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Many of us lament about a lack of subjects to Photograph - and almost just as many of us create something on a daily basis that with a bit of presentation, can look like a masterpiece. Food is one of the most accessible Photographic subjects and if you've no idea where to start, hopefully this article will give you a few pointers. Firstly, you don't need an expensive D-SLR in order to capture some of the food masterpieces you see around.
The above was taken with a Sony Cybershot which is a good quality point and shoot camera. As you can see, the focus is crisp, the quality is good and the lighting is adequate. It works well - and it's easy enough to achieve whether you have a D-SLR or something smaller.
Before you start cooking - get prepared. It's the simplest easiest thing to say and you'll likely roll your eyes at such a mundane instruction but there have been many times when I've found myself with a plate of freshly baked goods, hands covered in flour and my camera in a completely different room. Get your dishes, ingredients and lighting ready (if using it) and make sure your camera is within reach but safely away from all cooking shenanigans. Think about your background and how you might present your dish. Country living tea towels provide great bases for dishes and something as simple as coloured paper can be a great backdrop.
Lighting is something that has always been difficult for me to understand. I now have a studio kit, which I still don't completely understand! But with Food Photography it doesn't have to be complicated. Use windows, use natural light as much as possible. Do NOT use flash! If your natural light is too much then use a sheet or thin paper to diffuse it a little.
As with all sorts of Photography, tripods are useful. However they aren't a must. Food Photography, like many aspects of Still Life Photography, gives you ample opportunity to spend time steadying your shots. Your subject is NOT going to run away! (Depending on your cooking skills anyway.) If you need something to steady yourself then make use of jars, books and work surfaces. You are also likely to have an image stabilising function on your camera (more likely for D-SLR) have a look and ensure this is enabled.
Work with your camera and learn how to get the best out of it. I only recently discovered that I could change the white balance on my camera to suit my surroundings and the weather. Honestly, it was something so minor but so important. Read the manual. Figure out if you can change white balance, ISO and even if you have multiple settings such as Macro. Macro is fantastic for capturing still life food shots and most point and shoot cameras have this mode. Macro may even allow you to get some fantastic Bokeh background effects.
Your two biggest tools that are fairly easy to achieve are Cropping and Propping. You don't have to shoot a complete dish for a complete photograph. You can zoom in, pick angles and play around with your composition without severely harming your work. Using rustic wooden tables or planks of wood as surfaces for your plates and dishes to balance on creates a vintage timeless effect that is very popular. Using spoons, fancy dishes and even a glass or bottle of drink to offset your creations can help finish them perfectly.
Thinking about whether your dish relates to a certain theme also works well. Consider whether you could add yellow and spring flowers to egg dishes or Easter themed foods, or whether you could add something red or green into a Christmas dish to offset the colours and time of year. In particular since it's Autumn for many people, try muted oranges, earthy tones and deep reds to highlight your work.
For a few final tips, ensure that you use a dish that's going to be full. Empty white spaces within deep dishes don't look very good. However arranging food in a minimalist way on an expanse of white plate equally sometimes works well. It's learning to recognise which is best and playing it right. Also consider whether you can get a window behind your dish, so photographing it on a ledge or sill, and then spray water behind for a fantastic bokeh effect. Finally, browse the Food Photography Gallery for inspiration and ideas. Head into groups like #Still-Life-Stills and browse their food photography section.
It's useful to have examples of when the things we talk about in Photography Troubleshooting are real and exist! So I'd like to introduce ^maytel who has been using a 10 - 12 year old Sony Cybershot to achieve her Food Photography - and for some of her pieces you wouldn't know that she didn't have an all singing all dancing camera.