FBC12 food photography workshop: tips & application

Lighting.  Angles.  Plating.  These are some of the concepts that Ellen Silverman discussed and demonstrated during her food photography workshop at the Food Blogger Connect conference last weekend.  Today I set myself the task to apply what I learned using two dishes: tomatoes stuffed freekeh and lemon fish tagine.  Let me just say… Ellen made it all look so easy.

Left: ISO 100 | f4.5 | 1/10 sec | 85mm w/ close up lens
Right: ISO 100 | 4.5 | 1/25 sec | 50mm

Let’s start with light.  There’s backlight (illuminating from the back as shown in the left picture) and there’s sidelight (illuminating from the side, right picture).  I don’t recall Ellen stating a preference for one or the other but in each demonstration she tried to backlight first.  With regard to the pictures above, my preference is for the backlit picture on the left because of how the light wraps around the food and the dreamy quality of the photo.  Sidelighting has its strengths too but unfortunately the picture on the right does not do it much justice.

ISO 100 | f6.3 | 1/6 sec | 85mm w/ close up lens

If you were to have walked in on us during the workshop you would have seen a lot of people waving white foam boards around the dish trying to bounce light back to minimize shadows.  The pictures above were taken with the same settings and angle, the only difference is that the photo on the right was taken with a white reflector while the other was not.  Notice the difference in detail between the two.  While you can lighten the area during post-processing it saves a bit of time to wave a white board around.

Left: ISO 125 | f5.0 | 1/13 sec | 85mm w/ close up lens
Right: ISO 125 | f4.0 | 1/15 sec | 85mm w/ close up lens

Ellen’s tip on plating is to move the food forward so that it gives a feeling of intimacy.  Also, it is not necessary to show the whole plate, move in a little closer to focus on the food instead.  As shown in the pictures above I also took her advice in taking the time to explore different angles in order to give a different perspective.

Lastly, Ellen recommended shooting with a tripod to minimize camera shake.  In doing so you can keep your ISO low which will lessen noise/grain and it will free up your hand to use a reflector to bounce light.  I tend to prefer flexibility to move around but the use of a tripod for these shots has helped with keeping the images sharp.

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