Friday, May 8, 2009

The Myth Of Camera Skills

Why Better Camera Skills Wont Make You A Better Food Photographer

I know this seems counter-intuitive, but once I realized that camera skills alone were not going to make my food photographs any better a whole new world opened up to me. Many people fetishize the camera and equipment associated with food photography to the point where they forget that there are other factors that contribute to making gorgeous food photos.

There's this prevalent idea that the more you master camera skills, or that the more expensive your equipment, the better your photos will which I say, hogwash!

More on the myth of camera skills in the second part of post...

Garbage In, Garbage Out

What I've come to learn is that the single most important thing to consider when photographing food is the STYLING.

The styling of the photograph refers to everything that contributes to the look of the finished picture. This includes plates, setting, props, etc. but also encompasses how the food actually LOOKS. You see, if the food doesn't look pretty or appetizing to begin with, no amount of sharp shooting is going to change that.

Once I started to focus my attention on making the food look better, my photos instantly improved. Sure, knowing a few things about depth of field or aperture settings help, but as long as you focus on making the food look good on your plate, any point-and-shoot camera can capture amazing photos.

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  1. I couldn't agree more. Good presentation and lighting is crucial for food photos.

  2. I absolutely agree. A trick I learned is that dusting paprika on roasted foods really boosts color without affecting flavor ( of course, use compatible seasonings.)

  3. I agree that expensive camera equipment is not necessary for taking excellent photos. I also agree that food styling is very important. However, I do not agree that the need for mastering camera skills is hogwash. In my opinion, all of the prettiest props or most attractive food in the world aren't going to make much difference if you don't know how to successfully and artfully capture them with your camera.

    Ugly food is always going to be ugly, in any light, no matter how you arrange it on a plate. I believe that good technique in order to create the illusion of beauty or at least some interesting effects is what will really make a photo stand out. A point and shoot camera can take photos as beautiful as a high end DSLR, but only if you know how to use it.

  4. Great post! Although I agree food styling is important, I also think it depends on the type of food blog and who your target audience is. Often times I will just plate the food, take a quick picture, and eat it. And fyi, several of my pictures are on foodgawker, tastespotting, and photograzing. I love beautiful food porn, but I just don't have the time to devote to styling my food like some of the great food bloggers out there.

  5. Thanks Susan, good point. I think I was trying to dismantle the myth that camera skills are the MOST important aspect of food photography....I've seen plenty of amazing pictures shot on 'automatic' mode with a point and camera skills involved at all.

    Alice, very good point. The TYPE or STYLE of photo should really reinforce your blog's brand and identity. Excellent point.

  6. I agree that you can take great pictures with P&S camera. The best thing a person who wants to take great pictures can do is to learn some simple post-processing techniques such as corrective white-balance, adjusting levels and contrast, and cropping. And the other thing I would add is that you don't need to use Photoshop to make these things happen. Great website!

  7. Thanks Alice...very good points.

    Out of curiosity, what post-production software do you use if you're not using photoshop?

  8. I'll probably be stoned for saying this but I use Microsoft Digital Image. I have an old version of Photoshop Elements and I use it on occasion but for basic color adjustments I just use the Microsoft software. I think even a 5 year old could use it.

  9. I don't use Photoshop either. I have an older version of Macromedia Fireworks that does many of the same things and I use that. Frankly, I don't understand how so many people can afford Photoshop - it's SOOO expensive!