One of the biggest niches in commercial photography today is food photography. We've all had the same experience, walk into a small local restaurant and ask to see their menu. The photos look atrocious and you wonder to yourself, "who took these photos?" You know you can probably do a better job, but how much better can you really do? "Photographing Food" an ebook series by Taylor Mathis helps you take ordinary food photos and makes them extraordinary.
Now before I get started with the review of the e-book series I want to point out that Taylor Mathis is a staff writer here at Fstoppers and that the e-book series is on sale at the Fstoppers store. While I don't know Taylor particularly well personally, he does write some amazing articles on food photography here on Fstoppers. With that said I am going to do my best on being as unbiased towards this review. I've reviewed several books here on Fstoppers and I am treating this series just as I would any other book.
Downloading the series was extremely fast and easy. The entire .pdf file is around 108MBs. I was able to download it in under a minute and have it loaded and ready to read on my iPad and iPad mini in under five minutes. You can read it on a conventional computer, but I really recommend loading it onto a tablet. It was easy to read and portable, so that I could take it with me whenever I did find myself shooting with food.
What I do like about this series is that each issue is split up by topics from window light, post-production to backgrounds and shooting at night and not just randomly jumbled together. Each individual issue runs anywhere between 30 to 40 pages long and each issue is stuffed full of information. I think there's just so much in these issues that there is no way to sit down, tuck in for a casual read and retain everything. This I believe is something that I think that should be carried with you while shooting food. Don't think of this as a book or a magazine think of this series as a companion while shooting.
Each issue is broken up into different scenarios, and is very easy to read through. One thing that can easily annoy me when reading e-books is the size of the print. We strain enough as it is when reading on a computer or back-lit device, so I'm glad that Taylor chose to use a slightly larger print which helps with fatigue.
Every scenario is broken down step by step with not just an explanation of how he achieves his final image, but a very detailed layout of of the different ways to shoot it (or light it etc...) and most importantly why he favors to execute it the way he does. In some cases he will give you several examples of how to shoot something with the final images side-by-side for comparison and ask what you prefer and then later reveal what his preference was, which I found fascinating. I do appreciate the detailed explanations of some of his DIY ways of lighting certain food and also how he plates and stylizes the food before the shutter is ever pressed.
The most helpful part of the books series are the accompanying photographs, because let's face it we can read until our eyes bleed, but most of us as photographers prefer visual instruction, and Taylor doesn't disappoint. Most instruction books have a few set-up and behind the scenes shots to accompany the text, but Taylor's series is covered in them, which is amazing.
As you can see from the image above that the photos really do help show how Taylor sets up the different light modifiers that he uses, which to me is way more helpful than just text or a lighting diagram alone. He also includes full page final images so that you can see the results up close, along with all of the EXIF data clearly marked on every final image.
As far as the actual lessons to be learned I was impressed by just how much was included. My favorite's included how to use shutter speed to drastically and creatively change the outcome of the final image; how to easily process your images using Lightroom and how to properly use windows (both diffused and bare) to light your food. These are only three small examples of what's included to create stunning and editorial worthy food photos that you can find in any top ranking food or lifestyle magazine.
Now what I do wish the e-books had that they don't are videos embedded into the content, but at the cheap price of only $5 an issue which is the same price as a typical magazine at the grocery store check out, well, I'm just being overtly picky. Besides Taylor does have some awesome videos here on Fstoppers that are highly educational. Another thing I will throw out there, don't read this if you're hungry. I found myself snacking constantly while reading. While most people consider that to be a bad thing it just goes to show you just how appetizing the photos make the food seem, and that's exactly the type of response that you want out of your food photographs. In essence you want people to crave the food that you're shooting.
To end the review I really wish I could just go through everything that Taylor covers in the series, but there's just too much. The end results are stunningly delicious and I was quite surprised by the unexpected ways in which Taylor was able to produce these images. All I can say is that if you want to pursue a niche in food photography or want your photographs to improve then this is the perfect series for you. As I said before, don't treat this as just another e-book series treat this as a trusty companion to take with you to every food photography shoot that you book.