Ellen Silverman’s tips on food photography

I eagerly traded 40+ hours of volunteer work for the chance to attend Ellen Silverman’s food photography & styling workshop during last weekend’s Food Blogger Connect conference in London. Ellen Silverman is the NYC-based photographer who has shot over 25 cookbooks including Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter. Yesterday she spent 4 hours with twenty of us to impart her wisdom on food photography. As I am a firm believer that sharing is caring… here is a quick and dirty summary of what I found helpful:

ISO 200 | f4.0 | 1/30 sec | 50mm

Don’t look for perfection. Knock and shift food/props around for a more relaxed look and communicate accessibility. Don’t be afraid to break open the subject or leave a little trail of crumbs. Do use your judgement as to whether you’ve gone overboard with the mess.

ISO 125 | f4.5 | 1/30 sec | 50mm

Beware of holes & dark spots in salads, it draws attention away from the subject. Use a reflector or white board to bounce light back into those areas to bring back detail. Plating the salad on a shallow plate will also help minimize gaping dark spots.

ISO 125 | f4.0 | 1/25 sec | 50mm

Utensils can be distracting. Apparently, many of us at the conference (including myself) were utensil happy. Silverman suggested that we take a few shots with utensils, just to get it out of our system, and then try without it. Also, make sure the utensil is proportionate to the plate or bowl of food or else it will dominate the scene. It is usually a good idea to look for smaller-sized spoons and forks for photoshoots so that it doesn’t overwhelm the shot.

ISO 125 | f4.0 | 1/100 sec | 60mm

Blur it out. If you MUST include utensils in the shot use a shallower depth of field as a technique to draw attention to the food and away from the props.

Lessons learned from Silverman doesn’t stop here but this post has to end sometime! I’ll be looking to apply her tips to my photos in the coming weeks so check back for some more useful tips on lighting, process and plating. Hope you found this post helpful!

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