Deal 7: How to make money through your photography
A Guest Post by Dario Milano of Food Pixels
Food is in front of us every day – 24/7. On our plates, in magazines, on TV and even on computer screens.
If we are not eating it we are talking about what we just ate or about what we are going to eat! We are what we eat; our diet reflects our lifestyle, our choices and our beliefs.
I am a food photographer and I love my job; but I haven’t always been just a photographer of food… I am actually a qualified chef and I spent 15 years of my life in kitchens around the globe; I love my food and I love to photograph it!
Let me give you 10 great tips for taking mouth watering pictures of food.
Let the food speak for itself and tell its story. I am bored with seeing pictures of strawberries, but I haven’t seen as many pictures of custard apples!
Is there something about the food or dish before you that has caught your attention, what was it? is it its shape or is it the texture? Answer this and you’ll know if you are going to need a hard or a soft light, answer this and you’ll know which angle is gonna be best to photograph your subject from. Let the food inform your approach to photographing it.
Is it colourful and vibrant? Food is the king, select props and background that complement your food without being overwhelming; keep an eye out for contrast.
Explore and experiment: the best shot is often not the one you planned.
I can never stress enough how crucial this is. A tripod will reduce to almost zero any chance of camera shake and will allow you to take longer exposures – which is handy in low light situations – i.e. restaurants and bars with dimmed lights.
White Balance (WB) – every modern camera, even point and shoots, have a control for WB, so use it. Sometimes an orange cast makes for a warm and intimate mood but sometimes it’s just annoying. Besides this, the white balance control can be used as a creative tool; just explore the different options.
Generally speaking, shallow depth of field works very well with food because it isolates the main subject against the background – drawing the viewer’s attention straight to it. If I had to recommend just one lens for food photography, it would be a 50 mm f 1.8: it’s small and light, it’s not expensive. It’s a fast lens and can be used for any other type of photography too.
Sometimes less is more, especially when food is the hero.
Don’t rely too much on Photo Shop to correct mistakes; post processing should only take between 2 to 5 minutes per image.
i.e. take shots of the lighting set up, shots of backgrounds and props. Take notice of your mistakes, let others inspire you and seek other people’s feedback. Amen!
Ah… one more thing, eat the props!!
Check out more of Dario Milano’s work at Food Pixels.
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June 6, 2013 01:27 am
Hallo, great tips!! I did a international photography course about a year ago( with exams and all that) and would love to only do food photography. I go through endless amounts off information through DPS, but would like to really learn food photography.
Is there perhaps a accredited course in food photography that i can do with something to show for it in the end?
Looking forward to hear from you.
September 8, 2012 12:17 am
So only once I tried food Photography. I pictured a sandwich with my kit lens and was pretty impressed with the result :)
September 7, 2012 04:05 am
Sure, that 50mm f1.8 Canon lens is excelent if the subject is there waiting for you and you already set the illumination as is the case here.
But if there is low light or the subject is moving it's another story.
In my Canon 40D, if I choose only the center point for autofocus in relatively low light, the lens fails to focus, is strange, may be only my copy.
September 4, 2012 12:54 am
I read this back in 2010. The food still looks fresh and delicious!! As to the lens, I like my 50mm f1.8 a lot.
September 4, 2012 12:31 am
This might be subtle or it could just be me, but food pictures taken in portrait mode always looks more delicious than those taken in landscape.
September 3, 2012 03:07 am
Delicious food my grand mother's preparation :)
May 13, 2012 09:10 am
I truly appreciated this gorgeous weblog. Make certain you maintain up the excellent function. Finest Regards .
March 11, 2012 01:00 pm
i am really impressed with the tips and i did not know before that i was using one of the camera angles for shooting the pictures of the food. it really works...
August 16, 2011 06:57 am
Really good advice. My mom's a chef and I'll be sure to use it.
March 28, 2011 12:19 pm
"Choose fresh and locally grown ingredients"
This is a great tip. Fresh is obvious and essential as anything less will make your job that much harder. I really like the idea of locally grown ingredients! Trying to replicate a recipe and finding out that some obscure ingredient is not available to you can be frustrating. Fantastic post.
