Guess what I did this weekend? I went out of my comfort zone, and attended a semi-private food photography course, instructed by Denise Woodward, with my best blogging buddy, Em. Isn’t she a doll? I was in this photo, but cut myself out of it as I was squinting up a storm. It wasn’t pretty!
I’m so glad I took the workshop with Em, as we were both totally clueless about our DLSR cameras, and had been taking all of the photos for our blogs using the automatic settings on our cameras, I know, LAME!
This course was so eye opening, because I finally learned about aperture, shutter speeds and ISO’s. I really had no clue as to what those meant before taking this course, seriously. Denise helped Em and I get out from shooting in automatic,(yaay) and shooting in manual! Em and I were there from 10:00 till 4:00, and we were spent by the end of the day. It was literally information overload, and when I got home I was ready for a glass of wine and a brainless movie with the family. John, the kids and I hit DJ’s for dinner, and then went to see Spiderman. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
We learned so much that I want to share it all with you, but I can’t fit it into one blog post. I will highlight on some of the major points today, and add another post later.
First off, you need to invest in a tripod. I thought I didn’t need on, but when the light is low, your shutter speed tends to be slower, (1/60 sec or slower) and any slight movement or shake, will result in blurred photos. I thought I had steady hands until Denise turned down the lights and I took some photos without a tripod. They were blurred and not crisp. When I used the tripod my photos were clear and perfect. Luckily, I have a tripod in the garage somewhere that I am going to start using. If you don’t have a tripod, here is a link to the tripod that Denise uses and highly recommends.
The aperture is the size of the lens opening (called the f-stop or f-number). It controls the amount of light that is let in: a larger aperture (f/1.4) lets in more light, while a smaller aperture (f /16) lets in less light. A larger aperture (lower f/number) will have your subject in focus, and everything in front of and behind it blurry. This photo below was taken with an aperture of f/1.4. You also will want to have a larger aperture if you’re shooting in a low light situation.
A smaller aperture will have your subject in focus, and everything in front of and behind it quite focused as well. This photo below was taken with an aperture of F/16.
If you’re ready to move from shooting auto to manual, then you should start out shooting in the aperture priority or aperture (A) setting on your camera. When you’re in the aperture setting, you set up the aperture (or f-stop) while the camera automatically calculates the appropriate shutter speed to expose the image correctly (so you don’t have to worry about setting that). As you become more familiar with how the camera calculates the shutter speed to the aperture setting, then you can try moving over to the M or manual dial on your camera. In the manual setting you will manually set up the shutter speed as well as the aperture. I am going to keep working at the A setting for now, and slowly move over to the M setting as I become more familiar with shutter speeds.
ISO is kind of complicated to explain, but here is a great link if you’re interested in learning more. Denise told Em and I to keep our ISO at 400 for food photography. You can increase it to 800 or higher at night-time to let in more light to the camera, which will then result in a faster shutter speed. The shots will be a bit grainer and more “noisy” the higher you set the ISO. Feel free to experiment with the ISO at different settings as you get more use to working manually with the camera.
Keep your camera set to auto white balance. You can change the white balance when you edit your photos, if you wish.
RAW vs. JPEG:
For food photography, Denise recommended for us to shoot our photos in RAW. This does take up more memory on your camera, but its well worth it.
Below are some more of the photos I took while playing with different apertures and lighting.
If you live in the bay area you should definitely sign up for a course with Denise. Just go to her website and email her. She co-hosts small private classes (8-10 people) as well as instucts private and semi-private classes at her home studio. I highly recommend the semi-private or private class, as Em and I got all of our questions answered, and got some major one-on-one attention that you might not get in a class setting. Denise also has a mouthwatering cooking blog called, Chez us, that you should check out.
All I can say is learning photography is like learning any new hobby or sport, it takes lots and lots of practice, and that is what I am going to be doing over the next few months. I am vowing to only shoot in manual mode, so wish me luck!
In the next post I will go over lighting for nighttime or low light photography situations, and some props that are must needs for any food photographer.