One of the topics I receive the most questions about is photography. So here’s a list of some frequently asked questions, and the answers from this (very amateur!) photographer. :)
What is your background in photography?
I consider myself a 100% amateur photographer! I have taken zero classes in the subject, and have had no professional training. But I do have some great friends in my circle who also have interests in photography, and have been gracious enough to give me some great tips and pointers along the way. :)
My interest in photography probably deepened a few years ago, when I decided to journal 2008 by doing a “Project 365″ photo-a-day blog. It was a fun challenge to develop more of a “photographer’s eye” towards my daily life. But I also became pretty aware of the limitations of my little point-and-shoot.
So in the summer of 2009, when I decided to launch this blog, I went ahead and traded in my two last point-and-shoots on Craigslist, and bought my first DSLR (also on Craigslist!). Once I brought it home, I realized I had absolutely zero idea how to work it, and knew nothing about terms like “aperture” or “shutter speed”! So thankfully — that’s where some great friends stepped in and taught me the basics.
But otherwise, I’m still baby-stepping my way through Photography 101 on my own. Wish I had more time to devote to the hobby, but at this point, food blogging is taking up most of my free time! :)
What equipment do you currently use?
I currently shoot with a Canon Rebel T2i DSLR camera. Love, love, love it – would 100% recommend this camera. Then my main two lenses are the Canon “nifty fifty” lens (50mm, f/1.8) — which I would recommend to anyone beginning with a DSLR. It’s the best $100 you’ll spend! Then my splurge has been a Canon macro lens (100mm, f/2.8). For food photography, those both rock. For everyday photography, I still almost always use my 50mm, or the kit lens.
I also use a Manfrotto tripod (initially had a cheap tripod from Wal-Mart that caused me endless frustration). As well as a $1 piece of foamboard that I use to bounce off the natural light from my window for all of my food shots. :-)
I had no idea when I purchased my camera how expensive a photography habit can be! But in my experience, if you go the DSLR route, you can go a long way with a basic camera and at least one or two favorite lenses. I definitely have a long wish list of equipment I’d love to own someday … but grateful for what I have now!
What is your food photography setup?
Like I mentioned, I have no fancy tables, lights, reflectors, etc. And living in a tiny 1920′s bungalow, I don’t have a ton of extra space for any elaborate setup!
So my amateur little photography “studio” is actually just two tv trays (is that what they’re still called??), set up back-to-back against my north dining room window. And then I prop up my $1 piece of white foam board (a little more sturdy than posterboard!) to reflect the natural light.
I wish I had more natural light, and could shoot more composed photos on my dining room table, but alas, my little 18″ x 24″ tv-tray area works for now. :)
How do you get those bright, colorful backgrounds?
Since I do have such limited space (as mentioned above), I decided early-on to make my photography “style” more colorful and bright. So I actually just went to our local fabric store and purchased about 15 half-yards of their basic solid-colored fabric. It’s a totally cheap and easy option. And for now — it still works for me! :)
What photo editing program do you use? And do you shoot in RAW or JPEG?
I initially had a copy of Photoshop Elements, and then recently bumped up to Photoshop CS4 (the real deal). I’m sure I’m only tapping into a tiny part of its capabilities, but it has served me well. :)
And while I tried RAW for awhile, I actually prefer shooting in JPEG. Uses up far less of my harddrive space, and if need be, I’ll occasionally just open up a JPEG in the “Raw Editor” in Photoshop to use some of those features.
What editing features do you use the most?
In order of importance, these are the Photoshop features I probably use most frequently:
- Levels: I almost always use this to adjust the lighting levels on a photograph. Most often, I adjust the midtones and highlights.
- Unsharpen Mask: This is Photoshop’s sharpening option. I use this on almost all photos.
- Vibrancy: I usually prefer this to saturation. Helps photos “pop”. But then I also occasionally use the saturation option when needed.
- “Warmer”: Ok, this is actually a (free) action that I downloaded from The Pioneer Woman that just warms up the photos with a nice yellow tone. I know you could do the same thing with color balance and levels, but it’s such an easy one-click “fix”. (And then I just adjust the opacity to use more or less of it.)
- Contrast: I adjust most of my lighting issues with “Levels”, but occasionally contrast is a nice, quick way to adjust those levels as well.
- Clone Stamp: I admit – I use this to clean up crumbs from the photos! :)
- “Soft Light”: Via Pioneer Woman, I also learned the soft light tip awhile back. If you click on your background photo, and then make a copy of it (for a Mac it’s “Command + J”), select “Soft Light” in the layers pull-down menu. Then adjust the opacity of the change to the desired place. I find this is great for people shots!
Any photography tips??
I would just say to get out there and photograph, photograph, photograph!!! I know that there are endless editing techniques we can learn, but the foundation is just getting great photographs to begin with. So keep a camera with you as often as possible, and just have fun snapping shots of life!
I’d say that one of my main tips (which you could probably tell from my photos) is also to not be afraid to “get close”. My favorite photographs seem to be of normal, everyday things (and people!) — just shot from an angle that gives new perspective and insight. :) So get close, try new angles, get down on the ground, climb way up high or whatever is needed to try and give an interesting new perspective of a moment!
If you want to learn more, there are also now zillions of photography sites and tutorials (especially on YouTube) that you can find on the web. Or don’t hesitate to be like me and ask your photography friends for help! (I know that I learn best by having people just show me, so that’s been a great help!)
Overall, don’t let intimidation over the technology of photography get in the way of the joy of it. I think we’re ridiculously lucky to live in a time where such great cameras are available (and affordable) to us. So snap away, and have fun!!!