Over the weekend, I attended a food photography workshop at Providence Cafe, just outside the CBD, in Carlton North. We were taught by foodie and passionate photographer, Matt Craike (check out his Instagram at @eating.melbourne). Matt shared his tips and tricks to getting the best food photo. He touched on 3 major components: lighting, composition, and editing using VSCOCam/ publishing using Instagram. Although taking food photos comes as second nature to me, it was still very interesting to learn from Matt. Plus, it felt so cool being surrounded by 20 or so foodie photographers like myself hehe 😀
The location of the photoshoot was at the very modern and very trendy Providence Cafe. The story behind this cafe came from the philosophy defining what a “Farmer’s Market” should be- a place where people can come together, to build a sense community, and to share good produce. These three ideals set the founding stones for Providence Cafe.
As Matt said on Saturday, lighting is the most important element in food photography. As a general guide, I avoid shooting in environments that are dark or low light because it makes the food photo come out dark, grainy and generally, unappealing.
When I shoot food photography, I must must must need natural light. I always try to get a window seat when I go to cafes. That being said, I avoid shooting in direct sunlight because that adds dark shadows to the food, making the image come out harsh, even over-exposed.
Composition refers to how you want your photo to look. Matt mentioned 3 elements to composition: foreground, middle ground and background. These three elements should join together to “tell a story” about the photo, he said in his words.
For example, in the foreground, I might have a dish of smashed avocado and poached eggs, in the middle ground I might have a smoothie, and in the background I might have another dish. These three elements join together to tell a story that I am at a cafe, having breakfast with a friend.
Another aspect of composition is: Distance. How close up or how far away do you want to be from your main subject. Do you want to do a close up to show the texture of the food? Usually, a macro lens such as the 60mm or the 100mm would be handy in these situations. Say you wanted to focus in on a strawberry, to capture each of those tiny seeds, then you would definitely need a macro lens.
On the other hand, you may want to zoom out a bit and show the context, the surrounding décor and props that surround the dish. If so, I would opt for the 50mm lens.
The final thing aspect of Composition Matt touched on was the angle that you want to shoot. When he said the “Birds-eye-view” angle is very popular nowadays, I smiled to myself because that’s the style of photography I see all the time on Instagram. You can find more about this style of photography here. Other common angles are 45 degrees (where you are shooting slightly above eye level) and 0 degrees (where you are at eye level with the food)
Editing & Publishing
The last section of the food workshop touched on Editing & Publishing. I tend to use Adobe Photoshop to edit my photos, but if you are on the go and need to do something quick, VSCOCam is definitely a very good and very comprehensive editing app that can be downloaded on IOS and Android. The main tools I use are sharpen, brightness/highlights, saturation/vibrancy, and increasingly, I am finding myself using the straighten and alignment tool, especially when your photo didn’t come out at the right angle, and you need to (artificially) fix it up a bit 😛
In terms of publishing on Instagram, Matt said #hashtags are a must, as well as tagging the location of the cafe. I definitely agree on that as it helps to increase your exposure. Plus, some cafes even feature their guest’s photo on their facebook page or Instagram account which is very nice 😀