I spent most of Week 5 of my photography class in New York, meaning I had very little opportunity to grill and snap pictures, but I do have a few to share. And, after reading the lesson, I had many opportunities on my trip to contemplate the material we had covered about plating food and staging food photos, so that they would jump off the page and make you wish you could take a bite. I became acutely aware of the way food was presented to me, any time I ate out, thinking about the design-sense that went into plating it, so I was enjoying the food before I had even taken my first bite. In food photography, the “first look” is the only one we get, to draw a reader in and make them want to try a recipe or find out more about the food they are looking at; and presenting food in a photograph is NOT like setting it in front of a dinner guest at the table. It takes some specialized understanding of light, background, balance and symmetry, color and line — the artistic elements that draw someones eyes to anything beautifully portrayed. I have a pretty good handle on designing a plate to be appealing, appetizing and beautiful when I serve it to a guest. Translating that to a photograph is a skill I will have to continue to fine tune, even though I did pick up some great tips, this week.
First of all, I will say up-front that photographing food that your family is waiting to eat, is difficult for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which, is that they’re HUNGRY. :) Most of us can’t afford to prepare separate food for no other purpose than to photograph it. We still need it to be edible when the pictures are done, so some of my favorite food photography tips for this week were the ones that showed me how to enhance the foods appearance without making it unpalatable at the table, later. For instance, it’s much easier to photograph cool or room temperature food. It can be made to look hot, by simply adding moisture and shine. Brushing with a little olive oil or misting it lightly with water can do the trick.
It’s also really important to be very detailed and meticulous as you are prepping your food for a photo. Wilted, dried or shriveled anything should be discarded and the plate and area surrounding the food should be wiped clean of smears, drips or smudges. Think about the colors of your food as you prepare a meal and how they will compliment or contrast one another on the plate. It’s also fun to experiment with different backgrounds and props in your photos. Keep a “less is more” attitude about them, so they don’t shift the focus off your food, but it is definitely possible to add textures, colors and interest to your photograph with some carefully selected props, like silverware, glassware, candles and centerpieces, placemats, napkins, or wooden cutting boards. Fruits, vegetables and glassware can be misted to make them look dewy and fresh — appetizing. Shiny food looks more appetizing than that which appears dull and lifeless. Finding ways to add shine to the food in your photos will make them even more gorgeous.
Lighting is probably the most critical factor in achieving great food photos. It doesn’t require expensive lighting and camera equipment, just some basic knowledge of how light affects your subject and, in the end, your picture. Photographing food near a window with natural light will result in more pleasing photographs than using a camera’s flash. The flash often washes out many of the details that will give your readers a sense of really wanting to smell and taste your food. But even natural light, if it is too direct, can be harsh and create unappetizing shadows and “glow” spots on your food. Softening the light, by diffusing it through a window or using a mirror or bounce board to reflect it back onto the food you are photographing will help you to define details without creating hard, sharp and unnatural shadows. The food will appear much more natural and inviting.
I am enjoying this class so much and am so grateful to Sears Grilling and Social Fabric for allowing me to participate. I’ve actually learned to grill, a skill previously mastered only by my husband. But, more than that, I am learning to take better photos of the food I prepare for the blog and there aren’t words to express how excited that makes me! I have so much to learn and practice, but I’m excited at the potential, now that I have solid resources and explanations of how to create the kind of pictures that will make you hungry. I’m definitely getting better and excited for a time when it will be second-nature to me to be able to take great food photos. In the meantime, I so appreciate all of you for patiently hanging in there with me and watching and encouraging, as I take these next photography “baby-steps”, toward a better looking blog. You rock!
If you’ve been following me through this entire photography class process and keeping track of all the tips, so you can practice them at home, my first four posts are at:
I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.