Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Part 3: BlogHer Food 09 Recap

The last part of my day at BlogHerFood 09 was spent attending the Visual Track, Session #3, which was Advanced Food Photography, led by Matt Armendariz of MattBites.com and Lara Ferroni of Cook & Eat and Still Life With (which chronicles styling food).

Both of these amazing photographers have built businesses around food styling. While Matt is more classically trained, Lara is primarily self-trained but has a tremendous eye, but both are making a living with their camera.

Lara’s Equipment:
  • IMac Intel Core 2 Due 2.4, running Tiger
  • ColorVision Spyder
  • Canon 5D MkII
  • 100mm 2.8 macro, 90 mm 2.8 tilt/shift, 50 mm 1.4, 85 mm
  • Lightroom 2 – for editing (great app)
  • FileChute (file sharing large files with others) – shareware
  • Bridge – part of Photoshop for organizing

Matt’s Equipment:
  • Mac laptop
  • Canon 5D MkII or 1 DS Mark III
  • Profoto 600watt strobe, Pocket Wizards
  • Flex Color
  • Digitial Photo Pro
  • Adobe Photoshop CS4

Both agreed that the best lens to get, if you have to have one single focus lens is the 100mm 2.8 macro. (Which, I might add, means nothing to me!)

As most of us know, it is important to have photos with a recipe. People are more likely to cook something with an image – on a blog or in a cookbook. So it behooves you to attempt to capture either the ingredients, the process or the end product (or all three if you are ambitious).

One way to make the learning curve easier is to shoot tethered to your computer. You can see, on a bigger screen than the camera has, what your shot looks like instantly. You can adjust light, setting, accoutrements. If you do this it is important to try and get true color. Light changes this quickly. It is important to calibrate your monitor and check color balance.

The use of props is important, but you do not have to spend a bundle. Both Matt and Lara have cases of props: Plates, forks, serving utensils, trays, linens, materials, papers, cake plates, serving dishes, glasses, cut yardage/fabric. Things should be on the smaller side. And thrift stores, antique stores, and eBay are good for unique and/or cheap items. Also, look at things that have alternate uses for things. Lara has taken a burner cover and turned it upside down to use as a dish.

Poorly colored food can be difficult to shoot. A bland brown stew or one-color salmon mousse can be perked up with a little creativity. Use a pretty serving dish and a sprinkle or side of herbs for the stew. Rather than shooting the whole pot of mousse, show it on a toasted piece of baguette with a thin slice of avocado or dill on a cutting board with additional pieces of baguette in the back. Use props, think outside the box.

Look for inspiration. Find photographers whose work you like, cut out images from magazines or bookmark/download images you like off the net to refer to. Put them in a file, or on a bulletin board. Look at every image you see – closely. See how the light plays, how the props are used, how the food is displayed.

Some good places to start:

Upping your game:
  • Change your angle
  • Try the shot with different lighting
  • Always take a few shots after you think you’ve gotten the golden shot
  • Recreate a photograph that you love. Try to match the look and feel of the styling and props. Notice highlights and shadows
  • Practice – take a subject and shoot it for 5 minutes. Then change something and shoot it for 5 more minutes, repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.

Challenge yourself to understand your camera, focus and framing.
  • Play with your f/.stop
  • Learn to read a histogram
  • Shoot tethered – you can see exactly what happens when you change your f/.stop, etc,

I have to say that this session, while maybe a bit advanced for me, gave great advice. I’m anxious to get home, charge that battery and get shooting.

Thank you,BlogHer for putting on such a great event at a great venue. I immensely enjoyed my time and meeting so many like-minded people

PS: A quick shout out to all the sponsors of the event. Not only did they make this wonderful event possible, as a reasonable price to us bloggers, but they provided great swag! (especially PUR, Cuisinart, and Scharffen Berger Chocolate)

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