- Food Photography Tips and Techniques
- Reporter Rants About Boring Snow Pictures, Offers Some Tips (Video)
- Photographing Fast-Moving Freestyle Bike Photography (Video)
Posted: 27 Nov 2013 04:43 PM PST
The rise of minimalist cooking is changing the art of food photography. The following is a look at some of the techniques adopted by photographers to capture the simplicity and the spirit of this modern cuisine. Whether it is because of the recession or a genuine desire to downsize and simplify, minimalist cooking has become extremely popular. Everything from expensive and hard to acquire ingredients to rarely used, specialized utensils and equipment have been pared back to the bare minimum. Less is definitely more.
Many photographers have noticed this change, either consciously or intuitively and are evolving and adapting their techniques to suit. The old sumptuous saturated glistening overfilled image just doesn’t seem to be a good match for this new approach to cooking and food in general.
The photographers who get this and have a feel for the subject have started to utilize a few specific techniques which serve to emphasize the subject matter but in a much more understated way and this article will lay out a few of these basic techniques. It is not intended to be a comprehensive photography primer and most of the techniques will not require expensive equipment. It needs to be stated though, that even a basic dSLR camera will be capable of much more flexibility than even the best point and shoot due to the amount of control available to the operator. This does not mean however that perfectly acceptable results cannot be achieved with the point and shoots, just that the range of possibilities is smaller.
Simplicity is the Key
When composing the shot keep things very simple, plain white plates and brushed steel or plain counter tops work very well. If the image needs a bit of additional color, a sprig of a fresh herb such as sage is more than enough. Shoot on a level with or just a few degrees above the food. We are used to looking down on food and, in photography, offering a fresh perspective is always a good idea as it wakes the viewer’s brain up. It also adds interesting possibilities for lighting but more about that later.
A blurred background is generally a good thing as this emphasizes the subject. This can be achieved by either using a long lens e.g. a 300ml with a wide aperture from a few feet away with a dSLR or by utilizing the macro setting on a point and shoot and getting in really close, normally within a foot of the subject.
Both of these approaches have the added benefit of giving a very narrow depth of field. This means that only a small proportion of even the main subject is likely to be in focus. This concentrates the viewer’s attention even more.
The only piece of equipment that is essential for taking high quality food photographs, other than a camera of course, is a tripod. It may not be required for every single shot but not having one would rule out a lot of potentially good shots. The choices would be between a small tabletop model, probably best with the smaller point and shoot camera. This would enable the tripod to be set on the same surface as the item being photographed, very useful when the camera has to be close to the food. There is a small tripod available that has flexible legs enabling it to be wrapped around objects such as tree branches and signpost poles. This type of support would come into its own for say, picnics or barbecues. The bigger dSLR cameras tend to be too heavy for the smaller tripods and generally require a normal sized model. The advice usually given to photographers is to buy the most expensive tripod that they can afford. I would say buy the tripod that will do the job without breaking the bank.
Whatever tripod is used always either release the camera’s shutter remotely or use the timed delay function built into just about every camera now on the market. Pressing the shutter causes the camera to vibrate so doing this off camera or giving the camera time to settle down before the shutter release makes for a much sharper photograph. This leads us to the main reason for using a tripod: the photograph can be taken in natural light, i.e. flash isn’t essential. As a rule of thumb good natural light is always preferable to artificial if the choice is between one or the other but often the best photographs use a combination of the two.
While the above applies to food photography in general there are specific lighting approaches that give a more minimalist feel. The use of a very strong back light is one such approach. The best source is a window that occupies the entire background. This will give a very bright background with any colors reduced to pastels and objects such as trees, cars or other buildings reduced to abstract shapes. Now if this were the only light source used the food itself would be silhouetted and appear far too dark so a little fill light is needed. This is a blast of light from the camera’s flash that is not as powerful as it would be if there was no ambient light but is powerful enough to illuminate the main subject. Point and shoot cameras generally have a setting that automates this process while a little more experimentation may be required with dSLRs and flashes.
A couple of quick points about lighting that applies to all photography. Direct light is harsh and produces heavy sharp shadows. I think that it is safe to say that in all minimalist food photography this is a bad thing so we need to soften the light. This applies to both natural and artificial light. With expensive off camera flashes a small diffuser that fits over the bulb is usually enough. In the case of smaller cameras with built in flashes a little ingenuity goes a long way. If the flash can be covered with a piece of semi transparent clear plastic or even a piece of greaseproof paper results can be improved dramatically. The worse light source for photography is the small built in flash units on cheaper cameras. As for natural light, direct sunlight is to be avoided which is why a North or south facing window is best. If direct sunlight is the only option then a semi transparent plastic shower curtain attached to a frame of plastic piping makes for a great diffuser.
