In the fall of 2010, I decided to shoot my dream assignment. I knew that no one was going to pay me to go out and tackle this subject matter, and I had not seen any photographer do what I wanted to do, so I did it. At the time, I had no idea what the assignment would turn in to or how it would change me as a photographer and a person. Here is what I learned from photographing 35 College Football Tailgates.
Recent Food Articles
What do you do when you find yourself in a restaurant without a decent window to shoot by? You will have to create your own light. If you are new to food photography and never had to use artificial light to light a dish, you may find yourself unsure of where to start. You don't need multiple flashes and a bunch of modifiers to create a beautiful shot. All you need is a flash, a light stand, a large diffusion source, and a piece of white foam board. Here is how I use these tools to create a beautiful backlit shot.
Every finished dish in a restaurant or final recipe shot is made up of different ingredients. These ingredients can be a wide range of things. Some ingredients, like fruits and vegetables, are equally delicious as a component in a dish or as a meal on their own. Other ingredients like flour, salt, and sugar, are best used as the building blocks for that final meal. When your are assigned to shoot a series of recipes or plated dishes at a restaurant, it is very common that your Art Director or client will want to include an overhead shot of just the common ingredient. Here are a few examples of when this shot is useful.
What is "perfect lighting?" It will differ for every style of photography and every photographer's style. For my food photography, I think the perfect lighting is the soft, beautiful, natural light found from a large window with indirect sun coming through. Unfortunately, most of the locations where I have to go and shoot food don't have this light that I am looking for. In order to get the shoot done, I have to to create the light. What if I could create this "perfect light" and have it for every assignment?
Broiling, braising, blanching, roasting, smoking, sautéing, and frying are just a few of the cooking methods that can be done to food. Do you know how they will visually change the appearance of your food? Did you know that some parsley has curly leaves, while other varieties have flat leaves? Would you be able to tell the difference between a julienne, brunoise, or a dice? The culinary world has a vocabulary all its own. Knowing these terms and how they effect the look of food is a necessary skill for every food photographer.
How do you choose the right aperture for an image? If you are shooting at night with only available light, you may prefer a faster, wide open aperture to let more ambient light through your lens. If you are shooting a landscape, a smaller, stopped down aperture will give you a deeper depth of field and ensure your whole landscape is in focus. On the contrary, if you are doing a creative portrait session, a shallow depth of field can create an interesting and captivating portrait. If you are new to food photography, you may find yourself wondering, "What is the best aperture to shoot with?"
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer is officially here! This means plenty of picnics, outdoor barbecues, and many more occasions where you can take pictures of food outside! When outside, you won't have control of the weather conditions. To be able to have nice, soft, diffused light in any weather, there is one piece of equipment that I always bring with me. It is small, light-weight, and essential to creating mouthwatering pictures of food on a bright sunny day. Can you guess what it is?
"Oh, I can just fix that in Photoshop® after the Shoot." Have you ever heard a photographer say that, or thought that yourself? Yes, Photoshop® is an amazing program that can fix almost anything, but the time it takes to do so is often longer than just fixing it on set. Worse than the time it takes, what if it is something that you just can't fix? Having to tell your client that you need to re-shoot something when you could have easily fixed it on set could be an expensive mistake to make. When shooting food, many solutions to retouching problems will costs less than $5. Here are a few of my favorite items that will save you time and money on post-production.
There are many different surfaces that you can shoot your food photography on. You can use a table in your kitchen, a table in a restaurant, the floor, or any other flat surface that you can find. When selecting a surface, the colors, patterns, and textures of the surface will have a great effect on the look and feel of your final image. With the background playing such an important role in your image, there should be some thought put into what you shoot on. The best way to control this is to make your own backgrounds! Let me show you why wooden planks are my favorite surface to shoot on.
If you follow us here on Fstoppers, you know how much we love food and food photography. For the past few months we posted here countless of tutorials, methods, tricks and business tips to help you take your food photography to the next level. Now it's time for some inspiration: Check out this set of delicious-looking dishes that will leave you hungry. Very hungry.
