Thursday, November 24, 2016

How do I plan my food shots...

Many a times I have been asked how do I plan my food shots and about the technical details of the shots. Before I talk about these,  I must confess that I have no training in photography. I have always loved the idea of taking pictures, as pictures are the only way to freeze a moment forever. My first inspiration is my father.
Baba had a Konica film SLR camera. He used to take it out for special occasions and during our annual travels. I used to nag to let him give the camera to me so I can take pictures just like him. Those were days when there were only analog cameras,  there was no way to check the image or delete an image once you have taken it. Good or bad you have to take it. And you would only come to know whether it's good or bad after you develop the films,  both buying and developing the film was quite costly. Still Baba used to let me hold his camera. He used to prompt me how should I check the metering through the view finder before I click, and I still remember how he used to warn me not to touch the circular knob to adjust ISO. 'Keep to 100, do not move it', that used his strict instruction. And now when I show him a night shot using my Nikon which permits an ISO high as 12800, he nods his head with surprise.

With the new age digital photography, it has now become so easy to take a picture, everybody can take a picture. Even my 5 year old niece is taking pictures with her mother's phone. You click, you check, if you do not like it delete it, click again, things are so simple.

From that childhood Konica analog film camera I have come across many other cameras, a point and shoot (I still do use one), a basic DSLR to one of the best. I have picked up few of the commonly asked questions and tried to answer them here. If you need to know more, feel free to drop a mail at

Which camera and lens do I use?
Currently I'm using Nikon D810, with 50 mm prime and 105 mm macro lens for food photography. I also use a D600.
While in vacation I rely mostly on my iPhone camera. But the fact of the matter is that one doesn't need an expensive camera to click a good image,  if you know your camera you can create magic.

Do I use any artificial light for photography?
I prefer daylight for shooting. I also use off camera flashes. I use Nikon SB700.

Have I taken any course on photography?

Do you I any photo editing software?
Yes, I use Lightroom and Photoshop.

Do I cook the food you shoot?

How do I plan your food shots?
I use pen and paper to build up a draft arrangement that I want to have,  including the bowls and plates and props. Then I start to play with the composition in real life. I mostly rely on my instinct and do not follow any hard and fast rules. Sometimes I do end up with a completely different arrangement than the one I began with.

I avoid using too many props unless it adds to the story line. Handling  too many props is sometimes very difficult, and in many cases it may divert the attention from the main subject - the food.

I always shoot in manual mode and in RAW. I keep the aperture to 5.6 or higher and ISO to 100. When I use a tripod, I play with the shutter speed as needed but while shooting  in hand held mode I keep it to 100 or above.

I only shoot during daytime so I can avail the daylight. I place the subject close to the window or a door to get plenty of daylight. I do use the speed-lights to light up my subject or balance the shadows.

Color scheme is very important to pop up the main object in a scene. I usually refer to the color wheel to find the contrasting or complimenting colors, monochrome also works.

Choosing a correct angle is also a vital, I usually take multiple shots and choose the one I like while post processing.

One thing I keep in mind  that the hero or the main ingredient should be in focus and the image should be crisp, sharp and clear. A good food image  to me is one that is tempting and makes the viewer drool.

This is the first post where I have solely talked about food photography as I see it. There are  so many more things that I would like to share. Hopefully I shall do that in near future.

Below is an example of my thought process as I shoot. I have picked up an ingredient - Garlic and walk you through.

This first garlic image, it's mostly about the garlic, nothing else. I placed the garlic pods on a piece of slate against a window to get the back light and took the image. For me it lacks something.

The second image has a colorful background and better light. I was making pesto, the main ingredient was the green basil. So I placed the green bunch in the background, as well as a hand painted blue wooden board. I placed a speedlight at 3'O clock position. I'm sure the second image appears to be better than the first one. The vibrant green gives the image a boost.

The last one is exactly same image as the second one, only I have added a filter to the image while post processing.

I know it is a matter of debate while choosing which one is the best of these three, it does depend on personal choice. Comment below and let me know which one you think is better .

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  1. Awesome post.. would like to learn more about food photography

  2. Beautiful Post CHitrangada.. Enjoying images with or without filter is personal choice..

  3. Thanks for the post, it is very helpful for budding photographers like me. Looking to see more tutorials from you. By the way what is the filter you used in the last photo, kindly let me know.

    1. Thanks a lot. I used a filter from google's nik collection, analog efex pro.

  4. Awesome pics, presentation and styling; lot to learn from you. Thanks, Sukhendu Kanjilal Hyderabad