Food Photography Tips and Techniques *****

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
Hi All,

Chris and I have been swapping PMs and we think that it would be a good idea to start a thread where we all can share Food Photography tips and techniques. We all want our food to look its best don’t we?

I’m a photographer and although from that standpoint I have a lot to contribute, I am not a “Food Photographer”. Food Photography is a whole different animal for a landscape photographer like me and so I’m also learning as I go.

I will contribute a lot from my experience in topics ranging from "Light, Light, it’s the Light", to "Why a tripod", focus, presentation, best practices, and more.

Chris and I are hoping that you can share your tips and techniques for food photography on this thread as well. Your contributions will be greatly appreciated.

Below you will find my first post, "How to spend $4.00 and greatly improve your grill photography" .

All the Best,

Jose
 

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
How to greatly improve your grill photography for just $4.00

Hi all,

For my first post I’ll share one of my tricks for making food look great on the grill. When grilling or smoking we are outside. Lets say you have the perfect clear and sunny day for grilling, the food looks great and you want to take a picture of the food on the grill.

You take the picture and later bring the picture into the computer and it doesn’t look as good as you remembered it. Why? Direct sunlight is not very flattering on most subjects, food included. Photography is all about light, light, light. Direct sunlight creates harsh shadows and blown highlights for the camera. Your eyes are different and somewhat compensate for that.

So, you could wait until it’s cloudy to take the picture but there is an easier way. Get one of these:


You can get one here for $4.00!
Adorama 12" Portable Reflector White / Translucent

I use one that is a little bigger so truth be told, one like mine is around $9.00. The reason I use a bigger one is so that I can place it closer to the subject and still get shade on larger items. This keeps me closer to the camera so I can work both things at once.

It is a reflector but it is also translucent. Translucent is the key, it lets light through but greatly difusses it so the light is still somewhat directional. This is in contrast to pure shade, where light is not directional, it's reflected from everything around you. So, you place the camera on a tripod (tripods will be the subject of another post) and hold the reflector between the food and the Sun sort of as a shade.

The results can be seen below – the camera was not moved and one shot was made right after the other

Without the reflector - notice the harsh shadows and the blown highlights on the bun:


With the reflector – beautiful soft, diffused, directional light in the middle of the day:


It is also a reflector so you can bounce light on it and back onto the food. Another how to I will post later.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Jose
 
Last edited:

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Great post Jose, for those who have a decent camera there are many tips I'm sure you can tell folks about to improve their shots.
 
Last edited:

Todd Phillips

TVWBB Pro
Great idea for a thread. I love Photography. Just don't have a real camera. Most of my pics come out looking like a polaroid. Hopefully you guy's can learn me sum!
 

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
Sorry. Picture 1 looks noticeably better to me.
Thanks for commenting. I tried to illustrate the differences, not make a pretty food shot. If I was doing that I would have lit the shot much differently (from behind). Different strokes.... There are some people, and photographers, that like hard light, nothing wrong with that. That said, the overwhelming majority of professional food photographers diffuse their light. I go with the majority on this. Like them, diffuse light looks better to my eyes.

When hard light really becomes a problem is when there are liquids on the surface of the food, think water mirror reflection effect, and a lot of stuff on the grill has liquids on the surface.

Here's an article that looks at both sides and lets you make the call.

https://fstoppers.com/food/hard-vs-soft-light-which-right-you-9613

Thanks again,

Jose
 

Mildo

TVWBB Guru
Thanks for this thread Jose. Very inspiring. I am lazy to use these things (yet) I use CPL filter with positive results. It's only matter of time before I want to move on. I look forward to the next lesson;)
I think so here is a lot of good chefs, which will help some of these good tips to better present their fantastic cooks. And it should be noted that they may not even own the most expensive camera.
 
Last edited:

Len Dennis

TVWBB Diamond Member
And the best here folks is that this (and future) tips can be applied to any pics, not just food. Thanks Jose for taking the time :)
 

Mildo

TVWBB Guru
Chris, my opinion is that this thread should be moved as Sticky: Food Photography Tips and Techniques to the Photo Gallery.
 
Last edited:

JRPfeff

TVWBB Guru
Jose,

I just looked at the 2 pictures on my laptop and the 2nd one looks better. But #1 still looks better on my smartphone.

