I photograph a lot of food for my stock portfolio. Many of the images I have photographed were planned out, however, some of them are spur-of-the-moment images after cooking something beautiful. Recently, I made a blueberry French toast breakfast for me and my husband. After getting most of it prepped in the kitchen, I realized that this could really be a gorgeous plate of food. It was one of those moments that I just had to do a quick photo-shoot in my studio before we started eating. So I whipped up a quick serving, propped it on my table, and took a few photos. This is the setup that I used and what I had in mind the moment I decided to photograph this food:
I thought the outcome was okay, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The problem was, even though I could see it in my mind, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I wanted. But I got one keeper, which was good enough for me (considering that it was an impromptu shoot), and I went back to the kitchen to finish cooking breakfast.
I finally sat down to eat my food, and when I looked down at my plate it was so beautiful! So, I took out my iPhone and composed a nice little square photograph, perfect for posting over on Instagram. However, after looking at my plate, I realized that this was what I was trying to create! Not only did I prefer this styling to my initial photograph (the pile of blueberries on top of one piece of toast), I also loved the angle that I shot it from. I decide that this setup was what I needed to shoot in the studio.
So I made another plate of food, mirroring the breakfast I just ate, and started out by photographing it from above. I typically don’t photograph my food from this angle with my SLR, but after this experience I think that I will be doing so more frequently.
Then, just for good measure, I set my scene up similarly to my original photograph, but this time with the new plate of food and berries piled on the top:
If it had not been for the iPhone photograph of this setup, I would have never got the shot I was after. Different tools force us to react to our environment differently. Many times we are acting instinctively, or even subconsciously. Because gear is an essential part of being a photographer, it’s important to understand that beneath all of the technical differences or similarities behind different types of cameras and lenses, each of these will require us to have different reactions when we are holding it in our hands or working with it on a tripod. I have found so many more unique images because of my iPhone, and oftentimes they are images I probably would have never seen if I had instead been holding an SLR.
Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.
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