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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Olive balls ready to roll

Basic olive balls, straight from the oven and straight from camera
The olive balls are cooked, they look good to me and actually they taste good (that's one less for the shoot). Great party food. I have all the props ready to play with, minus the extra stuffed olives, which I was going to use as background ingredients but I forgot and ate them.

Technical detail
The buyer likes a vertical and a horizontal version of the shot, doesn't usually like close-ups such as my image above, but prefers the angle that you'd get if you were a tall person looking at your dinner plate. As I'm not a tall person, I am imagining this. However, another food shooter I admire, and a competitor on the Recipe Requests, jonathansloane, took a great bird's eye shot for October requests and that was the squash casserole shot chosen, so what's usual isn't always what's best, and rules are there to be broken.

However, I've made mistakes in the past that I try to avoid:-

1) Too shallow a depth of field, especially when it gives alien blobs in the foreground or the cut edge of e.g. cheese or cake with only a tiny area in focus. As I often shoot hand-held, this is one of my big faults in order to get a fast shutter-speed and consequent sharpness. For the 'on the plate in front of you, tall person' angle, I usually start at f5.6 these days and when I find a composition I really like, I use the tripod for a few last shots.

2) Trailing off into dark background. Food likes backlighting and istock shots don't get rejected by the Inspectors for being high-key. I need to keep backgrounds bright - or have a reason for not doing so.

3) Dog hairs. You don't have a dog? Believe me, even if you don't have a dog, even if you've cleaned the life out of every item in your kitchen, some imperfection will be visible on your precious food when you view it at 200%. I've spent hours Photo-shopping brown dimples out of aubergines and tomatoes, wrinkled leaves on lettuce, or burnt corners on meat in casseroles. The truth is that real food rarely looks perfect and raw food straight form the garden that tastes wonderful usually looks a lot worse than out-of-season, supermarket produce that might as well be water for all the taste it has. For a food shot, only visually perfect is good enough.

Lens
Lenses are very personal choices. I shoot Nikon and my favourite for food shots is my 60mm f2.8 macro. It's a sharp, fast prime and there's no such thing as too close. Okay, it can be a bit temperamental on focus, and my eyesight isn't good enough for manual focus, but we've been buddies for three years now and we know each other. this was my first slr lens - crazy choice! Very me.

Sometimes I use my 70mm-200mm f2.8 as was suggested to me ages ago by yet another food shooter whose work I love, and who's also a qualified Chef with a restaurant in Ireland, foodandwinephotography A long lens gives lovely depth of field but there's the extra weight to consider = tripod

Image quality
I shoot RAW with basic jpeg so I can see results straight away but have the raw material to process in Photoshop, rather than in-camera additions.

After the shoot
I've taken 110 shots and I'm happy with them. I now need to choose about 6 to process and upload, to ensure I get one vertical, one horizontal to offer the buyer. My images will have to go through the istock inspection process and no-one can guarantee acceptance. The process will take a week or so before my images are up for sale and when they are, IF any of them get through inspection, I'll post a new blog so you can choose the one you like the best of mine, and see whether you prefer mine to the other takes on the recipe offered to the buyer. If you're one of my competitors, good luck, and may the photographer with the prettiest balls win.

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