Food Photography isn’t rushed
One of my favourite things to shoot (for some very good reasons) is a carefully created food dish by a good chef or cook. One of the reasons for this is the amount of control the photographer has over the subject matter. A well thought out dish designed by another professional in their field allows you to concentrate on the photography itself.
In food photography the dish doesn’t have insecurities, bad hair or skin and doesn’t have another meeting to rush off to — as can happen in corporate photography. Although I work quite quickly I really do hate the feeling of being rushed. With food you don’t have to talk to it and if you need to adjust for a different perspective it’s simple, although you do have to work with the chef as some dishes can be very delicate.
The challenge of food photography really does rely on an understanding of good exposure. I say this because a great looking dish has many different exposure qualities on the plate, for instance, chilli con carne — a very dark beef recipe surrounded and contrasted by very bright white rice. If you are not careful you can easily under expose one of the elements and over expose the other. In these cases there is no real set way to deal with the situation as every dish is different and I have to use my experience but what i am looking for is a happy medium. Sometimes, if time permits I will switch off the soft boxed studio lights and use the ambient light especially if the restaurant is well lit during the day. One technique is to put the food next to a window and use a reflector, if that’s what the dish requires. Shooting just one way all the time is never quite the answer if you want professional results.
Next stage is creative cropping which can help if you are struggling with certain hot spots on the plate. I tend to crop in with the lens instead of doing it in post production, but I make sure there are a wide range of different shots before finishing the food photography shoot. Zooming in close with a macro lens can cause you a depth of field issue, so it’s extremely important to keep an eye on what you’re focusing on. It could just be the garnish on top of the dish or something small but has a nice complimentary quality that catches the eye. Remember to still take your ‘safety shots’ as a backup in case your ‘artiness’ doesn’t quite work. It happens in food photography!