GREAT LIGHT FOR FOOD PHOTOS

GREAT LIGHT FOR FOOD PHOTOS

One of the key things for food photography – if not all photography – is great light. So what is great light for food photos and how do you get it when you’re taking food photos in your home using window light?

In one word: diffusion.

It’s so good that even if you’re fighting with your camera or thinking that the answer to better photography is a new camera, try diffusing the light for your food photos first. Chances are, it will save buying a new DSLR.

If you’re using an iPhone or other phone camera for your food photos, it also works. Yay!

 

WHAT IS DIFFUSION?

Diffusion is softening a light source – in this case, the sun – with a specialist diffusion fabric. If you’ve ever had your portrait taken in a studio, the chances are the photographer was using a soft box around at least one of their lights with a white diffusion fabric in the front.

Diffusion fabric helps make the light softer and more flattering for portraits. Ditto for food photos.

HOW TO GET GREAT LIGHT IN YOUR HOME

To get diffused light for your home food shoot, you need your light to filter through diffusion fabric before it hits your food. For window light, just hang a few yards of specialist diffusion fabric over your window. It costs about $10.

If you are using artificial lighting, you can use the same principle: hang diffusion fabric or a soft box between the light and your plated food, allowing a safe distance between any bulbs and the fabric.

I use a couple of fold-back clips to hang the lightweight fabric on curtains on either side of the window. You could use similar clips or a tape that is designed to lift off easily without removing paint from your window surrounds or hang from your curtain poles. Once the shoot is over, I remove the fabric and hang it from a skirt hanger; it takes seconds to hang or remove the fabric.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

Yes indeed. For even BETTER food photos, you can put a reflector on the opposite side of your light source/window and bounce light back into the shadows of your set-up, balancing out some of the light to dark gradient. I like a silver one for bright, zingy reflected light.

So that’s how to get great light for your food photos with just two tools. If you could like to see the five tools I use every week to take natural light photos with simple ‘how to’ instructions, you can download it by entering your name and email address in the box below.

If you want more help with your food photography, you can get the Food Photography Quick-start Templates to help you with that. The templates contain three templates for taking food photos including styling, lighting set-up and camera settings. 

 

 

How to shoot food stories

How to shoot food stories

Stories are the way that we humans connect and remember things, so knowing how to shoot food stories is an essential skill for food photography.

There are three key elements in how to shoot food stories:

1. Time
2. Place
3. Transformation

How we put these three together can create an emotional response in our viewer. And with that can come action: to buy a cookbook, book a favourite restaurant or cook a recipe.

If you’re finding the idea of how to shoot food stories difficult to imagine, think of a late night bourbon on the rocks with muted, warm lighting, the clear glass and amber liquid glinting in front of a dark background, with echoes of a gentleman’s club and pungent cigars. Now, think of a citrus bourbon cocktail on a hot summer’s day: served on a white linen-covered table in the garden. The glasses have orange peel garnishes and a pineapple and mango fruit salad is just out of focus in the background.

Every detail about those two stories is different even though both photos are of bourbon in a glass with ice.

How to shoot food stories - the middle of the food styling and props journey with a spoon tucked into a bowl of granola and greek yoghurt, about to be eaten. It's relatable and a little bit messy.

TIME

Time can refer to an era, a time of day or the seasons. Are we present day or somewhere in the past? How about the season: winter, spring, summer or fall? And are we talking early morning, the sun is high in the sky, late afternoon golden hour or night? We can hint at time of day using white balance: early mornings will be cooler/bluer than the middle of the day and late afternoons are much warmer/yellow

PLACE

Where are we? This is where backgrounds and props help enormously. A homey wooden kitchen with bakeware that has been handed down from mother to daughter or a chic, minimalist dining room? Appropriate cutlery, linens and plating gives clues. It’s also why backgrounds can have such a strong impact: they set the scene, literally.

 

TRANSFORMATION

What happened? Whether in one photo or multiple photos, can you see where the finished dish or plate came from? What raw ingredients went into it? Do we get to see stages of the recipe as ingredients are chopped, beaten and poured?

Are you showing the steam and splatter of a sizzling steak, the whir of beaters in a batter or a stream of milk going into a béchamel sauce?

