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Hello everyone, I am so honoured that Leah has asked me to guest blog on Cook Kosher: I have been an avid follower here recently, and I’m very excited that not only do I get to share my passion for food photography with you, but voice it on one of the blogs I particularly enjoy reading.
I am a young blogger and photographer from Italy; my blog, Labna, is focused on both traditional Italian recipes and Jewish Sephardi food . I hope you’ll visit, and come away with some new ideas and inspirations for your own culinary and photographic experiences.
Now, let’s dip into the topic: here are my tips! Some might sound quite obvious to those of you who are already very much into food photography, but repetition is the mother of memory, so here we go.
Shoot outside, when possible, but preferably in a shady place: natural light improves all pictures, but direct sun light might be too harsh and create a lot of shadows in the picture.
If you can't shoot outside, as in my case, choose a place in your house with a balcony or a window and stick to that place; once you have chosen your place, try to shoot the same subject from different positions and in different times of the day, so you get to know the way natural light interacts with the object of your shoots.
When you are shooting in front of a window, consider placing simple, light, white curtains, which will definitely make the light coming from outside a lot softer.
Being the window your only source of light, it might be helpful to place food on a table in front of the window and a white foam board (easily found in DIY shops) right behind it, so the light coming from the window will be reflected from the board on the food.
A window with curtains and a white canvas is all you need to play with light: I'm pretty sure everyone can do it!
To make it easy for you to understand, here is a shot of my "studio", which happens to be situated in my bedroom.
Winter in my country tends to be very dark and good natural light is only available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when everyone is probably working.
During winter I use two simple lamps for food photography, which I bought online, and the foam board I have already mentioned. If you are on a budget, you can build your own set of lamps for food photography following this tutorial.
Styling is also very important in food photography.
Feel free to experiment and develop your own taste, but keep in mind a few simple pieces of info.
Plan your styling and composition before starting to shoot and don't be afraid to experiment with details, possibly adding "levels" to your pic: a plate on top of another, a napkin casually laid on the table, some scattered cutlery, breadcrumbs... every detail contributes to bring the picture alive.
This leads me to the subject of props: props can also make a huge difference. If you can't afford buying a lot of stuff, ask your friends and relatives if you can borrow a couple of plates and glasses, or that lovely old pan... it will make a huge difference! By the way, given the chance, always prefer small stuff, like tiny plates and bowls, so your food will stand out.
Background texture is also very important: a light, white or cream tablecloth as a background will make your food look better, adding extra light to the shot. Generally speaking, choose background linen that has a nice feel, maybe a rough texture: this will make your background come alive and will add depth to your image.
What is more important, eventually: dare to step out of your comfort zone. Like to shoot on a plain white table? Try wood instead. Love that nice simple serviette you use in all of your shots? Buy a new, colorful one. Throw off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbor, as Mark Twain once wrote: you'll be surprised of your own resources, learning to trust your eye and develop your personal, creative style.
I hate those photographers who won't reveal such details, so I'm telling you: I have a Canon EOS400 and I have a couple of different lenses, as I am keen on photography in general, but for food I use mostly my 50 mm 1:8, which is fine. The whole stuff is not super professional, it's like DSLR entry level, and is ok for my needs.
Whatever the camera, even if it's a compact one, learn how to use it properly. Study your camera instructions and practice, practice, practice, trying to work in manual mode instead of automatic. Lear the basics of photography, that is: ISO, aperture, exposure and shutter speed.
Here's what you need to learn, generally speaking, in a nice simple info graphic.
For food photography in particular, there's not much you need to know, except for these tricks.
· ISO: ISO in my camera is never, ever higher than 200, unless I'm doing restaurant shooting in a dark room, because a higher ISO equals a grainy, noisy picture.
· EXPOSURE: My pics tend to be overexposed of a couple of points (see the info graphic again), so the resulting image is brighter and needs less - if none - editing.
· SHUTTER SPEED: Learning how to choose your shutter speed might be interesting but it's pretty pointless, since we're doing still life photography.
· APERTURE: This is quite important and can change your pics a lot, but it's also quite easy. I'll explain it in a very unprofessional way so everyone will understand: a small aperture number (from 1.5 to 4, more or less) means little depth of field and only small details well focused; a bigger aperture number (from 4 to 10, approximately) means a lot of depth and everything sharp and clear.
As usual, practice makes perfect. Practice a lot, using one subject only and changing your settings until you feel comfortable with your camera.
So now, what are you waiting? Rush to your homemade “studio” and have an awesome time shooting!