Principles of Food Photography
Okay so now we're gonna talk about food photography. Since we just met Jim. Okay, so this is kind of a foundational, bones framework of how to photograph food. Here's where we come with the instructional part. Our hearts are still intact, but now we're going to talk about principles. Did this advance or was that the first photograph? Huh. Alright sorry about that. Food photography. I shoot studio stuff. I definitely shoot cookbooks and I shoot editorial food for magazines like Saveur. So I'm gonna run through a few of these photographs and feel free at any point, and this goes for you all as well, to interrupt me for any questions because I don't wanna miss any questions. I don't wanna go and we'll have more time tomorrow too but if you have any technical questions, anything, just go for it. This is actually the book that they just gave away. This is from "Asian Dumplings", Andrea Nguyen's book. This is a cookbook I just shot last year. This is actually a great story. So I get this cal...
l from, actually right after I spoke at Foodista's International Food Bloggers Conference, here in Seattle, I got a call from a publisher who was in the audience when I spoke and offered me a cookbook project. And I'm leaving out parts of it but let me back up. We were on the bus together and she was like, "I think I have a project I'd like for you to do." And she talked to me about this one project, which I was like, "I'd love to do it." And then she said, "There's this other project I think maybe you could do, "but I don't know if you really be interested in it." Remember how I said that I really don't wanna make pictures that, I don't take every assignment. I'm not, I don't want to. I want my heart to be engaged when I take an assignment. I wanna be enthusiastic, inspired. So she was like, "Oh it's this diabetic cookbook. "But I don't think you really wanna do that." And I said to her, "Yeah, I probably don't want to. "But, thank you." So then a week passes, I get back to Texas and I get a phone call from an editor from this publishing house. And it says, "Hey we have a cookbook "we'd like for you to shoot. "It's a diabetic cookbook." It's the same publisher and I was like (man laughing) "Ugh, I thought, "well you know." I was really confused so I hung up the phone and I called the publisher and I said, "Hey we were on the bus, "do you remember and you said you didn't think "I would wanna do that. "and I told you, yeah I don't really want to "and I don't wanna be rude but "I don't know that I really want to shoot this project." And she was like, "Okay, okay. "Well I just wanted to put it out there "cause I wondered if maybe "you could bring something new to it." And I thought, "Okay, all right, "well, yeah I'm not really sure it's for me." So I hang up the phone and I go, that night and I'm having dinner with my partner and we're talking. I was like "Oh so remember that publisher "like she called me and offered me this cookbook "and it was a diabetic cookbook "and I was like, I'm not really interested in that. "You know, it's not sexy. "I just, it just it didn't seem "like something I could be inspired by." And she looked at me and said, "Oh my God. "I'm so disappointed in you." She said, "Diabetes is an epidemic in this country. "There are people out there "who have been diagnosed with this "and feel like they have no hope left. "And you're always talking about "food being sexy and hot and appetizing "and you have a chance to engage this community of people "and inspire them and help them realize "that their life hasn't ended because they have diabetes." And I was like, "Mother effers." (people laughing) I like called the publisher the next morning. And I was like, "I'd love to do this book." And it's true, it's so true. And I did it and we made some great pictures. I had a great stylist. And so this is one of the photographs from that. And that like, you know, I'm always learning. I am always learning. This is, so this is an assignment I did for Texas Monthly Magazine and I'm, they're like, "Hey." I blogged about this. "Hey we have the new restaurant that just opened "and we need to make some pictures at it." And so, I said, "Okay." And they're like, "Maybe shoot," this is my conversation with photo editor, and they were like, she was like, "maybe shoot this, this and this, "these three dishes. And I was like, "Cool." And I was like, "who's the writer?" And she told me who the writer was and I was like, "Cool." So I know the writer and I called the writer and I said, "Hey, so you went. "You ate there, what did you like?" And she told me the three things, which were the ones the editor mentioned. But then she said, but you know what, "I really didn't like this one thing. "And the other one wasn't so pretty." And I was like "So what did the one that you like, you know" So