Friday, August 29, 2008

Assignment 4: Taste

The 4th photo club assignment was taste... yes, taste. This included everything from food photos to people's emotion/reactions to food, basically anything that could represent taste. The shot I really wanted was to get someone (preferably a girl) to eat some ice cream. I wanted to compose the shot just showing the lower part of her face (chin/jaw) and have the spoon in her mouth, all against a blown out bright white background (well ok maybe some color, but I wanted strong back lighting). You know, the typical "hmmmm that was delicious" look to it where you hold spoon in your mouth, enjoying every second of that wonderful sweet flavor. Thats what I wanted... but I never got a chance to try to execute so I had to settle for plain food photos. Oh well.

I ended up settling for some hot dog shots from work...

Just a plain shot, I wanted to make sure I got the action of putting the mustard on the hot dog... hey this is TASTE after all :). It might have been better to get the whole hot dog in focus but at the same time I wanted some blurred background so I just settled for making sure the ketchup and mustard was in focus. I also really like the red + yellow contrast... overall the white balance is off by a little bit which kind of sucks (see the that yellowish tint?). Finally, for this shot, I had to make sure the hot dog wasn't centered... I felt that would have been too plain and boring; besides that paper is almost just as interesting as the hot dog!

During the course of the assignment, I was also lucky enough to fly up to the main campus up in Mountain View with all the great cafes... I happened to stay in Building 47 where Pintxo 47, one of the coolest cafes with small tapas styled plates, is located. These little dishes of delight made it the perfect food photography subject...

I haven't had a whole lot of experience shooting food... Not really good at food photography or really know what I'm talking about... but a few things that I personally watch out for are:
  • Make sure you have the correct white balance. There is nothing like a yellow (or pale blue) tint on your food photos to destroy your appetite. Make sure that white is actually white... if that fish is white, please don't make it look yellow or orange (yes, I'm guilty of making that mistake...), it just doesn't look right.
  • Don't under expose... I think it is almost always better to OVER expose than to under or expose just right. So error on the side of making things too bright... there is nothing more disgusting than a dark looking photo of red meat... it just makes it look dull, dry, heavy, greasy... But if you brighten it up, it will just look that much fresher, juicier... tastier.
  • Keep the background simple. As with everything else... simplify simplify simplify. The food is the main subject, avoid clutter from the table (i.e. clashing cups, bowls, utensils, etc). While these items could be used to set a context for the food (i.e. wine pairing), make sure you focus on the right things otherwise the viewer's eyes will simply wander around.
  • White plates help... I personally tend to find white plate settings best... white plates + slight over exposure just creates that light fresh feeling. White probably also brings out the colors of the food the best... but again, this is just a personal taste
  • Tilted angles... for some reason, I love my food shots tilted slightly. Angle (eye level? 45 degree looking down? completely top down?) and composition is very important and is something I need to work on, but I find that I always like these tilted photos the best... maybe because they remind of me magazine food photos :p
  • Use lights to bring out the texture... I tend to like a bit of back lighting on food photos (maybe even some rim light). But lighting is definitely something I need to master... when to use a strong directional light, when to use a soft light... I also tend to avoid using flashes directly as that will usually cast a pale blue light...
Anyways, those are just some quick thoughts about food pictures... also, make sure you take the picture while the food is fresh and freshly prepared... People have suggested using a spray bottle of water (or oil) to 'freshen' up the food like how you'd spray the flowers to make it look more lively. Finally... desserts are usually easier to photograph as chefs tend to make it look pretty no matter where you go... I had a lot of fun doing this assignment, but not nearly as much fun as I had enjoying all that food afterwards :)