Here the list of the posts on how to Learn photography basics and click better pictures every day.
Let’s get back to the fact – how composition grids are used in general. All of them are created to put the elements of composition in order. Some items will be positioned along the lines, others may be positioned at intersections. Why artists and photographers do it? This method is used to guide the eye movement of the viewer and attract attention to specific details of the picture. In other words, it’s an attempt to control the impression created by an image.
While, in painting, the artist could think in advance and build composition for a while; photographers are not that lucky. They do have a chance to build the composition in commercial photography, but when they shoot a street or a concert or an event, it’s just not possible. But if you learn the composition rules, you may apply some of them during the shoot, and then perfect the photographs with the cropping tool during the post production in Adobe LightRoom (Just press ‘o’ when you work with the ‘crop tool’ and you will see many grid options one after another). You may find that most of the grids will work with good images and won’t help much to the bad ones.
So what is Golden Ratio?
The grids which represent Golden Ratio.
Seeing so many grids, the first question that arises is how can it be helpful? Well, being honest, most of this grids will be applied after the shoot, not during the shoot. If you photograph a lot and try to perfect your pictures with every second click, you may find that you already follow the golden ratio rule naturally. After all, as they say, it’s a natural harmony, so if we aim balanced pictures, we will end up with the images close to the Golden Ratio proportion.
In conclusion, I will give you a very non-scientific advice. Follow your heart and intuition, try to feel the composition. See as many Renaissance paintings, as you can, here is the wonderful collection, check it out.
And if you want to be inspired by the magic of Golden Ratio, watch the video below. It’s absolutely inspiring and self-explanatory masterpiece.
A food stylist is a food professional on the set. He or she plays a very important role in the process of food photography. They often have had culinary training as chefs. The task of the food stylist is to present the food in such a way that it looks natural yet makes the viewer hungry. As food styling is also a creative professional, these professionals are supposed to visualize the final photograph and work together with the photographer.
Food stylist has to know
- How and from where to purchase the best food for the shoot?
- How to care about the food props during transportation?
- How to cook in such a way that it looks yummy but may not taste like that?
- How to create a mood and set up on purpose?
- Basically, in order to achieve this professional food styling, you need to know a thousand of techniques. Here are a few of them.
7 food styling techniques to start with:
Using undercooked food
This one is probably one of the most important techniques. The undercooked vegetables look brighter and retain the shape better, raw egg yolk looks better than the cooked one. The undercooked meat is lighted with a torch.
A thickening or thinning of the liquids
Milk is often replaced with a thicker liquid such as cream for splashes or pouring. However, some liquids are made thinner to achieve the smooth pouring.
Ice Cream Imitations
An ice Cream is a very sensitive dessert. It requires a low temperature, fast shooting and a lot of styling techniques. So the artificial ice cream replaces the real one, whenever it possible. It is often made from the potato mesh, chemical mixtures, starch, butter, or other ingredients.
Spraying food with liquids
The water is spread over the salads and leafy vegetables. The oil spread over the meat or other glossy foods. While water adds freshness, oil enhances the color and the texture of the object.
Steam or smoke
It is used to create a feeling of the freshly cooked food. This job can be performed in a variety of ways. The equipment to generate smoke can range from a very complex machines to a cigarette smoke by an assistant.
Brushing with browning agents
Some browning agents are very useful. You may make a bun look yummy, raw chicken crispy and cooked. Some of them may be also transformed into coffee, tea, bourbon, rum or whiskey with a little use of water.
A cold drink is probably not cold at all and those lovely drops on the glass are just a mixture of the water and glycerin or other chemicals.
There are many more food styling techniques. Some of them are widely known, some are secrets of the pros. When we photograph the food, it’s often a real food, as it has to be real by the law if you advertise this particular food itself. However, if you advertise wafer cons, you don’t need to use a real ice cream for the images. You may add the value to the burger layers with the cardboard and toothpicks. Or you may use artificial food if you are trying to sell the utensils. In any case, the job of the food stylist is to make food look appetizing, natural, edible and irresistible.