we had this conversation, basically, about what worked and what didn't work. So I was doing my research before I even showed up. So I didn't have, I don't have a budget for an assistant for this, for this type of shoot. So I was doing all my research so that when I showed up, I was fully prepared. So I knew, walking in the doors, there were two things I was gonna look at. So when the chef showed up, I said, "How does this look plated?" And so we talked about it. And he's was like, "Oh it's on the white plate. "It's concave and it gets cut, "and the fries are on the side." And I was like, "Yeah, no. "Let's look for a" So that plate is what they actually put it in the oven and cook it and so it's crusty and weathered and I was like, "That's it. "Let's plate it on that and then "just give me the fries and I'll, you know." So the fries are in like a free-standing basket. It's just like no, it's not, it doesn't translate. So then I just threw the fries on the top of the, on the top and it didn't start out like this. Like I went through several iterations to get to this. But all this to tell you that I am I'm doing my research. I'm making my phone calls. I'm showing up and I'm still kind of exploring it. So does that makes sense? This is a book I did on vegan desserts. I just shot that last year. Asian dumplings. Here we going into. So this is my philosophy about food photography and a lot of it is dictated by because I've worked for Saveur and I travel a lot. So everything I do is an organic approach, which means I shoot natural light. It's real food. I don't use any fake food. There are exceptions but for the usually almost 99.9% of the time, its real. I'm trying to think if there's an instance where it's been something that wasn't real and I'm sure there is but it would have been like an element of it. Like we put something on the in the syrup to make it thicker, in the maple syrup to make it thicker. So that when it poured, it poured and it had a slower drip. Does that make sense? So you wouldn't eat that. That would be an example of it not being a real food. Beautiful ingredients. This is the key to making great food photographs. If you're cooking your own food and you're gonna photograph it, do not go to Randalls or Safeway or whatever it is, no offense. I shouldn't say any of those names, huh? Crap. Okay I would go to the farmer's market and get food. Get your produce there. Natural light. I said that earlier, but so I'm shooting a 100% natural light. So when I walk in an environment, the first thing I'm looking for is where's the best light? That's the first question I'm asking. Where's the best light? And sometimes it's coming from the bank of windows. Sometimes there is no great light and then you're having to solve a problem. And we'll get to that. This is a this is the first cover I ever shot for Saveur. I shot it in their studio, which he said it. It's not a studio, it's a conference room. But for this photograph, it was literally in the the woman that does the proofreading. It was in her little cubicle, where there was a window with blinds. And I opened the blinds slightly and I diffused it a little bit so that I could see some of the blinds. It was about breakfast. So this isn't like in a fancy studio. This is like makeshift, make it work photography. And it still translates and communicates. So there's no reason why you couldn't be using the same tricks, these same principles and make it just as strong of images. Ingredient shots. So again, you're starting with really nice produce. You're going to the market or to a specialty store to find those interesting ingredients that are beautiful. You have to start with something beautiful. If you do not start with something beautiful, you will not end with something great. You won't. So do yourself a favor and take the time and seek out the best ingredients that you can find. This was a story I did in Greece. And we actually, I shot this. We went to, this husband and wife, live on this island called Kea. And they have a small little cooking school. It was like a dream. It was amazing. That felt like a vacation. I was inspired. Like two blocks from the waters, holy cow. Instead of falling asleep under a mango tree, I went swimming on this one. This was amazing. And so this was under, under like on her patio. The I had a food stylist. I had one of the kitchen editors with me from Saveur. And so they were probably holding a reflector to diffuse the light and all these were just knives that she had and plates. So I sourced everything from her kitchen. So when I show up to a place, I'm like pulling out all, any plates or knives or forks. Anything that has character. Not pulling stuff that looks like it came from a major department store. Because I think it would be distracting. You really want the food to be the point of interest. Again, you're