Photographer Markus Hofstätter — known for his collodion wet-plate photography expertise — decided to try something different and used the 170-year old shooting process to capture incredibly detailed high-end food photos.
Hofstätter, based in Austria, has photographed it all — from portraits to wildlife — but hadn’t experimented with food until an unexpected connection was made. While in the process of purchasing a Cambo AST studio stand, Hofstätter learned the seller was well-known food photographer and columnist Hans Gerlach.
After months of planning and discussing, both decided to collaborate on a high-end food photography shoot using the wet collodion process. Hofstätter and Gerlach had to carefully plan what dishes to photograph and what colors the dishes should contain because this type of photographic process only sees blue light — this means that red color turns black and blue turns white.
Hofstätter writes in his blog that the collaborative project was even more enjoyable because of Gerlach’s extensive food preparation and presentation experience which combined well with Hofstätter’s own expertise in the wet plate collodion process.
The shoot took place in Hofstätter’s studio where he used a 13 x 18 centimeter Mentor camera with a 250mm Zeiss Tessar lens. While Hofstätter set up the equipment and made it’s secure enough for top-down photography, Gerlach prepared the dishes in the kitchen. Both worked tirelessly throughout the first day and photographed numerous dishes but realized that the silver nitrate bath had turned bad which caused some plates to come out less than ideal. Once the problem was corrected, they could return to shooting and producing successful wet plate images.
This is not the simplest type of photography and other issues were caused by Hofstätter’s modified wet plate holder which didn’t stay in place and caused some plates to become scratched.
“This is something every wet plate artist has to face from time to time,” says Hofstätter.
However, most plates turned out exactly how they imagined it — full of detail and texture that would look great as large prints.
Hofstätter also shot some plates with a 150-year old Dallmeyer 2b Petzval lens which created a swirly bokeh. Even though the lens produced a strong out-of-focus area, what was in focus — such as the texture of the bread and the onion pieces — show great detail when closely inspected.
The 10th anniversary Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year exhibition has been planned for the 20th November – 12th December 2021 at the RPS in Bristol, UK, showcasing over 170 photos from more than 25 categories.
If you want to enter next years competition, then the 2022 edition of Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year is now open. Submissions close on 6 February 2022. To find out more visit pinkladyfoodphotographyoftheyear.com
Abdul Momin, Winner, Fujifilm Award for Innovation, Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2021
Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year premieres its tenth anniversary exhibition at The Royal Photographic Society
This winter, Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year, the world’s leading awards for food photography and film, is premiering its tenth anniversary exhibition at The Royal Photographic Society, one of the oldest photographic societies in the world.
With over 170 images from more than 25 categories, ranging from the Politics of Food to Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture, the exhibition captures the great sweep of stories and cultures in the world of food.
‘The RPS is excited to present the visual feast that will be the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2021 exhibition at its new gallery space in Bristol and are proud to be the first venue to host the finalist work outside London.’ said Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS, Director of Education and Public Affairs of The Royal Photographic Society, ‘This showcase of the world’s best food photography is sure to satisfy the city’s ardent foodies and the wider public.’
‘We are hugely honoured to be holding our tenth anniversary exhibition at The Royal Photographic Society – the exhibition is the exciting culmination of our Awards year and, though I say it myself, it is magnificent, we always get wonderful feedback. So do come and see us there!’ says Caroline Kenyon, Founder/Director of the Awards.
British documentary photographer Martin Parr CBE, recipient of the Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award, will also be speaking at the exhibition. Parr has, for many years, used documentary images of food to explore social issues and identity, defining both his unique style and this genre of photography. Bristol is home to The Martin Parr Foundation, founded in 2014 and houses not only his own photography archive but also collections from other British and Irish photographers.
‘As home to the Royal Photographic Society, and an amazing creative community, Bristol is the perfect home for this event, not least because it is another opportunity to turn the spotlight on our incredible local food and drink, the majority of which have had such a challenging year.’ said Kathryn Davis, Head of Tourism, Visit Bristol, ‘This is a great opportunity to welcome back visitors to the city and attract new ones, and celebrate the best in food photography.’
