November 17, 2018 - November 23, 2018
45 degrees and step back
This week’s column is aimed at restaurant owners who
would like to improve the overall concept of their eating establishments,
without it costing an arm and a leg (well done, of course).
The first interaction between diner and dinner is the
menu. Especially those dog-eared, laminated if you’re lucky, with small
stickers over the printed price with a new price penned in. If you can’t be
bothered to have a good, clean menu, you don’t deserve to have a restaurant.
You should always have a photographic menu, because not
every customer reads English, but photos are easy to understand.
Now I know costs must be kept down and a food
photographer is one of the highest paid professionals in the visual arts,
who comes with an assistant and a food stylist as well. As a dedicated
reader, here are some tips to make your food look appetizing on your menu.
First off, select the plates which will be used. Try to
avoid white plates as white can make the camera confused. Any light color
will do. It is important that the food is the “hero” and not challenged by
Let’s look at the lighting first. Fluorescent lighting
is a no-no as it gives a green tinge to everything. The best? Not your
on-camera flash either. The best is natural daylight towards the late
afternoon with the light coming across the plated food. Colors will be
natural and there will be some shadows to give depth to the photograph.
Another important item is placing the camera. So many
places give you a photo taken from directly above the plate, but that is not
the view that the customer gets! The customer sees the plate of food on the
table at about a 45 degrees angle. So, do the same with the camera, shoot
from 45 degrees to get a more realistic photo.
The other important factor is not to get too close to
the food, or otherwise your camera will “blow out” the whites (plate and
highlights). Step back and use your zoom to fill the frame again.
Another little trick – if the plate is square, turn the
plate so that one quarter faces the camera. Makes your eye follow it into
Want to show a bottle of wine? This is very difficult
as it will come out thick dark maroon or even black. Amateurs who have tried
photographing red wines will be nodding their heads in agreement. So what
does the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of courses of action. First is
to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and secondly place a silver foil
reflector on the back of the bottle. You can light it from the front and the
silver foil reflects the light back into the wine. Try drinking the half
bottle first with the assistant and then shoot the bottle.
Have you ever tried photographing champagne to put in
your photos? Have you then noticed that there’s never enough bubbles to make
it look sparkling. Fortunately, the champagne (or Prosecco or Method
Champenoise) can be coaxed into producing as many bubbles as you might want.
All you have to do is drop some sugar into the glass. Only a few crystals
are enough to give the almost flat glass of champers that “just opened” fizz
look to it.
There are many other tricks in food photography, but
those simple items will make your food look inviting and help the customer
make the decision to come back to your establishment.
November 10, 2018 - November 16, 2018
The window to the world
Some people do say that photography
represents a window to the world, and that may be so. However, thinking
about windows (the building kind, not the computer kind) can help make your
photographs much better than before, too.
Let us have a look at the way you can make windows work
for you. By the way, this week’s exercise is good for anyone with any
camera. No fancy dials to twiddle, f stops to select or shutter speeds to
monitor. This is real point and shoot stuff, but you will come back with
some good shots. Guaranteed!
The first way we will use a window is the window of
your car. The trick here is to sit in the passenger’s seat with the window
open (sorry, autofocus often does not work through glass) and photograph the
world as your driver takes you down the roads and sois of your home town.
Wide angle lenses are the best to choose if you have a choice, but you will
find that you can get some very different shots as you drive slowly along.
What happens is that your speed becomes very slow, compared to any moving
target subject - for example, a motorcyclist, but your speed is very much
faster than the background. The end result will be a sharp shot of someone
on the motorcycle in front of a totally blurred background.
With this type of shot you will have people with their
hair streaming out behind them and lots of action without a cluttered
background. The secret is to make your speed as equal as possible to the
subject’s rate of travel. This way you do not need fast shutter speeds to
“stop” the action as your relative speed to each other is zero!
While you are in the car, take a shot looking into the
exterior rear vision mirror. Sounds crazy, but you can get some very
interesting shots that way too!
The other “window” shot you should look at taking is
the classic “frame within a frame” type of shot. Incorporate the window
frame in your shot so that you are looking at the subject of the photograph
through the window and you instantly have got a winner, but you must
remember to include the frame in the shot. This technique never fails!
Contrasting the smooth complexion of a young girl with
the rough wall and window frame will add even more interest to the shot.
Remember that by putting contrasts and textures into a picture you increase
impact of the shot itself.
Put the subject in the window frame at the intersection
of thirds in the shot (one third in from either side and one third up or one
third down from the bottom or top) and you have now produced a classic shot
with perfect placement and great impact.
Update Saturday, November 3, 2018 - November 9, 2018
How to produce “different” images
There is so much
more to photography than pictures you take of your wife at the beach with
her sister and your brother-in-law. You know what I mean, and you have taken
lots of them in your lifetime. Photographically, we call these ‘record
shots’ as all they are doing is recording an event. No ‘art’ or even
artistic input by the photographer.
Here’s a simple (and
cheap) way to put some art into your photography by using filters, without
having to buy expensive filter kits. Filters can be used with any camera,
the old “film” days, digital, compact or SLR, but digital will certainly
give you an instant result. I also believe in not spending too much on
filters, and when I say cheap, the first one costs 1 baht (and is
recoverable) and gives you a center-spot soft focus filter. It will enhance
portraits, particularly of women, giving a soft dreamy look to the photo.
Using this filter this just means the center is in focus and the edges are
nicely soft and blurred. This effect is used by portrait and wedding
photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic”
Here’s how you do
it. You will need one can of hairspray, a one baht coin and a clear piece of
glass or plastic (perspex) around 7.5 cm square. This piece of perspex needs
to be as thin as possible to keep it optically correct. One supply source
can be hardware shops, glaziers and most picture framers.
Having cut out your
square, put the coin in the center of the perspex and then gently wave the
hairspray over the lot. Let it dry and gently flick the coin off and you
have your first special effects filter – the center spot soft focus.
Now set your camera
lens on the largest aperture you can (around f5.6 or f4 is fine). Focus on
your subject, keeping the face in the center of the screen. Bring up your
magic FX filter and place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is
in focus and the edges are all blurred! You’ve got it. Shoot! Take a few
shots, especially ones with the light behind your subject. Try altering the
f stop as well, as this changes the apparent size of the clear spot in the
middle. Simple, cheap and easy art.
Here is another, the
Super Sunset Filter. This one will give you that wonderfully warm “tropical
sunset” which will make people envious that they aren’t over here to enjoy
such spectacular endings to the day. To produce the warm glow, just take off
your sunglasses and place one side over the lens. It’s that simple! Just
look at the difference yourself, with and without the sunnies. The camera
will see it the same way.
effects can be produced super inexpensively as well. The first is to gently
breathe on the end of the lens just before you take the shot. Your warm
breath will impart a “mist” to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that
early morning mist look for landscapes. Remember that the “misting” only
lasts a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focussed and ready
to shoot. If you have control over the aperture, try around f4 as well.
Here’s another. Use
a piece of stocking (pantyhose) material. Stretch it over the lens and tie
it on with a rubber band. Cut a small hole in the middle and go ahead and
shoot romantic portraits.
There are also other
ways of bending, refracting or just generally fooling the camera’s lens
system. This you do by holding transparent materials in front of the lens
when taking your photographs. I suggest you get small pieces of glass or
perspex (around 10 cm by 10 cm) and use these as the final filter. You can
even use semi-transparent material like shower screen glass. The concept is
just to produce a “different” effect, one that the camera will pick up. It
is very difficult to predict the outcomes in these situations, but you can
be pleasantly amazed at some of the results. The main idea is to give it a