always thinking about ingredients. What makes a good food photograph? Light. Okay, that's the most important thing, your quality of light. Think about that whenever you walk in at any place, where's my light coming from? Color. So think about the color of the food. If you were shooting a food that is dull like oatmeal, yeah you're going to need to infuse some color in that. So your background, you might wanna punch it with some a nice color or texture. Or have your utensils be color or texture. So if your food doesn't have color, you need to put color in the scene somehow. Does that makes sense? Composition. This is something you will learn over time and it starts by just looking. Practicing your looking, looking at images as much as you can online, in magazines, in cookbooks. That's a great way to grow, actually. Look at cookbooks. I, when I was starting just getting into food photography, and Saveur sent me on that first assignment to Chile, I actually went to the bookstore and sat in the aisle and pulled out every food book I could find and just thumb through it. And I thought okay, okay, all right, all right. You know and so, I just like needed to exercise my eye so that I could be inspired and understand what it was that made these pictures good. What made them great. So I was thinking about composition. I was thinking about light. I was thinking about color. Yeah. Food subject. If you are picking the content of your subject, if you have the liberty, if you're producing it for your blog or you're gonna photograph a cookbook or if you're going to a restaurant and you you've been sent on an assignment, pick your subjects really well. So I wouldn't have picked, I'm trying to think when I'm... When I went to shoot that steak shot, one of the other dishes was this sausage, this squid-stuffed, no, sausage-stuffed squid. And it just was kind of pale. There was a sauce on it and it just didn't, it was complicated. It looked complicated. If someone looked at the photograph, they would have thought, "What is it?" So I was like, "Yeah I want it to be "an immediate visual read." I wanna give people, I wanna alleviate the eye so it's not complicated when they look at it. So you're thinking about your food subject in the context of if it is a complicated subject, then you've gotta break it down more simple, so that I can read it. Okay. Appetizing food. So make your food beautiful. Pick your subject well based on how beautiful it is. If your food already looks great, that's like 90% of it. That is it. This is, it's not, this is not difficult. This is, that's like it. That's the most important thing. If I have if I have a great-looking dish, I'm inspired. I am pumped. I'm motivated. Tomorrow, we picked some kick-butt looking food. Im like, "Oh!" I'm excited to photograph it. So that's it. Like you will walk away successful if you choose food that looks really good. This was that, I told you about that chef in Los Gatos, where he was like holding the scrim for me and he made me, he asked me to try it and how I liked it. It was amazing. So this is all natural light. This is diffused in a patio at 5:00 p.m. with a reflector on one side. It's not studio lit at all. That is natural light. There's a legion of photographers out there that use natural light in a way that makes you think it is completely 100% artificially lit. And it's not. To me, food is most appetizing when it is seen in its true essence. And this is the way you should see it.
Penny, can we kind of talk about this lighting? The lighting. 'Cause of course
You're talking to
hundreds of photographers here. So you know, what they want to know about lighting. So you keep saying natural light, natural light. Obviously there's some photos that are being taken in studio with
You never use lighting?
So there's (laughs) did you guys hear that? She's done. (audience laughing) The answer is natural
just taking my job efficiently.
Even that cover was
Yes, done. Yup.
Okay done, okay, alright.
No I'm just kidding. All of it is natural light. I, there are exceptions but everything I'm showing you is natural light. I mean that is like 99 point, I mean Jim said it too. I mean that, that's it. I can't. There are exceptions but, the best photographs I make are natural light. And that's why I live by.
But you're used to this response from photographers.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
If you sat in a room with thousands of photographers
no I could name like
that are gonna be like what?
Three or four photographers who shoot the same way and you would, you're like, it's not possible. But it is. It's natural light. And we're gonna, we'll break that down tomorrow. I'll help you get there. Hopefully you'll, it'll click for you and you'll understand how you can get this. It's the basic principles of photography.
Alright, well that's cool.
