Food Photography 2014

I started this food blog mainly as a project for myself. I wanted to get back into writing for pleasure, I wanted to expand my photography skill set and I wanted to learn about web design and coding. Inspiration for the food blog's format - photo-heavy, generally humorous - came from a mix of the Singaporean food blogs I read. If you're interested in peeking into the restaurant scene on the other side of the world, check out:

I was not new to photography, so I assumed transitioning from shooting cityscapes and travel photos to food would not be difficult. My first two meals out with my Nikon D90 in hand were to 1111 Mississippi and Herbie's. They're dark, not really focused, have bad white balance, and are generally uninteresting. I'm also way too close to the food.

1111 Mississippi

Eleven Eleven Mississippi

Herbie's

Herbie's Vintage 72

My dreams of having an awesome food blog were hampered by these very average photos, so I took a break to research popular food photographers and food blogs. Here are my favorites:

St. Louis based photographers have also been an inspiration and source of advice: Greg RannellsJonathan Gayman, and Jennifer Silverberg.

I also spent a great deal of time researching cameras, ultimately upgrading from my Nikon D90 to the D7100. The jump in quality is not due to the camera, though. It came from taking a million different photos with different settings until I figured out what worked, watching hours of YouTube tutorials, studying aspects of photography I was unfamiliar with, and, of course, luck. Here are some of my shots that stand out to me for a variety of reasons:

Katie's Pizza and Pasta: This picture is not great (it's too bright in the back and too dark on the food), but it was the first time I realized how much of a difference natural light makes on a photo. The food always looks brighter and, in my opinion, more tasty. 

Olio: I wish more was in focus, but I liked the blurred out action in the background and the framing. I hate taking pictures of dips/soups, since there's not a lot of interesting texture in them normally to shoot. Add in a spoon. 

Olio

Pastaria: The colors are a bit off and the angle is too dramatic, but I was trying to do something different than the rest of my pizza pics. 

Pastaria

Pi: Another attempt to shoot pizza with a different perspective. Once again, the depth of field is too shallow, resulting in only a small portion of the picture being focus. I like the idea behind it, though.

Pi

Saucy Soiree: The first food event I attended. Shooting on the move in a crowd of people was something new, but I really liked how the top muffins are focused while the bottom are not. Saucy Soiree also had the added difficulty of a rapidly changing amount of natural light. 

Niche: When I think of beautiful plates of food in St. Louis, I think of Niche & Sidney Street. Unfortunately, for us obnoxious food photographers, both restaurants are dark. I've spent countless hours trying to figure out correct white balances and colors for my Niche pictures. To shoot in places like this, a fast lens is a necessity. I was using my 35 f/1.8. 

Niche

Elaia (my first successful attempt to use my iPhone as a light source)

Elaia

Scape: Natural light saves the day!

Scape

Mango

Mango

Fork & Stix: This is one of my favorite pictures that I've taken. I took it mid-day and love the contrasting colors.

Fork & Stix

My first time trying to shoot food photos at home, using La Patisserie Chouquette's bostock. It's definitely not a great photo, but it was good enough - and fun enough - to keep me trying things at home. 

Dinner Lab: the first time I shot chefs plating and cooking. Organized madness. Trying to shot in a dark room while chefs plate was not easy, but I loved how this came out. 

My first assignment for Sauce Magazine and first time shooting inside an actual kitchen with Josh Allen of Companion. This is still the only in-kitchen shoot I've done, and while I do like my pictures from it, I wish I had better ones of Josh doing his thing. It's tough getting the shot you want in a small (hot) space without getting in their way. It's also hard even know what kind of shot you want. I'm still studying what makes a great "action" food shot.

First time shooting at home with a lighting set up (as well as the first homemade item I've shot):

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Alton Brown's Pumpkin Pie

Dinner Lab: Anomar

Not-a-Pumpkin Spice Latte

At this point, I made the decision to upgrade from a Nikon crop sensor (DX) camera to a full frame (FX) D750. The major reason for this is that the D750 has superior low light performance, allowing me to take pictures in the dark and moody restaurants without having a huge amount of noise (less grainy photos).

Pastaria

Pastaria

Royal Chinese BBQ

Royal Chinese BBQ

Salume beddu: Something I've been focusing on is being farther away from the food as I shoot. For whatever reason, it seems that most people are inclined to get right up in there for their shots, myself included. But as I started reviewing my shots, I realized that by moving away from the food, you can get an understanding of what the whole dish is. I took a shot of this same sandwich from the side at close range and while the lettuce looked super sharp, it wasn't interesting or appetizing. 

Guanciale Sandwich

Gobble Stop Smokehouse

Smoked turkey ribs

Sump Coffee

Sump Coffee

Niche

niche-102

Kim Dok Won Korean Bakery

Fruit Cake

Hiro: This picture marks the point where I became comfortable enough shooting my camera totally manually to try it out in a restaurant with success. I've moved back, so you can see the entire bowl, the whole dish is in focus and the lighting is good.

Shrimp Laksa

Getting into photography has been rewarding, frustrating, painful on the wallet, but overall, fun. I'm still learning more and more each day, and not a meal goes by where I don't wish I had taken better photos. I think the photos above, which are in chronological order, show that I've evolved as a photographer, and I am hopeful I'll continue to grow and improve. Some things I'm looking to improve on and try this coming year: better shoots at home, more "behind the scenes" shots in restaurants, more shots of the restaurants themselves.

Hopefully over the last year I've given you inspiration to try some new places and return to some old favorites.