So picture advice may need to be adjusted for the medium it will be viewed through.

Jim
 

Rita Y

TVWBB Emerald Member
I've been looking for advice like this. Thank you Jose! I would like to see this subject as a separate forum, rather than a single thread. It would be easier to search and find different "chapters" (threads within a Forum).

HERE IT IS
on Amazon Prime - you can save $1.20 from the other site.

Rita
 
Last edited:

Mildo

TVWBB Guru
I've been looking for advice like this. Thank you Jose! I would like to see this subject as a separate forum, rather than a single.
Rita
Good idea Rita.
I'd like to read advice from masters such as:
Bob Correll
Jeff Biesinger
Peter Gallagher
Jose Suro
Geir Widar
Daniel Wolgast
Dean V
Todd NC
Jerome D
Bill Schultz
Clay Neubauer
Jim K
Mike Coffman
and other and other great photographers in a special thread that is devoted to the theory of photography.
 
Last edited:

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
“It’s not the arrow, it’s the archer”

Hi all,

Post #2

The title is an old saying translated from Spanish and using the nowadays politically correct word “archer”. The original saying used the old world word for Native Americans.

Nevertheless, replace the words “arrow” with “camera” and “archer” with “photographer” and you now have one of the strongest truisms in photography. Some might be wondering, “What good is this thread for me if all I have is a point and shoot camera?”

As with everything else these days we all want to own the latest and greatest. This applies especially to photographers because digital cameras are like computers, there’s always a better one coming out in a year or two and we have to have one. Not true at all.

My best photographs are usually made with a view camera, essentially a wooden box with a goatskin bellows, technology dating to the end of the nineteenth century. It still makes the best quality images of any camera in the world. Some believe that because all they own is a “point and shoot” camera they can’t make pictures that compare with state of the art DSLRs made by Nikon and Canon. Not true. Well OK, I’ll have to except cell phone cameras. They are not very useful for “controlled” photography. I’ll leave that be and wait for the flames:).

Point in fact, a few years back one of my images received and honorable mention in the yearly International Photography Awards. This is the image:


I made that image with this camera:


I always carry a camera with me in the car and that December day I was driving back home with a Christmas tree on the roof when I ran into that image. A frontal passage and rain was imminent and I had no time to go home and get my view camera so I stopped and made the image with the point and shoot. The next morning the boat was chopped into pieces by the salvage crew. There’s more to the story but I won’t bore you with the details. The bottom line is you can make great images with any camera, including a point and shoot.

Now for the nitty-gritty. There are at least four things that you can control with a point and shoot camera, and those things are usually enough. The four things are:

ISO, Zoom (must be lens zoom, not digital zoom), white balance and exposure compensation.

The only thing that is a problem with point and shoots is the built in flash. But for food photography you should not be using camera mounted flash with any camera anyways unless you absolutely have no other choice or you really know how to diffuse it.

I will get into those four controls as they apply to not only point and shoots but to all cameras in a future post, and, how that screen on the back of the camera can't be trusted! For now, rest assured you can make great food photography images with a P&S. All you need is the right light, and a tripod :).

Keep shooting and post your own tips, I want to learn like all the rest!!

All the best,

Jose
 
Last edited:

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
Chris, my opinion is that this thread should be moved as Sticky: Food Photography Tips and Techniques to the Photo Gallery.
This makes sense to me Chris. I hadn't thought about that. Mildo gets the brain guy star for the day :).
 

Jose Suro

TVWBB All-Star
Jose,

I just looked at the 2 pictures on my laptop and the 2nd one looks better. But #1 still looks better on my smartphone.

So picture advice may need to be adjusted for the medium it will be viewed through.

Jim
Thanks! Point is very interesting and I have recorded that in my notes. I will check with my phone as well.

Thanks again!

Jose
 

Mildo

TVWBB Guru
Yes, I saw that picture of the ship and is amazing Jose.
And I agree, tripod without flash is the correct way to perfect reproduction. I use tripod always for my food shots;)
 

Rita Y

TVWBB Emerald Member
Jose, I am not at all artistic, but that photo of the boat takes my breath away. How did it get there? What might the backstory be? It's not just another boat. There were people involved with it. An author could take that photo and run with it. It is sticking in my minds' eye.

Rita
 

Top