|Expectation vs. Reality - the dark, sinister expose behind food photography :P - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
The heart of any successful food or product photography is Aspirational Living. You're creating a perfect moment, captured in digital non-film, giving not only a sense of the featured product, but the environment around it. You want a sense that whatever the thing is, be it a cool cocktail or a snazzy new watch, you're not buying or buying into this thing for what it is, but what it can do for you as a person. Yeah, sounds ridiculous, but that's marketing, baby, and we've all been drinking the Kool Aid a lot longer than we'd like to admit.
|Even the outtakes of food photography seem glamorous - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
That being said, it can be an involved process to get a shot set up, especially for a paying gig. I've done some advertising photography, and that, of all things, needs to really sell an experience. Getting an epicurean feast for all the senses -- smell, taste, sometimes sound, as well as sight -- is a lot of stuff to pack into a single image. So I figure the feature image from this post is a good starter for the Anatomy of a Food Photo.
|Problem solving and ruining a really good wine - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The feature item was of course the wine. It had to evoke a sense of incoming autumn, that subtle hint of a chill starting to creep into the air. It was, in fact, a stuffy summer day, but thankfully a long Northwest summer day, so the light was with us a lot longer than I deserved, after much fussing with the props and setup. The thing that frustrated me to death was the fact that the red wine appears opaque in photos. With more direct light -- studio light -- the camera could pick up the red, but not only did I not have studio lights, natural was the only way to go for this photo. Unfortunately, natural light wasn't going to keep the wine from looking like it was siphoned directly from Satan's arteries. It looked like the sinister alien goo that came out of people's faces on the X-Files. Yeah. Gross.
I tried back-lighting the wine with a candle, but it wasn't strong enough and fire just throws the balance off an image. I thought, Do I have enough food coloring to make a fake glass of red wine? And that's when it hit me -- water down the wine. It might look like cranberry juice in real life, but on camera, it will look like how red wine appears to our eyes. Holy Frijole, it totally worked, especially with the urgency of rapidly declining sunlight. I was able to get the shots I needed, with just the right opacity and richness of the wine. Total Food Blogger/Photographer Confession: I had to water down a really nice red to do it. No names will be named, but it was the only bottle of red I had (it was summer, I only had whites/roses, and this one red was something I was saving), and I was in such a time crunch, if I went to the store and brought back a cheap bottle of red, I would have lost the light completely, and I needed to get the photo worked into a design THAT NIGHT. But I got the shot. And it ended up being a VERY nice Wine Wednesday, drinking the watered down wine by myself, in my grubby sweatpants.
|How my photo-brain works for setting up a shot - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The final result? Here's one of the shots that made it to the "OK to send to editor" list:
|Bay scallops and chanterelles with orzo in a creamy cognac sauce - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
Pasta and seafood are pretty photogenic and it's hard to take a bad photo of either. But what about boring food, and the most infamous of boring food: SOUP. Yes, soup -- good food, bad photos. Chunky, rustic soups are easier to photograph -- my favorite tip was putting marbles in the bottom of the bowl, ladle in the broth, and place the chunky parts of the soup over the marbles, so they have a sturdy base to sit up against the pool of broth. It's a great idea -- just take the marbles out before eating
|Creamy soup, saved by garnishes - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
|The magic of garnishes -- keep your fridge/pantry stocked! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|