What is the best lens? If you shoot wildlife, a long zoom lens will bring you close to the action but allow you to keep your distance so as not to startle your subject. If you shoot architecture, a tilt shift lens will allow you to make sure all the lines of your room or building are straight. Shooting weddings? You will most likely need a lens that can zoom for a variety of wide and close shots. When photographing food there is only one way to get those close up mouthwatering shots that your clients desire! Allow me to show you how a lens with macro capabilities will change how you shoot food!
Before we jump in, it is important to note that I was brought in on this food project to match an already in place look and feel for the client.
The menu at the restaurant was expanding and the client was in need of capturing updated photographs of the new plates that were starting to be served.
This tutorial is a quick rundown of a two strobe lighting set up that was shot inside a restaurant.
Food styling can take place in the production kitchen and in front of the camera. How do you know when and where to style your food? The answer will depend on what food you are shooting. For food with long shelf lives, like cupcakes, the dish will generally be camera ready when it leaves the kitchen. If the dish involves a sauce and a variety of garnishes, the styling will occur both in the kitchen and in front of the camera. Here is a behind the scenes look at a dish that involves styling in both locations: The Meatball Sandwich.
If you are a professional, or an aspiring professional photographer, you rely on your photographic work to bring you financial rewards. Self satisfaction alone, won’t pay rent, put gas in your car, or food on the table. If you want to earn money from your pictures, then you will have to find someone to pay you for them. Here are a few strategies that you can implement to start selling your food photography!
The film industry has the Oscars. The music industry has the Grammys. Broadway has the Tony Awards. The annual awards that celebrate the best and brightest of the culinary world are the James Beard Foundation Awards. NYC based photographer Landon Nordeman set up backstage at the 2013 awards with just an iPhone for a camera. The results are a captivating black and white series of shots that each capture the range of emotions of the night.
Have you ever been assigned to take pictures of a chef's creations in a restaurant? Photographing food on location at a restaurant is a very common assignment for a food photographer. I have an editorial client that sends me to 4 or 5 restaurants every month to take pictures of the dishes. Through these assignments, I have discovered that most restaurants are not designed with the photography in mind.
All of us have that favorite food that no matter what time of the day it is, we crave it. Well being a celebrity means you can have access to these foods at any time. Henry Hargreave thought is would make for a fascinating series to photograph these riders. I enjoy the fact that he decided to keep the backgrounds black and very minimal, which helps you connect with the person's interest and draws you in the most simplistic yet captivating way.
When you hear the words cinnamon rolls, what comes to mind? Is it a roll hot out of the oven with a rich creamy icing oozing over the sides? Or do you picture a Saturday morning breakfast with a dish of rolls that have been covered in a rich thick cream cheese frosting? Neither vision of a cinnamon roll is right nor wrong. The key in turning these cinnamon roll visions into reality is the styling.
Food photography will at times take you out of the studio and on location. It may be to a restaurant, a farm, or a bakery. If you have to travel to where the food is, then you will have to think about what background you will shoot on. When shooting at a restaurant, capturing the decor and ambiance of the dining room with the dish is preferred by the client. Capturing the tables, walls, or any other distinctive features of the restaurant in the background will enhance your image of the dish. When shooting a food product, the ambiance might not be there. What do you do if all you have are grey walls and a metal counter top?
Are you interested in adding food photography to your portfolio, but don’t know where to start? Don’t be intimidated. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on expensive lighting equipment, lenses and cameras, but these aren’t necessary to make a beautiful food image. If you are a portrait photographer, landscape photographer, sports photographer, or an expert instagrammer, you can use the gear you already have to make beautiful images of your food!
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Photographers may scream when they hear that ice cream is what the client wants. Ice cream is not easy to work with. Once it starts melting, it is done and you need to move on to the next dish. Unless you are shooting in a freezer, the working window for ice cream isn't very long. There are many different ways photographers and food stylists will approach ice cream. For this series of pint-sized sundaes, I let the ice cream's container be the guide for the styling.
What do you picture when you hear the words "Chocolate Chip Cookies?" Is it a soft, round, light brown cookie with loads of chocolate chips? Or is it a crunchier darker brown cookie perfect for dipping in milk? Above are all examples of chocolate chip cookies. Is one of them a better picture that the other? That depends on the purpose of your image. If your client is expecting the cookies to look like the image splashing in the milk, then they won't be happy with the other two images.