March 18, 2011 05:10 am
I am in middle of arranging a photo shoot for a local bakery. They'll be using the pics on a display in store and I will be taking pics while the products are still on shelf.
I suspect that I'll be taking a fair amount of shots, but don't know what I should charge. The owner mentioned that she might want me to come back periodically to take shots of new product as its shelved... any help would be appreciated.
March 5, 2011 11:30 am
one of the things i have found that has helped me a lot is to search around for images i really like and then try to recreate them if i can. mostly just for practice. i don't normally share those images (not tryin to plagiarize, just see if i can do what they did...) but if i did one that was really good then i know i can change it around and make it my own!
and "feeling" the frame is different than "filling" the frame :)
January 13, 2011 06:03 pm
lol... You gotta love the ability to eat the props... something us portrait photographers certainly can't do.
December 6, 2010 01:01 am
your photo made my mouth water, so clear, so inviting which is bad for me because i'm on a diet.
November 27, 2010 09:24 pm
Ooops, didn't include the image. Hope this works.
[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/25154062@N02/5197919385/' title='Apple cake' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4089/5197919385_8a1e693237.jpg']
November 27, 2010 09:22 pm
I've been experimenting with food photography. This is my latest effort - apple cake.
August 15, 2010 06:32 pm
Great advice. I made 2 big mistakes this week, but still uploaded them to remind myself that less is more and not to shoot something that has a dark color, against a dark background. The best advice I found in this article though was the part about white balance. I will keep that in mind the next time s place uses mood lighting.
August 14, 2010 06:08 pm
I'll try a couple more...
[eimg url='http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg67/zooloader/Fun%20Stuff/Lecesbirthdaybrunch.jpg' title='Lecesbirthdaybrunch.jpg']
[eimg url='http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg67/zooloader/Fun%20Stuff/Lecesbirthdaybrunch_1.jpg' title='Lecesbirthdaybrunch_1.jpg']
August 14, 2010 05:58 pm
My sister-in-law's birthday brunch last weekend had tons of scrummy stuff to eat, I felt I had to at least try and capture it for posterity!
August 14, 2010 07:08 am
August 14, 2010 04:11 am
I was inspired by your pictures and I gave it a try to shoot some shrimps.
August 14, 2010 03:46 am
oops, I did send responce to wrong place - sorry
August 14, 2010 03:45 am
In the week I visited the area that came covered with volkano ash this spring. The vegetation has come far to take over and the Icelandic common bluberries thrived very well. They looked perfect and tasted eaven better. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/anna_soffia/4888733468/' title='The common wild bluberry - Vaccinium uliginosum' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4134/4888733468_6264f73ce7_z.jpg']
August 13, 2010 03:44 pm
Hi Lauren, I wouldn't throw away a very expensive macro lens if I had one, they are fantastic for food photography; with a macro lens it's a complete different type of photography, the lighting changes, the composition changes, the background becomes less important, it's all about the food, and it's all about details.
I took a lot of photos with a Sigma 105 mm 1:2.8 which is definitely another lens I recommend for those who want to experiment a bit more without having to sell the house….
But the 50 mm f1.8 is very versatile as we said and does a lot of things for you :-)
August 13, 2010 04:55 am
Hi Dario, thanks so much for this article. I have assisted on quite a few food photography shoots and I've been wanting to get into it myself for a while. I thought I would have to buy an expensive macro lens but I'm glad to hear that a 50mm will do the trick! I've been wanting to get one for portraiture so I'm glad to hear I can use it for food too. Thanks again for your tips!
August 13, 2010 02:24 am
I will be shooting food this weekend with a Canon 50mm 1.2 - sublime lens....
August 13, 2010 01:59 am
A very infomative article.But for practising ,I cannot save. Is there any other way tosave.Pl.advise, if you respond. Thanks.
August 10, 2010 10:15 pm
This is great. I've taken a couple good food shots here and there, but I attribute that more to the food itself looking SO good than anything else. :) I will definitely try these tips out. So far I have not mucked with the white balance a whole lot, because for some reason it's been a little intimidating. Any extra tips on that aspect would be much appreciated -- I've never really gotten it to work the way I'd like.
