What would you like to cook?
"Fanny the Foodie" shares her secrets with you
I have been taking pictures of the food I cook for four years now and during that time I've learnt a lot. When I first started I just got hold of my camera and snapped away, which I would still highly recommend, actually, because you learn a huge amount by experimenting. There are, however, a few tricks that I wish I had known about from the start, and these are the secrets I would like to share with you today so you can start taking beautiful photos in the blink of an eye.
Photos turn out best if you shoot them in daylight, so I recommend you photograph your subjects next to a window. You should also use a reflector to illuminate the side that isn't in the light – a polystyrene board works well for this. You should try to avoid any artificial yellow light, otherwise your finished photo will have a slightly yellow tinge and look washed out. Ideally you should take photos in good light. In the summer the light is good from around 9 a.m. to the early evening, while in winter you unfortunately only have a few hours. You should, however, avoid taking shots in direct sunlight, as the photos will be overexposed and again have that strange yellow tinge.
Take photos using as low an ISO setting as possible. If you use an ISO setting below 800, you avoid unwanted image noise. The aperture of your camera functions a little like your eye in that the wider you open it, the more light comes in. If the aperture is almost closed, then very little light passes through to the lens, so the lower the f-number for your aperture, the more light you have in your photo. The aperture also affects the depth of field in your photos. With a high f-number, the entire image will be sharp, whereas with a low f-number only specific areas are in sharp focus. I recommend an f-number below 4 as otherwise your photos will seem very flat.
Another important element is exposure time (shutter speed). If you choose a long exposure time, the extra light that comes in makes the photo lighter. However, if you hold your camera by hand I advise you not to go below 125 or your photo will be blurred. 125 equates to 1/125 of a second, meaning your shutter opens for eight milliseconds. The camera angle is also important – I think overhead shots and photos taken at a 45-degree angle look best. If something is served in a glass, however, like a smoothie or a layered dessert, you can also present it beautifully by photographing it straight on from the side.
If you have an attractive table, then of course that is the perfect backdrop. However, as it's not always possible to get your table near to the window so you can follow my tips on lighting, I recommend using wooden boards or stone slabs. For example I use a few wooden boards from my father's workshop, but you could easily buy a couple of new boards from a DIY store. Table cloths and hand towels also work well as backdrops, and linen works particularly well as a material.
It is up to you whether you prefer a rustic backdrop or something more elegant, it really depends on the style you would like to achieve, and ideally you would experiment and see what you like best. What I do want to add, though, is that contrasts are important. If you have a dish that is light in colour, like cauliflower soup, I recommend you use a dark backdrop to highlight the colour of the soup.
Of course you can buy beautiful branded dinnerware sets, but to start off with I recommend you just go to a table sale or your nearest charity shop, where there will be a huge range of old crockery and cutlery at reasonable prices. That way you can buy yourself a good selection early on without spending a fortune. I generally prefer matt crockery and matt cutlery, then I don't have any problem with mirroring and reflections in my photos.
This is definitely the part I find most difficult to describe, as I just go by what I feel is right, but good props and a great backdrop do make a real difference. In addition to those things I follow two basic principles, which I'll tell you about briefly now:
In general photos look better if there are not too many colours in them, so it makes sense to limit yourself to a handful of accent colours. I quite like a really colourful photo once in a while, but I don't like it when every picture is like a rainbow, and that doesn't look good in an Instagram feed, either.
Contrasts are very important.
Here too, less is often more. It often looks better if a plate is not too full, as the food stands out more. I also think it is important that there are no marks on the plate or the cutlery. To bring your shot to life a bit more, you can also add in a few of the ingredients you used. For example in the following photo I have draped a few of the kale leaves I used in the pesto next to the dish itself. I could have scattered a few of the roasted hazelnuts around as well, but I thought that would make the photo a bit overloaded.
In general you just have to follow your instincts. Some people prefer a carefree look, while others strive for "clean" shots. Whatever style you choose: remember to present the products so that they are attractive and so that observers enjoy looking at them. For example cut into any cakes you make so people can see inside. Your photo will seem more alive!
And at other venues?
I don't write or publish restaurant reviews very often, so I'm not a pro at taking photos out and about, but in general the same rule applies: daylight is better than yellow light. It's best to go outside or take the photo by a window. Here too I recommend overhead or 45-degree shots.
Would you like to see how "Fanny the Foodie" creates and makes her recipes and then styles them perfectly for the camera? Take a look at this video, in which our food bloggers speak about their passions.
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