Food photography is a topic of interest to any food blogger who wants to make the photos on her blog look professional and stunning.
Bill Brady, professional food photographer, addresses everything food bloggers and those who aspire to a professional career in food photography need to know to take great food photos in his new book More Digital Food Photography from Course Technology PTR, a part of Cengage Learning.
I met with Bill over lunch at Madison & Vine in Manhattan to discuss his book and career in food photography as well as his hints and tips for taking professional-quality food photography for food bloggers. Bill says he doesn’t mind giving away the tricks of the trade. Each photographer has his or her own eye, called the point-of-view, and would all have a different perspective when photographing the same scene.
Bill says the top two important areas in photography are light and composition. When photographing food in a restaurant, he says, the best seat in the house is one near the window where you can get access to natural light. “Food likes to be lit from behind,” he says. Direct sunlight is not the best though. “On an overcast day, the light is perfect,” he says. “Food likes diffused light not harsh light. If you’re sitting outside or by a window, you have a better chance of getting a good picture.” Bill’s biggest no-no is a flash. “Artificial light makes the food look off color,” he says. He recommends purchasing a small diffusion panel–easy enough to fold up and carry in your purse–to use to reflect light off of. Either that, or a white plate held in front of the subject as you photograph.
Composition is the second area to focus on when photographing food. Bill says to move the dish around to find what part of the food looks best. He says if you’re photographing a roll, which he proceeds to do as an example, tear it to show its texture inside, put a pat of butter on a butter knife and lay it across the front of the bread plate to create more interest. “What you’re doing is manipulating the surroundings,” he says. Then decide what angle you will shoot from. “If you want more drama, you shoot from below, looking up at the food. If you shoot from overhead, it’s more graphic,” he says. “You could focus on a particular area and something else becomes a background element.” Bill adds, “Compositionally, the closer you get to the food, the better.”
I take a picture of my dish as I normally would, with a camera phone and flash.
Then I take one with natural light and a close up. (We were seated in the middle of the restaurant, so the lighting was not the best.)
Bill recommends a point and shoot camera over a camera phone. “A good digital SLR is not that expensive,” he says and will last you at least five years.
Bill shoots with a medium format camera. It’s more expensive, he notes, but more professional in terms of the results you get. He also likes shooting manually so he can control every aspect. Starting his career in photography in 1994, he worked with a food photographer and learned the food photography business, which he began doing in 1999. A trip to Italy solidified his interest in food photography. “The food was amazing–the way they presented it,” Bill says. So he shot food on his own and found his niche. His first assignment was to photograph every category of food for Food Emporium. In the last 13 years he has been photographing food, photography has seen many changes–most importantly, the transition from film to digital, and the ways in which that made taking photographs easier.
I recommend checking out Bill’s very cool blog where he pairs his food photography with reader recipes. Also, stay tuned for my review of his book as I start my adventure into food photography for my blog.