Food Photography Tips from Two Top Bloggers

A picture is worth a thousand words.   And when it comes to food blogs, a beautiful photograph that accompanies a post can make all of the difference.  Great photography entices an audience – and keeps them coming back for more.  
I am a digital photography enthusiast. On the weekends, I always have my Nikon D70 SLR with me and my favorite subject to capture, besides my son,  is food (the photos in this post are a few of my best shots to date).  Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in not one – but two – photography classes at the BlogHer Food conference in San Francisco this past weekend. I particularly enjoyed the class taught by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks and Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites – both very talented photographers with great food blogs.  For anyone who is looking to constantly improve their photos (like myself!), Heidi and Matt shared the following very useful tips.

1.       Be inspired by others.
          Constantly read and review food and travel magazines (especially ones from Australia), cookbooks, food photographer’s websites and beautiful food blogs. Create either a physical or online scrapbook of favorite photos. The incredible San Francisco food photographers that inspire me include: Noel Barnhurst, Richard Eskite, and Deborah Jones.
2.       Time of day. 
          The best time to shoot photos is either dawn or dusk. I always prefer dusk, otherwise known by photographers as “The Golden Hours.”   Bright sunlight during the middle of the day is always the most difficult (outdoor light is just too bright).

3.       Minimalist vs. Dense
          When you frame your photo, think about it in context of negative or positive space.   Do you want to construct a very simple image with a single focus or a complex image with a lot going on? 
4.       B&W vs. Color
          Food shots almost always looks best in color, but consider shooting people enjoying food in black and white. 

5.       Dark vs. Light
          Are you shooting indoors or outdoors? In a dark restaurant or outside in a garden? Determine what mood, color and lighting you going for, and adjust your camera’s setting accordingly.
6.       People or hands in your shot?
          Adding people or hands with your food shots can add a different, interesting dimension.  
7.       Flash or non-flash?
          While most photographers, including myself, typically prefer to shoot only in natural light, a flash creates a whole new look-and-feel to a photo. 

Blogs mentioned during the class that feature beautiful photos included the Sprouted Kitchen  , Vegan Yum Yum and Tartelette.   One of my personal favorites is Becks & Posh, which always features simple, gorgeous shots.
Final shooting tips from Heidi and Matt included…
          Always think about your photos in context
o   What size will they be? Do you want a vertical or horizontal shot?
          Think about the type of shots you are after
o   Ingredient shot? People shot? In-process shots? Ready-to-eat shot?
          Meat can be very difficult to shoot.  To make it easier, include a garnish on the meat to add some interest, light and extra texture
          Look through the viewfinder, REALLY look through the viewfinder
o   Compose your shot, always look for shadows and really look at your background
          Read your camera manual cover to cover
o   Get to know how your camera works inside and out
          When using a point-and-shoot camera, always shoot in AV mode (not “automatic”). 
o   Matt recommends the Canon G10 as a great point-and-shoot camera.
          For still food shots, use a tripod
          Always shot in “raw,” easier to edit and manipulate in the post-production process
          Great program for editing and organizing photos: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

So after receiving excellent tips from two great photographers – I am inspired to continue to push myself with my own photography. I want to get to know my camera better, experiment with flash and black & white photography, try more “in-process” shots, use my tripod more and focus on the post-production process.  All challenges which I plan to embrace with open arms, eyes – and a digital lense.