Food photographers often call this the ‘movement’ shot. A single drop caught on its way through the air to the saucepan or plate shows anticipation. It’s just like Wile E. Coyote peddling in mid-air when chasing Road Runner over the edge of a cliff; we know what happens next and we’re waiting for that moment when he’s going to drop to the ground.

The next step is up to you. What kind of emotional response do you want to draw out of your viewers with your food stories? Do you want them to feel nostalgia for times gone by and pin that recipe of grandma’s buttermilk cookies? How about feeling successful and stylish for knowing how to make a classic martini when colleagues come round to dinner? Or calm because you’ve shown a time-poor parent a month of prep-ahead slow cooker meals?

If you want more help with your food photography, you might want to look at the Food Photography Quickstart Templates. The templates help you take great food photos by giving you the settings, layouts and showing you how to use the natural light from your window – all in a few hours without the pain of having to take photography classes.

When the food is finished and you're left with an empty plate - from how to shoot food stories.

How to shoot food stories for your blog including the three elements you need to create emotion so that your readers take action.
5 REASONS TO GO MANUAL WITH YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

5 REASONS TO GO MANUAL WITH YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

To go manual with your food photography seems to be an area avoided by many food bloggers. But the truth is that because you’re shooting in controlled conditions, using manual is actually easier.

No, really.

The auto settings on your camera are AMAZING. If you’re taking photos of your fast-moving children or pets, zipping through shadows and sunlight in seconds, getting your camera to automatically adjust the light means you can capture more moments.

Or if you’re out at a party and just want a few photos of you and your friends, auto is an easy option. You can even give your camera to someone else to take a few.

But when you’re shooting food, it isn’t moving. Nor is the light changing dramatically. Conditions are pretty much fixed unless the sun goes behind a black cloud. And shooting manual totally comes into its own.

Whether you think it’s too big, scary or simply not for you, here are five reasons to go manual with your food photography.

 

1. CONCENTRATION

There’s a lot going on in a food shoot at once. You are managing light, your food – often in a hurry before it wilts/cools/dries out – styling and thinking about all the different shots you want. By shooting manual on your camera, you remove one variable, so you’re able to concentrate better on everything else. You just fix your settings at the start of your shoot and that is done, unless the light changes hugely.

2. SAVE TIME IN LIGHTROOM

When you go manual with your food photography, you’re usually fixing your settings for all of your shoot. That means all of your exposures will be consistent. And it means that once you adjust one photo in LightRoom, you can sync all of the other photos with the same settings.

Just think about that for a second. Edit one photo and have all the others – perhaps 50 or more – either done with their basic editing or very close to it. How much time would that save you? How much frustration would disappear?

5 Reasons to go manual wth your food photography.

3. PREDICTABILITY

You know what is going to happen with your camera when you’re on manual. There are no surprises. No weirdness or disappointment when your camera does something you weren’t expecting. What we see is teamwork between our eyes and our brain. Your camera does not have a brain attached to interpret what is in the viewfinder – even though camera designers get pretty smart with some of the settings. By shooting on your manual settings, you don’t have to second guess your camera.

4. YOU’RE THE BOSS

This is your shoot and you are in charge. Think of you being the boss with your camera as your employee. Which means that you tell your camera what to do and it does it.

To go manual with your food photography is like giving clear instructions to an employee: having standard operating procedures spelt out in video, audio and text.

You’re going to get the results you expect rather than the results your camera thought you might like.

5. BFF WITH YOUR CAMERA

Seriously, who doesn’t want to be besties with their camera? Perhaps you haven’t thought of getting to know your camera better. Or maybe you just eye it as a ‘tech’ thing.

And unlike human friends, It comes with an instruction book. So you can get to know as much or as little of your camera as you need or want. And stop wondering what’s going on in its tiny mind.

So do think about going manual with your food photography. You can save time, frustration and make a new friend.

If you want more help on how to go manual with your food photography, you can get the Food Photography Quick-start Templates to help you with that. The templates contain three templates for taking food photos including styling, lighting set-up and camera settings. 

 

Make your camera your new best friend forever when you go manual with your food photography.

