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Thread started 30 Dec 2013 (Monday) 17:20
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first try at food photography - C&C please

 
nes_matt
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Dec 30, 2013 17:20 |  #1

Hi all,

This is my first try at food photography. I'd love a little feedback. I'm prepping for a shoot in a couple of weeks for a friend of mine who wants to make a start as a personal chef and needs some material for attracting clients. These were both shot with Canon 6D and 85mm/F1.8 at F5.6 ISO100. Shot on a tripod and wirelessly tethered.

IMAGE: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2870/11653627244_f5a729e652_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …59191886@N04/11​653627244/  (external link)
Guacamole (external link) by MCG Photo (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3763/11654033136_a02c8cfa8d_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …59191886@N04/11​654033136/  (external link)
Peppers (external link) by MCG Photo (external link), on Flickr

Thanks,
Matt

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dotcodotuk
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Dec 30, 2013 17:57 |  #2

Are these all your own work or have you had input on styling from your chef friend? Either way, they are both terribly cliched and dated, although technically-speaking they're not bad and as a first step it's certainly one in the right direction.

In the first you've made the classic 'mistake' of not thinking about your background and there's a whole heap of wasted space and the foreground is far too crowded as a result. The water droplets are an unnecessary addition (they don't make food look fresh - hasn't worked for years) and your choice of ingredients doesn't work together as a concept - the avocado sticks out like a sore thumb.

That said, it's nicely lit, there's good colour and everything looks and feels fresh and ready to cook with. I'd prefer softer shadows and a single light-source for the highlights, but that might just be me.

The second shot is equally as cliched as the first, although this time you've got something in the background - it's just unfortunate that what is there draws the eye away from the peppers. Again, the water droplets don't work (for me, anyway) and I'm not particularly taken with the cloth they are sat on, but the lighting seems solid enough and there's good textural detail picked out.

My advice to you would be to try and emulate some food photos you really like the look of for your next step and work out between yourselves what your 'hit list' of shots is going to be and how you're going to approach the styling. Keeping it simple might well be the order of the day here, although that's really going to come down to the wants and needs of your 'client' in this instance.

Whatever the case, if your friend is a personal chef, you're going to need finished dishes, not ingredient shots, and there's no reason you can't mock up the shot without the food in just to get a feel or how things need to sit and where you're going to shoot from - the food itself can come later!




  
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nes_matt
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Dec 30, 2013 18:24 |  #3

These are entirely my own work in my kitchen.

thanks for the frank feedback. I've been pouring over flickr and some food blogs and bought a book ("plate to pixels") to do some research.

I picked the green avocado as a complimentary color to the red tomatoes, though it is a little dark.

In #2 I can see how the dark items in the background might be too much. If I tone those down with something lighter color it might help.

Mostly what I was after in these was understanding the light in food photography as I have done zero before this. I'm sure it will be different with prepared foods, but this is a start.

Whatever the case, if your friend is a personal chef, you're going to need finished dishes, not ingredient shots, and there's no reason you can't mock up the shot without the food in just to get a feel or how things need to sit and where you're going to shoot from - the food itself can come later!

that's good advice, but unfortunately I don't have the dishes that will be used. The menu is not set, but it will be mostly Korean foods. I'm intending to work with the chef to reserve some produce and spices for use as garnish, etc. My strategy will be to start shooting "bare" then build with garnishes. That way if I go too far I'll have the shot before I went too far.

When you say cliche, do you mean:
1) subjects?
2) Styling? (I know you are not a fan of water drops)
3) use of DOF?
4) Lighting? (I was shooting by a window with skylights overhead)
5) Composition?
6) all of the above? (LOL!)

Thanks,
Matt


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NewEnglandPhotographer
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Dec 30, 2013 19:29 |  #4

dotcodotuk wrote in post #16565169 (external link)
they are both terribly cliched and dated,

Can you elaborate? I must have missed the new 2013 way to photograph a vegetable... and too bad, because it's almost 2014 and the new way will be old in 2 days!


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OhLook
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Dec 30, 2013 19:38 |  #5

dotcodotuk wrote in post #16565169 (external link)
. . . your choice of ingredients doesn't work together as a concept - the avocado sticks out like a sore thumb.

Well, the title is "Guacamole." Avocado is the main ingredient in guacamole. The avocado should get most of the attention. That avocado, however, is pretty dark for the scene. I would have preferred a cut-up one, maybe chunks in a bowl or at least avocado halves with part of the cut sides facing forward.

But guac isn't a Korean dish anyway, is it? So these shots are practice with food generally. I think they do well for that purpose.


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dotcodotuk
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Dec 31, 2013 06:46 |  #6

nes_matt wrote in post #16565243 (external link)
that's good advice, but unfortunately I don't have the dishes that will be used. The menu is not set, but it will be mostly Korean foods.

The good thing here is that you don't necessarily need the actual food to practice - think about the styling of the shot and all the accessories you'll be using and use something to approximate the food in question.

With Asian foods you're really looking for an evocative setting and lots of incidental detail to go along with the food itself, so if I were you I'd be looking at building an appropriate 'set' and practising like hell to get the lighting right.