Have you found yourself in a lighting rut? Do you have two or three "go to" lighting set ups that you find yourself continuously falling back on? Lately, I have found myself in a rut. For a little change of pace, I decided to shoot my favorite food, cupcakes, using a light source that is not very common in food photography: the ring flash.
I have been following Stephen Hamilton’s work for the past couple of years. I first came across the Chicago-based food photographer’s work through his personal work and project called “The Restaurant Project.” In this project, Stephen has dined at restaurants throughout the country experiencing new dishes that chefs have to offer. While dining he takes an iPhone image. From this image, he recreates a beautiful shot of the meal back in his studio. I have enjoyed seeing Stephen's recreations and contacted him to learn more about the project. Here are 7 questions with Stephen Hamilton.
From cookbooks in bookstore windows to magazine covers you pass in the grocery store check outline, it is hard not to notice the overhead camera view's popularity in food photography. If you are going to shoot your food overhead, there is one piece of equipment that will make your job a lot easier: The Tripod Arm.
Hasselblad + Beer = Good stuff.
In this behind the scenes video, commercial photographer Rob Grimm and Phlearn, co-created a tutorial around the set of a beer photo shoot. Grimm does a great job explaining the lighting being used on set, how he works around reflections on glass with polarizers, how he creates highlights in the beer bottle and why chopsticks are necessary to make cereal malt beverages look crisp on camera.
A still image of food will make you hungry, but there is something about a food video that can take that hunger to another level. There are aspects of the cooking process that just don’t translate as well in the still form as they do in video. Claire Thomas has taken these delicious moments and developed a style that showcases them in short 30-60 second videos. I contacted Claire to find out how she developed her style and what inspires her to make these mouthwatering shorts.
You don't need to have the most expensive gear to make the best pictures. It is very easy to get swept up in the attitude of " if I only had this I could take better pictures." You do not need $10,000, or $1,000, or even $100 worth of lighting gear to make a great picture using artificial light. What if I told you that you could take a beautiful picture of food with a $10 light, a picture frame, a T-shirt, velcro, and cut up foam board?
Patric Bergkvist is making a strong case as one of the better Swedish liquid photographers with his fantastic handle on the ideal lighting in very humble shooting spaces. We featured his exploding coffee and milk photo tutorial in early February and now he is back showing how to make a perfect shot of Whiskey. Photo that is.
Have you had trouble taking pictures inside a kitchen? Don't worry you are in good company. Architects generally don’t think of photographers when designing a kitchen space. The line of a busy restaurant isn't the best place to take pictures. Tight corners combined with a mess of tungsten and fluorescent lights shining from a multitude of directions make it very difficult to create mouthwatering images.
Alison Anselot took a witty approach to Pantone color swatches and food photography by blending them together to create her project Pantone Food, a series of monochromatic foods paired with a corresponding swatch color.
Allison Anselot is a freelance art director and photographer out of Belgium whose background of design and love of photography paired well with the standard color matching system and the natural colors of the food to produce this series.
David Loftus has been working with food television star, Jamie Oliver, for over 15 years taking dynamic imagery of the culinary masterpieces that Jamie creates in his kitchen. In this behind the scenes video David is shooting with the Nikon D4. In a few short cuts Jamie is also seen trying his hand at taking his own food shots with the Nikon D3200.
I have always been a fan of concepts so simple that the simplicity is almost the subject. Paris' own Florent Tanent has come up with a gorgeous little series of food still lifes, entitled "La grande Epicerie de Paris", that showcase the minimalism as much as it does the food being photographed. I really dig some of these shots, hope you will too, Enjoy!
Photography is an enormous, multifaceted industry that ranges from portrait and product to macro and landscape. As photographers, we owe it to ourselves to learn as much as we can about each specific genre of our trade. Even if you only shoot weddings or cars, it’s important to learn and practice new techniques, which will allow you to hone your skills and can keep you out of creative ruts. Recently, I have had the opportunity to take on several types of shoots that I either have never done before or have had very limited experience with.
