A picture is worth a thousand words. This can’t be more true in the world of food photography. I can go to town with words like “delicious,” “yummy,” “scrumptious,” “mouth-watering,” and “finger-lickin’ good,” but really, nothing can quite convey how great something tastes like a good photo.
About two months ago, I attended a talk about food photography at IFBC, and it got me thinking about my creative process with my photos. There were two messages I got from that talk: (1) food anywhere and (2) making the ordinary beautiful.
For me (and for many other food bloggers), I take photos in a very controlled environment: around my apartment, shooting with natural light (usually by the lone window in the living room), sometimes using a white foam board to reduce shadows in the photo, sometimes using a diffuser or a bed sheet to soften the light on the food. If there’s accidental spilling on one of the plates, that immediately gets wiped away. A muffin that doesn’t look perfectly bountiful? It doesn’t make it into a photo. CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT.
Food anywhere means just the way it sounds—we can create beautiful food photography anywhere (even outside of controlled environments). With that in mind, I decided to go out one day with my camera to take photos of different textured surfaces. Here’s some of the shots I came up with:
Wood surface out by my patio.
Gravel by the trail.
Picnic table by the park.
Bench by the trail.
I also managed to catch that little guy as it flew by me.
Of course, I’m probably not going to shoot my food photos on most of these surfaces. Imagine what a hassle it would be to lug all of my food out to the park! The point of this exercise was for me to start thinking outside the box and to play around with the “environment” in my photos. It also helped me understand what kind of textures tend draw my attention. As you can see, I am a bit partial to wooden surfaces.
Making the ordinary beautiful. In the past few months, I have accumulated a shelf full of plates, bowls, utensils, cups, napkins, and salt shakers just to take food photos. But sometimes, the best food props can come from ordinary things. Take this panini photo for instance. Instead of using a plate and a nice table napkin, I decided to rip open a small brown paper bag and used it to hold the panini and chips.
I also love this photo of a bowl of soup by Todd Coleman. No fancy bowls, no fancy utensils, no fancy pepper mills. Just a bowl of soup in a styrofoam bowl, a plastic spoon, and an opened packet of black pepper. The simplicity of the props brought my attention back to the food.
My blog has become my visual journal of not only what I eat but also my progress in food photography. With that in mind, here’s what I want to experiment with in the next few months:
- use different photo surfaces: I don’t think I’ll actually take photos of food on gravel, but I could use a bit more creativity with the backgrounds and surfaces of my photos.
- adding a few ordinary props in my photos: look out for more paper bags, plastic utensils and paper bowls!
- embrace the mess: sometimes, a few spills look great in photos.
Do you enjoy taking photos of your food? What do you like most about it?