We all get in ruts. Food ruts, exercise ruts, routine ruts, wardrobe ruts, creative ruts, you name it. I get it, I’m there. In the same long cardigan sweater and leggings I wear everyday. Truth is, my job requires new and creative content… constantly. It’s difficult to remain inspired 365 of the year, so that’s why it’s crucial to take breaks, step back, and try some new approaches. Even if they scare you.
ESPECIALLY if they scare you.
I went to a photography workshop last year (you can read about it here!) where I learned about finding and applying a photography style to my brand. After that, I attended a blogging conference where I met and chatted with dozens of bloggers– mostly about food photography. Feeling invigorated after both, I began making a list of my photography set up. That included my tripod, a few photography surfaces, props, and my equipment: Canon 5D Mark iii, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L, and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L lenses. I took notes on my styling and studied food photography I admired all over the internet, in cookbooks, and magazines. My goal has always been to improve my photography and I was super motivated as photographing my next cookbook was on the horizon. I had the best gear already, so I decided it was time to change up my styling. When we moved into our new home, I faced new lighting situations. And over the summer, I began testing out new food positioning, props, backdrops, and angles. With better lighting in our new home, I stopped depending on my tripod. And the world of new photography composition immediately opened.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve felt completely different about photography. More confident, relaxed, inspired, and satisfied. Here are some new strategies I began using!
Bird’s Eye View
I LOVE photos taken from above! It’s been fun implementing this into my practice because I’ve never been that great at this type of shot before. I use a stool for these shots or I place the photography board on the floor and stand over it. When I take bird’s eye view photos, the light from the window is behind the subject (so at the top of the photo). For these, I try to have all the food and subjects in focus so I decrease the aperture. This can get confusing as f/1.4 (small focal point) is larger than f/8.0 (more in focus). For the following 4 photos, I used my Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L at either f/5.6 or f/6.3. Read more about camera settings and aperture here.
Bird’s eye view makes it fun to play with negative space (like above), but also to style the subject with a variety of props– or just more food (like below).
Level with Subject + Negative Space
Ditching my tripod meant I could get right up into the food’s face, at it’s very level, using my zoom lens. I love having some negative space in the frame with this composition.
For these level shots, I usually have a poster board set up a foot or so behind the subject. White poster board is my favorite, but I’ve been experimenting with black recently. Sometimes I use another one of my wooden photography surfaces as the backdrop. I prop the backdrops up with something heavy behind it– literally a small crate of my food props!
Level + Stacks
Stacks of food taken at the food’s level is so pretty! I’ve always loved this style, but was never very good at shooting it with my tripod. Problem solved!
Shadows + Dark
Here’s that black poster board I mentioned above. It’s set up a foot or so behind the muffins. I’m loving this style! I’ve always been intimidated by darker food photography, but I’m finally getting my feet wet in this style. I’ve been afraid of too many shadows on my food, but I’ve learned that’s what creates depth and mood in your shots. I used my zoom lens in this photograph, ISO 500 + f/6.3 + shutter speed 1/60 sec.
YES! Besides shooting freehand, this is the biggest change I made recently. I’d say about half of my photos the past few months have been taken with backlighting. And the other half have been my usual scrape of light from the left. For backlighting, all I did was turn my bench around so that the window (well, the sliding deck door!) was behind the subject. I especially love the casts of light on shiny foods, like sauces, batter, melted chocolate and so on. Really makes them POP! My kitchen is pretty bright, so I don’t usually use a reflector when I shoot backlit photos.
That’s really it! I’d say the biggest impact was ditching my tripod. It was a huge crutch for me, so shooting without it was incredibly scary and intimidating. And blurry. All my practice shots were blurry for awhile there. I have extremely shaky hands, but with practice, a good camera, and raising the ISO slightly, I’ve been able to get crisp shots.
Thank you for sticking with me through this 5 year photography journey and by no means is the learning process over! Get inspired, practice until your hands hurt from holding that camera, and have fun!