I love to learn about photography and by far my favorite way to learn is to attend workshops and conferences. Books and online course are great, but nothing can beat being there in person to interact with the instructors and other students. One of my favorite conferences is the Out of Chicago Conference, and I’m not just saying this because I’m writing this blog post.
I’ve attended OOC for the past two years and attended Out of New York just last month. My favorite thing about this conference is that it offers you the opportunity to dip your toes into many different areas of photography you may not have previously tried. At OOC 2015, I attended a workshop given by Jordana Wright all about food photography. One of the great things about food photography is you pretty much have a subject available to you at all times. I mean we all have to eat, right?
Here are a few tips that I learned at Jordana’s workshop as well as a few of my own:
Jordana advised to let the food dictate your position. The featured shot above as well as the one below, were taken at Jordana’s hands on lecture at OOC. All plates were arranged by a food stylist and were placed on tables near the windows. She encouraged us to look at the food from all angles while shooting. The freedom of working without a tripod helped us move about unencumbered enabling us to quickly grab the best shot.
Any camera will do
Food photography can be done with pretty much any camera including the one in your phone. You won’t be able to control depth of field as much with your phone, but you can still make some decent images. This photo of my red velvet cake dessert was taken with my iPhone. It’s not going to win any awards, but it I wanted to capture how the plate was decorated and I didn’t have my regular camera. Pay attention to the background too when taking your shot. Placing my drink to the side of the cake or totally out of view might have made the composition a little better.
Your local market is also a great place to capture some shots of food. This photo below of some red peppers was captured at a market with my iPhone. Next time you are at the grocery store, look around and see what images you can make.
Depth of field
There aren’t too many rules in food photography. I love using shallow depth of field, but sometimes you want to capture your surroundings to remember where you were or perhaps you like the table setting or some other feature. In this photo below, I liked how there was a fresh flower at the table in a simple vase. I also wanted a bit of the restaurant scene in my photo. Do what works best for you to capture the food as well as the memory
Use natural light
If you are dining during the daylight hours at a restaurant, you can always ask to be seated by a window to take advantage of the light. If that’s not possible, you can still get interesting results with the available light. The photo below was taken at a restaurant that had no windows at all. The overhead lights provided the light you see reflecting off of the pea soup. If you are working at home near a window, white foam core — available at any craft store — is a wonderful tool to direct light towards your food subject. You can also use a diffuser if the light by your window is too harsh.
If you have some studio lights at home, you can also get some great results. The photo below of this trio of cupcakes was taken at a workshop at a nearby camera store. A large soft box and a strobe produced some very pleasing results
If you want to start getting serious about food photography at home, you can go to shops like Pier 1 Imports, HomeGoods, and even thrift shops to find interesting plates, silverware, glasses and napkins. The trio of cupcakes above was taken on some wood pallets, which gave the photo even more texture. I’ve used leftover pieces of vinyl flooring to place my plates upon. Look around your home and you’ll be surprised at what you might find to add some interest to your photos.
Happy shooting…and eating as well!