I'm surrounded by food photographers. Whether in the professionals like my bestie, friends that know a pretty dish shouldn't go undocumented or bloggers that gather round a dish like it's a rare animal.
I might only be doing these foodie pics as a hobby, sharing them with you lovely folk on my blog or my Instagram, but with the volume I take, I thought it was about time I got a little more serious with it.
Out of the seemingly endless slew of Leeds Indie Food events, I spotted one that combined food and photography, two things I'm doing daily, with or without professional guidance. The Plating, Styling, Photographing, Feasting event with Elouisa Georgiou was to be a night of all of the above, with some take-homes to get you set-up on your next click of the shutter.
With a group of like-minded foodies, I headed to Sheaf Street Cafeteria, greeted with a Yorkshire Tea based cocktail; camera and digital notepad at the ready.
For me as a relative novice, Elouisa's camera tips were a massive help to set some guidance notes in different situations (keep on reading for my key takeaways). My only constructive criticism was how professionally based the tips were, great for me with my DSLR in hand, but as we were told before the event that a professional camera wasn't an essential, it would have been good to get some phone photography tips or generic set-up tips along the way.
With the basic knowledge at the ready, we were treated to some partially styled plates from Grub & Grog to get practising with. The decision was ours as to whether add any extra garnishes, move the food around or grab props from the space around us.
Some of my main takeaways from the event were around getting the best light in different situations. I worked with a small group to perfect the light we had - the perfect golden hour with floor to ceiling windows - with the help of some bounce boards and camera angles to perfect the shot.
The evening began to wind down as the plates were served for the feast. A menu largely made of vegetarian and vegan specialities, served to the table to help keep the conversation going.
Whether you're reading this as a blogger, as someone who isn't ashamed to get the shot before they tuck in, or even as the other half who will patiently await the photographer amongst you is rearranging the table before eating, here are some tips that you can hopefully apply to your next foodie snap:
Find the light
This was my main takeaway from the night and something I've already put into practice. You can take it to the extreme and ask to be seated in the best lit spot, or take your dish to the best light you can find. Or, for the more practical, work with what you have. Use your menu or the napkin to reflect the source of light back onto your dish - the best is always stark white to reflect as much as possible.
How to shoot in tungsten light
One of my main issues with shooting in restaurants is the orange lighting that usually comes with them. Edison bulbs look great, but not so much when it comes to lighting your dish. Similarly to the above, you can use your menu, your napkin or even your side dish to shade your dish from the less flattering lighting, especially when it's near to what you're shooting. Unless it's going to create a pitch black shot, you can always bring up the lighting when you edit - more so if you're shooting on a DSLR in RAW, but Lightroom should help you if you're using your phone. Take an unshaded shot, just in case.
Don't be afraid to crop
With the exception of some poor captures, I think all my food pictures I share include all of the plate or at least as much of the dish as I can capture. Elouisa shared a lot of her own pictures, a lot of which included a severe crop of the dish, focusing only on the important bits.
Create shadow on the background
As you'll be finding the best light for all the important bits, you can manipulate in the same way to help in putting the less important bits in lesser focus. Not every camera phone or camera lens has the ability to nail that dreamy blurred background, but with some clever light work you can ensure that the foodie details you're most excited to share are the ones that get the best light and the best focus.
Play with your angles
Elouisa's tried and tested three angles for food shots are from above, 45° looking onto the food and from straight on, level with your dish. The height and detail of your food can help you determine which to trial. For dishes with height, capture the detail being level with your dish. For prettier dishes where the detail may be spread around the plate and largely at one level, engage in a classic #flatlay. I've found the failsafe is 45°, it captures a bit of both of the above and also gives you a bit more to play with in terms of light.
I'm hoping all of the above will contribute to those all important double-taps on Instagram, any essential tips missing?