It’s an interesting fact when I plan the photo shoot in my studio, approve drafts with clients, decide the setup in advance, collect the props – the entire photography process goes fast and the results are usually impressive. The moment client says we will decide during the shoot, I can add 3-4 hours extra. The reading of “Planning the food photography photo shoot” is advised for clients, so for photographers. So, let us take a look at how to avoid these extra hours, just by making a plan!
Make yourself a Q&A session. Take the pen and paper. Here are some questions to answer:
Who will see these pictures?
Describe your target audience, the people who need to be caught by the visuals, while others may not notice it. The more accurate explanation you find, the better result you will get.
What do I wish to get from the viewers?
Do they have to buy your product or they have to be inspired by the illustration of the recipe and cook? This final goal may dictate the treatment of the composition: close-up, empty space, colors, etc.
What emotion will they feel?
A good photograph always brings forward some emotions. In case of food photography, it can be hunger, desire, passion, inspiration, love, and you name it. So what emotion you need to arise to reach the goal mentioned in the previous question?
Where are you going to use these pictures?
Social media requirements are a lot lighter than the magazine advertisement. Also for the online usage, you need more pictures than for the print. In other words, how are people going to experience your photographs? Would it be a timeline in some popular SM? Nice glossy page of the expensive magazine or a book? Maybe it will happen on some food site where other pictures will compete with it or it’s a big advertisement in a shop? Maybe it’s a giant screen in a cinema hall? The way how viewers experience the picture may give some ideas for the shoot treatment.
Come with the idea!
How many products or dishes you want to shoot?
A Food photographer can finish from 6 to 10 setups in one day, if we talk about serious professionals. Probably you do not need to shoot all dishes in a complex setup. I’m asking because startups often want to shoot 300 dishes for the site or more. You may create 6 extraordinary images to highlight the theme and the values of your brand. But all other pictures you can create with a simple setup, say on a white background. It will save time and money. Draw a list of the dishes in which you decide what is requires a primary attention while the other secondary.
Who will cook and style the dishes? Do you need props or prop hunter? Which props will reflect the idea? Do you need the models and make-up artist for them?
If you need extra specialists, you need to think about it in advance. They need to be paid and the cost of the photo shoot doesn’t cover their services (project cost maybe different, than the cost of the simple shoot). They are required to sync their time schedule, as well. Excellent news – a photographer usually knows such specialist and can advise someone.
Once we have an idea, the list of the dishes and experts. We have to decide a location. The place for work has to match the technical requirements, mood, and need. For example, if we shoot with artificial light, we need a lot of space just to place the equipment around the table and no people around (it’s not safe for clients to jump over the wires). If we shoot with natural light, then we need to have enough big windows and good weather on the day of shooting. Whatever you choose, get the maximum from the location, so if you shoot in the restaurant, incorporate the interiors and some branding elements such as napkins with logo or so.
And here is the final stage – you find your idea, you know exactly what to shoot, and where. Start making drafts. You do not have to be an artist to make drafts. But you need to realize the way how the light falls on a dish. Your draft will include basic composition, props ideas, and basic lighting vision. These drawings will help in saving a lot of time and making the shoot organized. It’s really important that both the client and the photographer agreed upon these drawings. Ideally, a photographer is supposed to create the drawings, but if client draws the drafts – it’s also good.
We all need some inspiration from time to time. When you are in a creative profession, you have to generate ideas on an hourly basis. What to do when you are a newbie and all good ideas get suddenly vanished? Well, it happened even to the best of us. Here is a simple method which can push your creativity and help in a time of burnout.
Let’s say you want to tell a story about a restaurant. To find inspiration, we will use Pinterest — the social media based on the photographs that people pick from the internet.
So, how to find the inspiration for the photo shoot with Pinterest? Open Pinterest and type in the search field “restaurant”
You will see a lot of pictures which can already inspire you for some ideas. But let’s move forward. In the line below the “search”, you can find additional keywords to make the results more specific to your needs.
For example, we search for the “restaurant branding”.
We can also add some styles required for the project, such as rustic, vintage, modern, and you name it. See what the search on “restaurant, rustic inspiration” reveals.
We can even add the materials if we know how our location/restaurant looks like.
