From national magazines to local papers, media outlets of all sizes like to cover restaurants. If you are a photographer who shoots editorial assignments, there is a good chance that you have been assigned to cover a dish at a restaurant. Over the last couple of years, I have photographed hundreds of dishes at restaurants ranging from white table cloth fine dining establishments to hole in the wall hidden treasures. Here are some tips that might help you with shooting a dish for an editorial client.
Have you ever eaten at a fine dining restaurant? You know the type of place with white table cloths, 3 different forks, and you have to have a reservation to get a table? In fine dining restaurants, the dishes look a little different; the plates are works of art! The colors, textures, and placement on the plate are all done with very specific intentions. This type of beautiful plating is becoming more widespread than you might think. No longer is it reserved for the restaurants where you know your check will have three digits in it. If you are hired to shoot at these locations, make sure to capture the beauty of the plate! Here are some tips to help you out.
For beautiful salivating food photography, you don't need a lot of lighting equipment. To create a shot that will make your viewer's stomach start to rumble you only need one diffused light source. Using only one light source creates a natural look with one set of shadows. By changing the direction and intensity of these shadows, you can create countless lighting scenarios that will leave your viewers hungry. Let me show you how one light can provide many options.
Do you use a sweep in your portrait or large product photography? Sure a roll of paper several yards in length is necessary for photographing people and large products, but what about food and small products? Walking into a bakery or the back of a kitchen with two C stands and a large roll of paper is not going to work in the often small kitchen shooting environments.
Have you ever looked at a picture of a dish and been embarrassed? It could be that a sliver of drool escapes from your salivating mouth. Or you could be a crowded place and looking at a food shot causes an embarrassingly loud rumble from your stomach. Looking around and pretending that it wasn't you won't save you. The food photographer and stylist have done their jobs. They have made you hungry. So how did that do it?
Have you had trouble lighting reflective surfaces? If you were given a food like ceviche to style, would you know where to begin? In this post, I am going to show you how I styled and shot a scallop and peach ceviche recipe. Here is a little background on the shot. The recipe developer meant for this dish to be served at an outdoor entertaining event, and wanted to highlight the light refreshing nature of the dish. With this in mind, I chose lighting and props that would help communicate this. Here is how I created the shot.
Restaurant's interiors can be just as beautiful and recognizable as the dishes that they create. When shooting a dish, you may want to include some of a restaurant's interior elements in the shot. These can be chairs, walls, light fixtures, or anything else that shows off the restaurant's character. To do this, you will need to be able to balance the light you are creating with a flash and the ambient light in the restaurant. Here is a look at how I did this on a recent assignment involving a burger and beer.
Welcome to the instant-generation: a generation that loves taking Selfies and also taking Instagram photos of the food they or their friends are having that same moment, and of course share it right away on Social Media. 'Let’s Café', a small coffee chain from Taiwan, decided to take advantage of the love of selfies and cell-food photography and created this smart Coffee machine that made them go viral on Social Media and grow their business. Here is the coffee version of Snapchat.
Have you ever wished you had an extra hand that you could set a prop in and know that it wouldn't move? Fortunately photographers and videographers have dozens of clamps, clips, stands, and arms that allow them to place any piece of lighting gear, lighting modifier, or prop anywhere they would like to. You could have a model or member of your crew hold a utensil in place, but there is a high chance that they will experience fatigue and drop the food. Here is a solution that uses grip gear to ensure your food will stay in place for as long as you would like.
When taking pictures of food in a kitchen you will almost always have to create your own lighting environment. Restaurant kitchens are usually lit by overhead fluorescent lighting that won't help you make a beautiful picture of a dish. In these situations, you will have to make your own light. There is a problem, though. What happens when the shooting space is so small that you can't fit a softbox or light stand into the kitchen? If you ever find yourself with only a counter top sized area to shoot on, this lighting set-up will create the shot you need!
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.
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.