The exhibition at the RPS, Bristol will run from 20 November to 12 December 2021. Entry is free. No booking required.
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Astley Hall Park Food and Drink Festival
14 Aug 2021 3:16PM
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Today’s trip out was to Astley Hall, situated in Chorley, where there is a Food and Drink festival 10am – 4pm today (14th August) and tomorrow (15th August). So there’s time to go and have a look this weekend.Some photo opportunties, in fact lots of photo opportunities areound the park, but plenty of food and drink to think about and some nice pattern pictures.
Here’s a selection of shots of the people and the food and drink!
If you have scrolled through Instagram, I am sure you have seen the lovely, well framed and fun flat-lay food photos there. Flat-lays are images taken from above, which involves having your camera at a 180-degree angle and showing your subject flat on the surface.
They are becoming increasingly popular all over the internet, making it essential to know how to take the perfect flat-lays. Below are a few tips to help you improve your food photography flat-lays.
1. Consider What is Facing the Camera
Nearly everything can look great in a flat-lay image, you just have to pay attention to what is facing the camera. Take a cake, for example. Whole, it is going to look great straight on, but not so good as a flat-lay — you’re just going to have a nicely decorated circle. But, if you cut it into slices and have these as your subject, a flat-lay would be the best angle to shoot these. Don’t be afraid to cut and change your subject to suit a flat-lay more.
2. Add Layers
Adding layers into your flat-lay is so important. Just because it is called a “flat” lay, you don’t want to keep the image flat, this is going to make it feel very two-dimensional. To add layers into your flat-lay you want to add props under or on top of your subjects. This is going to add some depth to your flat-lay. A layer can be anything from the plate the subject is sat on, to a sprinkle of salt on top.
3. Use Negative Space
Negative space is an area of an image that doesn’t have anything in it, prop or subject. I’m not saying this is something you’re going to want to have in all of your flat-lays as some images will look better closer and fuller, but sometimes taking a step back and giving your image room to breathe can really help improve your flat-lays. Adding some negative space can really balance images out making them much more visually interesting. It is also a great tool when working with brands as you leave room for logos and text.
4. Simple Color Schemes
With a flat-lay, I usually recommend keeping a simple color scheme. If you have created a larger scene with a lot going on, bright colors can make things feel a bit too busy or distracting. I usually keep to about two or three different colors and use more neutral tones. This helps your subject stand out which can be further enhanced by the textures and shapes of the subject. However, there is nothing wrong with bright and vibrant flat-lays, and there are some great examples of these at the moment. That said, I would definitely recommend keeping things neutral to being with.
5. Have Props and Subjects Going Out of the Scene.
Having some of your subject or added props leaving the scene is a great way to add some visual narrative to an image. This makes people think there is more going on outside the scene they can see, adding something to the story element of the image. It makes it feel like the actual set is bigger than it really is.
6. Experiment with Aperture
Usually, I will recommend shooting flat-lays at a bigger F-number, around f7 to f11. This is going to make sure all of your subject is in focus and everything is clear which is a normal look for flat-lays. However, sometimes it is great to add a bit of interest to a flat-lay by experimenting with the height of subjects and using a wider aperture (smaller f-number). This can give your flat-lays a bit of a different look, and helping them stand out from the many flat-lays out there.
To see these tips in action and some behind the scenes of the cereal bar shoot, check out the video above. For more tips on creating amazing food photography check out my channel.
About the author:Amie Prescott is a professional photographer, and food photography combines two of her favorite things: food and photography. Prescott put a good spin on lockdown by using the bad situation to create YouTube videos in an effort to help people looking to learn food photography.
The 2022 round of Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition is now open for entries. The contest, which has grown into the biggest food-photography competition in the world, attracted 10,000 entries from more than 70 countries in the 2021 round, and now features over 25 categories.
