While making holiday party food last weekend, I made a constant favorite that I posted on the blog a little more than a year ago: pickled red onions. The delicious condiment is usually served with Greek/Middle Eastern/Mediterranean style foods, but often makes its way onto pub-style burger plates, pickle appetizers and more.
I decided to shoot it again, and take a look at how my photography has changed over the past year or so.
I’m obsessed with pickles and brined treats of all kinds, so these are one of my favorite back pocket recipes. You can find my original post for the recipe here.
A year (ok, a year and two months ago), I was learning a lot about my camera by shooting almost every day. My only photography experience was in news photography, and I learned a TON about shooting for the news. But learning to shoot food is a whole different ball game. Even stuff that is pretty basic to most pros is hard to learn just by doing. So I was kind of winging it. And sometimes guessing, which is what I must have been doing this day:
Yep, that is the same recipe as the photo at the beginning of this post.
Looking back, I have no idea what I was thinking for a lot of my old photos, but I know I was trying hard and kind of struggling blindly when it came to styling. But as I worked on, a few things happened that helped me a whole lot.
- My sister-in-law gave me this book, which I love.
- I learned about the existence of foodgawker and Tastespotting, great ways to see the best of the food blog world in an instant
- I started to get into the technical details of my camera.
- I got this great gift from my husband, an Eye-Fi SD Card – it allows me to basically “tether” my iPad to my camera (but with no tether), so I can see what I’m doing as I go.
So, in that, here are the top ten things I’ve learned about food photography in the past year (in no particular order):
1. Light: there must be a lot of it, and it must be just right. Indirect/lightly filtered natural sunlight is the best possible scenario. After that, I go to a lightbox.
2. Camera RAW is your friend – it allows you much greater flexibility in editing the exposure and white balance of your photo.
3. Do not trust the LED screen or any of the white balance settings on your camera. I find it more useful (while in the RAW editing window) to match the white in my image to other things on the screen for which I’m already happy with the white balance – another photo, for example. It doesn’t even have to be your photo.
4. Texture is huge in photos. Even if it’s just a small detail, adding a fabric, dish, or accessory with visibly unusual texture is a nice way to add dimension to a photo.
5. So is depth of field. “Bokeh” is my least favorite word in the English language, but it’s important. A slightly blurry vase of flowers, or another plate of whatever you’re photographing, or the like is another great way to make your photo very appealing.
6. Tell a story with the styling, accessories and misc-en-scene (I love this example). What happened as you were making or eating this food? It can be as simple as adding a second spoon to a dish or a cup of coffee.
7. And on that note, look for other stuff around the house that can add to that story. It doesn’t have to only be food-related stuff, like one of my favorite photos from the year, this quiche.
8. Making your food look professional is within you reach, even if you are a self-taught home cook/photographer like me. Look at what other bloggers, local chefs and food magazines do. Recreate concepts you like in your own work. I love stacking things.
9. Ask for feedback from people who will be frank with you. My husband, several bloggers and friends from Mizzou have all been very helpful (Hi Callie and Karen M. ) in my photo journey.
10. Practice and study. And then do it some more. I know I’m no expert in food photography, but I have learned a lot, and this post was a great way for me to take a good look at what I’ve learned and what I need to learn to do better.