August 10, 2010 09:04 am
@mattew blassey : it's all dslr work….so far; but I like medium format cameras and have been tempted to purchase one for quite some time!
August 10, 2010 08:57 am
@Kirstine Vergara Thanks for your comment and for adding to the post; you're right, never shoot on an empty stomach!
August 9, 2010 06:24 pm
Great article! I used to work in a advertising photography studio and food photography had always been one of the most tedious projects we've done. Why, because it took more time to shoot food rather than talents. I have a few tips I've learned during my stay there:
- Bring extra products so you can choose the best one.
- Have something to enhance the food. E.g. olive oil to make the food look like it was just cooked.
- Do not shoot a product on an empty stomach. Since you're hungry, you might not be able to know if the shot is really mouthwatering or not because your mind is telling you that you want food.
August 7, 2010 03:07 pm
Picture of a custard apple 8D
Very good tips.
August 7, 2010 12:23 pm
@Mei, yes it is a octopus salad gently pressed into a mould and then plated :-)
August 7, 2010 11:06 am
I’ve never had the luxury of working with a food stylist; if you aren’t well-known, you will most likely take on this role yourself. While I lack the massive collection of props that a professional stylist would own, I do have at my disposal some place settings, backgrounds, and typically some degree of control over how food is presented. I don’t tend to use stand-ins or other tricks to get the results that I want, but remember that those are available if you need them. Whether I am at home or out shooting at restaurants, I am always challenged to use my on-hand supplies and creativity to create the right mood and draw the viewer in without distracting them.
I'd love for some of the photography enthusiasts’ to visit our site. We have many articles on Digital Photography , Business Photography, Camera Reviews, Photography articles
August 7, 2010 10:37 am
The last photo is that of an octopus dish?
August 7, 2010 04:18 am
I'm so glad you suggest eating the food when you're done. I know a lot of food photographers rely on inedible food to get the "best" shots... but you really don't have to go that rout every time. Shrimp can look mouthwatering without a glaze of motor oil!
I was a professional fine dining cook for years and I know if food can make it from the kitchen to the table and still look fantastic, it can look great in photos too. Loved this post. Thanks!
August 7, 2010 03:55 am
Dario, do you tend to shoot all of your food assignments with a dslr or do you also use a medium format camera to produce that tilt shift focus ?
great samples of work !
August 7, 2010 03:52 am
I take food pictures in restaurant kitchens frequently. I just did a set at The Publican in Chicago:
For my shoots, which are normally very fast paced, there is no option of using a tripod though I would agree with it being the first choice for food photography. I also tend to like catching a shot of the food just as it is - as it would be served to a guest - and not terribly over-styled.
White balance is my other largest challenge. I tend to fix it post-shoot and should take more time to learn how to use all of my camera settings. I admit to being a novice and needing to spend more time at the controls (partly why I read DPS!).
Excellent tips, as always!
August 7, 2010 03:34 am
WHAT is that last thing?
August 7, 2010 03:18 am
A macro lens is great for capturing textures of your food bec you can get up close and personal!
August 7, 2010 02:56 am
What is that last dish? Octopus? Where can I eat it??? Looks delicious!!!!
August 7, 2010 02:24 am
He wasn't talking about the prime 50mm but the cheapest 50 Canon makes. It may not have the best glass, but the f 1.8 is a great lens. The 50mm f 1.2 Prime isn't worth the extra cash if you ask me.
August 7, 2010 02:22 am
Here's a little different take, from the DPS "Fruits and Veggies" assignment.
August 7, 2010 02:20 am
There are a lot of other articles, even on DPS, about food photography. It's a much more extensive subject than I ever realized. DPS had a series of food assignments awhile back.
August 7, 2010 01:30 am
Ah… one more thing, eat the props!!
Best tip ever :D
August 7, 2010 01:06 am
I agree that the 50mm prime lens is a must for food photography. Using suitable props is another important tip.
August 7, 2010 12:50 am
Great post! I've been trying to teach myself about food photography for my blog. I think I'm pretty good at following most of the tips you suggest, but you've convinced me that it's time to pick up a tripod.
And you're right -- definitely eat the props. It's the best part of food photography!
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