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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


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 anything else.

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 the food.

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! Believe me.

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” photograph.

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.

Soft romantic 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 try!.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

45 degrees and step back

The window to the world

How to produce “different” images