“During my years as a judge, then as Chairman of the Judges, I’ve watched the Awards grow into one of the most important and much-loved photographic competitions in the world,’ says noted food photographer, David Loftus, Chair of Judges, ‘Every year, more amateurs and professionals, young and old, compete against each other anonymously, making it truly universal and democratic, anyone with a talent can win.”
Last year’s overall winner by Li Huaifeng
Food photographer and Nikon ambassador, Donna Crous, who reached the 2020 Final, added: ‘Entering this competition a few years ago totally changed my life and has forged a very successful career for me in food photography.’
Joseph P Smith, 2021 winner of the Winterbotham Darby Food for Sale category
This year sees the introduction of Regional Awards as an additional celebration of winners from around the world. The 2022 winner of The Claire Aho Award for Women Photographer, launched last year in memory of Finland’s greatest woman photographer, will receive a trip to Finland courtesy of VisitFinland. Full entry details are at www.pinkladyfoodphotographeroftheyear.com
If you follow the food photography community on Instagram, I am sure you will have seen some lovely, dreamy images with syrup or chocolate being poured over some equally lovely-looking food. If you’re not sure how to make these kinds of photos, I’m here to help.
“Pour shots” are a great way to add some interest to food photography by creating action and adding a human element. If you have been wondering how you can create these types of images, or wondering how to improve your own I have put together some great tips for you.
Does it Pour?
My first tip would be to check what are you pouring out of pours nicely. Some jugs have a nice lip which helps them pour out liquid smoothly — other jugs or cups may trickle down instead of pouring out smoothly. I recommend that you double-check how your chosen vessel pours liquids before the shoot because you don’t want to have a whole shoot set up only to find that you’re ready to pour, your jug isn’t great at the task and has made a mess of your whole scene. This problem is more common with liquids with a more runny consistency.
Get the Right Consistency
More viscous liquids — like melted chocolate — can be a bit too thick to pour. In this case, you can add a little hot water to loosen it, which can help it pour or drip smoother. On the other end of the scale, if you want to thicken a liquid you can add a mixture of corn starch and water to thicken it up.
Choose Backgrounds Wisely
When picking your background color or tone, make sure you have in mind what you are going to be pouring or sprinkling — we don’t want it to blend into the background making it difficult to see. It’s best to pick a background that really helps it stand out. For example, if you use a white background and sprinkle on some white icing sugar, the icing sugar is going to be hard to notice. Do the same on a black background and it is going to really stand out.
Stand in the Right Location
This might sound really obvious, but we need to know where we are going to stand when actually performing the pour. You would be surprised how easy it is to forget this step. We don’t want to be blocking the light, casting a shadow, or obstructing the subject. I recommend placing yourself in a position, perform a “fake pour,” and take the photo so that you can see if your position or the lighting needs to be adjusted.
Check out my video above for more tips or to see some behind the scenes of these tips in action. For more videos all about food photography, check out my YouTube Channel.
About the author:Amie Prescott is a professional photographer, and food photography combines two of her favorite things: food and photography. Prescott put a good spin on lockdown by using the bad situation to create YouTube videos in an effort to help people looking to learn food photography.
Claire Gillo selects her favourite images from this year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards and speaks to the winning photographers
Food is such a delicious and wonderful subject to photograph, and there are a whole number of ways you can capture the subject as this year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards reveals. From those delicious close-ups, to a more political and wider view of the subject, this feature shares the cream of the crop in food photography from a number of viewpoints and different cultures. Enjoy.
People and food Marina Spironetti took first place in the brand new Claire Aho Award for Women Photographers, a category of the contest, and she tells us all about her winning image. ‘This image was part of a reportage project about the female butchers of Panzano in Chianti, Italy.
Dario Cecchini, the world-famous butcher, has been training a team of young women who come to Tuscany from all over the world to learn the art of deboning. Food and wine photography has always been an important part of my work as a photographer, especially in recent years.
Whenever working on a food story I am always intrigued by the human element. The main role of food is to nourish our bodies, a basic need for human beings, and I love to investigate the role it plays in our world. I am incredibly happy to have been the first winner of the Claire Aho Award, and to win with a shot of another woman. We all do different jobs, but our passion and strength are the same.’
