How to Take Awesome Food Photos by Helen Rosner

A presentation covering the basics of shooting a slammin' food photo (it doubles as a general primer on still life, which is what a food photo is)

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How to Take Awesome Food Photos by Helen Rosner

A presentation covering the basics of shooting a slammin' food photo (it doubles as a general primer on still life, which is what a food photo is)

photography, tips, food

TAKING PRETTY PICTURES OF FOOD

TAKING PRETTY PICTURES OF FOOD IS ACTUALLY PRETTY SIMPLE

Hi, I’m Helen Rosner, I wrote this presentation! (I also took all these photos, unless otherwise credited.)

Ask yourself two questions before taking a photo:

1. What is REALLY here in front of me? (What’s the subject? What does it really look like? What angle am I seeing it from?)

This is what photographers high-mindedly refer to as “learning to see.” It just means seeing the world as OBJECTS, getting rid of your associations/assumptions, really flattening your perceptions. Sometimes it can be helpful to close one eye. Sometimes it’s helpful to just ignore the world and only look inside your viewfinder.

Whatever method, remember that the ultimate “eye” that is going to see things is your camera, not your eyeball. So prioritize your perception of what the camera is actually recording.

Ask yourself two questions before taking a photo:

1. What is REALLY here in front of me? (What’s the subject? What does it really look like? What angle am I seeing it from?) 2. What is the story I want this photo to tell? (In other words: What about the live, physical experience of this moment do I want to capture in the photo? Noise? Emotion? Scent? History? Drama? Deliciousness?)

When you’re dealing with a photo that has a subject (rather than an object, more on that later) it’s not just about capturing a shape — it’s about capturing an additional aspect. What’s the thing you want your viewer to take away from this? The story doesn’t have to be a narrative. It can be as simple as “this is beautiful,” or as complex as “It’s fall and I feel oppressed by the passage of time and I just got dumped and I miss her, I miss her so much.”

Ask yourself two questions before taking a photo:

1. What is REALLY here in front of me? (What’s the subject? What does it really look like? What angle am I seeing it from?) 2. What is the story I want this photo to tell? (In other words: What about the live, physical experience of this moment do I want to capture in the photo? Noise? Emotion? Scent? History? Drama? Deliciousness?)

A successful photo is one that bridges the answers to these questions

THE MECHANICS OF A GOOD FOOD PHOTO

KNOW YOUR MACHINERY Know your hardware! Know your software! What kind of camera are you using? How does it respond to different scenarios? How can you get it to behave its best? How can you compensate for its weaknesses?

You don’t need a fancy camera to take beautiful photos. All the photos on the next slide were taken with an iPhone — many with an iPhone 4. A FOUR! Not an 8 or an X. A 4!

THE MECHANICS OF A GOOD FOOD PHOTO

KNOW THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR CAMERA What’s the subject of your photograph? What’s the background/context around your subject? What’s the light like?

Fluorescent? Tungsten? Halogen? Sodium? Natural?

(diffused natural light is always the best)

Here’s how you learn about light: Take lots of photos. Lots and lots and lots of photos. Figure out why the ones that work, work. You can take a class or read a book — great options to accelerate your understanding of the mechanics of these. But nothing replaces just taking pictures and being honest with yourself about when a picture is ugly. (This is where the “learning to see” part comes into play. A 2am street-vendor taco might look beautiful to your eyes, because your brain is automatically correcting for the intense yellow of a sodium-vapor street light, and you don’t see that. But in the camera frame, those sins aren’t forgiven, and it’ll look like a brown mass of nothingness. The way to learn about light is to learn how to see light.)

THE MECHANICS OF A GOOD FOOD PHOTO

KNOW THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR CAMERA What’s the subject of your photograph? What’s the background/context around your subject? What’s the light like?

Fluorescent? Tungsten? Halogen? Sodium? Natural?

(diffused natural light is always the best)

Here’s how you learn about light: Take lots of photos. Lots and lots and lots of photos. Figure out why the ones that work, work. You can take a class or read a book — great options to accelerate your understanding of the mechanics of these. But nothing replaces just taking pictures and being honest with yourself about when a picture is ugly. (This is where the “learning to see” part comes into play. A 2am street-vendor taco might look beautiful to your eyes, because your brain is automatically correcting for the intense yellow of a sodium-vapor street light, and you don’t see that. But in the camera frame, those sins aren’t forgiven, and it’ll look like a brown mass of nothingness. The way to learn about light is to learn how to see light.)

THE MECHANICS OF A GOOD FOOD PHOTO

KNOW THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR CAMERA What’s the subject of your photograph? What’s the background/context around your subject? What’s the light like?

