A lot of other bloggers will tell you that to start a quality food blog, you need to invest hundreds of dollars in the project. I can assure you that there’s a much cheaper and easier way to do it.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy. It won’t be! But, you certainly don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on new, state of the art equipment.
To make my tabletops, I went to Home depot and bought a few wood panels (only about $10) and bought a $4 can of non-shiny paint. Luckily, my dad was able to use his table saw to cut the wood to the exact size I wanted. If you don’t have the resources to do so, you can buy pre-cut wood, but it will cost a bit more.
When I first started, all I had for a light diffuser was a card board box, a white sheet and some tape.
Once you’re financially stable enough and are sure you’re willing to really invest in the project, you should buy an affordable soft box. Remember that you can always upgrade later. Some people say that you need a strobe light for a soft box, but the light can be a bit harsh for food photography. Instead, use a powerful white light bulb.
What you’ll need:
- a light diffuser
- white foam boards (for reflecting the light onto the food)
- a white sheet (to go over windows to diffuse the light)
- various colored boards for backgrounds (I bought mine at Target, art stores and Michaels)
I use the Sony a600 (about $550) and I absolutely love it! I love how easy-to-use it is and how crisp the images look, even after heavy editing.
A 50 mm lens is the way to go when it comes to food photography. I am currently using the Sony 50mm f/1.8 Lens and it takes incredibly sharp images.
I’ve found that a cable release, which takes photos with the click of a button from a distance, can be very helpful.
Tripods are also very useful for keeping the image from blurring. I like to vary my photos between handheld and tripods.
When you start to collect props and tools, you’ll need to clear some space to store everything. I like to keep a box of clean-up tools near my work space to make sure I’m prepared for any mess. I like to keep these tools in my clean-up kit:
- q-tips: for cleaning up small spills and smears in hard to reach spots.
- tweezers: for picking up pieces of food when your fingers are too large and would just make a mess.
- ice cream scoop: to easily transport food into to their dish without a mess
- paper towels: to wipe up messes. Trust me, there will be a ton!
- spray bottle with water in it: to make produce in the background shiny and fresh-looking.
- air compressor can: to blow away crumbs.
CAMERA TIPS & TRICKS
ISO is the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. The lower the number you set the ISO to, the more light you need for the photo.
Set camera to Aperture Priority mode allows light to come through the lens, reaching the sensor. The smaller number, the bigger the opening, allowing more light to come through. F2 is bigger than f10. Larger aperture adds blur for a shallow depth of field.
Shutter Speed determines how long the shutter stays open. Faster shutter speeds open for only a brief period, allowing only a little light to reach the sensor. If you’re using a slower shutter speed, you’ll need a tripod to keep the photo from being blurry. Faster shutter speeds are better for handheld photography and photos with movement, like pouring maple syrup or milk.
Use natural light, if you have it. Natural light makes for the best-looking photos, in my opinion. However, sometimes you’re gonna need a soft box. When the sky is cloudy or you need to take a photo at night, it will really come in handy.
Make light come from the back or side. Light should never come from the front. Also, make sure you’re filling out dark spaces that the light can’t reach on its own with white foam boards.
Bounce light onto your food with white foam boards. Without a white board, your photos will look dark on one side.
Set white balance. To set the white balance, depending on the kind of camera that you have, you can take a picture of something white and tell your camera that it’s white. It’s best to play with your camera settings and use what you think looks best for your photos.
Incorporate movement. Dripping or pouring, lifting a fork or spoon or wiping with a butter knife adds life to your photos.
Use the three quarters angle, which is when you look down at the food at an angle. This works best for photographing bowls. Eye level photos are best for stacks of food. Overhead photos are best for “how-to’s,” detailed cooking instructions and set-up.
Adjust the focus point as much as needed. Focus might just be the most important element of a photograph, You need to adjust the focal point before nearly every photo, so that the focus is on the right area.
Don’t use your viewfinder. Peeking through a little viewfinder is not always an option. Some photos require you to judge what the photo looks like without the viewfinder. Almost every camera has a view screen you can use.
Take vertical photos. They add height to the photo and make the image look much larger than horizontal photos. Horizontal photos are better for landscapes and overhead shots.
SET UP TRICKS
Use a filler, such as an upside down bowl or half an apple. This allows you to make less food, which truly does wonders for keeping your grocery bill from skyrocketing.
Keep clean-up tools near your work space. Q-tips, tweezers, ice cream scoop, paper towels, spray bottle, air compressor can and plastic spoons will keep your space clean and organized, which will really come in handy.
Use colors that make the food pop. This will vary from food to food. For example, a bowl of blueberries would look MUCH better in a white bowl than a blue bowl. Using whites and blacks in the background helps make the colors in the food stand out more.
Use “The Rule of Thirds,” which is when you don’t put the food right in the center of the image and instead make a zig-zag formation with the background props. This balances the image out and adds depth of field.
Place props in the corners of the image. This will frame the image and keep the background from looking empty.
Use small dishes. This will make the food look larger than it really is, which will also help lower your grocery bill and prevent wasting food.
Garnish the food. Sprinkling berries, nuts, parsley or basil on top of the food will keep the food from looking bland. Added color to the top doesn’t distract from the food; it allows the reader to imaging what the food tastes like.
Sprinkle ingredients used in the dish around the food. This adds color and substance to the photo. Spreading it out also makes the photo look more realistic and less forced.
Use fillers, like half an apple, a small upside down bowl or small plate so that it looks like much more than it is. This will save you money and time.
Don’t compromise your food’s edibility. I cannot stress enough how much happier you’ll be if you get to enjoy the food you make and not just throw it away because you poured, sprayed or wiped something unedible on it. It’s not difficult to make small adjustments that make the food more attractive, without compromising its edibility. If you don’t, your grocery bill will sky rocket and you’ll end up wasting a ton of delicious food.
Use the freshest ingredients possible. Nobody wants to see a mushy blueberry or brown apple in your photos. Make sure you’re very choosy when buying produce. Look for brown spots, scratches and dents. Also, make sure you handle the produce with care, being careful not to make any marks or dents.
Keep it simple. People want to feel at home and be able to imagine themselves eating your food. Don’t make the background too chaotic. If you do, it will distract from the food and nobody wants that. Sometimes less is more. You can still sprinkle ingredients in the background, but just make sure you don’t choose ingredients with harsh colors.
Use tablecloths and napkins. This will come in handy when you want to make your set-up look more homey and comforting. It’s always good to allow the viewer imagine themselves eating your food.
Use small bowls with dips, sauces and garnishes in the background. Not all ingredients have to be poured right onto the table. Use small bowls to hold foods you would pour or sprinkle on the dish.
Make multiple tabletops of different colors and textures. Not all foods will be able to use the same surface and background. If you have many different surfaces, textures and colors, you’ll be able to easily switch out a surface that isn’t working.
EDITING YOUR PHOTOS
Buy the Adobe Lightroom software. You’re gonna want to edit your photos quite a bit. Nearly everyone will recommend Adobe Lightroom to edit your photos because of its affordability and how incredibly easy to use it is. You don’t have to have any experience with Adobe or photo editing software to use it. Plus, it’s only $9.99 per month.
Make sure your computer’s brightness is not distorted. Light is the easiest thing to screw up when editing your photos. It’s very important that you check your computer’s brightness and make sure it’s at its most neutral setting.
Don’t be afraid to brighten your photos. Nobody likes a dark photo, so make sure you brighten your photo so much that if you brightened it any more, it would be too bright.
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