Tell a story With just one frame you can reveal a whole story as Li Huaifeng’s overall winning image called ‘Taste’ shows. This photo was taken in Licheng County, Shanxi Province, China, during the National Holiday of 2016 as part of his project on earth cave dwellings.
‘On the fourth day of the National Day holiday, the old couple’s daughter and son-in-law had come with their little girl to celebrate the old man’s birthday. It was amid the harvest season so the man had to return to the crops after a quick lunch, but his family stayed at home to make dumplings.’
To capture the opportune moment Li Huaifeng waited until the lid was removed from the steaming pot to enable the cascading light to pick up the steam. ‘During the process I tried not to interrupt them and captured the interactions between the mother and daughter so as to present a lively, natural and heartwarming picture.
I made the most of the natural light as it backlights the people, but also forms a diagonal line from the stove, which in turn leads the viewer’s eye to the centre of the image. The composition is also strong as the symmetry of the door and window offers visual beauty.’
Old props Photographer Wesley Dombrecht tells us the idea behind his project Reminisce had been on his mind for some time, however it wasn’t until the lockdown that it started to take shape. ‘I was looking in an old photo book and I got an impulsive idea to also use old kitchen appliances that I had found at my grandmother’s barn,’ he tells us.
This picture of vanilla pudding is one image from his series of six, and came highly commended in the Fujifilm Award for Innovation category. Wesley prefers to work in the studio setting and for this set-up used his Nikon D800 with a Nikon 85mm manual tilt-shift lens and Profoto lighting.
‘I like to have the same lighting consistency in my images, so for that a lot of tests are done in advance. I have a fixed routine in making this type of image. I always photograph the different elements of the image, and I often work with stackings that I later combine in Photoshop.’
Reflect and connect Danish food and drink photographer Manja Wachsmuth is based in New Zealand, and her award-winning image titled ‘Octopus’ was taken for top chef Monique Fiso’s book, Hiakai: Modern Maori Cuisine (Penguin Random House NZ).
Manja says, ‘“Styling” the octopus was a fiddly, time-consuming and slimy task. In food photography, an octopus is usually presented inside out to expose the suction cups on the arms. I wanted to get this guy looking a bit more like a monstrous beast, pushing the boundaries of the camera frame.
I wanted to honour the importance of this creature and get it looking the part it plays in the Maori legend of Te Wheke-a-Muturangi. In this story, the famous explorer Kupe battles with a monstrous wheke (octopus) across the Pacific Ocean and this leads him to discover Aotearoa.’
Manja finishes by saying, ‘My goal is always to create images that are beautiful in their detail and that serve as pockets of beauty and order amid the chaos of everyday life, and creates a safe space for reflection and connection.’
It’s all a trick! For the Pink Lady Apple a Day category, Anastasija Malinovska’s action image, ‘Magic Birds’ took second place. Anastasija tells AP, ‘When I’m taking images, I always try to use a tripod to fix my camera for a better image quality, and I’m also tethering my camera and smartphone to the Camera Connect app (for Canon users only, but other manufacturers also offer similar functionality).
This helps me control everything remotely without having to be in front of the camera.’ Despite the fact that it looks like the toffee apples are falling through the air, Anastasija reveals this isn’t actually the case. ‘Most of my levitating images rarely actually involve objects flying in the air… if ever!
And to achieve the best image quality and sharpness, levitating objects need to be fixed/fastened in some way. For this particular image I used a helping hand, which was a table clip tool.’
Reveal the scene Md. Mahabub Hossain Khan’s heartbreaking image of a child drinking from a rubbish pile in Bangladesh took first place in the World Food Programme Food for Life category. Mahabub Hossain tells us, ‘A little child is drinking from the plastic bottle, as her mother works in the bottle recycling factory.
When the little child feels thirsty she has to search for drinks from empty bottles. I used a Nikon DSLR to take this photograph.’ Mahabub Hossain’s important yet saddening photograph got several awards including the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2021, and we can see why.
