Hi Roger, food blogging has the steepest learning curve! Sometimes it feels like every day I’m waking up facing a wall of what I have to learn. Just keep plugging along. This is about the journey. Incremental improvements really do add up over time!
Wonderful post. I love your first video on your youtube channel. Did you find the video capabilities on the DLSR easy to work with? We were considering that route but opted for a canon xf-100 for our videos (which we are still learning!). I love the idea of the dual process of excellent photos and filming. Love your food photos by the way!
Video works great on the 5D Miii!
Thank you for this post! You take lovely pictures and I love the way you organize your website. Kudos to you!
I would also suggest another camera: the Panasonic Lumix 7. It has excellent macro capabilities and even has a setting for food photographs. It runs about $400.
Thank you so much Elise for posting this! I always pick up something great when I see how others have their photography stations set-up. I have a food blog as well; http://www.natashaskitchen.com. Your photos are always beautiful and I’m in love with your beautiful supply of dishes! I feel like I’m just getting started with my collection.
Lightroom is great for editing photos…so much you can do with it. I like natural light too, but flash is not the enemy. I have a Nikon D5100 and it allows me to control how much of the on camera flash I use. Go to the menu and look for bulb settings and then you can adjust the flash strength.
Besides white poster board, you can also use a white bed sheet to reflect light or to drape over a window to elect natural light. Sometimes, depending on the lighting you can use a sheet at the window and then white poster board on a side to bounce light.
I enjoyed this article and went back to older recipes. Yep, there are the props and backdrops. Even the stack of plates had some of the recipes/dishes in them. And, it proved to me that you actually cook everything you photo! At least, that’s the appearance. And I believe it to be true because your recipes are all so pleasantly described. I have found many, many new favorites and “keepers” from your site, and I thank you.
Thank you, Elise, for taking the time and sharing all these great tips!
A photographer friend of mine uses ACDSee when traveling and says she recommends it to anyone who desires great photo editing software without spending a fortune: http://www.acdsee.com
Thanks Elise for sharing this fabulous and greatly informative post! I especially appreciate learning what lenses you use. I’m bookmarking this to go back and look at the many links you’ve shared. I’m so eager to improve my photography every chance I can. Thanks for all the help you’ve offered here! (and your photos are beautiful!)
Your photographs have always been so tasty, and your props are really spectacular.
Every time I see one of your recipes displayed on that gorgeous blue Valencia plate, I check eBay to see whether there might just be one available at a reasonable price. So far it hasn’t happened, but it certainly keeps me coming back for the recipes!
Hi Marion, I think with that pattern one has to redefine “reasonable”. If I can get a salad plate for $25 I think that’s a great price. I have finally amassed an entire set. The way I did it was by setting up an alert in eBay for that pattern. I also did find a few Valencia plates on Etsy, that were much more reasonably priced than they would have been through eBay, so you may want to check there too!
Great write up on camera’s and light. It is similar to how I feel about cooking – you can turn out great food with less than stellar equipment if your technique is good (and you understand the behavior of your ingredients).
Great article! I’ve been working on going from “not that stellar” to at least not embarrassingly bad (working with a 10 yr old point & shoot no less!). I love these tutorials. Thanks for the list of links and all the great recipes over the years. I’ve “de-glutened” quite a few of them & they’re always a hit with the family.
Get rid of your ten year old camera.
If you insist on a point and shoot, splurge on a Canon
It’s a $700 camera, but figure it’s $70 a year over the past ten years. And you won’t need a new camera for another ten years. So, really, it’s $35 a year or ten cents a day.
Buy a new camera.
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information! I have been dabbling with food photography and you passed along excellent tips and tutorials. Thank you so much!
Thank you for a really helpful post. I do find natural light to be the best but that rules out so much of the day in the winter!
Thanks for this post. Lots of great links, tutorials and such! Bookmarked!
Thanks for the photography tips. I’ve art-directed a lot of food photography over the years and the whole idea about making food an interesting subject and industry is all about having a very creative food photographer and food stylist. In a way it all about presentation. But the proof is in the pudding. [No pun intended]
Just wondering what f stop you would recommend. I am usually too shallow.
Hi Rebecca, it depends on the composition of the shot you want to take, and how much light you have. Sometimes I shoot with the aperture wide open if I’m really hurting for light. Sometimes I want a shallow depth of field for aesthetic reasons. But usually I keep the f stop between 4.5 and 6.3, even though I’m using a lens that will take it to 2.8 if I want.
THanks, I can shoot 1.4 and up depending on the lens, I think I just shoot too shallow because I know I want to blur the background, but I blur too much.
If you are doing a lot of food photography, invest in a tripod so that you can compose your shot and then play with different f/stops.
Alternatively, if you keep the f/stop the same but back off your subject a bit, your depth of field will increase.
In other words, f/2.8 at six inches away from your subject has less depth of field than f/2.8 at three feet. This change is more noticeable with a short telephoto lens…70mm, 85mm or 100mm.
You won’t really see the difference with a 35mm or 28mm.
There’s a long, boring explanation for why this is, but just go with me on it. Use the 24-70mm at 70mm and photograph something (a tennis racket, a shoe, a book) from different distances, same f/stop…three feet, two feet, one foot, on down to the closest possible distance…and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Backing up a bit can solve the “too shallow” depth problem.
Thanks for this post! I’ve just started my own blog and basic trial and error has been my method. The biggest challenge I face is not having any natural light. Most of my cooking is done after work in the evening and especially as autumn is starting to set in, its dark by the time I get home. I’ll see what I can do with investing in a lighting kit!
