22 August 2010

Photography Tips: Simon Food Favourites uses a compact digital (22 Aug 2010)

I like my handy point & shoot

It was quite evident when I attended the Chophouse 'Pig & Pinot' Bloggers Dinner how many food bloggers use a DSLR cameras these days. I certainly felt like I was the only one without one that night. One day I'm sure I'll upgrade but until then I try to make do with my compact point and shoot digital Canon IXUS 105 (previously a Canon IXUS 70) with no manual controls for better Depth of Field. I think it's very important to know as much about your camera as possible to make the best of it — whether you have a point and shoot like mine or a top of the line professional DSLR.

Camera upgrade notes:
14 March 2011: Purchased a Canon 60D with 28 mm 1.8 and 15-85 mm 3.5-5.6 lens

My top 10 tips for better food photos:

I'm sure there's a few bloggers out there who don't know where their macro setting, white colour balance and ISO settings are, or even what they are. Of course it's human nature to be a bit lazy and I'm guilty as well. I'd rather be shown how to do something rather than reading a boring manual — but it will help you understand your camera better.

2. Available light
I'm sure we've all heard and learnt that natural light seems to provide the best conditions for taking your best photos. Colours will be truer and detail will be much better. Although when it's dark I try to use whatever light source I can at the table like candles or move the dish to the brightest area.

3. Don't use your flash, unless you have to
There's a sort of golden rule that it's bad to use your flash for food photography because it gives you harsh lighting and of course will blind your table guests and possibly the tables all around you. But if the lighting is simply way to dark then I usually resort to taking a flash photo if it's convenient from about 50 cm away and then cropping in later. I think it's better to get the shot rather than having a crappy blurry shot which looks awful — but of course in moderation and where appropriate so you don't annoy other diners.

4. Focus
Make sure your image is as focussed as possible — you won't really be able to sharpen it later. Take multiple shots if it's not quite focussing the first time. I tend to use a glass to help hold my camera steady if required or place it against a wall for room decor shots.

5. Adjust for different lighting conditions
You can change your camera to adjust for Tungsten or Fluorescent lighting. This will help make your whites look white rather than yellow or blue in colour.

6. Use your Macro setting for close ups
If you're taking shots of food very close up then you need to adjust your lens to a macro setting otherwise it won't focus very well. I tend to use the macro setting for most of my food shots. This also helps to give me a bit of depth of field in my photo when using a compact digital camera.

7. Set your ISO for low light
Setting to a higher ISO like 200 or 400 will help capture photos in low lighting conditions. Unfortunately it can also make the photo look more grainy and add noise, especially when using a compact digital, but at least you'll have more of a chance to get the photo in focus which is a priority.

8. Take your time making the shot
It's best not to rush taking a shot — be patient, unless you have impatient friends and family waiting to eat while you take your shot. Breathe, take your time, make sure it's focussed and your composition is looking good.

9. Think about the composition
There's always hundreds of ways you can compose a photo. Think about the most interesting way to frame your shot which shows off the subject matter. Try a few different angles and see which one works best.

10. Retouch when possible
Of course when using a compact digital camera it's likely the limitations will not make for a perfect shot. If this is the case then retouching can help dramatically if you know what you're doing to make a dark shot brighter or a very orange photo look more neutral white. But if you follow the basic steps above this will hopefully help to avoid very blurry photos at the very least.

Extra reading
Here's some informative articles I've come across that I think are very helpful to bring your knowledge base up to scratch with just about everything you'd need to know about food photography tips:
Vegan Yum Yum - Food Photography for Bloggers
Photojojo - The Ten Tastiest Food Photography Tips
David Lebovitz - My Food Photography Gear
101 Cookbooks - Food Photography Tips
Simply Recipes - Photography on Simply Recipes
Smitten Kitchen - Our approach to food photos
Food Photography Blog - How to photograph food
Steamy Kitchen - Lowel EGO Lights for Food Photography
Wrightfood - Food photography
Ask the Photographer - Professional tips for better food photography
Abstract Gourmet - What Matt thinks about how to take nice photos
The New York Times - How to Take Photos of Food
Design Federation - Photography Tips: Six of the Best
aficionado - How To Take Better Food Photos: Basics
LadyIronChef - Food Photography Equipment & Lens
Grab Your Fork - Food Photography Tips

Happy Shooting, Eating and Blogging
Simon :-)

PS. This post is not sponsored by Canon but if Canon or any other brand would like me to trial their new cameras please contact me :-)


Laura said...

Thanks for the tips.

Kristy Sayer-Jones @ Southern In Law said...

I definitely agree with not using flash unless its absolutely necessary.
The flash on my camera is evil.. just plain evil..
We have a hate-hate relationship :P and it never gets to fire

OohLookBel said...

Your photos always make me envious - especially the low-light ones! Thanks for the tips and links.

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

Good tips Simon! Not having a bulky DSLR certainly is preferable, but obviously the quality suffers. Perhaps one of the new super-compact Sony NEX DSLR cameras will do the trick.

Louber said...

I did notice that about your other post - everyone seemed to have a DSLR. This is a great post, as I think it does prove that you don't need a fancy camera to take good pictures. Thanks for the tips :D

Jen (jenius.com.au) said...

Great post! Although I have a DSLR, I often use my point & shoot when dining out as it is less chunky. I think Canon's IXUS range is the best. LOVE my Canon IXUS 110 IS!

Anonymous said...

I've been following your posts for a while. I note that it's your clean compositional design that makes your images stand out. The camera never enters my head and I think you do a superb job with a KISS camera.

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

What camera did you use to take the shots of the Canon Ixus?

;) Sorry - being a smarty bum

Simon Leong said...

hi laura, i hope they come in handy. they're basic tips but quite powerful.

hi kristy, some flashes are super strong these days they'd definitely blow out all the colours. if you're lucky enough to shoot without a flash it's so much better.

hi bel, i still struggle with those low light shots but one day i'll have a much better camera that can help.

hi joey, i think my next camera will be a compact one with has manual settings and a better optical zoom. they seem to be getting more common now. i love how they're so much more practical to carry. the Sony NEX DSLR sounds pretty amazing although is it a fixed zoom?

hi louber, thanks for the positive feedback. i think the most important thing is to push the limits of what you have to use and know it's limitations and how to try and overcome them. happy shooting!

hi jen, the convenience of a compact is very attractive isn't it. i love the Canon range. they really seem to make very nice intuitive good looking cameras.

hi anonymous, thanks so much for the positive feedback. i've always set out to try and make the blog as simple as possible and not too complicated including the images. sounds like i've achieved that :-)

hi tina, i actually took the photos in front of a mirror. tricky and high tech special effects isn't it ;-) that's why all the text is in reverse in the image. being a smarty bum back at ya hehe

Trent @ Food Assault said...

Some good tips here Simon, thanks for those. I have been using my iPhone for a while now and have noticed that the shots I took a few years ago on my P&S were better.

I think it's time to pull it back out and give it another go.....but then again I'm so keen on upgrading to a DSLR.

Simon Leong said...

hi trent, interesting to hear your new iphone still isn't as good as your point and shoot from years ago. probably true when it comes to dim lighting situations. upgrading to the DSLR will give you even better shots. just remember the best camera to have is the one you have with you. i always carry around my DSLR but for some an iphone will be the only one they will want to carry.

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