No one ever warned me about the addictive nature of food photography. That’s right, it’s a very slippery slope; It begins just as a fun little past time, taking snapshots of some meals you had, a few treats you want to remember, all innocent fun. But before you know it, you get in so deep that you must stage every shot, cook and bake specifically to photograph the end results, wind up spending hundreds of dollars on a new camera, lenses, a tripod, lights- And you know what? The pictures still aren’t top notch. It takes much more than fancy equipment to take decent photos, and I realize now that I’ve been using them too much as a crutch, and without even fully understanding my camera. Recently, this field has been drawing my attention more and more, and I want to dig even deeper still.
This past Sunday, I had the privilege of not only meeting Lou Manna, but taking his food photography class, in a group of 9 other photo-enthusiasts. I couldn’t even begin to share the tips and teachings that I pick up from those 7 1/2 hours, but I would encourage you to sign up for his next class if you’re interested. Believe me, it’s worth the cost and effort of getting into NYC, if you’re not local.
One thing that really opened my eyes was the lighting demonstration. Poor lighting is a common complaint for any photographer, beginner or pro, and it was just incredible to see how easily dark spots on a subject can be remedied. For example, here’s my haphazardly arranged salad, with one overhead softbox and one strobe:
Pretty dark, huh? All of those leaves create tons of shadows, and the radicchio is a deep purplish brown to begin with. Now, without adjusting the camera settings, moving the current lights, or adding any more, Lou helped me to achieve this:
Magic! And, a whole bunch of mirrors. By using mirrors to bounce back the available light, it wasn’t as harsh as shining a light directly into the salad greens, but still bright enough to bring some detail into those shadows.
As you can see from the set up, it only took three mirrors and one white card to make all the difference. Pretty amazing stuff, if you ask me. This one class is going to stay with me for a long time… Not only was it a wonderful learning experience, but Lou is such a nice guy, it would be impossible to walk away from this workshop without a smile on your face. Seriously, think about taking his class if this sort of stuff appeals to you at all- I can’t recommend it highly enough!