As I’ve been working on improving my photography, one of the places I’ve seen the most drastic improvement has been in my food shots. When I first started this blog I thought that perhaps the problem was that I was making food that just wasn’t particularly photogenic. Now that I’ve got a better handle on what I’m doing though, I have been going back and retaking photos of those first few recipes to have something better for the post.
I personally find it much easier to learn from explanations of how to improve artistic composition when I have both the poor and the good examples side by side so I can compare the two. With that in mind, I thought I’d show you guys some of the pictures I’ve redone. The first, awful pictures (which will no longer be found anywhere else on this site!) and the new ones I’ve replaced them with.
The first thing I’ve learned is that you need to get close. And by close, I mean, if you’re photographing hot soup, your camera lens should be steaming up. This first set of pictures, I haven’t actually gotten around to photographing this dish a second time. The only difference is where I cropped them. The second photo is still darker and muddier than I’d like, but just simply cropping out 3/4 of the picture (and a portion of the food itself) makes the dish look significantly more appetizing.
The next thing I’ve learned is to avoid taking photos from straight above. It completely flattens the dish out and makes the shot boooooring. Depth adds movement to the picture…makes people want to jump from sausage slice to sausage slice before dumping the whole delicious bowl on their head.
The next picture has a ton wrong with it. I love this chili, but the first shot is downright nauseating. It’s flat, the lighting was bad so the coloring is off, the background is boring, the melted cheese looks awful and there’s no texture at all.
The second shot is the same exact recipe, with the same exact ingredients (except the cheese is colby jack instead of cheddar). I used natural lighting, stuck the lens of my camera right into the bowl to complete eliminate the background, took the shots before the cheese turned into lava goo and added a cornbread muffin for texture. Kind of amazing the difference it makes, isn’t it?
My goulash shot had a lot of the same issues as the chili. It took me several atrocious pictures to realize that, gee, melted cheese is incredibly delicious, but it looks godawful. Do what you can to take the picture before the cheese melts.
The last thing is the simplest, but also the one I’m going to have the hardest time with come fall. Use natural light. All of these second time around shots were taken using light from a window, and you can see how it gives the food more subtle shading and deeper colors…less of the harsh technicolor look.
Right now, with the sun staying up til after 8, that’s fine. I can cook dinner, dish it up and take a photo in the sunlight before sitting down to eat. But come next December when the sun is down before my chicken is thawed, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to handle it. I will, of course, give you guys an update when I figure it out.
In the meantime, play around with your camera in your kitchen. Don’t your family recipes deserve beautiful pictures just as much as the ones in your cookbooks do?