In the past decade, food photography has exploded more than any other discipline. Camera phones have improved rapidly, and now scrolling through a Facebook feed feels like reading Martha Stewart’s personal blog. Everyone has suddenly realized how exciting it is to capture North America’s great national pastime: Eating!
In this video pro food photographer David Loftus gives us some excellent pointers on guerilla food photography, and how to make the best pictures you can without any special equipment:
With the recent surge of crafty, home-made goodies and alternative diets, not to mention more widespread awareness of nutritional quality, food has once again become something to really celebrate. It’s getting easier all the time to do it with a beautiful flair that comes to represent you, your personality, and your values. After all, you are what you eat. Food has started to take on a meaning in our society that it never has before, and now carries connotations of health, social justice, and a sustainable lifestyle – all themes which can be addressed in a simple, well-composed snapshot.
With the evolution of the American diet, food photography has a chance to shine like never before; gone is the heyday of greasy pizza and Chinese food – meals which photograph about as well as a popped pimple. Nowadays, any Sunday farmer’s market is ripe with stunning photographic opportunities, featuring colourful produce and crumbly bakery treats pre-arranged in their ideal setting. Loftus displays in the video just how easy it is to get a delectable image, whether it be with a DSLR or a camera phone.
This video focuses mostly on creating the perfect on-the-go background, to which point Loftus gives some very useful things to think about. To quickly recap:
There are a few ways to change the background. You can move something (or someone) behind the object, as Loftus does, but you can also change your own perspective – get higher or lower, or come at the thing from the complete opposite direction.
Food is the sustenance of life, so having a human element in the image reminds us that the food doesn’t just look pretty, it’s enjoyable and satisfying to the stomach, too.
If you bought your treat from a small business, they probably put a lot of thought into packaging it in a way that complemented it. White tissue, a brown paper bag, or even a napkin can speak to the item’s meaning and purpose. It can also add shape and contrast, while framing the item without distracting the eye.
There are a few other tips hidden within the video that don’t pertain directly to backgrounds, but are very useful to remember when out shooting food in the street.
- Go out on a cloudy day. The diffused light will give your food a gorgeous even tone, without any unsightly glare or shadows. If the weather is too grey, you might consider overexposing by a stop, to bring up the highlights and make the picture feel fresh. Use natural light, and no on-camera flash.
- Use a fixed lens. Loftus mentions that he is using a 50mm prime, which are typically very cheap and easy to find. A fixed lens will typically be much sharper than a zoom, and will allow a wide aperture for selective focusing.
- Minimize distractions. Remember, less is more – don’t include anything in the frame that doesn’t need to be there.
- Pay attention to colours and tones, so that they complement each other and don’t clash.
- If using a cell phone camera, try an advanced camera app for greater control over your images. His assistant, Pascal, mentions that she uses the Camera+ app.
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