I Nailed It (NOT) Food Photography

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I didn’t do a good job of this, but I still want to share my learning experience. It was the first time I’ve ever attempted food photography, and a Coles home brand beef seems to offer an opportunity. It tasted good.

Firstly, I think that my pre photo of the beef before I started cooking was the best of the lot.

Food photography is a fine art.

Those who get it right have got my utmost respect. They need to make sure everything looks perfect. Delicious, succulent, food to fall in love with. That being said, a lot of planning goes into the composition, lighting, working out how to re colour the the images and fix them in post, and lots more. Specialist food photographers (they do exist) are generally attached to marketing agencies that work with cafes, restaurants, and food labels. You know how good the food looks on the label? Well its down to those photographers working in a studio, and spending a day or so rearranging their subject (food) and taking the shots. They also have to be weary on how the labels will be printed, the design of the packaging, and work around that to create something you want to take home.

For me, well, I just wanted to try my hand at photographing a slab of beef.

I used my Fuji XH1 with the 16-55mm F2.8 lens and the Leica MP240 with the 35mm F2.0 Summicron, one of the sharpest lenses around.

Lighting for Food Photography

Well, I opted mainly for natural light. I did this because it is what I like to do, and my kitchen has a large window letting in a lot of light so it made the process easy. I love side light so it was a good choice. That said I also tried out my Leica SF58 flash, at low power. I wanted to keep the shadows open so in many cases slightly over exposed the images.

Working Fast!

The beef bled everywhere when I too it out the oven. Before cooking, that wasn’t an issue and I had the time to try lighting it in different ways and thinking about my composition. But, when it came out the oven it was changing so quickly, and I wanted to try and capture the beautiful steam coming off it too, so rushed things a bit too much and didn’t end up entirely with the shots I wanted. Hence i felt like a contestant on Nailed It!

Cutting and presentation

What is the string on the beef for? I really messed up when I started cutting. But I wanted to try and go for a photograph of layers of cut beef. This is where I should have thought more about pre planning, which is so important in photography: I should have done more to dry the meat before I cut it. Then I would have ended up with better looking shots of the prepared meet on the plate.

That said, I think white was the best choice for the plate. It helped reflect some much needed natural light back onto the food itself.

Post Production

I shot the video on LOG and the photos in RAW DNG giving myself as much latitude as I needed. I wanted to emphasise the succulent red of the meat, and the lush greens of the salad, and the bright yellows of my totally messed up potato wedges. So post colour processing was an important stage.

So is food photography for you?

Firstly, good food photographers can make a lot of money as they are highly sought after. I think the job can be more stressful than fashion photography with a model, as there are so many variables and things can be unpredictable. When you think about it, I reckon the work of a food photographer who does the shots for McDonald’s for example, probably has more exposure than most other types of photography. Certainly seen by so many more people, from many more backgrounds and interests.

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I Nailed It (NOT) Food Photography