Google “cowboy studios.” They make inexpensive kits for exactly what you are trying to do.
Here’s one with light bulbs, so you can see exactly what you’re getting. http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Photography-Portrait-Continuous-Umbrellas/dp/B003WLY24O
Here’s one with studio strobes, http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Studio-Monolight-Lighting-Carrying/dp/B002IY98RC
And here’s a very simple softbox that you can use with the flash you already have. http://www.amazon.com/CowboyStudio-Photo-Speedlite-Softbox-L-Bracket/dp/B003C0ZG2W
The trick to food photography is that you want your light to be far away (even with one of these kits, the set up should be moved back several feet) and you want your lens in close.
Keeping the light far away means you’ll get less fall off…easier to control your highlights and shadows.
And as Elise said, you want soft, directional light…window light or a recreation of it.
Thank you, Photo Guy, for these tips and links!
No problem. A couple more thoughts…the camera that Elise uses has a “full-size” sensor. This is a good thing. It is what allows you to achieve the shallow “depth of field” effect where a single point is in focus and the background appears blurred. Here’s an example that I found on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8553482922/
The full-size sensor is also what makes the camera more expensive than an entry level camera body, but it’s worth the extra money. Don’t buy a used 5D mark II. The mark III is a tremendous upgrade for a long list of reasons I won’t go into here. But get the mark III.
The 24-70mm lens Elise uses is the perfect combo with that camera. Shooting at f/2.8 and towards the 70mm end of the lens range accentuates the shallow depth of field effect.
And, again, you want to use light to give shape to your photo. Picture yourself on the face of a clock. You’re at 6 looking at your subject in the center of the dial. Your light source can be at 3, 4, or 5 or at 7, 8, or 9 and with a light kit you can vary the height of the light.
So, say you’ve got a lovely hamburger you’re photographing. Put your softbox off to the left (say, at 8 on the clock face) and above shoulder height. That will allow you to capture the shape and texture of the burger.
All you need is “white light” for a inside shoot etc., Try a high shutter speed with a low aperture and a low ISO-if possbile-, people are so greedy!
I’ve been using a newer camera, the Panasonic Lumix DX 7, for shots of food. With lots of bells and whistles, it has a setting for food photographs as well as great macro lens and has admirable RAW capabilities.
Great post, very informative. I am in the processing of trying to upgrade the photograph quality on my blog and this has been a huge help!
Great post Elise! As someone who is a horrible photographer but desires to be at least less so, this is a very helpful post. Hope all is well!
many of your posts regarding photoing food applies to when I have to shoot our jewelry. Luckily we have the same camera. Your photos have always inspired me to try your recipes.
Elise, Thank you so much for the detailed information and the helpful links to other great photographer’s tips! I’m finally getting around to researching the information I need for my first DSLR, and I find your tip on purchasing the lens separately very helpful. Also, after reading this post, I’m less likely to purchase ‘too much camera.’ Initially I was thinking about a 7D, but I think the Rebel will do the job well. Thanks so much! Christine
Being a digital imaging trainer, I would have to say that you have done very well! The only other pieces of advice I would give to other photographers wanting to do product shots is to possibly invest in a inexpensive lighting kit. You can purchase a relatively inexpensive set of “hot lights” (lights that stay on – much like a lamp – instead of flash) with, stands and color-balanced flourescent tubes for well under a hundred dollars. Diffuse the light with a cloth or plastic panel (you can do this with the much cooler-to-the-touch flourescents) and now you can get consistent results all the time. Using natural light is nice, but often inconsistent (especially for those who live more north!).
And one more thing, unless you are really going to get into color management and adjustment layers, Photoshop Elements 4 is an excellent program (much better than version 1 or 2) with most of the most useful tools (like healing brush, layers, etc.) for a fraction of the price. It also is a little bit easier to use as well. After saying that though, if you plan on getting into photography more seriously, go all the way to Photoshop.
Nice to see someone use good lenses though. :) (the 85mm lens is quite nice as well).
Good job, Elise.
Thank you so much for the tips. I came across your blog when I was looking for some homemade ice cream recipes. I believe it was for homemade peach and your recipe was great.
I too just started a blog (1 post only right now and just launched it before Tnaksgiving). My pictures aren’t that great at the moment and so your tips are excellent. Most of my shots have been taken in the kitchen with normal kitchen lighting and sometimes flash. I don’t have Photoshop yet to “FIX” my photos, so it is on my Xmas list.
Great site and continued succes!!
Wow, this is s helpful because I do have issues with backgrounds and such. I guess I need more wooden cutting boards. :D The natural lighting is a great idea, however, I live in Canada and just right now it’s raining. Not so good for photos. Thanks for the advise, it sure is helpful. Keep up the good work.
I was directed to your site by my friend because of my interest in canning crispy pickles (the ice bath). I stayed on the site because of your photos. What a fabulous job you have done, they are beautiful!!
Kudos to you
Thanks Frances! ~Elise
thanks for the information and tips.
i’m prone to shoot using my digicam, a Panasonic Lumix LX3, as it has fast shutter speed, wide aperture, and works well in low light setting (esp in restaurants). the latter’s important as I blog mostly about my food endeavours all around Malaysia.
though sadly, no setting up can be done, as I’m sure I’ll look silly carrying a big sheet of white cardboard, or props around. :)
Fantastic tips…thanks! I’m very new to this, too. Like you, I hated all the pictures I was taking until another blogger took me aside and told me two magic words: Natural Light.
Thanks for this post…I learned even more. Cheers!
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