What he reveals in one image raises important questions about our basic human rights to resources such as clean drinking water and what happens to those who are vulnerable when these are denied.
Be in the right place Photographer Oscar Oliveras (follow him on Instagram @wineographic, or www.wineographic.com) took overall first place in the Errazuriz Wine Photographer of the Year 2021 category with his image ‘A Grape View’. ‘One of the most exciting days for a winemaker is the first day of harvest and to taste the first juice of the year,’ Oscar tells us.
‘The image was taken in Chateau des Ganfards, France, where I have worked as winemaker and viticulturist since 2018. On the 26th of August, 2020, we decided to start picking our first grapes for our white wines,’ he continues.
‘It was a chilly morning, and at 7am I prepared the press for the receival of the fruit.’ It was after this point Oscar grabbed his camera and went down to the vineyards. With the perfect sunrise setting as his backdrop, Oscar got ready for the harvest machine to unload the grapes.
‘I was lucky enough that a sharp ray of sun was illuminating the spot where the grapes were gracely falling into the trailer, with the focused look of Jean Claude Géraud driving the tractor behind.’
Always have your camera Not many expectant mothers pack heavy camera kit in their hospital bag, however they aren’t photographer Laura Chase de Formigny (www.laurachase.com and follow on Instagram @laurachasedeformigny). ‘This shot was heavily pre-planned! I brought my Nikon D850 and my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with me to the hospital. My husband thought I was insane for standing on the bed because of how hard the birth was on my body, but I wasn’t about to miss this shot for anything in the world.’
Laura Chase wanted a creative way to announce to her Instagram followers the birth of her baby daughter. ‘I know people follow me for food, not babies, so I had to think of a way to keep it on topic. I think my favourite part of the shot is actually the breast pump on the right, just peeking in. That’s what made it feel like it really was a photo of food for the whole family.’
Laura Chase’s image came Highly Commended in the Food for the Family category.
It’s all about style (and collaboration) When it comes to food looking its finest, a food stylist knows a thing or two about how to make this possible. Martin Grünewald (foodstyling-gruenewald.de and follow on Instagram @lilalewisia) is a food stylist from Germany, and took first place in the Food Stylist Award.
The image pictured here called ‘Winteropulenz’ goes with five other images to showcase his skills as a stylist. He tells AP, ‘This picture is a collaboration, between the photographer Frank Weinert and myself, and shows a broad range of winter harvest in a contemporary, and organic way.’
For this image Martin ensured that each object was carefully selected and placed, but not ‘styled’ in a technical way. ‘In pictures like these, food styling is about creating an image from imagination, not on demand, so we have to have a very playful and spontaneous attitude in composing. Sometimes you throw in objects and they fit so they stay. The books (centre) are a great stand for some veggies but they also serve as a tongue-in-cheek reference to old masters.’
Food on the go ‘In the northern mountainous regions of Vietnam, one of the best cultural features is the weekly market,’ photographer Thong Nguyen (thongnguyengallery.com) tells us. ‘The market at the commune or district centre, is a place for cultural and culinary exchanges of many different ethnic groups.’
Thong’s image, ‘Breakfast at the Weekly’, saw him win first place in the Food at the Table category. It shows people enjoying Pho (beef or chicken noodle) for breakfast.
‘I captured the photo on an early spring morning,’ he says. ‘The weather was cold but sunny. As I walked around the market and the Pho restaurant, people were enjoying noodles while the sunlight caught the steam from hot bowls.’
A judge’s thoughts: Angela Nicholson ‘Although I’ve been on the advisory panel and helped with the shortlisting for a few years, this was the first time that I’ve been on the main judging panel and it was great to be involved in making the final selection. The standard seems to go up every year and there were lots of great images to choose from.
However, I was immediately drawn to Huaifeng Li’s winning image. Initially it was the atmospheric light that attracted me but I love the interaction between the child and her mother. It’s a joyous image of one of the smaller moments in life that we can all identify with. I also particularly like Marina Spironetti’s image which won The Claire Aho Award for Women Photographers.
