When I started my blog in June of 2011 I had just purchased my first DSLR, a Nikon D3100. This is Nikon's entry level DSLR. At the time the package I purchased retailed at just under $1,000 today.. you can buy that same kit for $600-700. When people come to me and say " I want to start a blog, what kind of camera do you use?" I praise this camera any way I can. Until you learn how to use a basic entry level DSLR there is no need to run out and buy a $3,000 camera!
After two years of fiddling around with this thing, I have not mastered it. I have gotten some tips from friends who are professional photogs. I play around here and there with manual modes and all that fancy techy camera stuff. Can I let you in on a little secret? I only shoot in manual about 50% of the time. Reason?
Because I have not mastered what settings will do what in what lighting and all that stuff I should know by now, it takes me forever and about 100 photos to get the shot right. So what do I do? Auto.... flash off.
Why flash off? Look at the photos below....
I recently made one of my favorite family recipes. My husband's grandmother's potato salad. This also just so happens to be one of the first recipes I ever blogged. Pictured above is the photo from my original blog post in 2011. This photo was taken using my trusty Nikon, at night after the kids went to bed, with an over head light on and the flash on my camera. Photo on the right, natural lighting, no flash.
Carrie's basic tips for dummy proof food photos:
*No flash, don't shoot at night and if you can use your natural lighting
*Use the lighting you have. My kitchen has little to no light. I take my plated food outside or in my daughters room depending on the day and the position of the sun.
* Photo back drop ideas: The back of an old cookie sheet, an old table, a homemade photo board, tile purchased at Home Depot or other building supply store, marble pastry boards, large cutting boards, fabric scarps, burlap sacks, old news papers... get creative and random.
For the longest time I shot my photos on an antique table I keep in my kitchen. It's small and just the right size. Best part is it has great wood grain and antique nails/screws that really add to that rustic look I love. Recently however I been a big fan of using old cookie sheets or the $1 place mat I found on clearance at TJ maxx that looks like wood... seriously $1 cleans up easy and looks rustic and woodsy. Love it.
I like to take a photos from every angle so I have a selection in each blog post. Pictured at the bottom of this post I did the plate shot. I placed the place mat on the floor and staged my food. Stood above it and took the photos. In the other side shot photos. I placed the place mat on my table backed up against a wall and placed a cookie sheet behind the food/place mat. With the help of Adobe Photo Shop or a free website PicMonkey.com I am able to play around with the shadows to create a dark back ground and then highlight my salad.
I wanted to do more of a tutorial style post today, however I came to realize two things.... I am not an expert, and I am a horrible teacher! Luckily there is tons of info out there on how to take great food photos. Check out the following articles and blog posts for some great tips from pros!
Photo boards and photo props:
DIY: How to make wood photo boards from Bakers Royal
Finding Props for Food Photograhy - Naomi Robinson from Bakers Royal on Gourmand in the Kitchen
Don't have natural lighting and have to shoot at night?
Katie's Cucina has a great set up for those who are not always able to shoot in the daytime
Don't have a ton of money to spend on props and lighting?
Food Photography Tips on A Budget from Family Spice
For my Classic Potato Salad check out my original blog post from my blog's early days for Grammy In Law's Potato Salad. This is a recipe I developed to copycat my husbands Grammy. She is one of the best cooks I know and never ever uses a recipe or writes anything down. When you ask her how she made something it's always a little of this and a little of that. After a full summer of obsessing over how to make her salad I think I nailed it. Yes it's that good... I spent an entire summer one year making potato salad!