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Shoot: Food Photography

Lesson 17 from: How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

17. Shoot: Food Photography

Lesson Info

Shoot: Food Photography

- [Julia] Now I want to talk to you about shooting food, okay. Food I almost always shoot it backlit, and you'll see. You don't have to, but you'll see a lot of photographers do this. And one of the reasons is because food backlight creates a ton of shadow and texture in the foreground, okay, ahead of you. So it just makes food look really appetizing for lack of a better way of putting it. So let me get my little apple boxes. So what I'm going to do, hopefully, I have enough light to do this. I may…shoot, I can't move the table. Okay… (inaudible) - Well, I want to shoot backlight. Here's my plan in my head. I'm raising up my food. Should be so I can shoot it into the window. Okay. The window was very bright, so my hope is that I can blow out the white background and create this beautiful black lit almost high key type image. Okay, do you know what high key is? High key means like the images of…These are pretty high key images. Images on white, like all the white background. It's blown ...

out. You'll see it a lot in product photography. Every shot that I did that I showed in my keynote was on white, which has a blown out background. Okay, every situation you work with is different. It worked great some days, but if the light's not enough then it won't work enough. The other, especially when you're working with natural light. In a studio situation, you can blast the background with a bunch of white light, with a bunch of strobes, and that'll immediately blow it out of focus and you can do it every time. So the other thing that I'm concerned about is that this big black line here might totally ruin what I'm trying to do here. So I was going to move the table, but I don't want to move it because the camera's up there and we'll kind of hinder our shot. But the point is to get us a nice, pretty white background. We'll see. Okay, so I have my tarts in my kick... Oh, those look good enough to eat. Yummy, yummy. Oh, aren't they pretty? Right? Of course, we've got fun, colorful food. Seriously, like I want to eat this. Okay, so the beautiful part about this tart is that it's got a glaze on it which makes it shiny, which is fun. What am I looking for? I'm looking for highlights and shadows. So when I set that food down, this tart down. We're a little off-kilter. I don't like that side. You want food stylist, like go watch Andrew's class because food stylist like make this stuff absolutely perfect. I mean, there's so many techniques that I don't even know that they do. So people like Andrew, if you're really interested in food photography, people like Andrew are like the ones to go to because they will teach you how to like make it divinely perfect. But what I'm looking for is shadows coming at me. So I'm looking for shadows over here. I'm looking for highlights. The glaze on the tart is nice because it's reflecting and bouncing light around. So I'm looking for those reflections close to the light. So I'm going to shoot it from overhead and then also from the side to try to blow out the background, if that works. Okay, lens. What lens? I think a 50 will probably be good. So now again, aperture is important depending on your goal, right? If you want… Oh, thank you for making sure I don't die. I'm tripping, fall over. Aperture is critical if you want the whole thing and focus, right? If you want to highlight just a certain part of the tart then you can, you know, stop down and open up your aperture a little bit to create that out of focus background. If you use a macro lens, you're going to dramatically change…. You're going to dramatically affect that. Right? Look at myself. Perfect. Okay. Let me test a couple things really quick here. How do I want to do this? I'm not sure that's what I want to do. Yeah. So there's not quite enough light. See, I'm trying to blow out the background. The windows aren't quite white enough. Does that make sense? But I can still probably make it a little interesting. Let me when they open up my exposure a little bit and see what happens. But I'm afraid it's going to overexpose my tart a little bit. Yeah, see how as I trying to blow out the window, the tart becomes overexposed too and now we're losing data on those highlights. Adam, can I see the histogram on this so we can just have a little learning moment out of this? So see how those highlights are clipped on the right. We talked about this yesterday. This is done image. There's no way I would even touch this in post because those highlights are so far gone. So yeah, it's not going to work with what I wanted to do, but that's okay. We can always change course. So with that being said, I'm going to shoot this overhead only. Okay, in a brighter situation with brighter light coming through that window, we could totally do this and make that background blow out, but because of the building outside that you can see through the brick wall and because of the lines, the panes in the window, we're having some issues doing it, but this is a really great technique to try at home. And especially if you have just an open window and you put sheer curtains across it, even if you have full sun coming through those sheers, you