 

 

5 reasons to go manual with food photography. Save time and hassle by learning a few simple steps. #foodphotography
HOW TO FIX BLUE PHOTOS

HOW TO FIX BLUE PHOTOS

Do your food photos seem a bit blue or yellow? Are your whites not white? Let’s look at how to fix blue photos in LightRoom and prevent it from happening again.

HOW TO FIX BLUE OR YELLOW PHOTO CASTS

It’s easy to fix photos with a yellow or blue cast on them in LightRoom. In the Develop module, at the top of the Basic adjustments panel, there is a temperature slider: slide to the left to make your photo cooler (less yellow) and to the right to make it warmer (less blue).

If you don’t want to fix blue photos by eye, or that isn’t working well, you can use the eyedropper tool, next to the temperature slider. Click the eyedropper on a neutral area of your photo. A neutral is a colour that has roughly equal RGB values (see what that looks like in the screenshot below).

OTHER REASONS FOR A BLUE COLOUR CAST

If your photos are still blue, something else is going on beyond white balance. This could be down to your photos themselves or your eyes.

– Reflections from the environment: you took your photos wearing blue clothing, tablecloth or walls.
– Editing environment: your computer monitor and your editing area are very important in producing accurate colour photos. Monitors need calibrating (you can read how to do this [here]). And ideally, the place where you edit your photos should have neutral furnishings, you would use a screen hood on your monitor to reduce reflections and the room would be relatively dark, with low level lighting from daylight bulbs.

If you have blue in your photos and it’s not your white balance, you can correct this in LightRoom in the HSL/Colour/B&W panel by clicking on the appropriate colour and reducing its saturation.

PREVENTING BLUE + YELLOW COLOUR CASTS

The best way to get your white balance correct is to shoot raw, or the native format in your camera. It will give you the best results. Yes, you can alter a jpeg’s colour temperature, but it just doesn’t give you as good a file as one coming from raw. Sorry if that isn’t the answer you wanted.

You also want to tell your camera what ‘white’ or a neutral is. You do this by taking a correctly exposed shot at the start of your shoot of a white or neutral object. A sheet of bright white copier paper will do the job for starters. You can also get neutral grey cards or colour cards from photography stores, which will give a more nuanced result.

When you’re editing your shoot in LightRoom, use the eyedropper tool in that first neutral shot to get a white balance and sync it across the rest of your shoot. That’s your white balance done.

How to fix blue photos and a white balance

By getting your photos as good as you can in camera, it saves you editing time and headaches in LightRoom. And surely that’s what we all want: good looking photos in the minimum amount of time!

 

 

 

Fix your blue or yellow photos with these pro tips and have photos with white backgrounds for your blog or website. Read more at www.livingabstracts.com
HOW TO TAKE SHARP FOOD PHOTOS

HOW TO TAKE SHARP FOOD PHOTOS

Sharpness is one of the things that food bloggers regularly want to improve in their photography. Sharpness is also a blanket term for several issues, so let’s have a look at those and help you get sharp food photos.

SHUTTER SPEED / CAMERA SHAKE

One of the first things to examine if your food photos aren’t sharp is your shutter speed. There is a rule of thumb in photography that your minimum shutter speed needs to be at least the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens to avoid camera shake when taking a hand-held photo.

Apologies if that makes your brain hurt. What that means in real terms is that:

– When shooting with a 50mm lens, you want a shutter speed of at least one fiftieth of a second (or one sixtieth of a second on your camera, because there isn’t a setting for a fiftieth of a second).
– With a 28mm lens, you want your shutter speed to be at least one 28th of a second (a thirtieth of a second on your camera settings).
– And when shooting with an 85mm lens, you want a shutter speed of at least one eighty-fifth of a second (a hundredth of a second on your camera settings).

You can remove camera shake by using a tripod and remote or cable shutter release. If you do this, shutter speed does not matter as your camera is not moving while your photos are taken.

LIGHTING QUALITY

Sharp food photos are sometimes seen as those where the light ‘pops’ and shadows have crisp, well defined edges. Getting this right is easiest and best to do with your lighting when taking your photo. A good way to start is to shoot your photos using a large sheet of diffusion fabric over a window or a door as your light source. I use a couple of metres of Neewer fabric from Amazon. This effectively turns your window or door into a large soft box.

