For a lot of aspiring food photographers approaching the right subject can be the difference between a great photograph or a disaster. Unless you are an accomplished chef and can really create beautifully styled dishes, stay away from complicated subjects at first keep it simple. To build a strong portfolio you need great food photographs. I have found that sweet foods like desserts and candy are fun subjects to approach. What is great about candy and other dessert foods is their beauty.
When you approach subjects that have lots of colors, as opposed to meat, for instance, your job becomes a lot easier. To make meat look great you either have to have a good food stylist, a chef that can plate dishes well or have a flair for styling it yourself. Having had to shoot under all three circumstances I much prefer the first two. Styling meat on my own was really hard. Keep in mind I have been watching food stylists do it for years and it’s still hard for me to pick up on the nuances.
Take the example below. It really did not require any styling other than moving the candy around, replacing chipped ones and composing.
Finding colorful subjects to shoot is easy. The Easter candies that are prevalent this time of year offer great fodder. Peeps, colorful candies, baskets and other props are cheap and easy to help create some outstanding images without a stylist.
Lens choice is crucial as well. I prefer to use a macro lens. If you don’t have one you can rent them at most camera rental places for $40 dollars. If you rent the lens on a Friday it usually does not have to be back until Monday so you get a few days to play with it. Always use a tripod with a macro lens and lock the mirror up in your camera when shooting if that option exists for your model. If not at least use a cable release or set the camera on timer. This allows the camera to settle down after you press the shutter to avoid camera shake. The depth of field is also critical in macro. You can do a lot with selective focus. As I have written in previous posts you can achieve simple lighting with natural light, diffusion and bounce cards/mirrors. The smaller the composed area the easier it to light.
Another great subject in addition to candy is cookies. Whole Foods offers a great selection of gourmet sweets fully prepared, artisanal marshmallows, pre-made pies you get the idea. The crux is to create beauty from goods that are already made and arrange them as you would a regular still life. When you take the complication out of food and find subjects that are already beautiful, it makes it easier to get great images without too much effort.
Another great source for the subject material are shops that specialize in desserts like Crumbs bakery. You can buy beautiful cupcakes and shoot them with little additional styling.
Lastly, if you go and shoot for a local high-end restaurant in exchange for photos the chefs that prepare and plate food well can give you some great material. The example below was prepared by the Fireside at the Omni Berkshire hotel. I did not have to do anything to it except light it, find the proper camera, depth of field and shoot it.
If you have any questions please feel free to comment and I will be happy to answer them.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm