Food Photography is not my Forte – (doesn’t mean I can’t learn though)

You may have guessed that I am now determined to improve my food photography. Winter is coming (don’t tell anyone I said that though) and there will be more time to make new feeds from all the food I am storing in the cellar, and share the results with you. And doing something well is so much more fun. So I have collected a few blogs from the Fellowship whose photography I would like to emulate.   Emulate is a much politer word than ‘copy’.  Be afraid ( insert witchy laughter!).

Roger has to top our list. Roger  teaches food photography from his home in France so he really does have an unfair advantage that I would like to take advantage of. His work has passion but a pared down to earth handsome passion that encourages the essentials of the dish to shine.  food-045

Barbara  at Just a Smidgen produces work that is unapologetic in its  feminine and romantic tones. Her work is very personal and perfect in its attention to detail.

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Bread can be romantic right? If you want to see some really good bread shots pop over to Kristy’s family food blog.  Wonderful.

Rachel at Rachel Eats is not yet part of The Fellowship because she does not know about us! But  I have just discovered her and I cannot resist including her work. She shoots in her tiny kitchen in Rome, with very low light and can make an empty plastic box look tasty. I have been staring at her work trying to see out how she gets that lovely soft grainy look. Hmm. Is it the European light?

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Taste Food  chooses only one superb shot to showcase her superb food. This is a lesson in ‘less is best’. Plus Linda uses texture to pop up her images. Sometimes fabric or fiber mats and ethnic plates or stressed surfaces.

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Cooking in Sens – Rosemary pushes her exposures right to the edge to create  crisp light images that shine brightly from the screen. She also has the most beautiful plates. Her food is always local and delicious. Rosemary is a great food shopper.  Often she cooks what is in the markets that day so it is very fresh.

Frugal Feeding creates warm tasty images getting close to his food with minimal dressing up.

The list is long and I hope to extend my search further but you get the general idea.  Most of  you ‘The Fellowship’, are like me – not food bloggers but we all eat food, often we grow food too and we ALL love to see good pictures of food.   Not posh over styled pictures but real images of real food well presented. Sharp, clean, honest and enticing. So  I am hoping to get some more tips to improve my own pictures and I shall share these with you all too.

I made tomato chutney yesterday. No picture of that though. I ran out of energy and light. It is all about the light. You will remember that Dad said  – where there is light there is a picture.

So this is what I have learnt so far.

  • Natural light is the best.  I have set up a space by a window  just for the food shots. (I remember reading once that Roger had a tea trolley that he wold set then he moved it about the house in the winter  – seeking light!) Cover a lit window with baking paper or a thin white cloth so the light is indirect.
  • Back light or side light the dish.  Use a mirror or a white wall to bounce the light back into your subject. NEVER use a flash.
  • Use your tripod -clarity is a MUST.   (I hate my tripod it has a wobbly head, what use is a tripod with a wobbly head.)
  • Styling: Less is Best. (Which is just as well as I am not the type to have a cupboard full of beautiful dishes and cutlery to dress the pictures with.)
  • Use textures and shine. Textures in your plates and table tops. Layers of white or stone. Shiny food. Floating baking paper to add life. Imagination.

Mad said” Natural Light and Focus.”  So I will make sure my shots are Sharp.  Makes sense to me.

Well, I did my study,  I did my homework, took photos of tomatoes before I chopped them all up and threw them unceremoniously into a pot.  Then I unshackled my poor Camera House from the bonds of the mean wobbly old tripod and back outside we went.food-060

Good morning. Poor Queenie. See how that eye has a milky blue film over it, it is meant to be a bright brown eye. This is why I have gone straight to the strong medication. She is deeply unimpressed but is eating and drinking well in this dark stall with no competition.  Animals can lose weight when they are sick, and we don’t want out Queenie Wineti to lose condition during her pregnancy.

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You all have a lovely day.

It is chilly again this morning. But I am promised warmer temperatures later in the week.  I do hope so. I am not ready to be cold yet.

your friend on the farm, celi

80 Comments on “Food Photography is not my Forte – (doesn’t mean I can’t learn though)

    • I imagined that her eye was a little better this morning, the medicine is topical so it needs to be sprayed on the eye ball so you can imagine me and a one ton cow in a small stall struggling with getting that done, but this morning I think we got good cover. Plus she is moaning about being locked up this morning which is a good sign. I bet you empathise with that feeling! c

  1. Back light is good, but you need some fill on the front – you can use a large piece of white card and or aluminium foil covered card to bounce some light back into the front of your subjects. Reflectors either side can be good too, but do move them around and look at how they change the lighting. Sometimes less is more.
    You can use the diffused window the other way round too – try standing to one side of it and have the food in front of the window. There isn’t a hard and fast rule that says you can only back light food. What looks best is best 😉

    • What looks best is best! Love it! This morning I lit from the back (sunrise light in my little window) and shot from the side, I shall set up some reflectors too, maybe on folded card that can stand just out of the shot? Thank you Mad! c

      • You can have a reflector in front which comes from just in front of your subject to underneath the camera lens, without it getting into shot.
        Depth of field (focus) is important too. A small f. number, such as 1.4 or 2.8 gives very little focus, apart from the point you focus on. A larger f. number, such as 16 or 22 will give you lots of depth – all or most of your picture will be sharp. Sometimes you might want one or the other. Depth of field is critical in still life photography.
        … and one last thing – backgrounds and small details are very important. Crumbs, creases and smudges stand out close up. When photographing a glass, for example, one would wash and polish it to make sure it is sparkling clean. When photographing a wine or beer bottle, a company would send over a careful or more, in order to choose the best bottle and label. The same applies to food – choose the best grapes/cucumbers/peppers etc.
        I hope this helps 😉

  2. Thanks for the mention Cecilia. As you know, all praises are due to Roger Stowell, my photography teacher and mentor. Plate shopping is really my area of expertise 🙂

    • Well if plate shopping is your expertise you must be fantastic at that too as your food shopping is a favourite part of your posts. When you travel do you only take your favourites? c

      • Some of my plates are in Sens and some here in Stuttgart. So far, in Pennsylvania, with everything unpacked, there’s not much for pots, cutlery, plates and bowls, but as a lifetime collector, when I unpack the boxes, it will be like Christmas 🙂

  3. Well I am looking forward to more time in the kitchen with you, as I always enjoy your food posts. Thanks for the food photography tips: I could use a lot of help in that department. I cheat a lot and just put a kid behind the food (or in it) to keep things interesting! Stay warm.

    • Having a child in the shot or his hand is a fantastic human interest for us. Kids are a marvellous addition and not cheating at all. c

  4. One of these days, we’ll steal a week and go hang out at Roger’s…I had planned on that right before the Little Girl dropped from the sky into our lives. It’s been put off for a few years, but we’ll get there!
    Deliciously cool and sunny here today, with a chill breeze blowing. Perfect Outside Weather!

    • I remember you saying you wanted to go..and now it would be a double treat to get away for a week, You can drop the children out here, i will mind them for a couple of weeks! c

  5. I think your food photography is excellent.

    I loved the links to all those food photography though. I might mention Roger’s post on Figs, cream, walnuts & honey on the 17th Sept was really stunning. I think I’ll be signing up to some of these great foodie blogs. I could learn a thing or two from their photos.

    • Learning is the greatest thing in the world in my opinion. I have my notebook in one hand and my camera in the other, then i can play around but remember what i did!! c

  6. Well the first full day of Autumn is here. Like you I hate the cold, so hoping it will be a ‘warm’ autumn and mild winter! Don’t mind a little snow around Christmas just to add to the ambiance but must be gone by New Year! OK that’s my order in for the weather this year LOL.
    Talking of photographs of food, the ones that always look so good are those dishes with steam coming off them – like a nice big Steak and Kidney pie that you just now is hot and ready t eat! Not sure how they do that though capture the ‘steam’. I tried to take a photo of a cobweb yesterday that was covered in jewels of dew and sparkling in the early morning sunshine. My photo did not do it justice I’m afraid sigh…..

    • Oh yes the steam! We can work on steam shots, that would be great to learn. I love those cobweb shots, back lighting is the key to them for sure.. c

  7. Food Photography… I might get by with taking photos of the ingredients… but once the food is cooked, (thinking of your pie the other day) never gonna happen, too much tasting and there won’t be anything to take a photo of…

      • I agree!!!! LOL I should by rights…be 300 lbs.!!!! Good thing I’m not! Food shots make me very hungry and are highly motivating!!! Yum!

  8. First step for me would be buy a decent camera … sigh. I love your food pictures because the food looks real and homely, some of these food mags the food almost looks artificial ( to me anyway). This may be because I live on my own …. never gone for pretty sadly, just edible in the quickest amount of time as one does. Laura

    • You can do heaps with a regular little happy snappy, maybe have a look at the program Barb has given us the link for. A little tweeking here and there can often turn an ordinary shot into a wonderful shot! .. I am not terribly good at pretty plating either, no-one would appreciate it here!! c

  9. Many thanks for the kind words, Celi. A good thing to remember is that the best camera for food photography is the one you have. The picture that made me a finalist in the last Food Photographer of the Year competition, was taken on an old Nokia phone, that had been a hand me down. It’s seeing……that’s the only thing that matters.

