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Photographing Food

Lesson 8 from: Travel Photography: Creative Storytelling

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

8. Photographing Food

Lesson Info

Photographing Food

If you're a photographing a restaurant as part of your travel story, then the food and drink are gonna be a critical part of it. And they're probably also the most fun, because this absolutely smells delicious right now. So we've got some French toast and a scramble and classic steak and eggs. So the way I did this is, we're working with the manager at this location, we're featuring the restaurant, hypothetically, for a story. And so we choose dishes that were visually interesting, showed a little range of what they have for breakfast. We're talking to different people about their breakfast experience, and so, we put these together, and now we're gonna make them part of our story. It's simply another element in the layout, in the whole big picture of understanding what the actual place that we're photographing is all about. So first thing I'm gonna do is, of course I'm looking at the window light. If we didn't have as much window light, I might think about bringing a strobe, or some so...

rt of artificial lighting to help throw a little additional light. But generally speaking, restaurants tend to be quite bright. If they're dark, and maybe sort of moody, you might wanna use a tripod, but I'm gonna stick with the handheld situation that I've been doing from the beginning. I'm gonna keep it at ISO 800. I've still got my image-stabilizer on, on my lens. I've got it at ISO 8.0, and I might actually go super shallow on this as well, or the most shallow that this lens goes, which is at F 4.0. Get that nice sort of, out of focus look to your images, with that shallow depth of field versus maximum depth of field. For the most part, I'll photograph each dish, and I'm gonna wanna do it pretty quickly, 'cause we don't want the food to look like it's been sitting for a while. So, you wanna move pretty fast, and I'm gonna do each of them in turn, in different ways. And so, the first thing I did, is I made sure that the dish isn't up against the edge of the table. I don't wanna see the ground, I wanna make sure that I have a nice, sort of, uniform look all the way around. I'm gonna use the table as sort of, the framing element on the dish. And then I'm gonna wanna shoot straight down. That gives you a nice clean perspective, it's more symmetrical. And so, what I'm doing is, I'm tight on the lens. I've half pushed the button to get a little focus on my auto-focus. And I'll actually take a frame here, or two. Take a look, looks nice. And I'm actually cropping out a little bit of the element, just to have a tighter shot, and then I'll go a little wider so that there is no cropping of anything. And there really isn't, when you're shooting straight down, there's not gonna be a horizontal and a vertical option. So, what I'm looking at when I get the actual product is, I'm noticing there's a little bit of a shadow coming from this other plate that was delivered. So I'm gonna move it just a touch, And I want it to be super clean, super easy, no reflections, no highlights. And you kinda have your quintessential French toast shot. All of your elements put together, maximizing the window light. It's a little darker over here, which helps give a little contrast across the shot in general. And now what I'll do is, take a look from a side angle, and get even closer. Now this is even sharp here. Now at 8.0, I'm getting a lot of the detail in everything in the background, so this is a good example of where, maybe I'll go shallow. F 4.0. And I'll get a little bit on an angle. And the reason I'm doing this is, I wanna be able to see the dust on the top of the French toast. I wanna give whoever's editing the story, and opportunity to selective range of images. You know, I might try and come across like this. It's the whole work-the-scene thing, edit later. Center up, maybe get like this, and crop a little bit more out of the shot. But I'm zoomed all the way in at this point. And the reason I am not shooting at the wide, is because I'll end up getting the whole booth. Which might not be a bad thing, but you don't get as much detail as you would shooting straight down. When you shoot straight down you get that full range of what the dish is. So now what I'll do is, I'll make it look like these are two other people joining me for breakfast. That hearty breakfast. And then I'll kind of center up. And using the symmetry of this, the line in the middle, sort of the spread, kind of shoot out across. Make sure my lens strap's not in front of the lens. Take a look. Push halfway, get a little focus. I bet F 4.0, I'm getting two-hundredth of a second. Now what I'm doing is backing up, and zooming in at the same time. This helps get all the dishes a little closer together. Take a look, looks pretty nice, in general. And these are a little out of focus 'cause I'm shooting at 4.0. So just to have options, I'm gonna go up to F 11. Get the same shot. Check my focus. And I hear that shutter-speed is a little slow. I'm at one-twenty-fifth of a second. And I'm shooting on a 35 millimeter lens. And as I mentioned earlier in this class, you wanna have your shutter-speed equal to or faster than than your focal length. And so at 35, at one-thirty-fifth, I'm noticing it's one-twenty-fifth. But I do have image-stabilizer on this lens. And so with the image-stabilizer, a lot of times you can get that extra stop or two, handheld, to make sure it's sharp. But if you really wanna make sure it's sharp, you can either adjust your aperture just a little to get faster, or, (camera shutter clicks rapidly) push and hold, and you're probably gonna get at least one sharp frame. It's worth double-checking. I don't spend a whole lotta time looking at the back of my screen. Doesn't get you a whole lot. But generally speaking, you'll be able to get a sharp shot by pushing and holding, getting multiple frames. So now what I'm gonna do is, make sure that I have enough fore spread. I don't want one dish. I'm gonna do the same thing with all the dishes, in that I'm going to give them each a turn. And part of why I picked this dish, the steak and eggs, is 'cause it looks delicious. No, I picked it, because it's sort of a classic restaurant, right? Where we've got this classic fishermen wharf feeling. We talked with a group of guys who've been coming here for 30, 40 years, steak and eggs is sort of like the traditional food you would find on any diner, anywhere in the classic Americana landscape. And so, for me, that's what we're going after in this particular location. I wanna show that great, and it looks delicious of course, but I wanna show that classic dish that you might find. And honestly, it's harder and harder to find these days. So you'll notice it's a little close to the edge. I'm gonna do the same thing. Got the knife, but probably want to have at least the fork in there. We've already got a knife, I'll move this in. You kinda end up becoming a little bit of a set dresser, if you're doing this. And you might not need to. But the knife kind of juts out, but it works. So, I left it at F 11, I hear it's slow. It's one of the things you'll start to catch on as ... You'll heard your own shutter speed and know when it might be too slow. So I forgot to go back to 8.0, so let me do that. (camera shutter clicks) And the eggs are reflecting a little bit of this light, so I'm kind of moving around just a touch. But it's not bad, it's not too much of a distraction. And now what I'm gonna do is, just in case, gonna take one, and I'm gonna put the fork on here as well. (camera shutter clicks) And that looks a little more fun. A little more like you're gonna dig into something. Paying attention to it, what's the next cool thing that you could do with it? No, not eat it. Get the eggs runnin'. Show the dish actually going down. And you might wanna get more variety, and different angles as you go. Shallower depth of field, and just keep working the scene over and over. When you've got that one done, go to your last one. Desserts are also always fun. We've already kinda done similar things with coffee and coffee cups. But, we'll look for coffee pots and actually take the whole restaurant in. We'll get this shot. And again, you wanna work quick, 'cause you don't have a lot of time, necessarily. And this one I'm gonna try get some dishes in the background. And my focus spot, it's tough when you're looking in shallow depth of field because you've gotta pick one. You might wanna add a little depth, so go from 4.0 to eight. So that at least more of the dish is sharp. You wanna focus about a third of the way into the frame, to guarantee that you're gonna have all of that. If you need a little more depth, you can add it. And then, make sure I've got the shot. It's clean, clean edges. And I'm not looking at the middle when I look through my viewfinder, I'm looking at all of the sides. Corner-to-corner, top-to-bottom, left-to-right, making sure it looks good. Double check my shot. Looks a little crooked. I'm looking at the grain of the wood. I notice that it looks, it's a little off kilter, and I want that symmetry, so I'm gonna re-shoot. Getting a little more glare. Move everything down a little bit. And shoot again. All right, now I've got it. See now I've got three different dishes, and this gives an editor, or someone who's putting the story together, could be you, for a website, could be somebody for a magazine. But now they have different pieces to start creating a design element, a spread across multiple pages. And this gives them options. And that's your goal as a photographer, create and capture as much as you can, so that you have a lot of different options for how the story ultimately can come together. At the end of all this, you're gonna really understand what it's like to come to this particular cafe. And in fact, if you're doing your job really well, and you're selling the whole travel experience, then people are also going to wanna come here, and that's what your goal is. And ultimately that's your job as a travel photographer.