While thinking over possibilities for new landscape photography, Ernie Button acquired some inspiration over his breakfast food. In this fantastically creative series of dubbed Cerealism, Ernie creates some pretty "Cerealistic" looking places and puts a nice background to them. The best part about it his set came after the shoot with the addition of a spoon, bowl, and milk.
Photographer Jasmin Schuller has created a pretty rad little photo series called "Sweet Meat". The final images consist of raw meats that are fashioned and styled to appear as desserts. I love this idea and yet again I have to kick myself and say, "Why didn't I think of this?!" Jasmin has been exhibiting the collection all over and has been featured in Russian Esquire and De:bug. I'm sure PETA will want her to exhibit during their next gala. Enjoy!
If you're in the mood for food, take a look at these shots. They made my mouth water with the way the lighting, layout and processing has been executed. "Hannah Queen is from Georgia, USA, and her pictures have a touch of that southern sweetness. She loves photographing natural, comfort-rich foods, like fresh fruit and honey with tea. Her homey pictures make you want to live somewhere peaceful, start a garden, or just visit Georgia for a bag of peaches."
There are times I have described the images taken with the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS lens as scrumptious, but I was referring to the images, not the lens itself! German Photographers Marion and Dieter were taking pictures of a polar bear exhibit on a recent visit, and spotted Felix the Polar Bear enjoying an Image-Stabilized treat. How ironic is it that they were shooting with Nikons?
Splash Photography is a very common type of photography in the commercial world and we see it around us all the time: in soft drink ads, as intro for cooking shows on TV or even in Cereal commercials. Here is a great collection of Splashing fruits - in water, cream or even beer - all found on Flickr. Also, make sure to watch the video to see how its done!
Artist Caren Alpert, science lover and foody, has created an incredible series of photographs of food magnified at high powers. Her series entitled "terra cibus", Latin for land of food, shows a quite remarkable view of our bodies' fuel sources like we have never seen them before. Try guessing what each of these images are of, and then head to her site for the full description of each image in her gallery. Enjoy!
The "last meal" is a well known segment of popular culture in the United States. We may not be all too familiar with the intricacies of capital punishment, but we all have heard of a last meal. Photographer and chef Julia Ziegler-Haynes found public records of last meal requests by executed inmates and meticulously recreated them in this series called "Today's Special."
Marketing and advertising treads a fine line. Put too little into an initiative, and the audience never engages. Go too far, and it becomes cliché and unattractive. But if you can hit that perfect balance and walk that fine line, perfection can be truly beautiful. When the guys from Golpeavisa were tasked with shooting a cover photo of two-Michelin star chef René Redzepi for Premier Class Magazine, they walked that line with unmatched poise.
"Big Appetites" is an ongoing project by Seattle-based photographer Christopher Boffoli where he creates worlds made out of real food with tiny detailed figures living in them. He started this project back in 2002 as he was inspired by the culturally recurring fascination with tiny people in out of scale environments that was very common in films and television he grew up on.
Just when I thought I had seen it all I was sent this incredible video by one of our readers. The Marmalade, a special effects studio in Germany, has created an incredible high speed robot used to film precise moments during ultra high frame rate takes. The results look so perfect that I thought I was watching CGI at first. Even if you aren't into robots you will want to watch this video for the most stunning macro videography I've ever seen.
When I caught wind that the tripod masters at Really Right Stuff were about to release a new product, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I love new gear. Because it had not even finished final production yet, they unfortunately could not send me a brand new one in time to satisfy my desire to see it. However, they didn't want to disappoint and instead sent me the prototype! Score! Let’s take a look at the TFA-01 Pocket Pod.
Today, Bon Appetit featured a very comprehensive blog post from food photographer William Hereford. Rather than just talking about just a particular technique or style, Hereford also writes to the burgeoning food photographer/enthusiast and tries to answer the question: What is the camera you should go with if you want to get into commercial food photography? The answer may surprise you.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this one is a first. Stockholm photographer Phillip Karlberg has created a quirky and vibrant series of not-so-still life images. The subject? Colorful desserts spinning on top of revolving records. Music and food combined, literally. Below are some of the images from this well executed series that he calls 33 RPM.