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{fancy camera free} Food Photography

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Today I am going to show you some easy tips for great food photography- without a fancy DSLR. I will confess- I do have a DSLR, and it does take amazing pictures- but not eveyone can afford one, and you can still get some great photographs for your blog using a point-and-shoot camera, some editing, and a little bit of know-how.

I am going to photograph something that isn’t especially great looking- scrambled eggs. I could easily take a few snaps of a gorgeous cinnamon roll, but in reality, you are going to take pictures of all sorts of recipes, so it is helpful to see the tips in action on something that isn’t already picture perfect. Recipes that are mushy, full of texture, and don’t have a lot of colors can look downright gross when you take pictures of them, but with a few tips, you can make even scrambled eggs look good!

First, please review some of my older posts on lighting– I set up all of these shots in my kitchen, next to my window with tons of natural light pouring in. I also staged them on my wood island counter top, and on my baby’s highchair tray (it is a great solid white background). I also utilized editing software on all of these pictures (I use Adobe Lightroom, but you can access plenty of free sites online to edit photos, like www.picnik.com).

First, before you start cooking, go over your recipe. Write out a little “script” of all the sections you would like a photo of. I usually go through my recipe shots, and realize I am missing lots of photos I wish I had- because it is a bit hard to cook and remember to take a picture at the same time. If you have a script, you can remind yourself.

Second, open up every window and turn on every light you can in your kitchen. I prefer natural light over lights, but you need as much light as possible, and if you don’t have huge windows, you need something. Bring in as much light as humanly possible- and if that means waiting for the right time of day for sun to come in, so be it. If you have to rely on a lot of light from your overhead lights in your kitchen, you might want to slightly change the white balance in your photo as they can make food look a little more yellow or orange. You can make this small adjustment in any software you use.

Ok, now let’s get down to it. First, photograph your ingredients. I like to lay them out side by side and get in close. Turn on your camera’s macro setting (on a Canon point and shoot, it will be the menu option that shows a little tulip. This helps your close up shots look crisp and clear).

tip: don’t use brown eggs. I don’t like how these look.

I sometimes like to get a shot of all the ingredients in a bowl, ready to be mixed. This doesn’t always work though! Taking a photo in a bowl can make your items really dark and the color of the bowl can change the color of the food you are photographing.

In the shot below, the eggs and cheese look really off, and it is just too dark. It is pretty unappetizing, and the eggs look creepy. If I used a white bowl, it might have looked better. Also, because this is a deep bowl, I am getting a dark shadow that goes across the food unevenly.

Next, you can get a cooking shot- although I don’t usually take a lot of them. My stove gives off weird light, and I can never get a shot that looks good on it. When I do want a shot of the food in a pan, I usually take the pan off the stove, put it on a trivet, and place it on a chair or my moveable island and put it right next to the window, so the light is even and bright.

When you take your final product shot, place the food on a simple dish- I prefer plain white. Don’t overcrowd the background! Take shots from all sorts of angles- get in close, go off to one side, go to the other side, take a picture from the front, take a few slightly overhead (directly overhead is almost never appealing). Once you get the hang of your angles, you can add some simple background and props, but don’t fuss with them too much. If you want some beautiful examples of making a background for your food without distracting from it, check out Sprinkle Bakes. Caution: you’ll be drooling all over your keyboard.

Here’s a few shots that I didn’t think worked too well:

This one was WAY too close. Go ahead and get in really close to your products, but if they look weird, toss them. Just be sure to get some super close, then a little further back, then even further back so you have a wide variety to chose from. I didn’t like that you can’t really tell what this was up so close.

This shot was taken further inside my kitchen- not right next to the window. The colors are TOTALLY washed out, and it doesn’t show off the eggs texture. These look a bit like hospital eggs to me 🙂 .

And finally, the shot I decided to go with, since it had a good balance of light, was in close enough to show texture, but not so close that my eggs look like aliens:

I hope those tips help!

What would you like for me to feature in my next {fancy camera free} Monday series?

7 thoughts on “{fancy camera free} Food Photography”

  1. Great tips! I don’t have a big fancy camera and I have been pretty decent shots but it does take a little more work and creativity. If my neighbors ever peeked in my kitchen window while shooting they would wonder what the heck I was doing. 🙂
    Thanks for the pointers! Glad to have found and started following you through the Simply Designing Link Party!

    1. Thanks Robyn! I am pretty sure my neighbors think I am insane most days as I take pictures all over the house, and a lot outside on our front porch.

      Stay tuned- next week I have a fun little contraption you can make to improve your lighting!

    1. Thanks Jennifer! Taking good pictures of food is one of the hardest things to do, but it is really critical for a blog. The most important tip is to take a TON of pics so you can chose the best 🙂

  2. I actually have noticed how hard it is to take pictures of scrambled eggs. You should see my breakfast burrito recipe on my blog. It looks disgusting, but I swear it’s good! Thanks for these realistic tips. I really appreciate you showing what shots didn’t work, too! That made me feel better about some of my own shots. 😉

    1. The one thing I have found about food photography is that just little things make a huge difference. Step a couple of inched to the right or left, get a foot closer to the light, move a couple of inches closer or further- and you can get an amazing shot. The one thing that makes the biggest difference is that you need to take TONS of pictures! I have a lot of crappy, weird, poorly lit snaps that don’t make the light of day. When you take a lot, you have a better chance of getting the one perfect shot.

      Scrambled eggs are SO hard to take a good pic of- that’s why I wanted to show them for this tutorial! Some gorgeous looking cake or pastry doesn’t really help when you’re going to make curry… or stir fry… or eggs!

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