Top Tips for Food Photography: My interest in photography has grown steadily over the past few years, going from a desire to take decent family snapshots and pictures to illustrate posts on this blog, to an interest these days in creative visual storytelling.
I love how photos can communicate so much in just one frame, whether it be a mood or feeling, but actually composing that frame in the first place, with all the right elements is so damn difficult!
I know what I want a photo to ‘say’ or the feeling I want to evoke, but actually bringing the pieces together like a jigsaw is what can stump me, so I’m practising regularly. Sometimes I get the shot I want and I just ‘know’ it, and sometimes I’ll have to play around for ages and the results still look like crap, but bit by bit I’m finding my ‘voice’ and learning what I do and don’t like.
I was whisked down to London by Birds Eye recently after winning their Instagram photography competition #BirdsEyeInspirations where I took a photo of my food! Here is the winning photo of my lunch – a Chicken Caesar salad!!
There were three winners in all, and our prize was a new Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 and a food photography workshop run by top foodie Instagrammer, Marte Marie Forsberg (Marie to us).
The three hour workshop taught me so much – the biggest takewaway being that things don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to get a good shot. It’s all about your own personal style. This message came through to me when Marie shook out a brand new white cotton tablecloth and spread it across the table, complete with the creases where it had been folded into the packet. I asked if the tablecloth needed to be ironed before we could use it as the backdrop for our food shots, but Marie liked the ‘imperfection’ of the crease- it made the shot real.
She told us that this was her style. She preferred to shoot in natural light rather than have artificial lighting. She would wait patiently for a public space to clear if there were people in the background of her ideal shot, and if a photography client of hers wanted ‘perfection’ – ie) perfectly ironed tablecloths and everything gleaming, then she’d recommend other photographers as that isn’t her style.
What I loved most was how well she knew herself and her preferences, and how comfortable and confident this made her and her photography.
Here is my favourite shot that I took but Marie styled up… (and I shared on my Instagram on the day!)
This one is the ‘moodiest’ of these two shots. We were playing with light and shade to get different effects. Here is the original- without the dark board that we used to shade the first one…
The next shot was all mine!! I styled this shot and took the photo. When I’d put the elements together I just ‘knew’ that this was my picture. No more faffing required, I was happy.
The napkin is roughly folded and you can see the creased tablecloth but I like that imperfection. This shot tells a story. I think that this person is about to eat bread and cheese, or a salad. I don’t see a juicy steak or cottage pie on this plate. It is going to be cold food. It is probably lunchtime, and the diner will eat alone. I get all of that from just one glance – I have a story.
My confidence buoyed as the workshop progressed, I started to experiment! Here is a shot I took of another camera taking a shot! The existence of the camera within the frame is what makes this shot. Do you agree?
Here is a picture I took that feels like it could have been taken in a studio, given the camera angle and background.
As you can see, it wasn’t! Coming in close to the subject made a better picture than the wider shot.
Experimenting with different angles and zoning in on the subject can really alter the feel and style of your photography. Let me show you an example. The picture below is just a table, nothing special really.
However if I come in close and put myself at an angle by bending to take the shot, look what I get!
By turning my camera and moving my position, I get a totally different shot without moving any of the elements on the table.
Also, action in a shot can be good. Marie was drizzling honey onto the cheese so that a static shot could be taken of the honey drizzle.
I however took a series of shots then put them together in a GIF animation! Do you like it?
It was a fab day and I learned loads of tips to take my photography to the next level.