Didn't want to hijack glorious WFD thread

kitchendetectiveOctober 12, 2013

but I am beyond curious. What do you all use for photographic equipment when you take those fabulous photographs of food? My photos never look like I could eat the food off the screen.

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Two things you need:

1. A high power CFL daylight bulb (50 watts to 100 watts, actual power, not equivalent power) $20.00 or less.

2. A cheap broken kitchen plastic container to difuse the light.

Now, put your camera on a tripod and use the auto setting and self-timer to avoid any shaking.

That's all I have been using. My camera is a $150 camera.

But if you want to do better than my photos, go to the "Gallery" side of this forum and you will find some very good tutorials.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 2:43PM
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My camera cost less than $100, it's a Canon Powershot SD1000, Elery bought it for me several years ago. It has a cracked viewing screen from Ashley slamming it in the seat of the Jeep at Silver Lake Dunes.

I don't have any special lighting or a tripod or or light diffuser. I take a zillion pictures and once in a while one comes out well, LOL.

But, I'm assuming those aren't my (blurry, unfocused, too close, off center, etc.) pictures you're referring to. (grin)


    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 10:44PM
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Maybe just experiment with some fresh ingredients well ahead of the cooking process.
Seems all cameras have their quirks but all, no matter the cost, can give great results.
Some dishes, especially meats, have great flavor but do not seem to translate in a photo...during prep have a small bowl using something fresh in the dish, a couple cherry toms cut in half, a garnish of fresh herb or whatever is used to season. A sliver of lemon on fish.
Experiment on a still life of fruits and veggies. Nice thing about digital is delete, delete and try another setting. Start by turning off the flash. Use the sport setting or the landscape, (the man skiing, the mountain) in a window with natural northern light, no harsh sun, or your brightest under counter light. Rest your camera on an object. A coffee can, your coffee pot, toss a clean kitchen towel over a ball jar for stability. If you have misplaced your manual and can't turn off the flash, put a piece of frosted tape over it to diffuse it.
Most important is to have fun trying different things well ahead of the meal on the plate.
Most food bloggers have a special spot set up near the kitchen or on a sideboard ready to go and shoot. Or mounted above to take process shots. Filtered light is as easy as a piece of tissue paper over a bare bulb, (not touching).
Just have fun experimenting and something will eventually look super and as delicious looking as your meal.
(i use my cellphone being impatient, lol)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 8:52AM
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If you look at John's photos on the "Marcella Hazan", they are very nice pictures, except all the colors are off.

Three ways that can easily be changed.

1. Use a daylight light bulb.

2. Use Photoshop to correct.

3. Best way is simply read the camera's instructions, there is a setting for incandescent light compensation.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 9:06AM
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As usual, I love this forum.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Mine are all iPhone pictures :-(

There is a Photoshop app for the iPhone but I'm too lazy to use it.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 11:06AM
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Annie, since it's up for discussion, I've noticed your pictures really improving lately. I was wondering if you bought a new camera, but I guess not.

And speaking of color, dcarch, yours have been noticeably more realistic recently. Did you change bulbs or are you editing differently? Haven't seen neon veggies in a while.

Like John, mine are just iPhone shots which are hit or miss. Mostly miss. But I won't take more than two or so pictures because I just want to eat! I try not to judge bad food pix and hope that mine don't get judged, either. But I do appreciate the many great pictures for sure. Overall I just love seeing people's food regardless.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Thanks, FOAS. Maybe it's the more neutral colors in my "new" kitchen, or maybe it's the white plates. Or maybe I'm just taking more pictures and deleting the worst ones, LOL.

I'm glad they're getting better, though....


    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 9:39PM
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Annie, your photos have life and a soul. They speak who you are and why you love cooking and sharing. Delightful to see.
Since dcarch does not mind criticism...
A bit technical and sterile. A thinking brain caught up in process does not see the simplicity of real life. A formula with a manual is not necessary. Often seems cold. In temperature and i often have no desire to eat it....meaning, the plating is brilliant! I know it tastes good. The science in cooking technique is so spot on in description...but it often does not look so good in photography. Not sure why but i would loosen up on the technical 'bulb' needs and set-ups. Your flash diffusion seems to be bleaching out the moisture of the food. A bit flat, your pics.
I took this pic with my cell phone this morning. A quick snap. No flash. No tripod. Actually yesterday, Sunday. ( i just got home at 4am...worked a 90hour week and no day off till thursday, oy!)
-I just want to encourage others to try some pics and experiment without getting bogged down with tech photo jargon. I want to see more pics and quick simple ones.
(turn off your flash!)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 6:19AM
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Kitchendetective, I do not have any special equipment or lighting. I use a camera that I have had for about six years a Panasonic. About the only function I use is the white balance. Other than that I basically point and shoot and hope for the best. I prefer natural lighting so during the summer months I take most of my food pictures outside on the porch. And now that it is dark early I take them on a counter with regular lighting.

I'm more interested in the food and seeing what everyone is cooking and eating than whether a picture is perfect.

Annie, I've always enjoyed your pictures, because your meals are something I would enjoy eating. I do agree though that your pictures are getting better. I thought maybe you had a new camera.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 8:37AM
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In 2009, Canarybird posted an 11 part tutorial on photographing food. If you will go to my clippings, I think I clipped all 11 parts. Unfortunately, they are in reverse order and mixed in with recipes, information on countertops, directions for painting furniture, etc. If you have the patience to sort through it all, you'll find some fantastic information on photography.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 1:49PM
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If you are in NYC and you want to visit the Empire State Building and you have a map. It will not be difficult for you to find the place.

