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Improving your photography

Submitted by on March 10, 2010 – 5:00 pm3 Comments

For my first guest post on Tastestopping, I thought I’d offer two quick tips for improving your food photography. Now, these tips aren’t necessarily going to get your photos on the other food p-rn sites that shall not be named, but they will make your photos a lot more appetizing with very little effort.

Take a look at these two photos. They were taken with the same camera of the same dish.

Apple Pie Tart, not compelling

Apple Pie Tart, more compelling

That’s the same dessert, the same camera. So what’s different?

We set up a light box. A light box is a must for any food photographer who can’t always shoot in natural light in the middle of the day. (read: most of us with a full time 9-5 job).

Light boxes aren’t expensive. You can make one for about $20-$30. Just pick up 4-5 pieces of foam core from a local art store, some masking tape, and two to four clamp lights. Tape the foam core pieces together to form a box (the bottom piece is optional, though recommended), clamp the lights onto the sides of the box, and plug in. Boom. Instant lightbox. The entire assembly should take less than 30 minutes. The only downside to the assembly is that it’s not easy to take down and set up again, so you’ll need to have a spot to keep the light box. Though if you are a frequent food blogger, your friends and family are probably used to this by now and won’t mind you taking up part of the kitchen table or living room with your photography set up.

My second tip is to learn the art of photo correction. This is particularly important if you have a point and shoot camera without all of the fancy settings and lenses. Take a look at these two photos.

Before color correction

After color correction

Those two photos are the same photo. For the second one though, I cropped it and configured the white balance. If you look at the top of the first photo, that greyish background is actually a piece of white foam core. I opened the photo in a free photo editor, cropped it, and resized it. Then I opened it in Photoshop and used the levels tool, selected the white dropper, and clicked the background. Boom! A color corrected photo that looks significantly better and more appetizing than the first.

I can hear you though. “Photoshop is expensive!” Well, yes it is. I’m lucky to own a copy, but you don’t have to pay for Photoshop. Picnik is an online photo editing site that allows you to make many edits to your photos for free. Premium edits are also possible and a premium membership only costs $25/year. You can also use GIMP, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom… there are tons of different image editing options out there. The main key to image editing is to keep it simple. Correct for white balance. Maybe deepen the color just a touch. Don’t sharpen… it won’t fix photos that get marked as “dark, not sharp” and will usually just make your photo look grainy.  

Lastly, avoid the flash. Using a flash for your photos distorts the colors, creates odd shadows, and just generally doesn’t produce appetizing food shots.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful!

Patricia Eddy started blogging to share her recipes with friends and family. However as she and her husband started shopping more and more at their local farmers markets, she discovered that local food and local farms were her passions. Patricia and John buy more than 90% of their food from the Seattle area farmers markets. In addition to blogging at Cook Local, Patricia and John also own Seasonal Cornucopia, a database of local and seasonal foods in the Seattle area. Soon they hope to expand Seasonal Cornucopia to other regions and release an iPhone app for shoppers and local food enthusiasts.

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