Before I begin, take some time to read Joe McPherson’s article on the most recent attempt at the globalization of Korean food. Now you can see the connection to all the hamburgers, being that this is a blog on photography in Korea.
In order to make decent food photography you must first figure out what types of shots you are looking to get. For me there are usually about two types (from my perspective anyway). The first type is the commercial grade/ magazine style food photography and the second is the “food I have eaten” style food photography.
The first style is the style that you see in magazines and what is the more difficult/ style of the two forms. There is a lot of lighting and set up involved with this style and it is something that is peaking my interest. Both Flash Parker and Dylan Goldby are great at setting up these kinds of shots and I have read their blogs before about how to set up for these shots.
The main thing that you have to realize is that you want the food to look good more than you want the food to actually taste good. I know that sounds like a lie but it is true, most professional food photographers use special props, equipment and techniques to make the food look amazing.
One of the Kelby Trainers said this line about the importance of having a “food designer” and that was “A chef will make your food taste good, but a food designer will make it look good” So the importance is on making the food look good whether it is actually edible or not is another story.
However, I know a lot of people photograph the real thing and make it look good without having a “food designer” and plastic milk, so how do they do it?
Well a lot has to do with lighting and a lot has to do with composition. Most good food shots tend to be back light and have a composition that draws your eye through the frame or makes it focus on a particular delicious point. These shots are painstakingly set up and composed.
If you are making these shots it is key to have a clean working environment away from the mess in the kitchen. When cooking and prepping the dishes, keep the basic composition of the image in mind. This is also key when plating the food. Keep it clean and attractive.
The Food That I ate Shots
These are the shots that I think that everyone likes to shoot as they require very little set up, work solely on the artistry of somebody else and primarily are quickly done so that you can eat the food after. My girlfriend HATES these shots because it is an interruption in the dinner and she says I look like a “silly university student” She is probably right, but sometimes I just like getting a shot of something tasty, right before I devour it.
Lighting is always a challange here. You never seem to get that bright light that you need but here are some tips that I picked up to help out.
- If you can, sit by the window during the day time to get the natural light.
- Use a wide aperture like 1.4 or 1.2 and focus on the most interesting part of the food.
- Bring a long a small portable tripod to help steady the camera but not cause too much of a scene.
- Get a few shots from above and below. Unique angles make the photo more pleasing to the eye.
- Try and warm up the shot using a photo filter or shoot in raw and warm it up using the temp slider. Warmer shots look more appetizing (to me) than cooler shots.
I hope this helps and remember to shoot before you eat! Korea is big on food and I find that one of the best ways to get the word out about Korean food is to photograph it. There are little tons of amazing and beautiful dishes out there. Also head over the ZenKimchi‘s site and take a look at their photo challenges. There is also a decent discussion about what lenses people use for their food photography too.
I also stumbled across this great article from the ever-helpful Digital Photography School It has some really helpful tips on how to get the most out of your food photography. The article offers 10 great tips to drastically improve your food photography.