So I don't see the question in here but I remember it. So I'm not sure who had asked it. But the question was, when you're shooting food from straight down, how do you avoid getting your shadow? Your personal shadow on the food?
Oh because the light's coming from the side.
So it's never behind me.
Okay, good answer.
Yeah. Unless, you know, I'm in a restaurant and the light is behind me. Well then I'll move. I'll move the whole set. Does that make sense? Cool.
And maybe talk a little 'cause there was a few questions about that about that top angle. Can you talk a little bit more of that choice because it seems like a lot
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Is at that angle.
And also, people were also mentioning the fact that they're not horizontal. Many of them are not horizontal.
Right, we talked about this yesterday. Ah, okay so, I think food is very graphic. And so I accentuate that that visual part of the food. So to me, a lot of it is best seen from bird's eye, not all of it. There are moments with food, I mean, I get a lot of questions about this where food has height. You don't wanna shoot above. You wanna show that height. So you're shooting at a 3/4 or side view. So I, make that artistic choice to shoot from overhead. That is my decision based on if it lends itself graphically. Let's talk about this because if you're seeing this picture, let's say, you would've shot it from like 3/4 or side view. You're gonna miss it. This is, look at the strong, graphic elements in this photograph. That's a no brainer. If the food, if you're shooting food that has a really strong graphic element, check it out from overhead. Shoot it from overhead. Shoot it from the side. I mean, I'm shooting everything from varied angles until I find the one that works. I think I answered that okay.
Yeah, excellent. Thank you, thank you.
Okay. Again, okay. So I'm using textures here. We talked about like bland food. So great, okay. This came out, thank God the person making the bread put this lined paper in there which gave it such energy. Okay imagine it without that. It's not the same picture. So you wanna infuse energy in your food photographs. This natural light, I went to the market with a food stylist. We were doing a test shoot. And we're like let's just go to the market and photograph. Let's pick ingredients and do a food shoot based on what we find. And this was at the San Francisco Fairy Plaza. And there was a vendor there that was selling these sandwiches and I was like, ah they were beautiful. And so we just recreated an interpretation of it. We took the inspiration of that idea and made this picture. So, again, in this case, it's an overhead shot. And that's because we'd styled it like that. The stylist styled it. And I wanted to play on these colors, which to me, made it more graphic, made it more visual. It elevated it. Think about if I would've shot it through the side view. It wouldn't have been the same picture at all. Even if you, this is like a flat sandwich. So this is really the way you should see it. Okay again, it's a bland food. It's, so normally when it served, it's not served like this. I'm forgetting what this says, Kathleen. It's an Italian
by polenta. Polenta.
Polenta, thank you.
I didn't forget what it was, I forgot the word. So, this was for a cookbook. And I should tell you this story before I go any further. It was a cookbook shoot I did and the authors sourced the entire cookbook from a chain that wasn't great. And they bought all the ingredients like the week before. So when me and the stylist showed up in Arizona to shoot this book, it was a nightmare. So we had to basically reinterpret and kind of breathe life into all these recipes, which didn't have great produce. We had to go out and buy some more but we ran into some budget constraints. So it was like kind of a nightmare shoot. Someone asked me about a nightmare shoot earlier? This would have been one, but it actually I mean we pulled it off. So this is polenta. Normally it's not served like that. But it could be. So this was a vegetarian cookbook and so we re-interpreted it and put color on it, which is the veggies. So there's no reason why you couldn't do the same thing. So you can translate and interpret food very differently and stuff like this can be written into a recipe like very easily. Primary camera angles in food photography. Okay these are these are starting points. So overhead, 3/4 view, I'm going to give you examples of these here in a minute and side view or straight on. So that's overhead. That's the cover of the "Asian Dumpling" book. Again, this is graphic. The reason I shot this overhead was because that was just, I mean, that's the way that it has to be seen. It's such a shallow subject, going into tight. Oh you ask me about vertical, how come I don't shoot horizontally?