The colours all work well together and I love the powerful, confident stance and expression of the subject.’
When I first got interested in food photography, I was really overwhelmed by what I needed to get. And then, I heard Andrew Scrivani say: “The best gear to get you started is the camera in your pocket and the light from the window.” That was true, to an extent.
I got started in photography way back in the early 1990s, long before DSLR, in the days when we also developed our own film. So, I didn’t have to learn the science of photography when I started to solely focus on the food industry. But I did need to learn a new way to shoot. And I had to buy all the “new” equipment, again. I wasn’t exactly sure where to start, but then I heard some more wisdom from Scrivani, which boiled down to: begin shooting with the cheapest gear you can find because if you master that, you are golden.
Guess what? He was right. And I still do food photography with that gear. My portfolio is a mix of both my starter gear and newer, better equipment. And no one who is going to hire me can tell the difference. This allows me to shoot with multiple cameras (both a crop sensor DSLR and full frame mirrorless) during the same shoot and in any situation with minimal equipment, and I get a consistent look to my images.
Let’s take a look at the equipment with which I started and what I recommend everyone starts with when beginning their food photography journey.
The Camera: A Used Canon Rebel SL2 (200D)
I love this camera so much. I have mobility issues that affect my hands, among other things. This camera is the perfect size and weight. I mostly shoot freehand. When paired with my 50mm lens, it weighs less than my mirrorless with any of its lenses. It also has a smaller body than my mirrorless, which is also a Canon. The pixels are also perfect for both web images and most print materials needed by my clients. I have printed two-by-three-foot canvas prints of food images taken with this camera, and they turned out great. I bought it used, with kit lens, for just under $500 at today’s exchange rate.
The Canon Rebel SL2 is discontinued, though you can still find it at some retailers. That said, I recommend the Canon Rebel SL3 with an 18-55mm lens kit. If you can’t afford it new, buy used from a reputable seller. Trust me when I say this camera will serve you for years to come.
The Lens: A Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Otherwise known as the nifty fifty, many food photographers built their careers using this lens. This is the equivalent of an 80mm lens on a full frame Canon camera. For my personal style, this is the spot in which I live. The main lens I use on my mirrorless is the Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM, which is one reason why I can use both cameras on the same shoot, and it works in keeping things consistent. It’s not so much that I started with a crop sensor and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. Rather, that equipment naturally fits my style and creative vision.
If you ever upgrade to a full frame mirrorless Canon camera, you can still use this lens with an adapter. I bought this lens for $118. It’s a really affordable lens that takes good photos. There is a reason that food photographers go on about it.
The Light Source: A Godox TT600 Flash Speedlight With TTL Trigger
What I’m about to say is probably going to ruffle some feathers, but you really don’t need that Profoto or other super-expensive flash for freezing action when doing pour or splash shots. Never mind regular still photos of food. The Godox TT600 Speedlight With TTL Trigger was my first artificial light and continues to be my go-to when doing pour/splash shots or when I need a super portable lightweight light source when I’m shooting on a farm or at a vineyard.
The recycling time is slower than the higher-end speedlights. But when you are just learning and building your portfolio, it’s a great starter. And, like me, you may even find yourself continuing to use it because you don’t need rapid bursts to do pour shots. I bought it for $132.
The Modifier: Neewer 43″ Diameter Photography Studio Collapsible Reflective Softbox Umbrella
Neewer gets such a bad rap for no reason. I have quite the issue with gear snobs who poo-poo products from this brand. Other professional photographers get gobsmacked when they look at my images and I tell them what gear I used to get them. I think I’m a pretty good example of why you don’t need to spend a lot to take good photos. Instead, your time and money are well spent on focusing on developing your skills under any condition. And I’m not putting you at a disadvantage either.
If you are in doubt about the combination of the above, this chicken korma shot was taken using the above four items, a cheap light stand bracket to hold the umbrella and speedlight, and a cheap Amazon Basics light stand.
