I often get asked photography questions. About what camera I use and how to improve food pictures.
To be honest, I do not feel qualified to answer these questions. Until about 4 months ago, I really only knew how to use a point and shoot camera on an auto setting. That’s it.
It seems silly, really. I grew up around photography. My family has owned a studio photography business my whole life. Its not that they weren’t willing to teach me, I just never showed an interest in it and they weren’t the kind to force their own passion on me.
Now in my adult years I have found my interest in photography through my passion for food. I love to share what I create in the kitchen with the world and I knew I needed better pictures to do that.
So I turned to my best resource, my amazing mother. She has taught me a few really easy and simple tips to greatly improve my photography. I’m sure I will work with her more to learn more advanced techniques in the future but until then here are a few basic tips for those of you who are beginners like me and are wanting to improve your pictures.
#1: Use Natural Light
One thing I do know from growing up in a photography studio is that photography is all about lighting. I remember watching my mom and dad pull huge lights around the studio, adjusting them up and down, and adding reflectors to bounce the light around. It all seemed very complicated, but they seemed to know exactly what to do. So for those of us that do not own fancy lighting, the easiest way to get nice lighting for food pictures is to use the sun light. I know this can get tricky, especially for those of us that work a full time job. But in my personal opinion, if I can’t take pictures with natural light it isn’t worth doing at this point. I also feel like sunlight breaths life into my pictures. It just makes the food look more real and delicious.
#2: Turn Off Your Flash and Utilize Your ISO Settings
This goes along with the same thinking as using only natural light. A camera flash is difficult to control, especially if it is built in. If you find that your pictures are still looking underexposed when using natural light, you can adjust your ISO settings.
In film photography, ISO refers to how sensitive the film is to the light. In digital photography, ISO mimics its function in film photography. Higher ISO numbers are meant for lower light situations. Typically, I try to use the lowest ISO possible for the lighting situation because a higher ISO produces more noise, or graininess, in the picture. But if you find yourself in a low light situation, bump up your ISO and it is essentially like the sun came out.
#3: White Balance Your Camera
One of the biggest things that can make a food picture look unappetizing is a picture that is not white balanced. I still have difficulties with this at times. Typically I leave my camera on “auto white balance.” However, at times the color still looks too orange or too blue. If this happens you can go through the various white balance settings (daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, florescent) until the color looks right. EDIT: When I previously posted I stated to take a picture of something that is true white in your first picture. My mom let me know that this is incorrect. You actually need to take a picture of something that is truly neutral, in other words, grey. This is how the camera white balances. (this is probably why I was still having trouble with this. Thanks mom!) If you are outdoors, you can take a picture of the sidewalk or there are “grey cards” that photographers carry around to pull out each time they white balance. I will probably get one of these, but I’m sure a grey piece of paper would work fine as well.
There you have it. The few simple things I have learned to greatly improve my pictures. My biggest advice is to turn off your auto setting and switch to manual. Even on a point and shoot camera, there are settings you can manipulate that will help you improve your pictures. Play around with it!