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.
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Does seeing a towering stack of pancakes with syrup running down the sides make your mouth water? What about a rich and thick caramel sauce flowing over the top and sides of a slice of cheesecake? The sauce or syrup pour shot is one that will make your viewers mouths' water. When creating these shots, I like to piece together several pours to make the perfect pour! Here is how I plan and execute a pour composite.
Every food shot will have some type of background that the subject sits on. A few months ago, I showed you how you can paint wooden boards to make a beautiful and versatile background system. If you don't have the storage space for a wooden board system, or are just getting started in food photography and want something a little simpler, I have a solution for you! Let me show you a background material that any level of photographer will find inexpensive, portable and versatile!
Did you know that what you wear may have a huge influence on the look or your images? In portrait, landscape, or sports photography, you will most likely be working far enough away from your subject that you won't notice the effects of your outfit on your subject. Let me show you what happened while shooting with a red shirt.
All restaurants aren't the same. They will serve different dishes, have different interiors, and charge different amounts for what they serve. When you are assigned to shoot a restaurant's signature dish, you will find that all restaurants will have one thing in common. There will be a table for guests to dine at, and for you to shoot at. Do you think of a table as just a table? Before you brush off the importance of selecting the right shooting surface, let me show you a few examples of how this decision will impact your image.
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?
Americans love football. For around four and a half months every fall fans by the thousands flood parking lots on Sundays to eat, drink, and celebrate their team. This is the world of NFL Tailgating. Last season, brothers John and Mike Trupiano traveled over 25,000 miles in an RV with a film crew to see how the NFL tailgates. The Trupianos attended a regular season game at all 32 of the NFL’s franchises. Last September, I met John and Mike when they were at a Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte. Now that they have completed this tailgating journey, I caught up with the brothers to find out more about their 32-game trip.
In a perfect world, you will have a stand-in and hero version of your food subject. You will be able to pre-light the stand-in and have everything perfect when the final hero version is ready. Then, all you have to do is add the hero and take the final shot. Unfortunately, most food assignments don't take place in a perfect world. There are times when you will have to use a non-edible stand-in for your pre-lighting.
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.
Adding props is an important and sometimes difficult part of food photography. There are times when an image needs the negative space, while other times, a well-placed prop will take the photo from good to great. When selecting a prop, I have found that menu-based props are the easiest to use correctly. Let me show you how to style a shot with menu-based props.
Is there a perfect light for your food photography? In past posts, I have mainly talked about using large lighting modifiers to create a soft light over my subject. I tend to choose softer light, because I think it looks better on my food. Is this the only lighting option? No. Like fashion photography, there are many different types of lighting that you can use on a subject. To get a better understanding of what will fit your style, let's take a closer look at the characteristics of hard and soft light and how they affect your food shot.
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.
Having ambition, creativity, and passion are not enough to make an independent documentary or photo project a reality. To see the movie play or hang the photo project in a gallery you will need money. It is a cruel reality for creatives, but money is needed to make large and ambitious projects happen. So what does one do?
Do you use color theory as inspiration for your photography? If you are ever feeling stuck or are in a rut, I have found the color wheel is a great source of inspiration! There are many different ways to look through a color wheel, but my favorite is using Adobe Kuler. Let me show you how I used it for inspiration.
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?