Recently I was lucky enough to get the chance to be paid to go to restaurants and take photos of their food for a popular food delivery service so that those photos could be featured in the App’s online menus. At that time I had never deliberately used my skills in photography to take pictures of food, but set off on a Saturday morning to the local Fort Collins Wing Shack with a close friend and coworker to take some pictures. Here’s some things I learned both during the shooting process and post-processing that might be helpful:
1. White Lighting
When shooting large amounts of predominately orange food I found myself wanting to accentuate that orange and make it pop; make it look interesting and demand attention. What I realized later on during post processing is that even though the light I was using was mostly white, it would have been better to turn any warmth in that light all the way down. Frequently there’s white background such as paper or a table, and when that white should look clean and crisp (white lighting) but looks orange, it gives off a little bit of an unclean vibe. Having bright white lighting when shooting and correct white balance in-camera during the shoot will save a lot of time in post.
Too Orange Correctly Balanced
2. Depth of Field can be Too Small Sometimes
Since several members of the Student Video Productions team were all working on various parts of this project, on a couple of occasions there were photos I had to edit which I hadn’t taken. (I really enjoy this process which is lucky.) But a few of the photos had a very shallow depth of field. While this did manage to do a couple of things successfully (i.e. Make the food look larger and give the feel of a macro lens), it did feel very limiting when only roughly 1cm of a cookie was in focus. Closing down the aperture and widening the depth of field, then backing up and zooming in can still give a “macro lens” feel without making too much of your subject blurry, and saving the texture of the food.
2b. Workarounds in post:
When working with something organically shaped such as food, the distortion tool can occasionally be your friend. When used sparingly, the problem mentioned above can be minimized even after the photo has been taken by using the distort tool to enlarge parts of the image that are in focus, while also making the food look somewhat larger.
Geometry Tool for Distortion
Original Distorted to Enlarge
Original Distorted to Enlarge
3. Play with the Vertical Dimension and Perspectives and Use Them to your Advantage
The client specifically asked for a banner image of a bunch of the food on one table. Initially this seemed simple, but after setting up a table with nicely organized entrees and desserts and sides, we realized that it didn’t look good as an image despite good lighting. After experimenting for a few minutes we discovered that a high angle of the table could include all the food, but the contents at the front were still blocking those at the back. I requested from the wait staff some small cups of ranch and some more carrot sticks and began propping the dishes at the back up, tilting them towards the camera and elevating them above the food in the front. Even though this looked ridiculous in person, it leveled out the image, and when standing back and zooming in a little, the food all looked neatly organized on the table. Cool trick.
4. Take food with you.
Chances are the food is either cold by now or was always cold just for a photo shoot, but ask for it anyway. My coworker took home probably $80 dollars worth of chicken wings for free and just reheated them later. Awesome lunch.
Here are the photos from todays post, and a few extra: