April 08, 2009

Food Photography According To Me

I am often asked how I can produce good photos. It is quite a task to answer, really, given that I just take photos. They say I take photos with all my heart, and that is quite true, too, although I don't know if my heart has got to do with it. They are wondering what gadgets I am using, and I just can ask myself the same question. Truly speaking, I don't have tripod, Strobist, ECO light, or whatever professional equipments you may have had. All I have and use is a camera with my favorite lens. A reflector, you asked? YUP, a handmade one, made from a cake board lined with tin foil. That's it.

coriander seeds by ab '09 coriander seeds-2 by ab '09

I just take photos, I said, but it does not mean I do abracadabra the food and then it will set itself on the style I want to. I use my eyes, to be honest, and perhaps passion. Or sense of art. Whatever you call it, it is on my mind mixed with my true definition of the setting should be like.

There are methodology and techniques (perhaps, you'd like to read an article I've written for Desserts Magazine: Make Better-Looking Food Photos From Home On A Budget for another overview?) out there, explained by various professional photographers, and you can fave them. Methods and techniques are made for us as guidelines to understand further what is which, which is how, how is which, and which is what. You don't have to strict yourself in a certain and particular term in producing good-looking photos, though you do have to look at and consider several elements to support the idea you have on your mind. There is mix and match, for all I know, which professional and critical photographers can look in their scrutiny eyes. There's also perspectives, like you learn when you do sketching at primary school, which are often the 'thought' of a photo. And the styles to show off your footprint, that is really you, yes you!

Pinky Pudding Bavarois magic in the middles Almond and Orange Blossom Cupcakes

If you subscribe culinary magazines, there are mags that have particular food styles which even when you put them on random with other photos from different mags, you will always know that that particular photo must be from that particular mag. I don't suppose it's boring, although you can always do many experiments on different styles, someone does need to make a mark on his/her work in this world that entitled 'MINE'. Nothing wrong with it. People have different way to make way of showcasing their works, don't they?

I can say, there are many people who take a lot of efforts in taking food photos, although they still complain that the results are not the best they have expected to be; and there aren't many, either, who seem care less of what they've done. You go have a look around, and you'll see whether people just like to press the shutter button, let go and that's it. Yeah, you can do that for shooting birds, because they'll fly away, but... food? Food can't go anywhere, it's still life.

Between these two categories, I go with you who care more and put more efforts in taking food photos. You love food, that's why your photos show us how you love it, how you would serve it, how you should eat it, and how passionate you are in the making of it. Photos tell us all. Photos don't tell lies, well, except those which are mucked up with many tools one can find on touch-up products and it is unnecessary to be applied on food photos.

And, you've never won, you said? Win what? What should you win for?

on the chopsticks #2 rosemary oil plum chocolate clafoutis

Yes, there are many photo events in the blogging world. They are prestigious, so I am told, and they are, to showcase your works. You have to be dared to compete with talented people in the whole world and when you won a title, you must be on top of the world, you'll build more scope of friendship (or readers), and extend your networking. But, let me tell you something, this is not all, not the end of the world if you don't make it to the top.

Judges are humans. Each of them has different opinions, perspectives, vision, and styles. Your photo which is sent to a certain theme of photo events may be good, but they are considered ordinary to various critical eyes. Judges have to be fair, though. They must decide the best photos, not because they want to give titles to bloggers who have not won since ages, but because of the quality of the photos. There are different criteria of skills and photographic elements in each category, to keep you informed, so they should not look at somewhere else. And that's what I do when I am asked to be on the judge panel. To be quite frank, I work with my brain and soul in scoring the photos, not looking at the person who took the photos. I don't care even if it's my mother's.

My photos are not always winners of many photo events, now I can tell you. Below, I'll show you the photos that won the titles and which did not.