I can already sense that somebody will mention “plagiarism”. No. I do not ask you to copy the pictures. And it’s probably impossible to make exactly the same picture in the other location. But seeing how other talented people deal with the task similar to yours, can rise many fruitful thoughts and ideas in your mind.
How easy is it to work with? Well, very easy! You can’t remember each and every picture, I’m sure. So, create a “secret” inspiration board for the particular project (you may like to delete it eventually, or make it “open” when you are done with it.)
This collection may inspire you as long as it exists. My advice once you make the collection- go through the pictures and delete the irrelevant ones as compared to other images in the collection. Carefully crafted “inspiration board” will work better than an unfocused mess of the photos from here and there.
You can also create boards for some specific moods or colors, which may work without a link to some specific assignment. Create as many creative boards, as you need, and make them work for your creativity. By the way, just because Pinterest users pin new pictures every minute, you may also follow the trends within the industry you are going to shoot for.
The definition of the shutter speedHere all is simple. The shutter speed refers to the amount of time that the shutter is open. It measures in fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster shutter speed, the less light getting trough.
Freeze the motion
The faster shutter speed allows to freeze the motion, such as splashes. Slow shutter speed may provide interesting motion blur effects.
- When you deal with the very bright daylight situation you may use fast shutter speed such as 1/1000 or more.
- The bird in the sky in a sunny day and you want it looks very sharp — your shutter speed will be above 1/2000
- You kids are playing and you want to have clear sharp pictures — your shutter speed will be above 1/500
- When you work with the studio light the shutter speed synchronized with the speed of the flash and it not suppose to be more than 1/250 or 1/125 (check the instruction of your camera)
- A portrait will require anything from 1/125
- If you shoot handheld you shutter speed suppose to be not less than 1/60, otherwise images may not be sharp.
- If you have to use slower shutter speed you need to use support such as a tripod or useful replacement of it.
- You want to make mysterious waterfall with blurry water and sharp landscape your shutter speed will be below 1/30
- If you want to photograph the city in the night you will use very slow shutter speed something like 30″ and small aperture from F/13 to F/22. In this situation, very strong tripod is the must (even micro move of the camera will destroy the photo)
The exposure in photography is one of the most important elements. Well, if you click everything in the auto mode, exposure will be adjusted automatically. But if you want to photograph, then you need to work with manual mode of the camera.
The of exposure (digital photography)
Exposure – the unit of measurement for the total amount of light reached the image sensor during each shot. The exposure is controlled with the Shutter speed, Aperture, and ISO. All three are together called exposure triangle.
The exposure triangle
Exposure consists of the three components: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Each represents the equal side of the exposure triangle. To use this idea, just imagine the perfect triangle with equal sides. It is natural that to change the length of one side, you will need to change the lengths of other two sides too. All the elements in a triangle are related to each other, and of course, they are also related to the light condition you are shooting in.
Let’s consider a few examples with natural light
Let’s say, you like to photograph the portrait on a bright day. Additionally, you plan to focus on the eyes and blurred background. The background is also far away from the model. You may like to use “big aperture” (F/2 or F/4.5 depends on your lens) on a bright day, you may use ISO 100 to achieve a less noisy image. With this condition, your shutter speed will be very high, depending on the amount of light; it could be above 1/1000 or even more. Once you set up the Aperture and the ISO, you may change your shutter speed and check the result via the light meter in camera. When the indicator is in the center your settings are done. Try to remember them. In photography, a camera is just a tool to get amazing pictures, so it’s ideal if these settings come into your mind automatically- without disturbing the creative process.
Alternatively, you may like to photograph a friend with a lovely cityscape behind. But you would love to see details of the wonderful architecture behind. In such a situation, you will need to use a smaller aperture – F/7 or smaller (depends on your lens). As your aperture is now smaller, you need to adjust the other components. You may like to increase the ISO by about 200 or more, and then adjust the shutter speed the same way as you did in the previous example.
Both of the examples are relevant if you use manual mode. In other modes such as Shutter Speed priority or Aperture priority, the numbers will be decided automatically by a camera. If you use one of the automatic modes, everything may be decided by the camera. But please notice that human judgment leads to more creative and interesting photographs.