Okay so I think food most okay say, you're you're shooting horizontally, you've got to fill that frame up. I need to fill the frame completely up with the subject. A lot of food isn't wide. It is definitely more vertical. I'll give you some more examples of that. So if I shoot this with a horizontal that doesn't work. I'm gonna have all this space. I'm gonna have all this table right here and if I get tighter, it starts to become confusing on what the hell that is. So shooting at vertical cleans it up. Makes it easily read and isn't too tight. You don't wanna get too close to food. That's probably the biggest problem I see with food photographers that that are starting out is they get way too close. Like they put on their macro lens and it's like I wanna see that crumb on the edge of that bread and I'm like why? If I have to guess what something is, it's not it's not a great photograph. So this is 3/4 or side looking inside view. If you do this photograph, it usually happens with height. Anything like a sandwich or anything that has height, you always wanna be aware of your background and your background should some way contribute to your foreground. It should tell a story. And again, textures so we used this board, kind of playing off the red that was in the burger. So I'm thinking to myself, I want my eye to travel through the frame. I want it someone to look at this, get hungry. I want them to kind of, their eye to go through that frame but also just stay engaged. So I'm trying to infuse creative devices to make that photograph interesting. Does that make sense? and can we talk about creative devices.
Can we talk about depth of field? A lot of people are asking about depth of field, of course.
Do you want to get into that later or?
No let's talk about it. So depth of field would be something that you would worry about in this photograph. And obviously that's a hamburger in the back, so I didn't need to define, I didn't need like a minute depth of field. So I could let that go blurry. But you know what that is. You know that's another burger in the back. So you think about the depth of field when you're in a 3/4 view or a side view. Your depth of field can't be distracting from your foreground or the primary subject, whatever that is, which is your foreground. So whatever you're doing with your depth of field, just be conscious that it can't distract from your foreground. Does that make sense?
So typically, it's not always out a focus but it's soft. I shouldn't say typically, but it can be.
And from the top view are you, I mean do you ever shoot at like a 1.4 from straight on?
Yeah, it just depends on how much light I have.
Yeah, it just, it depends on the subject, if it has a lot of depth. It depends. But, typically, I'm probably like five, six on most of my things.
If I can get it, more eight, 11. It just depends. It depends on my light source. But food can be forgiving and I can, I can work with it. I can shoot slower if I need to. I can up my ISO. I can also punch more light in by using a reflector. There's a lot of things you can do to bring up your to bring up the to pool in more light and giving you a little bit more depth of field, but not too much. It really depends on the subject.
But it's more of a rule to not be so wide open with food? I mean to keep, I mean, if you're shooting at 5.6 or eight, you're not, the style of food photography is not to be shooting at like a 1.8 or--
You can do that.
It really depends on the subject.
It depends on the food because some food, you need to give it the depth of field, other food you don't. And then, you know, if it's if you got really bad light and you're stretching your F-stop, but your subject doesn't really need a lot of depth of field, it's a pizza, we'll say, you're cool and you're shooting it overhead, go for it. 2.8, 1.4 or whatever. Does that make sense? But if it's a hamburger and you're doing a 3/4 shot, you'd want a little bit of that background as like information. So you wanna open up a little. I mean you wanna close down a little bit and get like five, six, 11, something like that.
Talking a little bit about the overhead, Christi Lint has a question. With being in a wheelchair, I often have a hard time getting overhead shots because being at the wrong height. Can you give a nice suggestion to, do you use a chair? Do you use ladder or do you just stand over it?
I always use ladders or I stand on chairs.
ladders or stand on chairs.
