I’m going to start this post by stating that I really don’t feel like I have the skills or talent to be writing this post but Steph from Stephs Bite by Bite asked me to so here we go.
I’ve gotten to the point now where I regularly get pictures on Foodgawker and Tastespotting, sometimes the new Tasteologie and a few others as well and I understand how frustrating it is to submit photos every day only to get declined. Every. Day.
And the reasons why? I don’t really understand some days either. Composition, lighting and exposure seem to be the standard answers and if I had to sift through thousands of submissions a day, I probably wouldn’t include more than one word answers either.
My first piece of advice for this post is – don’t let it get you down. Photography is all about who’s looking at the final image and every photograph will be viewed differently by different eyes. Do not write a diatribe about how crappy it is and how much they suck. I’m not one for grudges but it certainly wouldn’t help you get on my site.
Both Tastespotting and Foodgawker have articles on their site with tips and hints on what they are looking for and their requirements and I have seen interviews with the editors of both talking about how it works. Feel free to check them out (when I land and am not in an internet free zone I will include some links for ya’ll – updated above**).
So, now on to my photography tips.
Honestly, I have none. I still cross my fingers every time I submit. So, maybe that’s the trick. But here’s what I use and my set up for my pics.
My camera is a Nikon D3000. It cost me around $480.00 on Amazon.com and it was worth every penny (not sure why it’s more expensive now). I am very very happy I purchased this camera, and not just for the food, but for my every day photographs as well.
You do NOT need an expensive camera to make your food photos pretty but it helps. Before my Nikon, I had a point and shoot Kodak. It sucked – I won’t lie – but that’s not what was making or breaking my photos. Most small point and shoots now come with a macro setting (usually shaped like a flower) for getting the up close and personal shots. This will help a lot. Use it.
Now, I can say that starting to get into food photography in the summer was brilliant of me (and I didn’t even know it) because there is natural light pretty much all of the time that there is food on the table.
There it is: a tip! Natural light. No house lights, no ‘I look just like natural light’ lights – Sunlight. And $4.00 (or less) at a craft store for 2 pieces of white foam core and you’re pretty much set.
I have a glass door to my back yard in our dining area so I usually set my food on the end of the table nearest the light and reflect light with a bounce card (my high class foam core). This technique not only brightens your area but lessens any harsh shadows.
Image taken while photographing Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon.
Really, that’s about as high tech as I get.
Now, if the light from your window is too bright and creating a strong shadow, another trip to the local craft store for some vellum and tape will do the trick. Vellum is a type of paper used for tracing (I’m sure there are other uses for it but when I was talking design classes that’s pretty much what I did with it) so it acts as a diffuser for the harsh light while still letting a lot in.
My best photographs are the ones I’ve taken with just the sunlight and foam core.
I wasn’t aware how much the seasons would change my ability to take a pretty picture until I was knee deep in winter weather and there hadn’t been a sunny day in 3 weeks (and when it was sunny it was setting by noon – that’s right noon – I live at the North Pole).
I do have a small light box I purchased from Amazon that came with two small lights as well that I use sometimes for my night shoots (most of my ‘quick dinner fixin’s posts‘ are shot using this and I have been known to use it on cupcakes if it was too cloudy out that day). But I did take it upon myself to pimp out my light box a little.
Image of falafel from this post.
There are two light clamps with 100 watt daylight lights on either side of my photo box instead of the little lights it came with. The lights it came with worked just fine but one of the bottoms broke and I just found these to be more useful.
I also recently treated myself to a Totapak Light system from Lowell and so far I am not in love. But I am learning it still so I will re-address that topic when we’ve had more time to cuddle and get to know one another.
So there you have it, my magical science to making pretty pictures. If you want more knowledge and power, check out Spicie Foodies site for some great tutorials.
My biggest tip: don’t give up. I have a world to go before I can be held in the same category as the food photographers I look up to, but with every day I get better. I can look at pictures I took a month ago and see where they could have been better and we won’t even talk about the photos I was taking this time last year when I was just starting out this blog.