Third Place, DMBLGIT March 2008

spoonfuls #2

First Place, DMBLGIT November 2008

my pink brests for Pink October

And some photos which did not make it to the top on DMBLGIT:

plum fruit butter ice cream-2 by ab '09 schulten plums

SnackShot #1: Salad

greens and apple3

And the photo did not win on SnackShot


Third Winner Click: Coffee and Tea


Fifth Place Super Click 2008

pumpkin soup

First Place Click: Red January 2009

dare to be different by ab 09

Some of the photos did not win on Click


wholemeal bread rolls

So, there you go. My good-looking photos do not always win, do they? You can see it now that photos according to me are always good, but to other people, they aren't. Like I said, people have different vision and perspectives, tastes and styles. I sometimes am wondering myself which part of the details they don't like, but perhaps there are always more things to learn from each winning photo.

Given that I use minimal gadgets, there is definitely confidence to accompany the lead to success in producing good food photos. The most important thing to me is that I master the functions on my camera and I have a good lens to cover food photos. Other stuffs I can manage by hand-making or purchase them on sale. Well, this is an expensive hobby and we don't really put a budget on buying lenses or studio equipments at the very moment, although I would love to have all of those gadgets. In the meantime, I do the best with what I have and hopefully, you'll keep enjoying my photos, the food photos according to me. And I thank you for it.

Last thing, KBB-Flickr Photo Challenge is open with a new theme: Ice & Icy Desserts. So, if you dare to dare yourself in making your best photo of ice cream, sorbet, gelato, parfait, or any other icy desserts, you are welcome to post it here, on a small size to the group discussion. You can open a new discussion on the matter of shooting ice cream on a new thread, if you like. We'll definitely talk about it!

This is my Homemade Soy Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, my first contribution to MenuMania and the photo is submitted for Ice & Icy Desserts.

Soy Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, a HomeMadeS by ab '09

Come, get your camera and start exploring!! Have fun!

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Dominique said...

Thank you really for this post. It will help me so much! Never learn about taking photos, and I'm sometimes disappointed when I see mine! So I'm just a begginer...

Peter M said...

Arfi, thank you for the lessons and the always delicious photos.

Y said...

Great post, Arfi. Enjoyed reading every bit of it.

Peter G said...

A very well explained and written article Arfi. I could not have said it better myself.

Andrew said...

All your photos are winners to me! I particularily love the one that didnt win (the cut plum) - lovely.

I dont really take enough photos to develop a style or improve but I enjoy it and am inspired by the winners/entries on DMBLGIT every month; an event incidently that I havent won for ages!

Barbara said...

You have an artistic eye Arfi which makes your photos out of the ordinary. Good post.

Arwen said...

Your photos are so inspiring Arfi. Thanks for the tips, and especially for the link to your magazine article. The take home message for me is to have the patience to set up the photo carefully.

Marija said...

I agree with everything you said. And I'm forever in love with that pink brests photo :)

Kitchen Flavours said...

By reading this i came to know that as i add love to cooking you add love to both cooking and pics...That's it....See how simple i made it....Hmmm pics are awesome. Love the vegun ice cream.

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Thanks for such a rocking good post Arfi. You make me feel like a winner coz I have passion but may not take great pictures. Love the 'photo-guru' avatar that you have, & I have to say that yours are some of the best pictures I have ever seen. I need a new lens but life is too expy as of now. Maybe one day...until then, I might as well dare to enter the KBB contest! That soy ice is wonderful. Much love my dear...

♥Rosie♥ said...

A lovely post Arfi, I need all the help can get in this dept. Your photos are awesome!!

sunita said...

Winners or not, I do love all of your pictures...and yes, the passion does shine through.Keep it up! :-)

bee said...

arfi, you have a fantastic sense of aesthetics and composition. those matter a lot. i love the DMBLGIT pic of plums that did not win. it's gorgeous.

Arfi Binsted said...

@ Dominique: Everyone starts from a beginner. I am a beginner, too :) Perhaps, I just dare myself to challenging tasks of food photography. I learn to train my eyes and feeling for different composition and styling. You can do that too, I am sure!

@ Peter M: Thank you for enjoying my photos, PM. I do appreciate it :)

@ Y: Glad you do. Thank you.

