Guest Post: Alaska from Scratch
Why, Hello Lidy! Thank you for inviting me over. Such a privilege. Behind the camera is one of my favorite places to be and I’m thrilled to get to share about it with you and your readers.
People often ask me if I did any photography before I became a food blogger. My answer is, “Only if years of photographing my children counts as photography!” And let me tell you, food photography is a completely different animal. In some ways, it’s easier – the food sits still and children… well… don’t. But in many other ways, it’s more difficult to photograph food. Many a stunning plate has never been posted on the blog because of a failure to capture a decent photograph; there is nothing more frustrating. I’ve learned an awful lot since I became a food blogger and I’m here to share some of what I’ve learned with you – because we all want our food to look as mouth-watering and captivating on the screen as it does on our table.
Hopefully you’ve already heard not to use flash in food photography. I know it’s tempting, but don’t do it. Ever. Natural light is the best for food because it makes the food look…. natural, which makes it more appealing to the eye. Remember, we eat with our eyes first.
In Alaska, there are some times of the year – like summer months – when we have more daylight than we know what to do with. The sun goes down at midnight and pops back up at 4am – a food blogger’s dream come true. Conversely, in the winter months, we sometimes only have 4 hours of full daylight to work with. This is when I have to get really, really creative:
Find the Best Natural Light in Your House - More often than not, it’s not found in your kitchen, where you are most likely to be photographing food. The best light in my house is in my dining room, where we have big open windows and no trees casting shadows from outside. I do a vast majority of my food photography there. To find your best light, make a plate of food, photograph it in different rooms in your house (don’t forget to pull up the shades and pull back the curtains), and compare photos. The best light is in your master bathroom? Stage your food photography there. Seriously. Don’t forget to try outdoor spaces like your porch or balcony. Also, try photographing in different places at different times of the day. You may find that there’s better light in the stairwell in the morning and excellent light in the bedroom in the evening.
What if I do all my cooking and baking at night or live in a house that doesn’t have good natural light? Consider making a DIY Lightbox. I’ve already got my hubby, Pastor Alaska, working on one for next winter when I don’t have enough daylight.
DANCE AND CLICK
Don’t be afraid to look completely and utterly ridiculous while photographing food. You’ve worked so hard to make this plate of amazingness, don’t let it go to waste by being shy with the camera. Photos should not be an afterthought; they’re as important as the food.
Practice Makes Delicious- take lots and lots of photos from every angle – side-lit, back-lit, from up top looking down. Stand on top of a chair, table or countertop to get the best shot, I dare you. Lay down on the floor and get dirty to find the perfect angle. Lean from one side to the other, squat, sit cross-legged, or do a little jig. A lot of it is trial and error. Find your perfect shot. Additionally, take photos at the highest quality your camera will allow. Don’t take the photos at the size that fits in your blog post, but rather, take them at highest resolution and then shrink them down. Invest in a large memory card for this.
Get Cozy – get up close and personal with your food. When we eat, we sit near our plates, we lean in, and we bring food very close to our eyes. Photographs should often do the same thing. Zoom in very close, showing the small, delectable details in your food. Make people want to take a bite of the computer screen. You can also do this by cropping in close with your photo editing software (if your photos are high resolution, otherwise this will make them grainy) or by investing in a macro lens. Close-ups are often the best photos in the batch, but be sure you have a steady hand or a tripod to prevent blurriness.
SIMPLICITY IS THE BEST POLICY
While eye-catching props and pretty dishes can enhance your photos, make sure the focus is your food.
Use What You Have – You don’t need to buy expensive items to achieve great shots – I often use the same exact set of inexpensive white plates and our tabletop or cutting board for my photos. Pull a Mason jar out of the garage or that old wooden spoon from the drawer. It doesn’t have to be complicated. An occasional placemat or pretty napkin (or 1/4 yard of fabric that looks like a napkin, seen below) for a pop of color can go a long way.
The Best Props Are Your Ingredients – need a prop to balance out your photo? Consider the shiny red tomato sitting on the counter leftover from the yummy pasta you are photographing. Food photography begins in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. Pick produce that screams, “Take pictures of me!” and you’ll be well on your way. Buy all your ingredients with photos in mind.
Allow the Food to Represent Your Blog Aesthetic – Here at Alaska from Scratch, I want my food to speak to the overall vibe of my blog – so I go for yummy, approachable, rustic, and distinctly Alaskan elements in my photos. If your blog is whimsical, airy, and trendy then your food and props should be uniquely those things. Try not to confuse your audience by taking photos of food that don’t resonate with the rest of your blog.
Don’t Over Edit Your Photos - a little crop here, a little white-balance there is perfect. Try not to oversaturate and over-enhance your photos. If you need to work really hard to edit your photos, you should probably take a new batch or make the recipe again another day when the light is better. Keep it natural-looking and simple. Your readers will thank you.
What kind of camera do you use? A Canon Rebel T3i. It’s the 3rd Canon I’ve used and I love it. I also have a Canon EF-S 55mm-250mm lens.
What kind of computer and photo editing software do you use? I have a MacBook Pro and I use exclusively iPhoto for photo editing and cropping.
Well that’s all the photo fun for today from the Last Frontier. Your comments and questions are always welcome!
Hugs from Alaska,
Maya is the face behind Alaska from Scratch. She is a wife, a mom of three, a pastor’s wife, and associate pastor, and a food blogger. She lives on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.