Food Photography Basics #1

Buzzing! To start this little series with you.

I’m so excited to straight in, and kick off this little photography series with you. As a self taught photographer, when I first started let me tell you I knew absolutely nothing! But now I love the creativity the camera brings into my day to day. And how I’ve constantly evolved and developed my style with it. I’ve always loved visual storytelling, capturing the essence of what I see in front of me. I’m by no means an expert, or a professional photographer but I’ve definitely picked up a few things along the way.

I truly believe there are no right or wrong ways when it comes to photography. Some may come at it from a technical perspective, and even see things mathematically. They will search for that perfectly crisp/sharp image. While others might focus on telling a story, drawing that creativity out like a work of art. A photograph holds the power to make us feel happy, excited, even laugh or cry. One form of photography is not better than the other. Like all things in life we each will approach how we see and do things differently. Let’s not forget our camera is just a tool, after all the creative is us who has to take the shot.

With this series it’s time to get you off that AUTO mode on your camera. By the end of this series, I’ll have you jumping straight into the manual mode of your camera. And having fun behind the lens. Why is manual so important? Using your camera in manual mode means you have complete control over the settings of the camera. You guide the camera, not the camera guiding you.

Ready? Let’s dive in shall we

Food Photography 101

How does a camera actually work? 

Have you ever wondered what happens when you click the button of your camera? One of the biggest advantages of a DSLR camera is that you are able to visually see what you are going to shoot before you click that button, and they also allow for interchangeable lenses.. When we click the button of our camera, we are also letting light come through our lens. Inside the camera body, we have a mirror that reflects that light coming in onto a sensor in the back of the camera. This occurs by way of a prism or a series of additional mirrors. This in the majority of cases will depend on the model of you camera. This is the reason we are able to see what we are shooting, as we are seeing a reflection of such through our mirror.

In simple terms when we click the button the mirror flips up, and lets the light come in. The exposure of our image will be determined by how much light we allow into the camera through the lens.

Are you still with me? Confused? Honestly I know learning the fundamentals and technicalities of how a camera works can be terribly boring! But I´m a bit of a camera nerd. However I don´t want you falling asleep at your keyboard. So let´s swiftly move onto how you can take that optimal shot!

Optimal exposure

Our exposure is how light or dark our final image is. Understanding exposure is a key part of photography. This will allow us to capture an image with an ideal amount of light, as well as hold the details in both our shadows and highlighted areas. Basically: Exposure is the amount of light that reaches our camera sensor. Now you see why we needed to cover the above?

In order to achieve the right level of exposure we have to understand the “Exposure triangle” Learning to balance our ISO, Shutter Speed and aperture. These three components are the pillars of photography and I will touch on each of these individually as this photography series continues. It´s essential to understand how each of these work in order to master that often dreaded Manual mode on your camera.

In very basic terms:

ISO: A setting/component of our camera that allows us to increase the brightness in our shot. As you increase the number of your ISO, the image will grow brighter. We will often use the ISO to increase the brightness in low light situations. HOWEVER raising your ISO has consequences, that can dramatically effect the end result. We will discuss all this in part II. 

Shutter Speed: Our shutter speed determines the amount of time in seconds that our shutter remains open. Have you ever wanted to get that epic pour shot but, never feel like you can freeze and capture it perfectly? Our shutter speed directly reflects the amount of motion blur in our image. The lower your shutter speed, the more motion blur the image will have. Don´t worry I will get you shooting that epic pour shot in more time. We will discuss all this in part II. 

Apperture: Basically this accounts for the size of opening of the lens. Don´t get me wrong at first I was so confused by this one. The smaller the number the higher the amount of light we let into our image. The higher the number the less light that comes into our lens. The apperture is represented as an F stop on the camera. Depth of field is another aspect we can control using our apperture. What this means is that we can control the amount we have in focus in our image. We will discuss all this in part II. 


Camilla Food Photographer Barcelona - London

Should I Shoot in RAW or JPEG? Does it Matter?

I will always recommend you shoot in RAW especially for food photography. But ultimately this depends on what you´d like to do with these photos. A RAW file, is considerably a much heavier file and can take up a lot of memory, therefore if you are simply wanting to take your camera with you on holiday and capture all your memories and adventures and store on your computer that JPEG is fine.

The biggest difference is that RAW is the file in it´s purest form without being processed, allowing more versatility when editing in post production.  Contrary to this JPEG loses data each time you use, send, or open the file. With each of these actions the image will lose it´s quality in JPEG. As post production is my favourite part of the process, what I tend to do is shoot in both. Especially when travelling so I can share instantly with friends and family. And have fun playing around with the RAW file in editing for my blog at a later date.

Lastly, Do I need an expensive camera?

Short answer no! People might have the best DSLR camera on the market but still have no clue how to use it, or fully maximise it´s potential. I´ve seen incredible shots win awards, using a simple basic DSLR camera. I touch specifically on the equipment and the camera I use here. I’m in love with how versatile and easy to travel with is my Sony a7 ii. Most importantly I can´t say loud enough how it´s all down to practice. Yes as cliché as it sounds practice makes perfect. When I first started I had no idea what I was doing, I didn´t understand lighting, composition, equipment but as I saw my images improve my passion to improve grew with it.

Looking to continue to improve and master your food photography? Well look out for part two of this series where we dive straight into our camera settings and how to use them for food photography and for improving your photos.



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