Food Photography is a whole discipline unto itself. There are sites devoted to it, Flickr pools for it, and a whole lot more. As much as I like taking pictures, I only got interested in food photography by visiting cooking websites who employed it well. Having an idea about how beautifully a recipe can turn out before I start really helps me know what I’m going for and I feel a lot more interest in trying things out. Unlike taking pictures of most things, food-tography seems to have it’s own set of rules. If you’re interested, keep reading, and I’ll pretend to know what I’m talking about.
The first thing you might want to think about is what you should take a picture of. Usually it will probably be of the finished product, but you might want to consider pictures of the preparation or ingredients as you cook. One of my favorite sites, the Homesick Texan, does this with great effect.
Another thing to remember is that you’re probably not going to do this the same way the pros do. Creating steam by microwaving cotton balls soaked in water to put behind the food, brushing everything with glycerin to make it shiny, and using stand in materials when the real ingredients wouldn’t hold up (melted ice cream, anyone?) are all part of the act. This is fun, right? If I wanted a job, I’d attempt to get one…
Lighting and staging are also a lot of fun. For the most part, natural light is going to be the easiest and best way to do this. Nothing ruins a picture quicker than being washed out with a flash. If you have to use it, try bouncing it off the ceiling. If all you have is a point and shoot, wait for daylight. If you have inside lights on, especially different kinds, you are in for a world of problems. Remember that flourescent lights turn things greenish and tungsten (“regular”) lights turn things orange. Both together turn things unfixable, so be careful. Natural light solves all of these problems. It is the best way to accurately reproduce color, unless you’re shooting in the blaring mid-day sun, it probably won’t wash things out like your flash (and you can always diffuse it through your curtains or a sheet), and everyone has it, unlike expensive lighting gear.
Trying to make things look attractive is part of the fun. I needed something for this post, so I shot some pizza I made yesterday. Yes it’s cold, but I ate it that way, so it’s fair. I added some ingrediants in the background to put it in context, but each shot is different this way. Some of my favorites pictures are near the end of the cooking process – in the pan, on the cookie sheet, or wherever they might be.
One last thing that comes to mind is your lens choice. For almost everything else, I love my 24-105, but since it only goes down to f/4, it really won’t blur a background too well. This shot was with my 50mm 1.8. It’s a dirt-cheap lens and anyone who has a Canon SLR should have one. It isn’t perfect though. If it was a macro lens that could focus closer than a foot or two away, it would have given me even more options. Someday I’ll upgrade, but for now it will do. Remember – you probably want to focus on the food or some part of it and blur the background. Set your camera to it’s widest aperture setting and play around.