And if you don’t have a map, you can drive for days and still not find the building.

Is the person with the map a better driver?

I am not a good photographer. I use extremely simple methods (the map). I use one light, one tripod and the camera on automatic for the same shots every time.


I have been told that I have a unique style. I don’t know what that means. I do find it interesting that all food by nature have God’s given colors and geometry. So I try to take advantage what nature has to offer. There are many plating styles which I don’t practice, for many reasons, mostly because I don’t have the time to perform intricate carving and stacking. I don’t have the patience to take food to a presentation plate, arrange, assemble, move, sculpt, tweezer -----. compose, compose and compose---tasting menu style ----- then relocate the food on a serving plate, reheat and serve. The dishes that I take pictures with are the same dishes that go on the dinner table.

I think there is no style that will please all, which is very interesting to me. I learn a lot from good comments and very critical comments. I find age differences, culture, geography, etc. have a lot to do with perception of and preference to aesthetics. After all, if you go to a fine arts museum, chances you will hate at least half of the “art” there.

Sleevendog, everything you have said has been said to me by more than one person more than once. I have no disagreement with your thesis. I can see that you have some background in artistic training. I certainly do not think you are being critical at all. You have made valid observations from your perspective and I do appreciate them. I assure you each time I create some dishes, I will be thinking of your comments before I click.

The important issue in discussion here is really for those who have some degree of photophobia. Taking good food pictures and creating good plating while not that important, but if you want to add additional joy to the eating experience, it is much easier and cheaper than you realize.

A while back, I decided to send a couple of pictures and entered in a cooking competition sponsored by a major publication and some food companies. I was immediately qualified just by the pictures I sent. During the actual cooking, the appliance which was given to me (All finalists cook with the same appliances) failed. I was unable to fully execute my recipe. However, the picture of my plating was used in the centerfold by the publication and also the Facebook advertisement for the sponsoring food company.

Then recently I entered another competition sponsored by a food forum. I won the competition just by the photos I submitted. I did post those pictures here in this forum.

Those were a lot of fun to brag to my friends and family. And the equipment used for the photos? As I said nothing more than one light bulb, and a broken kitchen container.

Lighting is very important, for instance, the same picture of the artistically plated dish up thread by Sleevendog would look totally different if it were taken with better lighting;

No shaking, no bad lighting, that is the “Map” to good photos even with cheap cameras. Just do it. Plate, click, plate, click ------- Small investment in learning time for a life time of amazing food fun!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 8:07PM
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Thank you, Sleevendog, I'm glad that my feelings can come out in my photos, although they seldom look like I plan them to. I visualize something in my mind but can seldom translate that into a finished product.

As for your picture, it looks darned good for having worked 90 hours and being taken at 4 am with a cell phone. Better than I'd have done, I wouldn't even have remembered to eat, let alone take a picture. I'm thinking I see nori, and caviar? It makes me remember that I haven't made sushi in a long time.

And maybe that's why my pictures are better, I've finally learned to turn the flash off.....

I agree on the point and shoot theory. Don't worry if you don't want to set up lights or diffusers or don't have an expensive camera or a tripod. I'm one of those people who hear the technical end of something and my eyes glaze over, others love that aspect of things.

It's the difference in humans and their preferences, I suppose, I'm happy that we're all different, it makes things so interesting. So if anyone is inclined, just point and shoot. I love to see them all.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 11:15PM
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I think it has more to do with our individual screen quality and the brightness we each
apply. Your corrected photo is bright white and bleach out and the dish has turned a bright neon on my screen. Intentionally a cell phone pic without flash and not corrected...though i usually correct a little bit if i have time. That was taken at Daniel.
I do like a good food photo and enjoy those taken by others, especially the process shots.
Like Annie, point, shoot, and have fun.
I love to see them all.

I ran across this NYTimes spread and was reminded of that day. The dining wide shots are very warm, more a natural dining light. The food is gorgeous and clearly well lit for the food photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Daniel NYC pics

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 12:24PM
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To me the ease of use of uploading is pretty critical. For GW, I prefer iphone or ipad photos with really good natural or room lighting and then click away. I often find that shooting with no flash yields the best results and hold very very still.Then it is a snap to use photobucket app to upload

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 1:21PM
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My understanding is that Photobucket App requires turning on location, which I do not do. Am I wrong?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 1:41PM
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I don't know about photobucket, but ever since GW made uploading so easy I usually upload directly from my camera roll unless I'm loading multiple pictures, and that doesn't require location services to be on.

This post was edited by foodonastump on Mon, Oct 28, 13 at 14:11

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 1:54PM
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Let's give it a try, from iPhoto.

Cioppino photo.

This post was edited by kitchendetective on Mon, Oct 28, 13 at 14:46

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 2:45PM
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Yum, i can taste the broth.
My iphone pics into iphoto are not nearly as clear transferred.
Dragon fruit with roasted veg and asian pear, soon to be a salsa...
I do have a skylight over my kitchen that helps during the day.
This pic is not at all like it appears, or as clear, as in my photo files.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 3:52PM
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OK, kitchendetective, you've done it. I'm drooling, probably will wreck my keyboard. I love cioppino.

sleevendog, I just tried dragonfruit for the first time a year or so ago, and loved it. I kind of wish it were actually that blue color, just think what an interesting salsa...

Well, that mix would be an interesting salsa anyway, but blue? Yeah, that would be different!


    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 8:52PM
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