Art, Cooking, Food, Photos

Food Photography Challenges

Capturing the Light

I’ve been challenging myself with food photography this winter, while the weather is too miserable to get out and find my favorite subjects: bugs and flowers. Taking pictures of food presents a couple of challenges. The first is lighting. Natural light, as I’ve captured in the top photo of berries in sunlight from my kitchen window, is best. In the winter, and more, at the time of day I’m cooking a meal, I have complications… Which brings me to the other challenge. I’m taking pictures while I cook, and of food I’m going to feed us. So I can’t take too long at it, or risk ruining a meal. I’ve come close a few times, with delicate and time-sensitive things like pancakes. And my First Reader is very patient with me fussing over the food before letting him sit and eat.

lighting set-up
My kitchen table, staged for photography.

I’ve been working on setting up lights for when I’m working at a disadvantage to natural light. Above you see a clamp-on light attached to one of my kitchen cupboard doors, reflectors, and the table I do most of my shots on. Little kitchen, not a lot of room to work with. Also, I really need to find a different curtain since that’s my de facto backdrop. My summer curtains are a nice sunshiny yellow, but the heavy curtain helps with heat retention in this old house. Always compromises, and the photography has to work around them.

french bread
Shot of fresh bread with the clamp light and reflectors, plus built-in flash.

I don’t always take pictures of food at home. Sometimes it’s a quick capture of food when we’re out. Like the Mexican place I found at the big flea market, street food and delicious! For this, my cell phone isn’t good enough. For one thing, the phone I currently have stopped focusing properly shortly after I got it, and I haven’t yet figured out if it’s a hardware or software issue. For another, the big camera just takes better shots.

Quetzal Mexican food
Tacos and soda, simple and so good.

I have a neoprene slip case, and the camera fits in my purse, even if the First Reader does tease me about the size of my purse from time to time. I like to have either the DSLR or the point-and-shoot Olympus with me, because you never know when you’ll find something you really want a picture of. Like your impromptu lunch! I don’t take much time with these pictures, when you see the shots I’ve taken in a restaurant they were done as quick snaps, as I feel self-conscious doing this in public. Not as much here, because this was essentially street food and anyway, I was telling the folks who cooked this how good it was.

On the left, lengua, and on the right, barbacoa.

The last thing I’ve started doing is collecting little bits and pieces to enhance the food photos. This includes things like placemats, which I didn’t have, pretty dishes, and garnishes. I can’t do too much of this yet, we haven’t room for much frou-frou in this kitchen, and with a move looming ahead in a mere year or two, I don’t want to have too many things I’m attached to. But they are fun to find at yard sales and flea markets.

Dragon teacup
The red dragon! It could be Beaker from my stories. I found two of these little teacups in a junk shop.

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