Yeah, yeah. Okay so why vary camera angles for visual pacing? So in a portfolio, in your website, in a book, whatever it is, you can't you don't wanna do the same angle when you're pairing photographs. So you'd change your angles. You switch that up. You gotta give people their eyes a visual alleviation. So you're changing your angles. For the creative process, exploring the image. So, in the same way that you asked me, "Do you zoom?" And I said, "No!" This is the same thing. You have to you change your angle so that you can explore the subject. It's the same thing. In the same way that I'm moving around a market or moving around people as they're eating, I'm doing the same thing with food. So I am changing my angle and I'm physically moving around it to see where it looks the best. I'm turning the plate. I'm doing all these different things. And you do this because not everything looks good from the same angle, obviously. So those three primary angles I'm doing almost on every dish, unless it's a no-brainer like, a pizza or something that, that's I mean all these, these are not rules, but these are guidelines really. All of them will and can be broken. These are just like starting points for you to consider when you're approaching food. Okay this is another example. So your side view, you want your background to contribute but not be distracting. Ingredients shots. Shooting it from a different angle, using color and composition to breathe life into an image. So these actually get steamed and I wanted to keep 'em in the steamer but they disappeared a little bit with this background. So we just put a plate under it and then put a lot of sauce so they separated. So your kind of re-interpreting the food and it also makes it really sexy. It gives like you wanna jump in there and eat. Yeah so, so we looked at it before it even got to this place and then we added the sauce and then we had to do the chives on top so. So we're doing several stages of exploring the food. Again this was a no-brainer, super graphic visual. It's lobster. The color was amazing. So I was thinking color, composition, graphicness. I try to have two or three of those words in every photograph. Then I know that I've elevated that image. Does that make sense? So I'm always thinking about color, composition, light, graphic. I wanna have one or two, two or three of those words in every photograph, if I can. And then I've heightened that image to where it's it's better than average. It's gonna engage the viewer, it's gonna stop 'em. There's gonna be pause. Again, these were put on a cake, and I saw them come out of the oven and I just liked the way they looked. So the stylist and I just found a crusty plate with an interesting background, and I made a still life. This wasn't part of the job or anything, I just thought it was cool. And this actually ran in the book as like the table of contents. So using available light, light direction. So you always think about where your lights coming from. Hopefully it's from the side from some way and you can change your association to the light, obviously to make it from the side. But if it's overhead, okay we'll get there. We'll get there like. Light quality. So what is the light like? So in here, it's pretty diffused, right? But let's say that these windows were clear and the light was shining through. Then it's directly light and you have to diffuse that, all right? So light quality. So where's my light coming from and what is my light like? Okay then, based on those two answers, you have to make decisions on do I need to diffuse it? How do I modify it? What needs to be done so that this light is perfect for photography? Okay I showed this picture. It's a, it's this Asian tofu dish. It's like so it's really, really soft tofu and it's served. And so I was at that Chinese restaurant, this was a shoot and it was fluorescent lighting and it was ugly and there wasn't a single window in the place. I went to the alley. I went to the back where the kitchen was. I propped open the door. I put a trash can to hold the door and I put the food there. This isn't a great picture. I'm showing you this as an example of if you can't, if there's no great light, go find it. So go to the alley, open the door. Let that beautiful light stream in. And actually the people at the restaurant were really upset. They were like, "I can't believe "you're putting our food on the trash can. "What the hell are you doing?" And I was like, "No, no, no." And showed them the picture and they're like, "Oh, let me get you another dish." (audience laughing) They were so excited. (audience laughing) Same thing, I just change my background and I found like a cardboard box. So this is the same assignment and I love that it's chipped there. You know I just wanted it to feel real and again it's in a bowl. You couldn't have shot this from any other angle. That's the way they plated food. Yeah.
Is that direct over head?
Yeah. This was a studio shoot I did at Saveur. And we did several iterations of this image shot from very different angles and in the end, I liked this one the most because of the movement I felt like a frame had. So again, its color, composition, yeah and you know, we just we messed it up. The stylist kind of like started throwing stuff. I mean, you know, yeah.
Messy is the new black, right?