@ P: thank you, dear mate. You are my inspiration, too. I always love your styling and lighting. Always gives me great impression of all your layouts.

@ Andrew: Yeah, so do I :) But, not many people have a taste of how food will look like in low light hehehe... Although I kind of believing myself that the photo has high sense of art in it, it perhaps fails the method of scoring on DMBLGIT. I thought I could bring something new, rather than high key light photos, but it seems other eyes would still like to stick on brightness and well-prepared food :) Anyway, thank you Andrew for your feedback. I do do learn a lot from your photo event. Great idea to hold an event like that. I am just hoping that it will stay being a prestigious blogging photo event ever, by presenting quality photos in the whole blogging world.

@ Barb: thank you :)

@ Arwen: and passionately hehehe... I think if you give yourself to loose a bit, you will eventually 'feel' the setting you've set up and to understand further what you're doing. I'm not a professional or commercial photographer, though, so this opinion is just according to me :)

@ Marija: thank you :) You've been a really great reader, Marija and I do appreciate your existence.

@ Lubna: they are linked together. If you're a foodie blogger, then perhaps you shall consider to give your reader the best illustration you can give :) Well, that's what I do. People can be different, though.

@ Deeba: no rush with the lens. I started with video camera for a year or so, my first year of blogging. And then I upgraded to a pocket camera until I trust myself that I can manage to handle SLR camera. And I did. When I believe myself I can move further, I bought a new lens. This is a step-by-step project, really, just like when you make croissant. Takes time, but it's worthy the learning. Will wait for your entry on Flickr group :)

@ Rosie: Step-by-step, Rosie :) You'll get there. And thank you.

@ Sunita: thank you, Sunita. I will keep it up hehehe

@ Bee: Yeah, I do love that one too. A bit surprised it didn't get through, but hey... like I said, people have different opinions :) Thank you, Bee.

amerrierworld said...

Your photos for me always have feeling, Arfi - call it expression, atmosphere, whatever, for me it's a feeling I get when I see them. For me too, that's what makes great 'art'- the ability to induce a feeling in someone else.

Cynthia said...

An excellent post, thanks!

Like you, I don't have any fancy gadgets and speciality equipment. I have a tripod but never use it. I use natural light and when necessary a home-made reflector too.

Kate / Kajal said...

Arfi, this post is such a feast for the eyes, each picture is more stunning than the next. You have really evolved as a great cook and a extremely talented photographer and food stylist. Go Girl !!

Zita said...

Well writen & explained! Always love your pics...submit my pic already for KBB flickr challenge, hope it wins.... qiqiq... no just kidding, the most important thing that you keep progressing right?

Cakelaw said...

Some great tips there Arfi - thanks!

Jescel said...

artistic eye or as they call "talent" - this is what makes your photo stand out.. like i said before, you inspire me... and that ice cream looks luscious. my latest post is an ice cream too.. it's very hard to shoot since it melts quickly :o)

Suganya said...

Well said, Arfi. Photography is a form of expression. Until one finds a channel that they can express themselves better, one has to learn more and keep looking :). Simplicity and perspective are the two most important things that I look for in a photo. You have touched all important points in this well-composed article.

Arfi Binsted said...

@ a merrierworld: thank you :) such a great compliment. I do appreciate it.

@ Cynthia: Yeah! We can use hand-made gadgets too, can't we hehehe...

@ Kate: ahhhh... you are one of many inspiring people in the world, Kate. And I thankful for that I've known you :)

@ Zita: we'll see LOL!!

@ Gaye: you're welcome :)

@ Jescel: yes, I saw your rice ice cream... worth to try :) thank you.

@ Suganya: thank you, my friend!

Monica Adriana said...

OMG mbak, ur pictures are all so stunning! hoho. thanks for sharing this!

JieWa Vieri said...

Agree with Monica, ur photos are fabulous..
I'm a newbie in food photography, I wanna learn a lot from you mbak :)

Arfi Binsted said...

Monica and Jiewa Vieri: keep rockin'! make love with your gadgets and make the most of it! hehehe...