Do you know how hot 6000 bajillion millionty thousand degrees is?!!! It’s HOT, baby! Good thing my new Sears Kenmore grill can ONLY hit 800 degrees! Of course, I very rarely need to reach that temperature; but even if you’ve never hovered precariously at the top of a step-ladder, teetering on the precipice of almost certain combustion, while trying to achieve the “perfect shot”, you will still appreciate that 400 or 500 degrees CAN most certainly melt your face off. – lol– My loving family has enjoyed reminding me of such things, all week, as I have continued my quest to take better food pictures, and pictures in general, really, for the blog and for life. It’s a skill I have always wanted to acquire, and now, with the opportunity for these great classes from SFU and Sears, I am on an earnest quest to achieve my Better than Reasonably Acceptable Photography badge. And thus, the need for a step ladder — and a melted face.
I’m excited that so many of the confusing aspects of photography and properly using the manual settings on my camera, are slowly becoming more clear. I still have a long way to go, but I am enjoying the journey and I really DO think my pictures are improving. This week we dug a little deeper into aperture, ISO and depth of field (DOF or f/stop). DOF was a simple term for me to understand, since it simply defines how much of the picture will stay sharp and have crystal clear detail, and how much will blur and fade into the background. The difficult part of that is deciding exactly how you want that to look in your photo and then setting your camera to achieve it. The most confusing part is remembering that the bigger the number, the smaller or shallower, the depth of field and the smaller the number, the larger or deeper the depth of field. (So a big number means a small DOF, while a small number means a large DOF. Way to be confusing, right?) The larger the number (f/28), the smaller the aperture (opening for light) in your camera, and the smaller, or more shallow, the field of focus will be. Meaning, the main subject that your camera focuses on will be crystal clear and focused, while everything around it will blur softly into the background. With a small number (f/1.4), your depth of field gets larger, so a larger portion of your photo will be detailed and in focus. And of course you can set your camera at many different stops, between those two ranges.
Another determining factor in depth of field is focal length (the amount of zoom). The more zoomed in you are, the more shallow your depth of field will be. The top picture of the cooked pork chops, is a good example of this.
ISO is a number, ranging from 100 up to 1600, on some cameras. It refers to how sensitive your camera’s sensor will be to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive the light sensor will be and the faster your camera’s shutter will close. So, in low light situations, you would want to use a higher ISO setting to get the sharpest image; while a sunny day would allow the use of smaller ISO settings. Higher ISO speeds are also used to capture motion without blurring. That’s a good thing to remember when shooting pictures at your kids’ soccer game, but for food photography, hopefully nothing will be sprinting across the plate, so it’s a good idea not to use a higher ISO than is necessary. If you leave it too high, it can result in grainy, “noisier” pictures.
I have to tell you the truth. I still don’t get white balance. I’m working on it and am determined to understand, but thus far, it is still a mystery. Basically, it has to do with the way lighting affects the “true colors” of what your photographing. Setting your camera to it’s perfect white balance for a particular situation, will allow you to achieve true color in your shot. My camera, and actually most digital cameras, have presets for different situations, like: Cloudy, sunny, auto, tungsten, fluorescent, shady, and flash. At this point, I am still selecting one of those presets, rather than customizing my own white balance. I hope to get better at being able to do that, because even the presets can’t always give me the truest color in the pictures I take.
Understanding the Rule of Thirds and how someone’s eye is naturally drawn into one of your photos, is an important element of composing a good photograph. If you can imagine your picture broken into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, it will create a 9-square grid over the shot. Placing the subject of your picture so that it is within the four intersecting points of your grid, will help to assure a well-balanced picture. Of course, as with any creative pursuit, there can be no hard and fast rule, since other placement may create incredible visual interest. But, the Rule of Thirds is a good beginning reference point, since it is known that the human eye will naturally be drawn to the intersection points of interest, rather than the center of a picture. This skill of composing a well-balanced shot is another I continue to practice.
The importance of perspective and the many different angles we can use to achieve it, was the final concept we explored in class, this week. I tried to test out quite a few of them. It’s crazy how something as simple as tilting the camera one way or the other or getting down low or up high can make such a huge difference in your picture.
The Straight-On angle is pretty much cut and dried. You’re in front of the subject, center it completely and create a nice clean contemporary photo. I didn’t realize it until I did the pictures for this lesson that I don’t take many straight-on pictures. Weird!
The From Above angle was a pretty rare shot, for me, but I had a lot of fun with it this week. Pretty much, just what you would expect — directly above the subject and completely centered.
The Tilt Towards angle tips your camera slightly to the right, which ends up tilting the subject of the picture to the left in the finished photo. This angle is inviting the spectator in and pulls their eye into the subject of your picture.
The Above with Perspective angle was another one, I didn’t do as much with. It’s funny how you don’t notice that you favor one style of photography over another, until you start compiling a post like this. This angle starts out above, but in front of your subject and then you tilt the camera forward until the subject fills the frame. This draws the reader’s eye from the front to the back of the photo (or bottom to top, however you want to look at it.).
The Diagonal angle is one that intrigues me and I love to play around with the field of focus on these pictures. The pork chop picture at the top of the page is a great example of this angle.
The Gentle Tilt angle allows the eye to travel freely through the image, stopping only at the focal point. Tilting the camera very slightly avoids having a straight horizontal line that divides the photo into sections and forces the readers eye to start, stop, start, stop, over each section.
Here are a few more of the pictures I liked, this week.
This has been a fun week, but I’m looking forward to next week, even more. I’m going to get to show you food on REAL plates — actually put together, like you might want to eat it! Yay!
If you’ve been following me through this process and keeping track of all the tips, so you can practice them at home, my first three posts are at:
And if you have, I’d love to hear how things are going and see some of your photos! Shoot me an email or pm me on Facebook. It’s fun to see how other people are using all the new info and we can learn from each other.
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.