Yes messy is the new black. This is a food shoot I did in L.A. This really fancy chef and she brought out her dish and I had my fixer holding the diffuser and he wanted to eat it He was actually a food blogger. And this was just beautiful so it had color, interesting composition, the light was perfect. It was nice and bright and this, it felt more like a painting or a piece of art and so I was just like, "I'm just gonna leave this alone." I mean, I work it a little bit in terms of like I put a fork. I took some of it out. I made it look like it was eaten and it just, this was it. This was the photograph. This was the way to see it. This is, okay so, 3/4 view. This is from "The Dumpling" book again and so okay, you've got matching tones here and so you're just gonna break it up. So you put some tissue some parchment paper under it. Editing a dish. Okay, this is key when you're shooting food. So when a plate comes out and it's plated in perfect, edit it. Take stuff out, put stuff on the side, break one open, I call that editing a dish, okay. Cut into it, simulate like it's being eaten. So when this came out, this was actually at someone's house and it was in a pan. It was in a roasting pan. You know like you would think enchiladas would be. They had this salad stacked up and the potatoes were, it was like a mound of food, and i was like no. So we went back to the kitchen. We put the enchiladas on a separate plate and just put like a fraction of the sides. And then I shot it like that and then I just kinda kept working through it until I got to this image, which I felt like started to feel really appetizing and it made me really hungry. This i did eat. I'm joking. So again, you're just like, this dish was supposed to be plated on a plate with a spoon or a fork, and it came out of the oven with a grouping like this and I was like, "This is how we should see it." So a lot of times I'll shoot the dish before it ever hits a plate because I feel like it gives it this amazing sense of it gives us this amazing feeling, an emotion. You know so think about the food before it ever hits the plate and your photographs may be there. The crustier the dish, the better too. Again, before it ever hit the plate, the chef put these tamales on a ripped up towel and I was like, "Ah, I love that." So we moved that entire idea just on set and re-created it.
Okay, there was a question earlier from the internet about whether you shoot food as it's being prepared.
Yeah totally. I shoot the whole process. It depends how much time I have. I try to stay focused, but yeah for sure. A lotta times if I have time, I'll shoot them preparing food and just watch, photograph, completely not making these pictures yet but I'm getting an essence where, like in the line from that food in preparation to where it hits the plate, where does it look the best? Okay so that steak gets pan-seared and then get thrown in the oven. But then on that white plate, it doesn't look as sexy. But when it's in the oven and it comes out pan-seared, it's hot. It looks really appetizing. If I cut that open, put a fork and a knife on each side, throw that in beautiful light, I'm done. So I've kind of studied the subject as it's gone through all its stages of final, prepared, plated dish and then from there I decide where it looks the best. And sometimes I go through that whole process before I ever find it. Like I'll actually photograph it the whole way, if I have time. Cool?
Creative devices used to change the tone and pace of food. I've echoed these already. So food in preparation. This is kind of just a recap. Meal in process. So we just looked at those. So thinking about food before it ever hits the plate. Thinking about cutting into the food, reinterpreting it, and eating it for the photograph, as a way to kind of make it more interesting. These are examples of that. This is food in preparation. This was shot at the Saveur studio. This is the receptionist. This is Jim's assistant. That is I don't know who, but my point is is that all these people, this was completely 100% staged. So stimulating an idea based on, you know, it we just wanted we wanted to feature food but see it differently, without just seeing a photograph of that. Although that would be a great photograph too. But I think we wanted to infuse more energy in the scene. You could do these same things at home.
And that was just an office window? The light?