How to achieve the right exposure
The “Correct exposure” means you have enough details in a final image. The “Overexposed image” means the details in the light area were lost. The “Underexposed image” means the details in the dark areas were lost.
Most of the cameras have some sort of light meter. During the professional photo shoot, the photographers use the more sensitive external light meter. But for everyday shooting, the inbuilt light meter is good enough. The light meter indicates the exposure condition under natural light. But if you work with impulsive and unpredictable lights then you need external light meter such as Sekonic. The external equipment is quite expensive, so there is another way. You have to practice with your lights a lot and remember the numbers on your strobes or speed lights with relation to each camera setting. It sounds close to impossible, but after few months of practice, it will start working and your numbers will be close to the right measurements.
Keep the size of the Triangle equal. Remember the settings. Plan the shot. If you need more specific information, please check the articles from Photography 101 series.
The white balance is used to remove the unnecessary color casts so as to make the image look more natural. Hence, it is set according to the color temperature of the light sources.
The aperture definition in digital photography
The aperture is the unit of measurement that defines the size of the opening in the lens. The size of this hole will regulate the image sensor’s degree of exposure to the light.
Every lens has its own aperture ratio. The smaller number on the lens (F/1.2 or F/2) the better it behaves in a low light situations. However, if you only shoot with studio lights you may be fine with the larger numbers on your lenses such as F/5. As we talking about food photography here where the nice bokeh is an advantage, you may like to purchase lenses with bigger aperture diameter (F/1.2 or F/2). And for sure read some reviews before buying.
The color temperature one of the most important things in photography. I would say it also part of photography multiplication table, something all photographers know and use all the time.
|1,700 K||Match flame, low-pressure sodium lamps (LPS/SOX)|
|1,850 K||Candle flame, sunset/sunrise|
|2,700–3,300 K||Incandescent lamps|
|3,000 K||Soft (or Warm) White compact fluorescent lamps|
|3,200 K||Studio lamps, photofloods, etc.|
|3,350 K||Studio “CP” light|
|5,000 K||Horizon daylight|
|5,000 K||Tubular fluorescent lamps orcool white/daylight compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)|
|5,500–6,000 K||Vertical daylight, electronic flash|
|6,200 K||Xenon short-arc lamp|
|6,500 K||Daylight, overcast|
|6,500–10,500 K||LCD or CRT screen|
|15,000–27,000 K||Clear blue poleward sky|
The color temperature measured in Kelvin (K). As it visible from the current table the light temperature varies from reddish to bluish tints. Natural daylight is usually between 5500 to 6000 K but in the “magic hours” it became as warm as 2000K as well. Light below 5000 K (1,700 – 5000K) considered as warm colors and the light above daylight (5000-27000K) referred to cool colors.
In photography, the color temperature is always used along with term “white balance”. To create correct white balance photographer need to understand with what color temperature he deal with and adjust camera settings accordingly.
Find more about White Balance Here
In the first lesson, we will try to understand the light nature through an experiment. The direction of light is one of the fundamental ideas of photography. Some of them are the amount, angle, temperature, and softness of light. But they will be touched in the future lessons. Today it’s all about the direction.
You will need:
- The object — let it be a cup of tea, a slice of fruit, an egg or the single colour ball (ideally white). Use all objects one by one for a better result.
- Table lamp, white bulb is recommended
- Table big enough to place the lamp at a 30- 50 cm distance from the object
- White paper to cover the table (if table is white, it’s not necessary)
- Camera (smartphone will do)
- Tripod is ideal but not necessary
- Stool and big window in the daytime for the second experiment
Note: Use an Auto White balance in both the cases.
Experiment No #1. Artificial Light
Place the object on the table. Let’s call it “stage”. Imagine that your object is located in the center of an analog watch, and your position to the object is 6 o’clock. Put the camera on a tripod, (alternatively, you may keep it in hands at the same position during the experiment). The angle of your camera is supposed to be 45 degrees to the object. Place the lamp on the left front side (approximately 50-30 cm from the object) in a “7 o’clock” position. Then switch the lamp on. Capture the image. Shift camera to “8 o’clock”, again capture the image. Shift lamp to “9 o’clock” and do it again. Keep repeating till your lamp appears at “5 o’clock”. Try to make one image with the lamp at “6 o’clock”, it will give you an idea that why the use of an inbuilt flash is never recommended by professional food photographers!