Of course the process does not end with pressing the shutter. Once the session is finished, or even during the session, the images are uploaded to a computer and edited. Usually the editing consists of little more than a bit of sharpening, a slight color correction or a minor crop. It is possible to use the computer for just these technical chores but, with a little imagination, the computer, can become a creative tool in it’s own right. A minimalist approach to photography requires an awareness of what is essential to the image and what is incidental. It is often possible to lose information by increasing the exposure at this stage, often an increase of two thirds to a full stop can really make an image pop. Part of the reason that this is so effective is because it makes dull and off whites bright. This effect is often used in fashion photography but works equally well with food.
Technique and Eye
There is no great mystery regarding what makes for great minimalist food photography. The best advice, as with all types of photography, is to find images that you like which were taken by others, see which techniques were applied, then practice. Hopefully a combination of good technique and a practiced eye will produce something unique. The following techniques work well for me: diffuse natural light from behind the subject and fill flash to fully illuminate the subject; a low point of view, get close to the same level as the food; blur the background and aim for a small depth of field; on the computer, sharpen the image a little, crop and color correct if required. Above all, experiment and have fun. One day I may be practicing and writing about a technique that you have discovered.
About the Author
For Further Training on Food Photography:
This recent guide is packed full of tips, techniques, and advice to help you get started or refine your skills at producing photos that bring out the best of any given dish. There is currently a 50% discount for Black Friday. Simply use the code TFP50 at checkout:
Found here: Tasty Food Photography Guide
Posted: 27 Nov 2013 02:42 PM PST
Winter weather has arrived just in time for the holidays, and with it comes the annual slew of snow pictures. You’d think that the blankets of white, the pastoral countryside, the creative snowmen, and the kids and pets frolicking about would give our Facebook feeds a variety of photo subjects. Instead, most snow pictures are taken right from a window or doorway without much creativity, serving only as proof that there was a storm. And one Colorado news anchor has had it with seeing these boring pictures of snow-covered patio furniture:
It’s understandable that pictures of decks and backyards are so commonplace. Convenience wins. After all, it’s cold outside. Why bundle up and trudge through a foot of snow to set up a shot?
In his rant, Kyle Clark of 9NEWS tells you why. The world is a beautiful place full of interesting things and people to photograph. Taking the easy way out does not do the winter justice. He wants you to get out there and get in the spirit of the season. Photograph your family, your dog, ice crystals, action shots–anything but your dormant tables and frozen chairs.
So this winter, be creative. Don’t bore your local news station and Facebook friends with the usual snow day fodder. Show them what you’ve got!
“If we asked you for pictures of springtime, would you really send us a photo of your skis in a closet? No! It’s depressing.”
Go to full article: Reporter Rants About Boring Snow Pictures, Offers Some Tips (Video)
Posted: 27 Nov 2013 10:58 AM PST
Photograph what you love. This advice has been repeated by famous photographers everywhere. And for some, photographing a passion turns into a successful and rewarding career. Sven Martin, who is passionate about cycling, turned his love of mountain biking into his job. Get a behind-the-scenes look from his perspective at Crankworx 2013:
Crankworx is an annual mountain bike festival in Whistler, British Columbia. The celebration started in 2004 and has grown to include concerts, parties, and a multitude of freeride competitions for the most daring of mountain bikers. Non-stop action, tough terrain, and throngs of spectators create a difficult scenario for the event’s photographers. Martin has been shooting the festival since its inception. He’s put in the time and money needed to break into this niche. Yet he’s kind enough to pass on some of his knowledge to camera-toting newcomers.
As much as he enjoys his job, Martin acknowledges its taxing nature. In addition to months of travel, photographing high-speed action such as mountain biking calls for tireless work, quick thinking, and dependable gear. Taking a break or choosing the wrong lens means he could miss the perfect frame. He must always be watching and anticipating the bikers’ next moves.
Sven Martin never imagined his fondness for the travel and camaraderie of mountain biking would define his career. But his devotion to photographing what he loves has helped him pave his own path.
Go to full article: Photographing Fast-Moving Freestyle Bike Photography (Video)
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