could create some incredible backlighting situations that'll just… I mean, imagine that upper background just completely white and the tart in front of it. Okay, if you can get some really cool food shots going on. So it doesn't quite work in this situation just because the weather and what's going on today in Seattle, but try it at home. A screen, a sliding door window. Perfect for this, perfect, okay. So just get some sheers to move across it. If you have direct sunlight coming in through it, if you don't have direct sunlight, you can try it without. If you do have dark objects outside your window then you may have issues. But again, just run a sheer across and it'll probably help out a lot. Okay, so just a fun thing to try when you get home. So all right, when you get home, when you guys get home, you guys at home already. So let's go ahead and shoot it overhead. So this is, you know, just a lot like jewelry. And if you're in a situation by raising and lowering your tart against your window, we have huge windows here, so it's kind of not making much of a difference, but if a smaller window raising and lowering the tart near the window is going to change how it looks, okay? The other cool thing with some DSLRs. How fun is that? Live view. Oh, I can't do live view when I'm tethered. Shoot. It's okay. If you have live view and you're not tethered, you can look at your screen like that or like that. I'm totally blind. I can't see a thing right now and take the shot. Okay, so just note, this image is probably not going to be very good because I can't see. But hey, pretty cool. I think I'm still overexposed. Yeah, it won't let me see my…I didn't know that you couldn't see your… Oh, it's hunting, hunting, hunting. Will it be in focus? I don't know. Let's try it. But my point is if you're in live view, you can see that, okay? And did it work? Kind of and actually, you know, do it straight overhead shot by just looking at your live screen like that. So a little fun tidbit, okay? So because I can't do that... Make sure it doesn't fall off my apple box here. Get it closer to me. And honestly, it's the same thing as shooting with... And be willing to go at an angle with that back light. Okay, again, it's just a matter of styling. If you want to add in greenery or plants or cool things to make it beautiful, you can. You know how fun is it to like make a symmetrical composition, or asymmetrical. I'm one of those people who… Have you ever notice there's people who like one threes and fives, and there's people who like twos, fours and sixes? I'm a one, three and five kind of girl. That's good. Do I have my greenery anywhere? Did that go anywhere? My flowers and greenery disappeared. I could use a succulent. - [Kenna] Julia? - Yeah. Questions while we're thinking. - Just one quick question while you're waiting for that. A lot of people are asking, why don't you use a tripod? - I should be. Honestly, I should be using a tripod. Especially, like I said in the beginning, especially with an inanimate object, you can use a tripod and then that gives you a lot more freedom. So 99% of commercial shooters do use a tripod. So honestly, I should be, but you can without, as you can see. Let's see. So now my thought immediately goes to color. When I'm not sure I really like what I'm seeing. Yeah, I don't know if I like what I'm seeing. But this kind of stuff, you can get, you know, in Hobby Lobby or any Michael's store, I'm not going to do this because I don't like it. But just to give you some kind of example, greenery always works beautifully with any kind of food, so you can create line in your square image. And the nice thing about these boards is that it's the, you know, kind of the shape of your sensor. Not perfectly, but it allows you to be able to kind of say, "Okay, if I put this over there, how will that look compositionally on a square?" Okay, so use the foam core as a guide to create a composition that's interesting, okay? So I'm going to go ahead and shoot this. And honestly, with food photography, this is fake greenery. Real, it looks better and less is more. So I would honestly probably just take a few leaves or sprigs of some, like if it's a food with a spice that's in it. I would use that spice, you know, like sage or whatever to highlight those flavors that are within that food, okay? Shoot this from above. Yeah, I'm not tall enough. I'm not…No, it's okay. This is not going to be perfect image. I'm just shooting it for example. Yeah, I don't even like it. Yeah, okay. Not my favorite, but we'll shoot it and just to give you guys... Is that good? That's not good. My white balance may be off. We might have to re-white balance. Yeah, a little overexposed. I guess we don't have to re-white balance. It looks pretty good actually, color-wise. Okay. So you guys get my drift. Be creative in how you form things. The foam core is going to help you as far as giving you a square or a frame of reference. That greenery is way too big and not in the right spot and I'm not very happy with, but at least you can see how you can really kind of make things appetizing by shooting with backlight. Sarah showed me some of her work yesterday. She has a blog called In Lieu of Cordon Bleu or something. Does a wonderful job with backlighting. So…

Ratings and Reviews


Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....

Student Work