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Food & Art

5 Tips on How To Take Food Porntastic Shots

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Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM
For foodies, eating isn't simply a perfunctory way to fill a need but rather an experience to be enjoyed through all the senses. A well-done dish is more than taste and smell. It has to entice with its plating, textures, portions, colors. Which is why a well-taken food photograph plays an integral part in a food blog's success. Writing about a restaurant or a recipe is one thing; it's another to take a food picture so good that you want to lick the screen. So how do food bloggers/photographers do it? Leave you drooling over a 2-D image without the benefit of a food stylist or well-equipped photography studio?

Food pornographers Matt Armendariz (Matt Bites), Sarah J. Gim (The Delicious Life and TasteSpotting) and Wesley Wong (Two Hungry Pandas) shared their secrets on how they create such enticing shots of food for their blogs.

click to enlarge Cheese plate in natural light. - MATT ARMENDARIZ OF MATT BITES
  • Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites
  • Cheese plate in natural light.

1) "Light, light, light," Armendariz emphasizes. "Start with enough of it and you're way ahead of the game." A common mistake food blogging photographers make is taking pictures with not enough light in the hopes that this can just be fixed in Photoshop. But in the end that just makes for a grainy photo and blows out the details of the shot. However, at the same time, make sure to stay away from using too much light. "Flash photography, when not done correctly, can make even the most delicious, beautifully plated, artfully constructed food look terribly garish in a photo," Gim says.

click to enlarge Church & State's Croustade aux Fraises in a dark corner. - WESLEY WONG OF TWOHUNGRYPANDAS
  • Wesley Wong of TwoHungryPandas
  • Church & State's Croustade aux Fraises in a dark corner.

2) When shooting in a darkened restaurant, all food photographers agree: No flash! "Use a great camera with a high ISO and a lens that works fast in low light," Armendariz suggests. He also says to ask for a table near a window if possible. While Wong offers, "If there is candlelight use it to your advantage." And if you have no choice but have to take that shot in the dark, using a high ISO (400-plus) in low-light conditions, it's best to steady your camera for non-blurry shots. Use a portable tripod -- Gorillapod is perfect considering its flexibility -- or the rim of your (empty) water glass. Steady shots are especially key for when you're trying to get the details of a dish -- salt grains, oozing cheese, texture of barbecued beef.

click to enlarge Mori Sushi's mackerel under the sushi bar's overhead lighting. - SARAH J. GIM OF THE DELICIOUS LIFE/TASTESPOTTING
  • Sarah J. Gim of The Delicious Life/TasteSpotting
  • Mori Sushi's mackerel under the sushi bar's overhead lighting.

3) When setting up a shot, it's not always about the rule of thirds. For Wong, it's a "good rule to follow but with food photography sometimes a straight shot works best. You have to get a feel for the environment and ask yourself if you want to take a food porn (closeup) shot or take a step back and take the shot from a distance." Decide whether you want viewers to salivate or to get an idea of the environment, the place setting, the composition of the dish.

click to enlarge Campanile's trenne pasta and pork in natural light. - MATT ARMENDARIZ OF MATT BITES
  • Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites
  • Campanile's trenne pasta and pork in natural light.

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