When you will see all your images, analyse the position of the shadows and how light covers the object, and how much shadow remain with every position of the lamp. The light will work with your object in almost a similar fashion most of the time. This lesson is very important because all other information will be somehow related to it.
Experiment No #2. Natural Light
Put the stool covered with a white paper about 1.5 meters away from the window. Place your object (preferably the white or single colour ball in this case) on the stool. Position your camera at an angle of 45 degrees from the object. Stand near the stool in such way that the light from the window falls on the left. Consider you are standing at “6 o’clock” position. And as your light source is not movable, you will move along with the camera. Step to “7 o’clock” and click the picture, then to “8 o’clock” and click again. (Try not to block the light when you shoot from “8, 9, 10 o’clock”). Once you clicked all the 12 pictures, see all of them together.
When you will compare all the 24 pictures, you will find the difference between an artificial and a natural light. The details the light temperature, and the softness of the light will be all different. Remember these values are like photography multiplication table for number 2. We will discuss other qualities of the light in the upcoming lessons.
P. S. Hope these experiments gave you some food for thought. Share your experience with fellow readers in comments. Cheers:)
I would like to give a few words on my collection of photo gear. Here, is an overview with focus on the camera. Lenses will be touched later. First of all, I photograph more in the studio than outside. My gear works great in a good studio with proper light conditions. But, if you are looking for something like street or sports photography, this gear will not suit you. Food photography is still life. It rarely moves. Even if I capture chef’s portrait or restaurant interiors with people, they still do not move fast. But, even then I have something for outdoor shooting. Here is a short overview.
Let’s start from the set I use for traveling. While I travel, I just need a decent yet not-so-expensive set of gear, which provides me with decent photographs. I may potentially print or use those photographs in my portfolio. Or I may sell them. That mean my camera and lens have to be good but affordable.
Many Years ago, by trial-and-error method I came to this set Canon 550D (European EOS Rebel T2i) + Canon 18-200. I had Canon 450D (Canon Rebel XSi), but it didn’t have the video option, so I sold it out. I also had Canon 18-55 kit lens and Canon 75-300; both were good lenses. But it was difficult to travel with both of them, so I sold them as well. Canon 18-200, on the other hand, also has few disadvantages. Firstly, its maximum aperture is F3.5-5 which creates certain difficulties for street photography, as it requires extremely good light conditions all the time. It moves down if you shoot from top angles. Seeing the bright side, it’s very versatile, focusing relatively good while in decent light conditions, and you need not change it all the time.
But sometimes as food photographer you need this shallow depth of field and f5 is definitely not up for it. For such cases, I got Canon 50mm F1.8. This prime lens is very affordable and creates amazing depth of field with lovely bokeh. The dark side of it is that it creates chromatic aberrations, which may reduce chances of photographs to be sold. But if you use it for yourself it will not disturb you.
For professional work, I use Canon Mark ll and sometimes Canon 60 D. Full frame camera such as Mark ll or Mark lll creates tremendous advantages for photographers who shoot for commercial purpose. The sensor of the camera is big and provides more details. Usage of the lenses is also quite different. For example, full open Canon 17-40 will give you really open angles while on crop sensor cameras 17-40 will be equal to 28-64. And my favorite lens Tokina 100mm macro will be equal to 160mm on the crop sensor. Using both cameras during the shoot give a lot of freedom. By the way, when I making videos of the backstage of the photo shoot, I use my camera and lens from the travel set.
New photographers often ask which camera to buy? They don’t realize that a camera is less important than the lens. The photographer’s creative mind is so much more important than any gear 🙂 But when I have to answer this question I always recommend to put attention on lenses. It’s better to invest on an expensive lens than on an expensive camera. Remember that many lenses will not work with full frames. So think twice if you plan to buy full-frame in future.
Yes and THAT question…. Canon or Nikon? 🙂 The answer is simple. If you will start to build your lens collection with Nikon, fewer are the chances that you will shift to Canon later, and opposite. Both brands are equally good and are developing fast. Photo gear is a serious investment, so plan it wisely.