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 My Current Food Photography Resources

From April 2012 to March 2013, I used a Canon Rebel T2i as my camera. Since April 2012, I have been using Adobe Lightroom4 to edit photos. My editing software is like putting life back in my photos. Lightroom is much easier to use than Photoshop. I had to learn Photoshop in college, but it took work. Lightroom is my saving grace. I highly recommend it. This Adobe Lightroom Tutorial is a must-have.

Since July 2012, I have been shooting in manual mode (M). All of my photos are taken in natural light. Food photography is all about light. Lighting deserves its post. You can read more about lighting by Lindsay, author of Pinch of Yum. It costs only $19, and the price is very reasonable. This eBook was invaluable. I purchased it last May. It is a great resource I refer to often while shooting.

My camera flash is not used for food photography at the moment. RAW is what I use. I purchased a Canon EF50mm f/1.8 lens in July 2012. It is very lightweight and affordable for its functionality. You can find great deals ranging from $100 to $120. I purchased a Canon EF50mm f/1.4 lens in April 2013. This lens is 50mm in focal length. It does not zoom. It produces sharp images when properly combined with 3 important features, such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

For all my photos, I use the Sunpak PlatinumPlus 6000PG 61 Tripod. Sometimes, I have to deal with dim lighting. A tripod is one of my best investments, aside from Lightroom. If you have trouble lighting your photos or keeping them focused, I recommend a tripod that can shoot horizontally and vertically. Food photography is all about the details. It is handy to have two hands for moving a cookie or crumb from one spot to the next, as I use a tripod with a self-2 second timer.

Look at the three main controls you can use with your DSLR.

Three Major DSLR Controls

1) Aperture.

The aperture is measured in F stops (f/2.8). This controls the amount of light that hits the sensor. It controls the size of the aperture through which light passes through the lens. A low aperture allows more light to enter (f/3.5 allows for more light than f/8.0).

You will also get a shallower depth of field if you use a lower aperture. A blurred background is when one object or part of an object is in focus, and the rest is blurred. Bokeh is a blurred background. A low aperture is my preferred setting for food photography. Depending on the subject, I go at least f/3.5. In most cases (practically all cases), I shoot at about f/4.5.

These are my Confetti cake batter cookies. These photos were taken at 12 pm on a sunny December day. The aperture for the photo to the left is f/3.5. I wanted to focus on the only cookie at the front, or most of it, and blur the sprinkles. I had to reduce my aperture.

The right photo was taken at f/7.0. For the overhead shot, I wanted to focus on most of my cookies. Although I could have increased the aperture, I am happy with how it turned out.

You need to have a lot of light when you shoot photos with a large aperture. This is because the “hole” through which light passes through the lens is smaller.

Below is a picture of my Chocolate Chip Cookies. The entire tower of cookies needed to be focused (remember, a larger aperture means more of the photo is in focus). This required me to take a step back from the subject and increase my aperture to f/8.0. This was a difficult shot that took me nine attempts to get.

To get the cookie tower more in focus, I increased the aperture and had to reduce my shutter speed to compensate. Next, more on shutter speed.

Below is a picture taken one year ago of the same cookies. This photo was taken with my iPhone 4 in natural lighting. There was no editing, poor composition, tightening, or styling. Sally, try to get away from your subject!

2) Shutter Speed.

 Shutter speed refers to the time that the shutter is open. Aperture speed and shutter speed are best friends. You must adjust both the aperture and shutter speed to adjust the other. Aperture is the measurement of the aperture, which indicates the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to pass through. The camera’s shutter exposes the sensor to light for a specific time. The shutter speed can be expressed in seconds or fractions thereof. If your shutter speed is “1/125 seconds”, your shutter is open for one hundred and twenty fiveths of a second. A shutter speed of 1 is one second.

The fraction with a larger denominator will speed up faster (1/500 is faster than 1/30).

A good exposure requires that your shutter speed and aperture are aligned. Even if the aperture and shutter speed are aligned correctly, I still need to adjust the brightness or depth of the photo in my editing program.

How can I change the shutter speed and aperture in manual mode? Look at the manual of your camera. You can adjust the shutter speed or aperture on most DSLR cameras by turning the dial at the top. This user uses M mode (manual), 1/400s shutter speed, and f/5.6 aperture. Is that the dial between the two 1s in the red circle? The shutter speed and/or aperture were adjusted to ensure a decent exposure. Decent is what I mean. My photos are too bright or dark even though the dial is at the center. I sometimes move the dial to one side or the other to get the exposure I want. This is how Amanda explains it.

3) ISO. 

ISO indicates how sensitive your camera is to light. 100 is low, and 3200 is high. The lower your ISO setting, the more sensitive your camera is to light. Finer grain will result. For dark settings, a higher ISO setting will allow for faster shutter speeds. However, this can lead to a noisy or grainy photo. White on Rice Couple explains ISO in detail.

When I first started using my DSLR, I can still remember. It was set to 2400 (!!!) I took a photo in the afternoon of a cupcake in my dark room. This was before I had a tripod and used the kit lens. Kevin saw that the ISO was 2400 and asked if I was using the darkroom. To get a better photo, I had to increase my ISO. I could have simply adjusted my shutter speed or aperture, but I didn’t know what I was doing. The result is noisy and has a lot of grain in the background.

The ISO number is 2400. You can see how grainy the background looks.

At the moment, ISO 100 is my limit. This results in a crisp, clean photo that is hardly affected by noise. Because I use a tripod and shoot in bright sunlight, I can go as low as possible. Unfortunately, the weather has recently made me a victim. Three weeks ago, it was snowing when my Salted Triple Chocolate Cupcakes were taken. The lighting was soft, almost too soft. It was gray and dull. The subject was a monotone light brown. No matter my shutter speed, my camera lens wouldn’t focus at 100 ISO. I had to raise the ISO to 400. The photo below shows very little grain.

These are the three main features of your DSLR. These are just a few additional features I love to include in my whole food photography package. These are items that can be done even without a DSLR.

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