Over the past year or so, a lot of people have asked me to post about my photography “process.” I usually laugh them off. I love food photography, but I’m by no means a photographer. I’ve never taken a photography class and most of the time I feel like when I get a good shot, it’s because of nothing but luck. Still, when you compare the photos that I take now to the ones that I took when I first started the blog, even I have to admit that there’s been a dramatic improvement. (For reference, this is the first photo I posted. Yikes!)
Lindsay Olives recently asked me to do some recipe photography for their web site, so I figure now is as good a time as any for that photography post…
Equipment: Since everyone like to hear about the “toys” I’ll start there.
- I shoot with a Canon Rebel XS. The camera is ok. It’s the most basic of entry level SLRs and I kind of wish I had done more research and bought something that I could grow into a little more. (That being said, I’m not sure that research really would have changed my mind. Right now I’m longing for a full frame camera, but those don’t come cheap. For now, the camera on my iPad is a good approximation. Don’t underestimate small cameras – the photo above was actually taken with an iPad!)
- Until recently, I mainly used this 50mm lens. It’s small, cheap, and works really well in low light.
- More recently, I purchased this 100mm macro lens. I’m not going to lie – it was a big investment! I had been lusting after this lens for years before I finally took the plunge, but I’m so glad that I did. I absolutely LOVE it, and I can’t get over how crisp the images it captures are. The only problem with it is that it’s really heavy, so I have to use a tripod if I’m shooting at anything more than the lowest aperture.
- Since my house is nearly pitch black even in the middle of a summer afternoon and my overhead lights give photographs a strange color, I use an EGO light unless I’m able to shoot outside in natural light (in the winter it’s dark out before I get home, so EGO light it is!). Since my lighting situation is so funky, I always use a custom white balance and I shoot in RAW so that I can adjust the colors in Lightroom if needed.
Composition: Of course, even the fanciest equipment won’t guarantee that you take a gorgeous photo. I’ve seen people take better pictures with camera phones than I can dream to take in a million years. That part comes down to composition, and it’s really an art.
My best photos are the ones where I’ve put some thought into to composition and what kind of story I want to tell. Do I want the photo to be light and bright? Dark and moody? Elegant or casual? Those questions help me determine what kind of dish I want to showcase the food on – or if I want it to be on a dish at all! It also helps me pick out a color for the backdrop or linens that I use. For a simple look, I usually use white, natural wood, or pick up a color that occurs in the food naturally. For something with more drama, I pick something from the opposite side of the color wheel.
- From there, I take a few test shots with each lens and decide if I need to add more props to fill in the scene, or if I need to take some away. In the croustades above, I didn’t like the way that the edge of the plate was getting in my way (it’s always difficult to photograph flat foods) so I ended up putting them directly on the placemat.
- I usually try to take at least one close-up shot, one short that’s farther back but is pretty empty, and one shot with another plate, raw ingredients, or some other prop in the background. I do that with both lenses.
Props: I definitely go through phases in how styled I like my photos to look and what colors I like to use in them. I always keep my eyes open for new linens and props – and for new ways to use old ones (the “stands” in this photo are upside-down teacups topped with a saucer). Some of my favorite places to shop are Goodwill, Marshall’s/Homegoods, Pier I, Target, and the local Asian supermarket (they have a whole aisle of gorgeous plates that are dirt-cheap). I also love Anthropologie, but their stuff is generally way too expensive. Tiles and wood panels from Home Depot make great backdrops, too!
Processing: Finally, I export my photos into Lightroom (possibly the best $100 I ever spent!) where I make minor edits to adjust the white balance and increase the contrast and clarity. I try not to over edit the photos, but since I shoot in RAW they do need to be “developed” and look much better after a few tweaks.
So that’s it in a nutshell. But all that being said, I think the most helpful thing that I do is to keep practicing. Try something new, and don’t be scared of taking a “bad” picture. If you don’t like it, you can always delete it and try something else.
Olive and Goat Cheese Croustades
Yields 10 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
These bite-sized croustades are perfect as an appetizer or snack. The buttery leeks pair perfectly with thangy goat cheese and briney olives! Recipe courtesy Lindsay Olives
- 1 teaspoon unsalted Butter
- 1/4 cup diced Leeks
- 1/4 cup diced Lindsay® Ripe Pitted Black Olives
- 1 (10 oz.) prepared Pizza Dough, thawed if frozen
- 3 ounces Goat Cheese, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh Thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh Oregano
- Heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; sauté 3 to 4 minutes or until leeks are softened. Remove from heat; stir in olives and set aside.
- Heat oven to 400°F. Cut pizza dough into 20 (1/2 oz.) pieces. Shape into 2-inch circles and place on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes.
- Spread each circle with olive mixture. Top with goat cheese; return to oven and bake 5 to 7 minutes. Top with thyme and oregano.
Approx. 109 calories, 5 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 5 grams protein