Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food Photography: Digital Heartburn from a Bowl of Chili

For years, our business had a web site with a blog on the side. Our site was professional, informative, and well, not exactly cold, but not warm and engaging either. Bored with our static online presence I was looking for something more dynamic. It was time to give our blog center stage. But that meant I was going to need a continual stream of interesting photos for our new show and tell format. 

So I was on the hunt. I read every web site and article I could find on cameras and food photography. I finally decided on an older model Canon EOS 550D with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens. The price was right and the added features of the newer models were not needed for what I was doing.  

But who would have guessed there was so much involved in still life photography. I think my photos are getting better or at least I hope they are. I find I am naturally starting to think my way through how I want to style a dish as I am cooking. But when the time comes for the photo shoot, there is still so much to consider. What dish shows off the food best? Does it need accessories to better cue the viewer about hidden ingredients? Is the light right or are the shadows too dark? Oh, darn, is that frig in the background too distracting? The list seems to go on and on.

So I have been practicing by taking photos of all the dishes we make in the kitchen for the farmers markets. These won’t necessarily be added to the blog but I can use them as marketing tools. 

The shoot the other day included Three Bean Lamb Chili, one of my favorites. This dish is full of great ingredients including a stout beer. My kitchen window has the best light, so I snapped the shots there and then ran to the office to download the photos. It had been a busy day so after a quick look, I returned to the kitchen and finished cleaning up. It wasn’t until later that I sat down to review each photo. 

I had simply spooned the chili into the bowl, not really moving any of the ingredients around preferring a more natural look. Or so I thought. But then I began to really look at all the photos. How is it that all the tomatoes are on one side of the bowl and all the kidney beans on the other? I mean, how is that possible! It’s hardly noticeable from the front shots, but my favorite shot, of course, is an overhead picture that clearly shows my blunder. Ugh! 

It wasn’t a total loss, as I’ve unquestionably learned the most from my less than successful photos. For example, never, ever rush. Take a breath if necessary, and just enjoy the moment. And always take an extra minute to focus on each of the different elements of the photo.  

Who knew there would be so much to see thru the lens.

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