Fluorescent? Tungsten? Halogen? Sodium? Natural?

(diffused natural light is always the best)

Here’s how you learn about light: Take lots of photos. Lots and lots and lots of photos. Figure out why the ones that work, work. You can take a class or read a book — great options to accelerate your understanding of the mechanics of these. But nothing replaces just taking pictures and being honest with yourself about when a picture is ugly. (This is where the “learning to see” part comes into play. A 2am street-vendor taco might look beautiful to your eyes, because your brain is automatically correcting for the intense yellow of a sodium-vapor street light, and you don’t see that. But in the camera frame, those sins aren’t forgiven, and it’ll look like a brown mass of nothingness. The way to learn about light is to learn how to see light.)

DIFFUSED NATURAL LIGHT IS ALWAYS THE BEST

BUT!

What we’re going to talk about today isn’t what’s inside your camera

and it isn’t what’s outside of it.

We’re going to talk about the place where the two intersect

We’re going to talk about

What we’re going to talk about today isn’t what’s inside your camera

and it isn’t what’s outside of it.

We’re going to talk about the place where the two intersect

We’re going to talk about

THE FRAME !!!!!!

Like your viewfinder. Or your iPhone screen. Or whatever you’re using. (Or your Photoshop window, but generally it’s best to frame well in-camera so you don’t have to go crazy in post.)

~quick philosophical detour~

A food photo is just like any other photo.

It just happens to be a picture of food.

Or is it?

Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn

Instead of thinking of a food photo as a regular picture

think of it as

a portrait.

A portrait bridges the difference between reality

and

story

Here’s a bunch of photos of famous people. They’re snapshots — off-the-cuff representations of what the people and environments looked like

in the course of simply reaching out

with a camera and hitting the shutter.

In contrast, these are PORTRAITS of famous people. They’re thoughtfully composed, with consideration given to the positioning, distance, lighting, color — sometimes props, sometimes emotional elements. They are, on the whole, more able to intentionally communicate something about their subject than would be conveyed by the average snapshot. (Also lol please enjoy my volume indicator that got caught in the screenshot.)

This generally involves a little bit of manipulation.

This generally involves a little bit of manipulation.

(When you make a pot of pasta, do you really serve in thoughtfully mismatched bowls, get parsley & cheese everywhere, & start eating right next to the pot?)

This generally involves a little bit of manipulation.

(When you make a pot of pasta, do you really serve in thoughtfully mismatched bowls, get parsley & cheese everywhere, & start eating right next to the pot?)

In many photographic contexts, it’s NOT okay to stage a shot. But when you’re trying to communicate visual information about certain things in artistic ways — including about food — manipulating the context is a valuable tool.

We make visual choices — not to reflect stark reality, but to tell the story that we want to tell.

We make visual choices — not to reflect stark reality, but to tell the story that we want to tell.

CRUMPLED WAX PAPER?

AWKWARDLY BALANCED CINNAMON STICKS?

IT ALL JUST SCREAMS “AUTUMN!!!”

Who really balances cinnamon sticks on top of a mug? But by showing the sticks from a number of angles, we give the viewer more visual points of entry into what’s happening in this autumnal drink.

The Rules

These are the

basic rules of

food photography.

Like all rules,

they’re made

to be broken.

But you need to master them

before you can

break them.

The Rules

Natural light is the best light

The Rules

Natural light is the best light

On the left: A tomato shot under overhead light. On the right: A tomato shot with the lights turned off. It’s softer in both highlights and shadows, more naturalistic in its tone, and generally just looks more appetizing. If you’re shooting on the fly in a restaurant, you might want to request a table by the window — or even choose to eat dinner at an ungodly early hour, to catch natural light before sunset.

The Rules

Natural light is the best light

Frame intelligently

The Rules

Natural light is the best light

Frame intelligently

(framing, aka composition, is 90% of everything)

SO. OKAY. LET’S TALK ABOUT

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FRAME.

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

Generally, with our eyes, we see our food from a three-quarter view.

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

Generally, with our eyes, we see our food from a three-quarter view.

I took this shot by holding my iPhone up to my eye. It’s the actual angle from which I saw this plate. (It’s cropped a little, so the distance isn’t quite exact [more on that later] but the angle is accurate.)

THIS IS, IN A WORD, BORING.

The mistake lies in thinking that the camera should be a stand-in for the eyes. Eyes can

How to Take Awesome Food Photos by Helen Rosner
Info
Tags Photography, Tips, Food
Type Google Slide
Published 25/04/2021, 09:37:14

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