The other day, fellow blogger Jenna suggested I write about my setup for taking food photos. Considering Jenna is an *actual* photographer, whereas I learned fairly recently by fiddling around with my camera dials, I wasn’t sure how much insight I could provide. But if any of these tips will make taking photos easier for y’all, I’m happy to share!
First, let me walk you through some of the challenges I often face when taking photos:
1. Tiny Apartment Kitchen
I know, for a kitchen so tiny, I sure talk about it a lot. While my kitchen is quite typical for NYC (especially Manhattan) apartments, it is probably smaller than most kitchen pantries in the rest of the United States. My kitchen also has an interesting feature that adds another layer of complexity – the pass-through. The intended purpose of the pass-through is so that one could “pass through” all the wonderful dishes one cooks to the dining area (that’s right, it’s not big enough to be a room. It’s an area). Considering I usually eat in front of the TV, all the pass-through does for me is provide you a lovely backdrop of my pile of mail or my front door when I’m trying to take photos of ingredients.
Another challenge about my kitchen is its lack of natural light. As many photographers and books “For Dummies” (yes, I own one) will tell you, and what I’ve learned since I started taking photos, is that natural light is AWESOME for photos and artificial light kinda STINKS. Well, especially for someone like me who’s just an amateur. Some people wish for a kitchen island or double-stacked ovens. I wish for a window.
2. Limited Natural Light Time
Again with the natural light. I am thankful I have a full-time job – hey, girl’s got bills to pay, you know? However, one tiny downside to this is that by the time I get home, the natural light available for me to take photos is quickly waning. During the winter, when it gets dark at 4:20pm, fuggetaboudit!
3. No Professional Photographer (Besides Myself)
Haha – I’m only partially kidding on this one. While the majority of my photos are of food, there are rare occasions where I’d love to include my hands in the picture – for example, this shot from my Artichokes 101 post:
I know, it’s not practical to have an actual real-live photographer with me at all times for these silly photos. But a girl can dream, right?
Now that I’ve gone all Krissy Komplainer on you, I’ll share some tips, including how I get around the above constraints. But first, this is my typical set-up. A low bookshelf in my living room, with a pillow for my old-lady knees and a bright, sunny window. Pretty rudimentary, right?
1. Take Advantage of Natural Light
I take a boatload of photos on the weekend, when I have hours of natural sunlight. I can’t emphasize enough the effect this has on my photos! Wake up early, if that works for you. Weekends are great. And if you work from home, what are you waiting for?? This is also the reason I sometimes carry my ingredients from the windowless kitchen to the living room (where my best window is). Believe me, I feel ridiculous when I’m making 20 trips back and forth to carry eggs, a lemon and 4 tablespoons of parsley. But it is so worth it – AND it gets rid of my aforementioned “pass-through kitchen background” problem. Although now when you see photos on my blog with that backdrop you’ll know I’m feeling lazy (or it’s nighttime and there’s no use making the living room trek)
Lazy photo from my BBQ Ribs post
2. Make Good Use of Your Camera’s Timer
The above pattypan Magritte photo as well as the first photo in this post were aided by a stepstool and the self-timer on my camera. Pret-ty nifty, huh? Get to know your self-timer – it will help you in your two-hands-necessary times of need!
3. Take Multiple Photos
Especially if you’re using a digital camera. Chances are, your memory card holds hundreds of photos, at the very least. I usually try to take photos playing around with different exposure levels and f-stops, so I can have my pick. In this case, more is more.
4. Keep a Simple Backdrop; Dress It Up with Accessories!
White plates AND backdrop for my salted caramel brownies post
There you have it – as you can see, my photo setup is fairly rudimentary, but it works for me (for now). One day, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have a windowed kitchen, ha! Until then, it’s back and forth between the kitchen and living room I go. Any photography tips you’d like to share?
Hopefully this has provided you with some ideas on taking food photos! If there’s anything else you’d like to know more about, such as other behind-the-scenes tidbits of Big Apple Nosh or taking photos in restaurants – comment below and let me know!