Thoughts (and some advice) on photography


I often get mail asking me about cameras and photos and I have been asked to write a post about photography by several people and and here it is. Or maybe I should say that it is my thoughts about photography and how I go about it because I have to make it clear right from the start that I’m not very technical, I go more on feeling. Very unprofessional but that’s the way I do it. I have been thinking about this post for a long time now, considering both what I think about photography and about what advice I could give because I realized that there is so much behind the actual action of shooting.

To me photography is more a question about concentration than technical expertise; if you want to take good photos you need to concentrate on what you are doing. I have realized that if I go out to take photos I don’t really think, I just watch my surroundings, if I start thinking I rarely take pictures. It is like a sort of walking visual meditation where I use my senses in a completely different way than I do usually, I hear more, I feel smells better and I obviously see more as well. When I shoot food, I concentrate as well but it is quite different because you have to make a lot of preparations before you even start taking out the camera. So here are some points that I hope will help you:

fava beans

– Try to be alone when you shoot. There’s nothing worse that feeling the impatience of someone else vibrate in the air, it disturbs me immensely. If you are alone, you can take all the time you need to shoot from different angles and distances.
– This is basic but I often see photos on blogs where it seems as if the photographer haven’t realized that it on most cameras exists something called macro mode so check that out and use it when you do close ups.
– Decide on the props you are going to use, dishes and backgrounds etc., if you are not using a backdrop remember to control the background, it shouldn’t be to messy. In general I would say that you should always to remember to look at the background when you shoot, food or not. I often renounce of shooting a subject because the background is too ‘noisy’ and would kill the photo.
– Colours are important, at least to me, so try to coordinate the food with the props you use. The safest is to use a white or black background but I find that even if it may be stylish, it gets a bit boring after a while. Or maybe impersonal is the right word.
– It is a good idea to use small dishes and plates, it sets off the food more.
– Arranging the food on the plate is important, don’t amass too many different things on the same plate, it makes the whole look messy (unless you are a very talented food stylist) and the viewer doesn’t know what to focus on.
– Try to find your own style. It doesn’t have to be dramatically different, just a style that you feel confident with and that you like.
– Avoid using the flash because it kills the colours and leaves a lot of reflexes which disturbs the eye. Natural light is the best, I sometimes shoot outdoors but mostly I open my kitchen door and arrange everything there on a bin for paper-to-be-recycled, very very unprofessional indeed but it works for me. It’s bit cold in the winter and I have to shoot before a certain hour if I want the right light.
– If you shoot outdoors, avoid direct sunlight as it flattens the colours. Patches of sunlight livens up but only if the subject matter agrees to it.
– If the light isn’t enough or you have shaky hands, prop up the camera on something when you shoot. It can be anything, a bag of rice, a bow of something or anything you have at hands. Or a tripod of course.
– If you shoot indoors you can buy or make yourself a light box. I am still trying to gather the strength and energy to make one. Or you can use something that reflects the light, large sheets of white paper for example.
– Remember that shooting in daylight and in lamplight creates different shades of white so always remember to change the white balance settings on your camera. Or use the automatic mode.
– Try shooting from different angles so that you have something to choose from.
– Don’t forget to do some after work on the photos with Photoshop, Paint shop or Picasa or whatever program you want to use. Digital photos usually have a slightly grey tone that you have to ‘wash’ away. Check out Lara’s Still Life with… where you can find a lot of useful advice and info about food photography! And there are a lot of great photographers who are food blogging, you can find many of my favourites in my link list on the right.

This is it, I have to start working now but I hope this will be of some help for you. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them but remember that I go more for concentration than the technical aspects…