A simple cheat to direct a viewer’s eye

We can’t always control the shoot as much as we’d like. One of my regular gigs is shooting real food prepared by real kitchen staff at real restaurants. The shots are more about the cooks and the restaurants than about my photographic prowess. Many times food comes out of the kitchen looking perfect, other times … not so much.  On these assignments I’m also usually restricted to available light, or minimal supplemental lighting. Immediately I’ve lost control over two key aspects of the shot. It’s on assignments like these that I’ll often employ a trick that’s so simple I’m almost   embarrassed–vignetting.

By artificially darkening the corners and edges of images we can direct the viewer’s eye toward the center. The trick is to not overdo it, but to have it be subtle. If you look at an image and think, ‘Oh, darkened corners,’ you’ve most likely gone too far. There are several points along the way where you can employ this trick, but my preference is in Photoshop, after the image has been cropped and the contrast adjusted.

My personal method involved the Quickmask tool and an Adjustment layer. On you image, enter Quickmask mode (Q key command) and select a round paint brush of appropriate size. Then simply mask the majority of the image. Remember this is a mask, not a selection, so the areas you paint will not be affected by the next step.

Quickmask mode

Quickmask mode

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Book review – Food Styling for Photographers

by Linda Bellingham and Jean Ann Bybee

It may be easiest to start with what this book is not. This book, and the lessons within, will not make you a food stylist. This book will not take work away from stylists. We all know there are times when we don’t have the option of working with a professional stylist, whether due to budget, time or logistical constraints. They will not replace the expertise, talents and skills of a professional food stylist.

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Food photography – the basics

As a photography student I was encouraged, and in many cases assigned, to many different types of photography. We were given individual assignments on portraits, still life, products, journalism, industrial, architecture, etc. As I progressed through school, individual assignments gave way to elective courses specific to certain types of photography. Of course learning the technical and aesthetic challenges associated with different types of photography is important to any well rounded education, but more important was the ability to learn about yourself and what types of work you are best suited to. It was during these years that I discovered I really enjoy the slow, methodical processes of studio work and as a natural extension of that I gravitated towards food photography. [Read more...]

Shooting ice cream…

…and other frozen treats is delicate and very technically challenging. It’s also a lot of fun. Working with real food is always my preference when possible. I’ve found that the time spent in creating fake food is often better spent by making real food look better. Frozen and very cold items is one of my exceptions to this rule. [Read more...]

Splash and pour shots

One of the most fun types of shoots we get asked to do regularly is the pour shot. I personally like the pour shot because it’s technically challenging, visually arresting and sometimes unpredictable. [Read more...]

How a typical food shoot comes together

Our clients range from the creative director who’s been doing this for 256 years to the marketing assistant who’s in their first job out of college. Sometimes the clients are from the creative industries (graphic design, advertising, marketing) other times the clients come directly from the food industry. In any case, everyone wants to know how we work. This narrative is based on a typical advertising or corporate shoot. Editorial(magazine) shoots work a bit differently. [Read more...]