FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR DUMMIES
I am not a photographer and I have never taken a photography course. However, when you have a food blog you can’t have unflattering pictures. Your pictures should be beautiful, colorful, and make people want to eat the computer screen. Of course, it takes work and a lot of practice. So, I am not going to spend a lot of time explaining to you the technical terms of an SLR camera, the difference between a DSLR and a Point and Shoot camera (I really don’t know the difference), and the benefits of manually adjusting the light and exposure of your camera. I am going to give you a great reference to help you with all that stuff. Pinch of Yum has created a great E-Book with videos and tutorials on how to get to know your camera better, which is the same resource that I used to elevate my food photos. However, I am going to give you the “dummy” version on how to make your photos look good and practices and techniques that has helped me. These are ideas you won’t find in any book.
1. Invest in yourself: Us food bloggers blog because we feel that we have something to share with world. We make delicious food and post them for the world to see, not because we are trying to get rich, but because we love food and love sharing our recipes with others. However, to make a real impact, our photos must give our audience the best idea of what the meal should look like. The photos should be appealing enough to make others want to share your photos with others through social media outlets and encourage them to make the dish right away. It is difficult to create that effect with a camera that doesn’t have the features, megapixels, or lens to captivate the true nature of the food. When I started blogging I was using a digital camera. The “Nikon CoolPix” to be exact. Below are some pictures that I took with that digital camera. They aren’t the worst food pictures you’ve probably seen but the camera didn’t capture the beauty of the food that was created.
Below are some newer pictures that I took with my Canon EOS Rebel T2i SLR camera and you can see the difference in the quality of the photos.
What a difference, right?! To some, these may not be the best pictures of my collection but the point is for you to see why it is important for you to invest in a better camera at some point during your experience food blogging.
2. Train your eyes: When I started to send my pictures to FoodGawker, TasteSpotting, and other food publishing sites I thought that the pictures I was submitting where really good. However, they were rejected over and over again. NOTE: If you are getting rejected over and over again don’t fret because it is completely subjective. Your pictures probably are gorgeous. What I started to do was applying the feedback they gave me and looked at the pictures that were featured on their sites, and I studied them. Hard! I looked at how the pictures were styled; I looked at how the use of shadows created extra drama; I studied the way the light hit the photos; I studied the composition and I learned how to use my camera. The more you look at beautiful pictures the better your eye becomes at recognizing flaws in your photos. Also, the camera sees things you don’t see. So when you are taking pictures with your camera they may look one way, but on the computer they may look a completely different. You may have to take 50 to a 100 photos before you get the best photo. It happens.
3. Get the right equipment: The best thing that I have that makes my pictures look great is a tripod. It may not seem like much but a tripod makes a huge difference. When the camera is still and unmoved it captures the food in that moment. Also, it makes your pictures sharper. Most of my pictures are taken from my hand, which is not always sturdy. It doesn’t mean that the picture comes out horrible but it isn’t the best picture most times. Trust me, if you get a tripod you will see a great difference in the quality of your pictures. You will also need some good photo editing software. Of course you can buy Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. They are a tad bit pricy. But if you are not in a position to buy the software, there are some free alternatives that you can use that will get you buy. The ones I have used are
- PicMonkey– free
- Google Picasa– free
- PhotoBucket- free
- Gimp- free
I used PicMonkey and Picasa the most. I still use them from time to time. I have Adobe Lightroom that I use as well. You can download a free 30 days trial version of Lightroom to get some hands on experience with it before you decide to buy the software.
4. Use props: I know you look at all of these beautiful food pictures and not only do you notice the food, but you notice the beautiful dishes and props that are used (maybe its just me). I am still working on my food styling techniques. It is a lot harder than one would think. Just remember you don’t want to overcrowd the food. When taking food photographs your food should always be the star. The props you use should elevate your dish. You don’t want to have more than 4 props outside of your food (in my opinion). That would include a plate, place mat, utensil, and something in the background.
You may want to start collecting props to use. Buying different colored place mats, cute utensils, fabrics, etc will take your photographs to the next level.It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money either. I usually go to the Goodwill, Dollar store, or Target’s Clearance racks. You will be amazed of the gold you can find in those places. I found an Immersion Blender at the Goodwill for $5 once!
5. Utilize your resources: One resource that I use that has helped me out tremendously is an e-book called “Tasty Food Photography”. I thoroughly recommend it if you are trying to get better at your picture taking skills. The book is only $19 and it has great pictures and even video tutorials that shows you how to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I love Lindsay and her husband for what they have contributed to the food blogging world. They are honest and God honoring people who wants to share their wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world. This book is a great tool. Another great resource is their community site called Food Blogger Pro. I recently signed up and there are over 250 videos and tutorials on everything a food blogger should know from increasing traffic to your site to seeing how Lindsay conducts her photo shoots. You also get to connect with a community of food bloggers and learn best practices from them.
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I didn’t want to go into a lot of detail about food photography because there is a lot of detailed information out there for anyone to use. But i think that the information can sometimes be intimidating because of the terms that us novice photographers never heard of and don’t understand. I think with the “Tasty E-Book” and “Food Blogger Pro” your awareness of how to make your photos better will be in a language and terms you can understand. I’ve been featured more and more lately and complimented on my photos but I contribute that to hard work and using my resources. I still consider myself a novice photographer but I know if I continue to challenge myself and stay open to feedback that my photos will get better and better. So will yours!