    • I absolutely agree, the camera is a tool. We need to really get to know our camera. And the ‘seeing’ takes some training. Training I know I can benefit from. The cameras in phones can be a good tool though i have never learnt how to run mine! c

  10. You’ll do very well with your food photography, I have no doubt. The styles you have chosen to emulate are indeed beautiful and worth emulating. It’s rather chilly here too, and like you, I am not ready to be cold just yet!

  11. I love your “eye”, Celi. And– your words. Read you first thing every morning. Your animals & nature & yardifacts are favorites in that order & your beautiful food shots too. I’m a fan. Roger is an Old Master guy, Rosemary’s Gusto just plain inspiring. And her plates just knock me out! I found many of these through you & other food bloggers I follow. Did I find Shutterbean through you? I love her Young arty witty Urbane food, children & cityscapes. Her lighting too is fabulous. Alas, I am not a photographer. But I am a painter so I also love to look, see, & learn. Do you read & revel in French Word A Day? Kristin’s French doorways & windows are parfait, also her mossy stones & gleaming zinc bars. I am lucky. Like Thoreau in Concord, I am widely traveled right here in Asheville! Thank you for your lovely blog.

    • Judith thank you so much for these other links to check out. As an artist you will have a well trained eye and it is that EYE that i am working towards. Thank you, I shall zoom off and find a few of your suggestions, lighting is indeed the key.. c

  12. Wow.. what a lovely surprise to wake up to this morning, c.. I am in great company with the food bloggers you’ve mentioned here. I love your photography already! It’s evocative of a mood, if I’m making any sense. We can just feel Queenie’s sadness in your photo.. I hope she gets rid of that darn eye infection soon! Something I think I’ve figured out.. Start with the Aperture mode, zoom in really close and turn that other number as low as you can.. like to 3.5. Then take a close up and everything behind goes blurry. Apart from my blogging friends you’ve mentioned here is a food blog that I adore and wish to emulate when I grow up: http://vkreesphotography.com/ Finally, play with the free software.. http://www.picmonkey.com does a great job “sharpening” photos that have come out a tad shaky, or lightening/darkening a photo. It’s fun!!

    • I went immediately to visit v.k.rees and h my goodness i see what you mean, tremendous work and like you i am ready to suspend my camera from the ceiling to try and capture some of what she has accomplished. I noticed that Roger has recently done some overhead work, maybe we can ask him about that kind of work. I also saw the page previously where she has added script, now that is an idea I might play with today! Thank you for your advice re: exposures it is good to play with your apertures and shutter speeds.. i should do more of that c

  13. Me too Celi! I’m hanging on and basking in the warm weather for as long as I possibly can. I won’t even say the F or W words, as if I refuse to acknowledge they are coming, then maybe they’ll come more slowly??? We should be back in the 80’s later this week! Yeah!!! xo

  14. You are so awesome C! Kudos to you on still making time to work on your food photography, even though I feel you do a stellar job already.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  15. When I read about a foodie blogger who cooked 3 of everything just to get the perfect shot and sometimes just cooked to photograph, I realised that I’m happy taking “snaps” and enjoying my food. On the other hand, I’d rather take good snaps than bad ones. Somewhere there’s a happy balance.

    • Well I know one thing for sure Anne you and i do NOT have the time to cook something 3 times. once is quite enough!! Aiming for the happy balance.. c

  16. Thank you for the mention C! I have no doubt you’ll master food photography in no time. You have an amazing eye for a good shot and you are a fast study. You’ll soon be teaching all of us how to improve our shots – I have no doubt. 😉 Enjoy your day on the farmy. I too am not ready for the cold – but I am ready to embrace fall. Cheers!

  17. I like the apple picture at the top and its lighting. Wish my photos would turn out that good!

    And for fun, you may want to check out Carl Warner and his foodscapes. He creates these wonderful, elaborate photos using scenes built from different types of food. I love his Stilton Cottage and London Skyline photos.