When all was said and done, the kit that got me back into photography and still serves me to this day cost roughly $820. This makes the entry point into food photography rather affordable, with a high return on investment.
You don’t have to go with Canon. I just prefer Canon’s color space for food. Other food photographers prefer Nikon’s color space. And some prefer Sony. Start with what you can afford — like the camera in your pocket — until you feel confident enough and are sure you love food photography enough to make that plunge into buying your starter gear.
One of the things that can drive someone new to food photography mad is capturing steam or smoke. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And it is easy to do without any special equipment to create the steam or smoke.
It can also be easily accomplished with a one-light setup. Joanie Simon walks through how she captures steams and smoke. She goes through the entire process from choosing the backdrops, the camera settings, lighting, the quality of the steam, editing, and how to really get that steam going with a microwave and cotton balls.
A thing I want to emphasize from this video is the use of strobe or flash to really freeze that steam. It doesn’t have to be anything really expensive either. If it is high-powered and the color temperature is 5500 – plus or minus one hundred or two – you are good to go. Simon talks about eliminating extra light if using continuous light. However, when using a flash or a strobe, if it is at least 300 watts, it will cancel out environmental light. I also strongly recommend putting a black card opposite of the light source to help to knock back any spill.
I know it has been said many times, but I want to re-emphasize, don’t get bogged down in gear. By that, I mean ignore gear snobs. Especially when it comes to food photography. Start off with the flash or strobe that you can afford that has a color temperature close to daylight and some diffusion material. Get really good at using that. If you can master that, you will be able to take consistent photos in any situation.
Food is a fundamental part of survival. The very first thing we do after being born is eat. Human brains know food on a primal and instinctual level. Our brains automatically reject or call into question food imagery that doesn’t look real. In advertising, our brains are a little more forgiving.
But in lifestyle and editorial food photography, the brain is a stickler for reality. The goal of editorial and lifestyle food photography is to make the viewer literally salivate. Achieving that goal has less to do with your gear and more to do with the photographer’s understanding of how food behaves, light, and paying close attention to the atmospheres in which we typically consume food. A lot of what photographers learn when shooting other specialties will harm your images when shooting food.
So, let’s get back to basics. Here are three things to unlearn when shooting food.
1. Stop Front Lighting Your Subject
One of the biggest mistakes photographers make when attempting to move into food photography is using front lighting. With food photography, you really need shadows to add depth to your images. That depth cannot be added back into the image with dodging and burning. All that will do is make the food look fake and the viewer will not respond favorably, and likely won’t know why the image isn’t landing with them.
Also, underexpose your images when shooting. This really helps to preserve the needed shadows that you will pull up in Lightroom.
2. Stop Using Multiple Lights
Instead, you want a single light source, places anywhere between 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, and at a 0-to-45-degree angle to the food. If you do figure study, you have an advantage here as you already understand a lot of the basics of directional single-source lighting. Shooting food in this manner creates depth, specular highlights that signal to the brain that the food is delicious, and replicates how the sun is in the sky during periods when we frequently eat.
Instead of using a fill light, make white cards your friend. My favorite thing to use for both black cards and white cards are three-panel presentation boards.
3. Stop Dodging and Burning Your Food Images
As already mentioned, dodging and burning adds a fake look to images that the brain can’t accept, even if you don’t consciously know why. Lightroom is your friend. If you are new to Lightroom or have always relied on dodge and burn, it only takes a few tweaks to add depth and dimension to your food images.
Start off by lifting your shadows and white. Then drop your highlights and blacks. By how much depends on the placement and angle of the light source. Once that is done, dehaze, and add some clarity and texture, But don’t overdo it. Once you start getting where you want to be, then you can add a slight S-Curve in the Tone Curve area, play with the HSL sliders, and add a little blue to the shadows and yellow to the highlights in the Color Grading panel. And don’t forget to apply Lens Corrections.
Good luck, have fun, and don’t be afraid to experiment!
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