillas--blue corn in this case. I had red peppers, but no green, because the red were on sale in a place I shopped recently. I had basil leaves up the wazoo, because the basil plant in my window hadn't been harvested in a while. I had cheddar cheese. Cooking the burgers and breaking them up among the tortillas (which I fried a bit) made sense, but I also used what else was on hand. So I had blue, red, a mid-range tan and brown, orange, and green on one plate. Much more colorful than 90% of my meals. Who knew fate had such a good eye for color?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Robyn, I think fruit is too general. I would like to see it more specific. Cherries come to mind. What if the compositional guide line was just that the shot must include cherries? Everyone submits two pics during a week long period. That way we are critquing a dozen shots at once.

I think there does need to be some size guidelines. Pictures look very different at different sizes. Or maybe a maximum pic size so everyone can see the whole shot?

Oh, an if eG is willing to pay for my master's in photography, I would gladly write a food photography eGCI course :smile:


Edited by hillvalley (log)

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also suggest that the first subject be "fruit" (which would include berries and the like) - because I think it's relatively easy to do - this is the height of the fruit season - and all of us should have some around the house (and if you don't - shame on you - start reading the nutrition threads  :smile: ).  All in favor - say aye - all against say nay.

Fruit. Eh.

Yeah, I have to admit I'm not feeling the fruit thing quite so much either. It's almost hard to make that stuff look bad. The thing that's useful about posting cooked dishes/dishes in progress is that it is what most people have been doing already in the dinner thread and in the blogs, which was sort of the point of this exercise. So I would either go in that direction, or else pick some commonly occuring challenge like "glare" or "dim lighting" and try to find a means of dealing with it, either in the course of the photo, or via photoshop. At least, that would be much more useful for me.

It would definitely be fun to have a non-"plate"-focused thread, but here the point was primarily to improve the utilitarian snapshots lots of us were already taking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if you look at the studio photography section for Ms. Sheffer you notice something right away. Her distinct style on most of them is to turn the angle of the camera a few degrees (look especailly at photos number 4,8,9,11 & 12 in her "Studio" section). She also uses the anchoring technique already discussed here quite often (1,2,4,5,6,8,11,12).


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It sure does not: since Toliver mistook those eggplants for mushrooms  :biggrin:

Oops, sorry about that. :blush: I don't eat 'em...don't know what they look like cooked.

Perhaps if you had some in their raw whole state in back of the plate, I'd have put two & two together. As it was, I thought they were some big-ass mushroom caps, obviously! :laugh:

i have a suspicion that there are many trucs that we, amateurs don't employ not only because we're not aware of them but also because our ultimate concern is to make a dinner: the picture is just a nice souvenir  :smile:

Yes, you're right. Professional Food Photography is an art unto itself. There are oodles of tricks to it but do we need to know them in order to post our dinner to the "Dinner!" thread? I think there's a happy medium here somewhere.

Toliver, thanks for those comments. I was hoping you'd ring in on postprocessing. Those images are I think unprocessed except for the resize. Maybe I could e-mail you the originals and you could show how you'd crop and improve them. I find that the Canon D60 has a consistent underexposure problem (this is noted on plenty of photography sites). I'm not sure if it has been corrected in the 10D and Digital Rebel, but if not you will want always to shoot with positive exposure compensation on the Canon DSLR line. I chose those photos because they were part of a few dozen taken the first or second day I had that camera, so they're especially ripe for a lot of commentary. By the way, I'm sorry your hunger for the salmon was not satisfied. I hope this will help:

i8893.jpg

Ellen,

I didn't comment on the postprocessing because it looked like the intention of these two photos was on-the-spot documentation of a meal being cooked. That usually means shooting in available light and shooting from the hip, so to speak, meaning you can't really interrupt the process to stage a photo. Given that, I thought they were both very good given the circumstances and didn't need to be picked apart since you didn't have control over the situation (I assume). Does that make sense? That's why the intent of posted photos can be important.

Yes (here I go critiquing them!), both are a little on the under-lit side and some cropping could help them but, again, given the spontaneous shooting conditions, they turned out quite well and your point is still made.

I will process the pics in Photoshop (I'll use what you posted) to see if they can be tweaked any but there may be a delay in posting the results because I am leaving on a week's vacation to the Land Beyond Computers (i.e., my mom's house in San Diego :laugh: ). I will attempt to borrow a computer down there to do the processing and posting.

And thanks for the gorgeous salmon photo! In the picture, your point of focus is very narrow and I don't have the know-how to suggest how to broaden it so more of the salmon is in focus. The lighting is good...perhaps a little reflector could have been added to the left side to fill in the shadows, but it's still very good overall.


“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”

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, if you look at the studio photography section for Ms. Sheffer you notice something right away.  Her distinct style on most of them is to turn the angle of the camera a few degrees (look especailly at photos number 4,8,9,11 & 12 in her "Studio" section).  She also uses the anchoring technique already discussed here quite often (1,2,4,5,6,8,11,12).

Not that it matters in the context of the thread, but Nelli is he :smile:


Edited by helenas (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yeah, I have to admit I'm not feeling the fruit thing quite so much either. It's almost hard to make that stuff look bad. The thing that's useful about posting cooked dishes/dishes in progress is that it is what most people have been doing already in the dinner thread and in the blogs, which was sort of the point of this exercise. So I would either go in that direction, or else pick some commonly occuring challenge like "glare" or "dim lighting" and try to find a means of dealing with it, either in the course of the photo, or via photoshop. At least, that would be much more useful for me.

That was kind of the point - that the subject is relatively easy - so people can concentrate on things like focus - composition - color - the basics. I am certainly not so advanced that I can say I have mastered the basics.

As for things like glare - or dim lighting - I think the latter is relatively advanced - the former can be really advanced (I had to take pictures of silver so I could get auction house opinions - it was basically impossible for an amateur like me to take decent pictures - I couldn't believe what the professionals actually had to do for the auction catalogue).

Anyway - it was just a thought....

Robyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, I have been playing around all afternoon with a digital enhancer (XnView for the curious). I can't believe how great these things are, but I can't help but feel like I'm cheating. I can recover almost any mistake with this thing! I am about to post an improved pic of the pad thai in the dinner thread. Yet another frightfully addictive plaything...Oy.

edited to reply to robyn -- I am willing to cede the choice of photo topics to the crowd, let's hear a few more opinions before we go one way or another. One option could be to have fruit as just the first round subject, to get people warmed up.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.