  18. Like you, I’m always searching for ways to improve the photos that illustrate my blog (and my life). Unlike you, I come to *you* for info and inspiration in how to do that! 🙂

  19. I have just spent the whole day (well a large part of it) worrying about my low light and grainy pictures. And then this, I am so glad you like the pictures. I have a lovely nikon that I use badly. I take the pictures when I am cooking, with no real styling, in the window. I am a beginner too. Nice generous post. Rx

    • Good morning Rachel. It is your images that have set me on this path, they are so moody and I love that . I hope I didn’t upset you by calling them grainy, I love film for that very reason but am too lazy and impatient to shoot in film anymore. I don’t think you use your old Nikon badly at all! Have a glorious day, I do enjoy your blog.. c

    • Thank you nancy, i shall go in search of you in the spam, sometimes wordpress send the most unlikely people down to the dungeon. c

  20. Allow me to put in a bit here about picture taking. I take mostly flower and bug pictures but this works for everything. Take a lot of pictures of your subject from many angles and distants(?)and camera settings, you are more apt to get some good pictures this way(Out of ever 100 pictures I take I am happy if I get a third that are keepers). . If possible use a macro lens(you can use this lens from all pictures but it is best for close ups, I only use one even for sunsets) To remove grain use a good tripod or a good photo editing program(grain is caused by movement of the camera . I use Photo shop elements 11 with Topaz Lab plug ins. If you do have and use a photo editing program you can set most camera to take pictures in RAW, this allows you to do all kinds of things to the picture. .

  21. I only have the camera on my phone… by choice. Lighting, focus and cropping are the keys. I heard a tip from a creative director in an ad agency one time who says they get the steam in food photos from soaking a tampon in water, popping it into the microwave and placing it under the food! Do we really want steam in food photos that badly? Well, there you have it, the secret!

  22. Maybe I need to explain RAW a little, a digital camera “develops” the picture inside of the camera,
    But when you shot in RAW you are getting something like a negative and you need to “develop” it. Most camera that shot RAW
    come with a program that use use to “develop” the picture.

    • Great info Sandra, i would love a macro lens, not quite in the budget this year though, however i have never worked from RAW. That is an excellent suggestion, I shall start doing some research. I use photoshop to tidy up images (very fast i might add and most definitely not as well as i should). I quite like the grainy low light shots, and you will be shocked to know that i am TRYING to take them. Not as easy in digital though. Thank you .. have a lovely afternoon.. c

      • My camera (cannon T3i) can take pictures in both RAW and regular at the same time.
        I was surprised in the different in the 2 pictures. RAW was so much brighter and richer in color in most cases. And you have more details to play with. I now take all pictures in RAW–but the down side is there is much more editing involved. That is why I still have a few 100 pictures I have not get edited yet. Need to either sit my self down for a few days and only edit or stop taking pictures until I catch up!! LOL

  23. The tomato shot is really nice, especially the lighting. On the others, you may want to increase your depth of field a bit so more of the part you want is in focus.

    • You are absolutely right Nicole, Mad has put me right on that point as well.. I have lots of room for improvement.. c

  24. Food photography is something I really need to work on, it’s not as easy as the really great photos on other people’s blogs suggest! Thanks for the links… the only one I’ve looked at before is Rachel Eats (she writes well too), so I’ll try to educate myself by taking a look at some of your other suggestions. Not sure if anyone’s already suggested it, but the photos on 101 cookbooks (http://www.101cookbooks.com/) are pretty inspirational too.

  25. Hi Celi, I have been trying to improve my photography too, but it’s still a work in progress. However, I took a three hour DSLR photography class, and learned you can get grainy shots by setting your ISO to a higher number. i.e. 1000 takes a grainier picture then at 400 or 100. Also the higher you set your ISO the grainier the picture is, and is used for low light situations. I hope that helps! p.s. and wouldn’t you know, the tripod insert at the bottom of my camera broke this weekend. :/

    • I hate tripods! My Dad always said to get one too heavy to lift, he was right, these light ones BREAK! Thank you for the ISO info. Most excellent idea to take a class though, I would like that! c

      • The class was well worth the investment, kind of like a DSLR for Dummies class. I used to use the flash, no tripod, and used the automatic setting on my camera because I had no clue how to use all the fancy settings. Now I shoot everything in manual mode and my photography has improved, but it’s not where I want it. I think I’ll be looking into food styling classes next, if I can find one in my area. Oh, and I need a new camera, mine is six years old, anyways. I’ll be rubberbanding it to the tripod in the meantime…

  26. Oh how delightful to click on the computer to this! Celi: honestly we enjoy your food photos now but I can just see you wanting to conquer this area of expertise also. Am awfully thrilled to know that besides ‘cookinginsense’ [which will be visited today 🙂 !] I seem to have found all the others already. Discovered Rachel Eats over a year ago: quite besides photography I love the walks ‘we’ take around Rome and the depths of philosophy which oft emanate from the page . . . Good cooking, enjoyable clicking!!

  27. Love the dandelion shot – another prize winner!
    I thought the food shots were from the other blogs you are talking about. Now I’m realising they are yours.

  28. Taking on a new challenge, learn something new, improve skills – a simple way to make life interesting, a project… to measure old against new, to gain a sense of accomplishment. It keeps the brain and spirit alive 🙂

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