Sean Tucker started his career as a food photographer and had the chance to work alongside with some of the best food stylists in the industry. Thanks to this experience, he’s learned quite a few secrets one needs to know in order to capture the most stunning food pictures possible. Through this 15-minute long tutorial, Tucker shares some of the fundamental knowledge every photographer and foodies should acquire. So if you’d like to improve or get started with this genre, be sure to check the full video and take notes.
To film this tutorial, Tucker joined his friend Vla who owns a lifestyle blog. Vla is used to shoot his own pictures and thus can style his own sets and plates. Being a designer probably gives him an advantage on this matter. Color, lines, and texture are all very important in food photography. Through the video, the two friends will shoot three different plates including a cake, a drink, and finally a vegetarian BBQ dish. Most of the explanations are done during the cake capture, but the rest is interesting to depict the different concepts instilled.
Food Photography Gear of Choice
A huge part of the current trend in food photography is soft, controlled light. When the lighting on your set is fully controlled, the gear doesn’t matter as much as in challenging environments. Older cameras or ones with smaller sensor do the trick just perfectly. Following this statement, Tucker explains in the video above how he started his career using just a Canon 550D with a nifty fifty. During the tutorial, he’ll even prove that once the light is correctly placed, the result between the Canon 5D Mark II, the 550D, and an iPhone isn’t extremely different.
His advice on gear seems to be not to invest too much. He currently uses a Canon 5D Mark II along with a 100mm f/2.8. The latter is a macro lens, the non-L version, allowing for close-up shots. Tucker likes this focal length due to the degree of compression and subject isolation he can get. In the video, he even adds that he enjoys shooting food with a tilt-shift lens such as the Canon 90mm TS-E because it gives a better control of depth of field.
Lighting Food for Beautiful Pictures
Like previously said, lighting is everything if you want to follow the current trend of food photography; the softer the light, the better. Find a window with bounced light that comes through, and you’re golden. Even better, add a diffusion sheet (or some baking paper if you don’t want to spend additional money) on your window and you’ll have the softest light ever.
Don’t forget when shooting indoors to kill all artificial light, especially if your bulbs don’t match the color temperature of the light coming through your window. Amongst the accessories Tucker uses, we find some pieces of white and black cards to lighten or strengthen shadows. They can also be used to create reflection or block light, allowing for more creative results without having to carry around a strobe or hot video lights.
Using Live View for Shooting Food
When shooting food, cropping, focusing, and correctly exposing are all important. The professional food photographer shows how he uses the live view mode to help him out getting all these three elements down. I’d even add my personal touch by saying that shooting tethered when possible would help even more. Usually, the bigger the screen to check composition, the better. Also, while shooting tethered, you can always edit the raw files on the fly to show your client something close to the final result.
Using live view makes even more sense when shooting in an overhead setup. In such a case, the focusing is crucial, and it can prove to be difficult trying to look through the viewfinder.