By Tony Rose
This is not a tutorial, but if you like my photo's this is how I achieve them
If you have time to read through this article I think you will find it interesting, but if you want to jump to the parts that interest you then please click on the links below;
I've never been on a photography course of any kind in my life but that's not to say that I don't think that they are worthwhile, It's just that I have never got around to it. What I have done is to take advice from a lot of experts mainly on Google+ and I have to say that it has improved my shots immensely.
I was never very interested in still life shots, always experimenting with liquid, fire and smoke, and because they were generally moving objects I got into the habit of using the sport setting on my camera to freeze the shot.
I once wanted to take a close up picture of my eye so I fitted some extension rings to my camera, for those of you who are unfamiliar with extension rings they are like lenses without glass that you fit between your normal lens and your camera, all they do is put a distance between the lens and the camera turning it into a very inexpensive macro lens.
So I set the camera up on a tripod, put it on continuous high speed mode, locked the shutter down on my extension cable then steadily brought my eye toward the lens. It took 150 shots but I got the shot I wanted, that's the beauty of the digital age you wouldn't want to do that with a film camera.
My interest in food photography started when I began my food blog Simple Food a couple of years ago and I must say that I am now passionate about it.
This is a shot from one of my early blog's;
I didn't see anything wrong with it at the time, but to be fair to me I was new to blogging so my main concentration was on the text content of the blog and as you can see, not the picture content. Four things that make this a bad food shot stand out immediately.
The table; it's ok to use the table in fact the wood makes a nice background but the edge of the table is just a distraction.
The place mats; what was I thinking? They shouldn't be there at all but if they had to be there the least I could have done was position the one under the plate correctly and got rid of the one that you can see the corner of on the top left.
The chopsticks; just basically thrown onto the table.
The food; it's chicken chowmein by the way, enough said.
I could go on about the lighting but you get the idea.
Over the past couple of years I've learned a lot about food photography and I'm still learning.
This is a shot from one of my later posts;
When you take your food shots there is one main thing that you must keep in mind, the person looking at your picture cannot smell or taste the food so you have to compensate for this by making it look irresistible.
Like this sausage casserole for instance;
Sometimes it's quite effective to take a closeup of a section of the subject;
Although I like the food to look natural, you can't just plonk the food on the plate, it has to look good. So when you are plating the food up for a shot just pretend that you have a very important guest for dinner, someone that you really want to impress.
Look at the shot below;
Background not good, lighting not good and the food not styled very well.
Now look at the next shot, the shot above was back in the days when my attention was more on the blog than the photographs. Both these dishes tasted as good as each other, but if I was the viewer I know which one I would choose to eat. Both shots were taken with the same camera;
The one below just had a little more care and attention taken to the lighting and styling.
I think that sums this section up very well "care and attention" it doesn't cost anything but it's the most valuable asset you'll have.
It's quite important to learn how to use your camera in Manual mode, that way you can control the aperture and shutter speed separately. If you are using your phone or a point and shoot camera you don't have complete control over the camera so you have to make up for that in other ways, lighting and position. Most point and shoot cameras have the facility to turn the flash off, try that and experiment with light and shadows. I'm not sure whether you can do this with phone cameras, I'm a bit old fashioned in that way, I tend to only use my phone for making and receiving calls.
Here's a couple of shots I took with my Kodak point and shoot camera with the flash turned off. They are straight out of the camera with no post editing done at all.
As I couldn't control the shutter speed or the aperture I had to pay more attention to controlling the light and shade. These are perfectly good shots but in my view they need post editing in Photoshop, I will cover that in the post editing section.
I'm a "natural light" freak, its all I ever use. Sometimes if you are in a particularly dark place then you will need artificial light but you have to know what to use and how to use it. I don't like to use the built in flash on my camera, because it doesn't give me the control that I want over the light and shade.
I have converted one end of my house into a studio, nothing technical just white walls and a large south facing window where I control the light and shadows with a venetian blind.
The main pieces of equipment that I use are, a Nikon D90 camera with a 50 mm lens (I have a zoom lens but I hardly ever use it), a tripod and an extension cable. The rest are pieces of different coloured card, white boards and reflector boards.
My lighting is natural light coming through the window controlled by the blind.
Some people think that "post editing" in Photoshop is cheating, but that is not the case. Post editing should not be confused with "photo manipulation", post editing is enhancing the shot in the same way as we used to do in the dark room in the days of film photography. In these days of digital photography it has to be done on the computer instead of the dark room.
this is the original shot that I took with my point and shoot Kodak camera;
and this is the shot after post editing;
All i've done here is altered the levels, put an overlay layer on to brighten it up a little and colour burned the green to make it look fresh. It took me about 10 minutes, for those of you who are not familiar with Photoshop I am planning another post purely dedicated to Photoshop and how I use it, so follow me on Google and you will get a notification when that comes out.
So here are a few bullet points that in my view are of upmost importance to anyone who wants their photography to stand out;
- Don't worry if you haven't been professionally trained
- Experiment and practice as much as you can
- Be passionate about your subject
- Don't worry that you haven't got lots of expensive equipment
(if an artist can't create a great portrait with a cheap pen, there is no point in him investing in expensive pencils)
- Remember, care and attention to detail are your most important tools