That's a office window. I'm up on a ladder. Probably reflector, a big piece of four by six like white foam core right here just bouncing the light back into the scene. This was cupcakes and I was trying to elevate them. I was trying to make them look better than like just a cupcake, you know? So I threw crumbs and we took a bite out. This was actually, I was working with a stylist. So went through several iterations before we got to this. Cupcakes are hard because we all kind of know what they look like. And so the challenge is to elevate that. In the same sense that I was like hey, you gotta, don't do your cliches. Push yourself to go beyond your cliches. Ingredient shots can be really beautiful. And they're wonderful introductions to an idea. So and they're great because they're you know, if you find great stuff, you can put it together pretty easily. So think about those as a way to kind of reinterpret a dish or an idea or an introduction of an idea of food. So again a meal in process. I'm always looking at dirty spoons. I think they're just they're just beautiful. That wasn't a great quote, was it? (audience laughing) Okay so this wasn't even on set. The stylist was putting this together and I just said, "That's it. "Let's shoot that." And I love that it was messy and dirty. And we just put it, we put it in the set where the light was nice and that's how we shot it. And it makes me wanna dig in. That's my goal is, does it make me hungry? Okay here's someone eating. It never hits her mouth (laughs) but it simulates that idea. So again, another interpretation. Take it, put it in someone's hand and simulate this idea of being eaten.
Can I ask you a question?
I don't think you've I'm not sure if we touched on this, but Petri Gale in the chat room, can you talk about how often you style it versus you have a stylist style it. Did you cover that already?
I didn't cover that.
Do you wanna cover that?
Yeah, no, totally. And a lot of these we can cover tomorrow too. Okay.
And if you wanna do it tomorrow, you can just say
Let's talk about that tomorrow.
we'll cover that tomorrow.
Will she ask that tomorrow?
Well, I'll just we'll just let 'em know, everyone in the chat room that would like to know about a stylist versus Penny styling food, we're gonna talk about that tomorrow.
Let's talk about that tomorrow. That's a great conversation. Okay and we're almost to the end so we can all go eat lunch, okay? This is a food photography class, come on.
We're all hungry. Everyone on the internet's hungry.
These guys are like ravenous man. (audience laughing) okay. They're about to eat me. (audience laughing) Camera this is a recap, camera angles, okay. Think about your camera angles. All this is what you need to have in your mind when you're making food photographs. Camera angles, light, edit your food, photograph food in preparation, photograph a meal in process. Okay all of those is a photograph. One, two, three, four, five. These are five different ways to photograph one dish. You should be doing this every single time. Does that make sense? So when a plate comes out, you're changing your camera angles. You're varying your light. You're editing it. You're photographing it in preparation, okay, before it ever hits the plate. And then you're doing it in process. You're gonna sit somebody down and they're gonna put a fork through it or you're gonna put a fork through it. Does that make sense? You should be doing that with every single plate. Your photographs will improve a 100%. That, I'm not lying, that is the trick. Start that. These are practices that you can do. These are good habits to create better photographs. Now they're all writing. They perked up. (male laughing) And that's it. Do you have any questions? Do you guys have any questions?
Actually I have one question.
This is kind of mixing the two things together. But when you were talking more about the culture photography before, kind of, the culture around the food, and now talking about the food photography, do you have a certain style in the way that you like to do your photography. Do you do like manual priority when you're doing food and then switch to aperture when you're doing the culture around it?
I always shoot in manual.
Oh you shoot in manual
Everything is shot in manual I never shoot program or anything. In fact, thank you for mentioning that. I think that there is a serious difference in making photographs and taking them. And that starts with shooting in manual. Read your manual, understand your tools, and let it become second nature so much that you understand them that well.
I'm just surprised, I sometimes it's hard. You know you hear a lot of wedding photographers which do aperture priority when they're doing the in and out of light. And I would in, when you're doing the culture shooting aspect of it, where you switch. It's good.
No I shoot a 100% manual because I know how I wanna expose a scene and the camera won't expose it
the way I want to. Very cool.
It won't, ever. So I'm always thinking about the light. The camera's just thinking about the scene.
Does that make sense?
Oh yeah, very cool.
So, all of you should be shooting in manual. If you are photographers, you gotta learn your tools, understand your tools, learn your trade, make photographs, shoot in manual. Like I can't say that enough. Okay.