Why you need good photos to be a good blogger?
Many of us start a food blog without much an idea about what we are exactly headed towards (or is it just me?). When I started blogging I had no clue what food blogging was. I was just randomly posting recipes I loved and took less than edible looking pictures. The more you take part in the community however and encounter a variety of photographic styles on other food blogs – you are faced with two options – get better or continue where you are. And I have respect for both options.
Blogging should always be first
Some just don’t find the element of photography as inspiring and fascinating as others do. And that’s alright. Blogging should always be first and foremost for you. But those of you who are here to share your recipes with the world and you want people to take notice, you need a decent picture. Pictures that will present your recipe and make it look good enough to capture the attention of your reader.
Remember I say decent picture and not a great one. Of course the better the picture the better it is for your blog but, one doesn’t become an experienced food photographer overnight. The goal is to keep in mind when you start a blog or put together a recipe, is taking a picture that makes someone want to eat your food. This is one thing I personally didn’t work on for long time. I’m sure you guys are brighter than me and know this already.
10 Tips to improve your Food Photography and Styling
Here are 10 tips that will help you if you have just started blogging or are just trying to figure out food photography. I have not covered anything on the technical camera aspect but more on the do and don’ts of food styling and basic things to keep in mind when taking a picture.
- FORGET THE FLASH: Whether you are using a point and shoot or a DSLR please don’t take pictures with your camera’s built-in flash. Professionals use external flash in their photography but getting a good shot with the built-in flash is suicidal for your food. Flash makes food look flat and ugly, with a funny color cast and bad contrast.
- USE NATURAL LIGHT: Natural light is an amateur’s best friend. Professionals use both natural light and artificial lights but as an amateur in photography natural light makes taking good pictures a lot easier (and you probably are not eager to jump in and buy artificial lights). Try to find a window in your house which has an ample supply of sunlight and create your set up near that window. What you want is nice soft light, not harsh light that would make your eyes squint.
- SOFTEN THE LIGHT: What happens once you find that perfect spot in your house – depending on the time of day, afternoon, late afternoon, the sunlight will vary considerably. Use a thin scrim (easily available) and stick it up on the window with the help of cello tape. This will soften the light coming across.
- USE REFLECTOR: You know you learned in school how white reflects light? Yeah it’s time to make use of that learning. Say, for example you found the window and set up your food, the side from which the light will be coming may be well lit but the opposite area will be much darker. You also don’t always want both sides to be well lit and a photo without any shadows. Shadows make a picture interesting. The solution is easy, steal the white foam board from your kid or your neighbor’s kid or be decent and go buy a cheap thick white foam board. Place this foam board on the side where you want to fill in light. You will see it reduces the shadows.
- USE LIGHT BACKGROUNDS: White is again your friend here. I personally love dark background photography but it also made me realize it’s much more difficult to get a picture right on a dark background than on a light one. It’s not easy to master the art of perfectly white and dreamy pictures but generally lighter backgrounds are easier to deal with. They naturally make food look cleaner and it’s easier for the eye to focus on the food when there is white space around it.
- USE WHITE PLATES: Of the many articles I have read – even the best photographers keep saying ‘white is never out of fashion’ White plates are like the little black dress of the fashion world. Again it makes the food stand out, when your plate is white you can add one element of color in the picture like a napkin or cutlery and you can get a decent picture. As a beginner try to avoid glass or other reflective surfaces.
- DECLUTTER: This is debatable but it has worked for me. When I started to get a little more serious about food photography, I started to focus on the food and plating itself rather than thinking of additional props for styling. Sure, props and styling adds a lot of interest and unique dimension to a picture, but when you are just trying to get started, its helps to go simple. The most essential part of food photography is always the food and you need to get it right. Slowly, as you learn you can start adding props and other elements to your pictures.
- APERTURE PRIORITY: I have recently started playing around with the manual mode on my camera but I used AV mode most of time prior to that. These days many of the P&S have auto, AV and manual mode. Auto mode in layman’s language is where your camera decides all the setting for you – how much light will be in the picture, how much and where the focus will be etc. AV mode which should be of particular interest to amateurs is where you and your camera become friends and decide to make the picture together. It allows the photographer to choose an aperture setting and allow the camera to decide the shutter speed.
- LESS IS MORE: Even though I have said above that styling comes after having learned the basics, it’s good to know that you don’t plate your food for a picture the way you do when you are eating it. What I mean is the portion of food needs to be smaller than what would be on actual plate. Having too much food on the plate will take away from the beauty and focus on textures of the food.
- READ, GAZE & PRACTICE: Remember that everyone’s learning curve is different. Once armed with some basic knowledge, I suggest you read about photography every day. Visit blogs, food sites like tastespotting and food gawker and your favorite food photographer’s portfolios and analyze how they might have gotten the shot. Try to recreate the photos with similar setups. Read, gaze and practice, this is the only real way to get better. Some learn slowly (aka me) and some of you will learn faster, it’s important that you enjoy the process and not get discouraged.
Must Read Food Photography and Blogging Resources
As a blogger I’m learning a lot these days and in my process of learning I came across a friend Dario at Food Pixel. It’s a great source of inspiration and perfect for amateurs like us as Dario covers many aspects of food photography from basics to styling.
Learn Food photography run by the talented G and Neel is another blog site you should check out. From write ups to interviews with great photographers, the website is a gold mine of knowledge and hearing the stories and experiences of well established photographers always leaves me inspired.
Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen has write-ups on food photography which I enjoy reading immensely. From basics to type of camera choices, she covers a wide range of topics. The more you read and practice, the more confident you will be with your camera. Happy shooting everyone!