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Food Photography 101: Essential Steps for Getting Started

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Hi. Kyle Jacobson here. I’m the director of photography at Blendtec and thought I’d share some pointers on what I do and how I do it. I seriously love my job and enjoy sharing tips with anyone who might lend an ear, so I hope you’re ready to shoot some food. In this post, I’ll discuss the first three steps. Be sure to check back next Friday for the last three steps—I follow the colloquialism of “saving the best for last” in this two-parter. And so we begin…. right….about…..wait for it…. now.

1. Equipment

The right equipment for you will depend on your current level of skill and the level you want to get to.

Sony Alpha Camera

Sony Alpha Nex-5

  • Professional: DSLR
  • Amateur pro: Mirrorless camera (Mirrorless cameras are becoming increasingly incredible and are a close second to DSLRs. For a great comparison of DSLR and mirrorless, check out http://www.digitalrev.com)
  • Amateur: Small digital camera (like a Canon Powershot or a Sony Cybershot)
  • Beginner/no budget/for fun: Cell phone (You’d be surprised what these puppies are capable of. To get an idea, check out moblie phone food photography.)

My favorite place to compare digital cameras is snapsort.com. This site allows you to choose any camera and compare it with any other camera on price, specs, ease of use, and more. The site also has lists of top cameras in every category—a helpful resource if you have no idea where to start.

No matter what level you’re at or what camera you choose, learn how to use all of your camera’s features.

2. Research/inspiration

Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Need some inspiration? Start by looking at other photographers’ work. The websites I browse daily include Pinterest, Food Gawker, and Epicurious. (All of these sites have mobile apps for iPhone; Epicurious and Pinterest also have apps for Android.) Make it a habit to look at food photography every morning for at least 10 minutes. You’ll begin to see the world differently; your mind will be open the rest of the day, thinking about the possibilities.

Find the photographers who resonate with your style, and learn along side of them. Bookmark their pages and follow them. Some photographers are even kind enough to answer specific questions from their followers. People I love to follow:

3. Creativity

To spark your creativity, walk around outside, visit new cafés, visit an antiques store, go to a boutique, think outside of the plate. Just yesterday I was walking through a craft store looking at a bounteous array of goodies and asking myself, How can I incorporate these items in my shoots?

Red Pepper Aiole

Red Pepper Aiole

Another method that can help you create unique and inspiring photography is to break down the process into components:

  • How will the food be prepared (grilled, braised, in an easy-bake oven, etc.)?
  • How will you cut the food (down the middle, horizontally, diagonally, with a chainsaw, etc.)?
  • What would go well with the food (lemons, bread, spinach dip, a penguin, etc.)?
  • What will you put the food in (a white square dish, a basket, a drawer from an old doll house, etc.)
  • What will you put the food on (cement countertop, antique door, barn wood, you son’s head, etc.)
  • Could you mix something into the food (small or large chocolate chips, nuts, horseradish sauce, yogurt, Pixy Stixs, etc.)
  • Could you put something on top of the food (orange zest, cream, a Lego piece, etc.)?

Ask yourselves these and other questions to open your mind to all possibilities.

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