Snapshot Spotlight will be a regular feature on Culinary Snapshot, featuring blogging food photographers, their backgrounds and tips for creating great food photography! Are you interested in being in the spotlight? Contact me at admin<at>culinarysnapshot.com
I am thrilled to have Helen from Tartelette as our very first Snapshot Spotlight guest. Thank you, Helen, for sharing your wonderful photos and tips for great food photography with us!
In the Spotlight – Helen from Tartelette
When & why did you start getting into food photography?
It really started becoming my passion when I started my blog and realized that images speak a thousand words and I’d beter buckle down, play around, study and practice. One may have a natural disposition for food photography but there is nothing like studying composition, light, depth of field, etc..
What equipment do you use?
I still shoot mostly with my Rebel XTi (surprise, surprise! People think I have the super duper stuff- well, no) I say mostly because I rent a lot of different cameras and lenses to try to settle on a future purchase and renting is a great way to try lenses and camera bodies without breaking the bank, but I know my Rebel like the back of my hand and I know exactly how to set it up for food shots without having to fiddle around too much. I use Picasa for “triage” as I can easily create albums and pre-select the pics that I want to keep. Then I upload them onto LightRoom or the Canon software that came with my cameara and do my post processing there.
Please share one of your very first food photographs with us:
What has been your absolute favorite food photograph you have taken ? Why is this photo your favorite?
There are a handful I really like (I tend to be extra hard on myself) but one of the latest one I love is the Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sanwiches I shot. I love the simple set up, the ice cream melting, the color balancing each other. Makes me hungry!
Please share with us how you typically set up for one of your food photography sessions:
You can read everything about my set up HERE. It’s pretty basic. I use a tripod, a set of reflectors, a white foam board and anything that is on hand to work with the light (pieces of paper, mirror, plates, plastic wrap, extra glass, etc…) It’s kinda of McGiver-ish in a way but one could easily spend too much money when the solution is right here at hand. The trick is to practice, practice and practice.
I am lucky to live in an area with plenty of sunlight even late in the day but when it rains here it’s pretty much pitch dark. Up until now I’d tend to postpone a shoot but my McGiver husband just built a huge lightbox for a museum to shoot their artifacts and he’s decided to build a smaller one for me for darker days. I haven’t tested it yet and I am a bit reluctant to do so but I am willing to try this winter. We shall see! If natural light is not availabe where you shoot, studying the concept of strobes or sofboxes may be a good altenative.
Share some tips that you think might be helpful to food bloggers when photographing food.
- First, you have to decide what type of photographs you want to shoot and how much of your time you are willing to invest in it. I like the process of composing and lighting so I spend quite a lot of time in creating food stills. That’s my passion and I tend to suck at “real time” shots. I believe we all have a different forte and once you find your own creative outlet, go for it, go all out with it! There is no right or wrong styles. Find your own and make your pics the best that they can be according to that.
- Learn your camera, whether it is a point and shoot or a DSLR. Put one cupcake on a table and use as many settings, white balances, apertures, as possible. Take risks, the beauty of digital is that you can always erase.
- Don’t get hung up on the number of megapixels you shoot with: it makes little difference on a monitor screen. If you shoot for print, yes it starts to matter but not so much as the technology of your camera. Example: perfect prints come out of a Canon MarkII with only 8 megapixels. Why? Because the technology behind the camera and its lenses make the difference here as well as the lenses (higher quality models on these).
- In that regard: regardless of your camera, invest in good quality lenses. I only use prime lenses, no zoom, to retain as much quality as possible. I am the zoom so to speak, I move around the food, forward, backward, up and down, even with a tripod.
- Keep your backgrounds and table setting clean and simple so the viewer’s eyes are completely focused on your plate and not the stripes on the tablemat.
- Try to shoot vertical and not horizontal: it is easier to work on the depth of field and make a plate speak than with horizontal views. Sometimes there is no need to show an entire plate, a cropped version with a glass in the background may work better for example.
- Instead of boosting your ISO setting to the highest when the light is not perfect, try to use the exposure button on your DSLR (on Canon it is labelled A/V+)
- Learn your camera white balances and settings: if you must shoot when the sun is out, play around with all the balances features to figure out the one that looks most natural. In those circumstances, when the sun is long gone, I often shoot on “tungsteen” instead of “daylight”. I also have learned to set my white balance manually before every shot so I can be as close to the natural one as much as possible. It takes effort and practice but what good comes without those, right? It makes a big difference and it is easy if you have a DSLR and the manual.
- No matter what software you use to post process your picture, there is just so much they can do without losing quality. Meaning: a mediocre shot (not talking about composition but light, shadows, exposure) can be fixed only so much even with software. Aim at the best quality you can produce because the post processing will be less of a headache, quicker and will retain as much of the original quality as possible.