Ratings and Reviews

Black Fender Productions

If you are interested in shooting a travel story for publication, this is a helpful class. Ian breaks down the elements of storytelling through photography. He shows you what to look for in building that story and how to shoot it. This is a journalistic documentary viewpoint, not a go on a family vacation and take great photos class. In addition to the story-telling education, I also found it helpful to learn about the technical details; how he uses ISO, shutter speed, Aperture priority (Av), how to shoot into windows, and the importance of shooting both in portrait and landscape. If I were to add to this class, I would include segments on how to pitch your travel photos to publications and perhaps an interview with an editor to find out what they like to see from photographers. I would love to see more locations as well. I've taken some of Ian's other classes, and I think he's a great instructor. This class was definitely helpful.

Chris Miedema

I guess travel photography means different things to different people. I understood exactly where Ian Shive was coming from in this presentation and I found the information was extremely useful. I guess if you are looking for a video on how to photograph the Eiffel Tower, when traveling with family, this is not for you. If you wish to take back a deeper memory of a place, or wish to submit an article for travel publications, this series of videos would be more to your liking. I enjoyed watching Mr. Shive go through the process of documenting the cafe, its owner and its patrons. His general advice and strategies were useful to hear and see in action. He did provide some technical information on settings, although I did note he was in a well lit establishment. It would have been interesting to see how he would handle a place with less than ideal light. Overall, that is a small criticism. I very much enjoyed the flow of the videos and recommend them to anyone who is interested in seriously documenting the interesting locations they come across in their travels.

Marwa Elchazly

as the title is "travel photography" what came to my mind is walking through the street of a city, but it wasn't ... Ian Shive took "Salmon Bay Cafe" as a case study for traveling photography, through which he gave good tips for traveling/ magazine essay / telling a story in general. I've learned a lot about the effect of ISO and "handholding" the camera, tips for how to get the authentic story of a place and tell it with photo... It's not all you need about traveling photography, but it gives a good start and lots of valuble tips

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