Sure, you'll want to also do some 'simple' shots where you've got minimal accessories and styling and the focus is on the food, but again you can practice those without having the actual complicated dish - think of suitable, available substitutes and work up from there.

nes_matt wrote in post #16565243 (external link)
When you say cliche, do you mean:
1) subjects?
2) Styling? (I know you are not a fan of water drops)
3) use of DOF?
4) Lighting? (I was shooting by a window with skylights overhead)
5) Composition?
6) all of the above? (LOL!)

I guess it's probably going to be #6, although I think the lighting and DOF would be fine with the right combination of subjects, styling and composition.

The water droplets thing I will never understand. Perhaps it's a regional thing, but it's never worked for me - if I got a tomato out of the fridge and it was covered in condensation, I'd think my fridge was knackered. Horses for courses on that one though.

As for the composition, it feels very forced and very staged, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve with an 'ingredient' shot of this type. And yes, all food photography is styled (some more than others, naturally) in some way, but you've almost got to think about making it look like something that would either naturally happen in a kitchen setting or not draw attention to any obvious styling choices.

Take the first image as an example. I look at it and think to myself 'what are all those ingredients doing together in one place, all neatly arranged and on a folded knapkin?' and that's broken the spell, as it were, and I'm then looking at it with a highly critical eye.

Now, it's not to say you couldn't have all those objects in a shot, but it's got to look a lot more natural and less staged - like you've wandered into a kitchen and just seen them all there and taken the shot, rather than worked the shot out piece-by-piece.

Does that make sense? Sorry if it doesn't, it's kinda hard to explain.

And look, ingredient shots tend to suck regardless of what you do. They've never been my favourite shots to plan and it's really tough to make them work. The hardest thing with food photography is learning how to style things so they look natural - an oxymoron at the best of times!

ewheeler20 wrote in post #16565376 (external link)
Can you elaborate? I must have missed the new 2013 way to photograph a vegetable... and too bad, because it's almost 2014 and the new way will be old in 2 days!

It doesn't look natural enough and instead of me thinking that it's just a normal scene in an everyday kitchen, I'm immediately thinking 'staged shot' instead of going along with it.

And the water droplets don't help there, as unless I'm missing something, my fruit and vegetables don't tend to sweat!

OhLook wrote in post #16565400 (external link)
Well, the title is "Guacamole." Avocado is the main ingredient in guacamole. The avocado should get most of the attention. That avocado, however, is pretty dark for the scene. I would have preferred a cut-up one, maybe chunks in a bowl or at least avocado halves with part of the cut sides facing forward.

You're not often going to get the luxury of a title with food photography, unless you're working for a magazine or something similar - generally, the shot is going to have to sell itself on its own merits for work such the OP is approaching.

And expanding on what I've said before, and following on from your train of thought, this doesn't seem like a particularly natural set of ingredients for guacamole. You might have one small tomato in a typical recipe, but you'll be looking at easily three or four decent-sized avocados to go along with it - what's in our shot doesn't look or feel right and that's why I'm not buying into it.




  
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nes_matt
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Dec 31, 2013 10:25 |  #7

dotcodotuk wrote in post #16566236 (external link)
...extensive commentary...

Thanks, that is pointed and specific feedback I can take into consideration. As far as being forced: well yes... It's my first time doing this.

You seem to have a lot of background in this, but you haven't shared any of your work in your posts here that I can find. Perhaps you could point us to some of your work that reenforces your points?

Another entry for consideration by the masses (while ingredient shots may not be your thing, they are what I've got):

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5506/11669837763_2298f75ace_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …59191886@N04/11​669837763/  (external link)
IMG_2618 (external link) by MCG Photo (external link), on Flickr

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dotcodotuk
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Jan 01, 2014 06:26 |  #8

nes_matt wrote in post #16566610 (external link)
Thanks, that is pointed and specific feedback I can take into consideration. As far as being forced: well yes... It's my first time doing this.

The single best thing a food photographer can have in their arsenal is a quality food stylist, so your potential partnership with your friend could well prove invaluable if you fancy continuing on with it.

Making the subject look attractive for the photo is where the real skill lies; something that's tough to do in conjunction with the photography side of things when you're starting out.

nes_matt wrote in post #16566610 (external link)
You seem to have a lot of background in this, but you haven't shared any of your work in your posts here that I can find. Perhaps you could point us to some of your work that reenforces your points?

I'm more focused on cooking and food styling than photography these days, but I don't really see how sharing my own work would be of any use when it's not the subject of the discussion at hand.

My background and experience shouldn't make a blind bit of difference to whether you take notice of the points I'm raising and what I have to say on the matter. It's either useful advice or not, regardless of whether I could (or indeed have) done it better myself.

nes_matt wrote in post #16566610 (external link)
Another entry for consideration by the masses

That's a far more 'naturalistic' shot than the previous two, and for me it makes the food seem all the more appealing. The tomatoes really look fresh and inviting, although there's a little too much reflection on them for me.

The only real criticism I have is that there's acres of wasted space in the frame and the coriander really doesn't feel very nice to look at - it's almost too out of focus and manages to draw the eye away, yet doesn't really give it anything meaningful to look at.




  
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first try at food photography - C&C please
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