If you’re using artificial light, then use diffusion fabric or a soft box to soften and diffuse the light. On the opposite site of your light source, put a silver reflector to bounce light back into your shadows. Or you could use kitchen foil over a board or foam core. White card does reflect, but in a gentler way. Use the shiny reflective surfaces for light that ‘pops’ more and white boards or reflectors for softer reflected light.

Many photographers, especially those just starting out, expect their post-production in LightRoom or other editing software to do all the heavy lifting for photos that pop. That can work, but also tends to blow out highlights, so that the details in your white and light areas are left without details.

LIGHTROOM

Digital photo files need at least some kind of ‘kick’ from post-production. If you’re downloading jpegs from your camera, this is done for you by the camera’s software. If you’re shooting raw files, it is not, which is why some people find switching from shooting jpegs to raw a disappointment.

The most common ways of adding punch to your files include changing the tone curve from linear (flat) to having medium or strong contrast or increasing the contrast slider. Post-production of your food photos is a WHOLE subject on its own!

The guide to taking sharp food photos for amateurs and professional food bloggers and photographers.

LIGHTROOM EXPORTS

Did you know that when you’re exporting from LightRoom, you should be using sharpening? This can make ALL the difference between a photo that looks clean and crisp and one that isn’t.

Sharpening should only be done when you have resized your photo. For example, after you’ve resized and edited your photos to have them printed, you would add sharpening ‘for print’ for the export. If you have just resized a photo for Instagram and want to export it, you would add sharpening ‘for web’.

LENS CLEANING

Check that your lens is clean. Check the front of the lens and the back, just in case you or someone else has put a finger or thumb on the glass when changing the lens. It can be THAT easy to fix your sharpening issues!

TROUBLESHOOTING FOR SHARP FOOD PHOTOS

If you’ve tried all of these things and you’re still not getting sharp food photos, you can look at your equipment. Lenses can be knocked so that the glass units inside are no longer where they should be. This needs a repair from a professional at a camera repair centre or your manufacturer. Some photographers even have their lenses calibrated to their cameras for maximum focusing and sharpness. If you’re using your cameras heavily, they can benefit from annual servicing.

I hope this list helps you get the sharp food photos you want. Please comment below about what you do to take sharp photos – I’d love to know.

If you want more help with your food photography, you can get the Food Photography Quick-start Templates to help you with that. The templates contain three templates for taking food photos including styling, lighting set-up and camera settings. 

Paint your own food photography backgrounds for a unique look to help you stand out as a food blogger.
Food photography backgrounds

Food photography backgrounds

One of the challenges of taking great food photos is creating a distinctive look or style. So today we’re going to look at painting your own food photography backgrounds.

Many of the food photography backgrounds you might buy are either vinyl or wooden planks, which are durable and wipe-clean. But what if you want a cheap and cheerful one-off background? Step right this way – you’re covered!

Paper and paint are ideal to create one-off food photography backgrounds. You might do this for particular themed recipes, sponsored posts or for a seasonal recipe.

You can use any kind of paint. In this blog post, I’ve used watercolour and acrylic paints.

Food photography background painted with one shade of watercolours. This DIY option for a background is quick and easy.Let’s start with watercolours. You can use watercolours straight out of the tube for bright colours or diluted for gentle ones. In this shoot, I’ve used the pink both ways to echo the colours of the pale raspberry fool and the bright raspberry garnish.

The patterned background removes any need for other garnishing or props.

Blue paint: use for a DIY food photography background that contrasts with your plate of food.

A dark blue background was chosen for the vegetable salad to contrast with the pale greens and white plate. The blue is an acrylic paint mixed with a little white – both cheap brands from a craft shop. I just painted on colour until I ran out of mixed paint, waited about 30 minutes for it to dry and shot the dish.

A cheap and easy DIY blue food photography background created with blue acrylic paint.

It really is that simple! Do have a go with whatever supplies you have in your home and tag me (@livingabstracts) on Instagram with your creations. I’d love to see them.

If you want more help with your food photography backgrounds, you can get 15 Printable Backgrounds to help you with that. The linen, metal and wooden backgrounds make finding the right background for your photos simple – just choose + print on your home printer or print shop. 

Paint your own food photography backgrounds with simple watercolours and a brush.

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