The cloudy grey winter Oregon weather makes me want to make some veggie chili with vegan corn bread muffins.......and practice some moody style food photography. Today thought I'd blog a few tips for creating moody food photos. These tips will work whether you shoot JPEGs and don't edit at all, or if you shoot in RAW as I do, and use an editing software. I edit my photos using Rebecca Lily Lightroom presets as the final processing step. If you need a way to store your photos online for free, sites like Shutterfly allow you to do so.
1. Natural Light Using natural light is always best I think, for me it's the kind of light that I can see the best, and the color of natural light always comes out best on my camera. You will find that kitchen lights will make a yellow cast in photos, so unless you use a custom white balance it's definitely easiest to use natural colored light. For the set up in this shoot I used a table in front of a big window and a couple of silver reflectors. I bought my reflectors at a camera store, but I've heard of people making them pretty inexpensively......they are really a valuable tool for making your indoor food photos look better so totally worth it. You can see pictured below my set up, let a window light the scene with cloudy grey day from one side and then use the reflectors to bounce light onto the shadowed side. Play with the angles and see the effects you can make to the mood in the photos. Try adjusting the scene so that the food is lit from the back, from the side, from the top.
2. Style For food photography, styling is essential to create interest and beauty. Think about color, texture, props, and garnish. In this chili shoot, I tried to use the low light to bring out the colors of the veggies and spices. I used props to create the cozy indoor scene.....like the grey patina wooden background from Etsy, a few different wooden cutting boards, the cute arrow shaped measuring spoons from Pepperberries, beautiful pottery and linen from Montana Arts Pottery. Wine glass and pretty garnish for the chili add the finishing touches, vintage windows from Ravenmoon emporium make the perfect backdrop. But it doesn't have to be complicated, there is only a limited space that will actually show in the photos, so just concentrate on that area, be creative with what you have on hand.
3. Open Aperture Here's where a prime lens is really useful. Especially when shooting in low light, you will need to use the widest open aperture that your camera lens allows. In this shoot I used a 50mm f1.8 lens and an 85mm f1.4 lens. I used them both all the way open and adjusted my ISO to be as low as I could get it to be while still maintaining at least 1/125 shutter.......which is as slow as I dare while hand holding the camera and not causing blur in my photo. In this case, that meant between ISO 400 and 640. You could also shoot with a tripod and then the shutter could be slower, which would keep your ISO down. The higher the ISO, the more grain there will be in the photos, which will impact detail in your food photos. On my camera, ISO 400-640 is totally fine to me, so I'd rather hand hold and feel I have better control and flexibility in my framing. The wide open Aperture will make a very shallow depth of field, which means you do need to pay very close attention to where your focus point is. That is the only point in the photo that will be in focus and the rest will fall into blur on either side of that point. So be creative with that, which brings me to tip number 4.
4. Alter Focal Points With moody style food photos, it is really fun to alter focal points to enhance certain details, and add to the mood and emotion of the scene. See in the photo below on the left the focus point is on the chili bowl, where as, in the photo on the right, the focus is on the wine glass. Try getting up real close to capture a detail, or moving back a little to show the whole scene, notice how the depth of field and focal point is even more dramatic when you are closer to the scene.