Food Photography Part I: The Food Picture Ritual

Professionals make food and style it specifically for a photoshoot.  Professionals have fancy cameras with acronyms like DSLR, and just the right backgrounds and just the right lighting and, if it's not just right, they can edit their photos with comprehensive software.  It's not dishonesty.  It's art.


I, however, am not a professional.  As much as I love taking pictures of the food I make, the main reason I make it is to eat it.


I do have at my dispense a few lovely cameras, but they're family cameras.  Most of the photos you see on The Blergh or @theblerghblog were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S7. 

If I know before I make it that I'm going to take photos of a food, I make sure everything is as ready as it can be beforehand.  If I take too long, I'll end up with photos of soggy granola half-submerged in a sloshy smoothie, or congealed, crusty-lookin' veggies.
In the glorious summertime, my parents and I eat together for all meals.  However, they usually don't eat avocado toast or nice cream or whatever like I do, and I don't want to keep them waiting too long while I bumble around the kitchen and take snapshots of my food.  Being prepared is important.


Once I plate the food, I take it out onto my back patio.  Usually, I open the door with my foot because I devote both hands to balancing the dish (plus my phone).  At this point, my parents are ready to eat.  They're probably rolling their eyes at me.

My mom keeps a really great patio garden with tons of herbs and flowers sprouting in boxes along the rails, and that's where I set up my photoshoot of sorts.  There's a specific spot that I frequently pick, where the sprouts of flowers leave enough space on the rail to place my food, and the tree branches overhead allow for ideal lighting- just the right, gentle mix of shade and sun.

My phone camera has a "food" setting on it, and I believe that the food setting might be the only reason any of my photos turn out good.  Even my laptop looks delicious when I take a picture of it with the food setting.

Yum yum.

I almost always take photos from directly overhead.  Most of the foods I photograph- smoothie and nice cream bowls, grain bowls, toasts, etc.- strut their stuff the best from bird's eye view.  However, that sandwich just looks like a piece of bread until you show off its cross-section.  Foods with horizontal layers obviously look better from the side.
(Speaking of which! I love sandwich-hold photos.  You know, the ones with the Rachmaninoff hand displaying a mile-high stack of some kind of 'wich.  I'm terrible at them but I love them.  I squish all the ingredients out and my hand always looks distorted and Gollum-esque.  But I guess that's part of the charm.)


Although there is a certain angle that works best for certain foods, I make sure to play around with a few different angles.  Landscape-oriented photos usually work out the best for me, but I try out portrait, just in case.  And I've got to get something for the Snap.

By that point, my parents are halfway through their meal, so I rush inside and chow down- sometimes taking photos as I eat.

I'm a little embarrassed, but I'll admit to it: when I edit a photo for Instagram, I edit it on Instagram.  It's amateur, but so am I.  And it seems to work.  Usually, I play around with rotation until it looks as comfortable and natural as possible.  Then, I raise the brightness, contrast, warmth, shadows, and sharpness.  Occasionally, I raise structure, saturation, or highlights, or put on tilt shift.  Basically, it's trial and error. 
I almost never put a photo setting over 50, and I never use preset filters.

The aim of my Instagram is to lure- I mean, attract!- readers to The Blergh, so I post the photos that look the most appetizing.  If the food in the photo looks gross- regardless of how it tasted- I don't post it. But don't underestimate the beauty of a messy food photo.  A little chocolate escaping down the side of the bowl can turn a mediocre food photo into a drool-worthy one.
I'm also inclined to try and keep some kind of a theme going on the 'Gram, so I tend to pick photos with similar backgrounds, angles, color schemes, that shebang.

If the photo is for a post, not for Insta, I edit it with (again, don't laugh) the built-in software on my laptop.  I make basically the same changes to the photo as I would if I were using Instagram.
Photoshop comes in handy for a clean photo.  I make dog hair disappear, clean up an accidental smudge on a plate, or hide that little scratch on my hand.


As for recipes, my criteria are: 
Is it something I would make again?
Are the ingredients things that normal people would already have in their homes?
Would a sixth grader be able to make it?

I remember being a lonely sixth grader who only wanted to make DIYs from the vast webs of the internet, but I didn't have access to any of the necessary materials.  Plus, I was too embarrassed/proud to ask my parents for help with anything more complex than a microwave or a hot glue gun, so my assets were limited. 
I want everything I post on The Blergh- DIYs, recipes, whatever- to be accessible to all people.


I don't know if anything written above is the least bit interesting to anyone.  Hopefully it is, because Food Photography Part II: Your Food Photos are Foul(and How to Fix Them) is coming soon.  School has edged its way into the haze of summer, so although I'm busier, my posts will be more regular because I center them around a schedule.


World peace and love,

Heather <3

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