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K is for Kitchen

Posted by on November 27, 2012

The kitchen is probably the most central room in any household, specifically around the time when lots of family and friends will be around. In early years the kitchen was nothing more than an open fire with sometimes a stone or a branch to help cooking. Recently I read an article that the most expensive kitchen probably costs in the region of £1m as this included crystal worktops, copper walls and Swarovski Crystal chandelier. Not sure if I want a kitchen like that, I would be afraid to damage anything whilst cooking.

For me the kitchen is a great tool in photography. I love cooking and making a record of what I have done and sharing that experience is an added pleasure. Although I have always been told not to play with my food, I make an exception of that when it comes to photography. I do try to avoid waste and prepare well in advance so everything that I want to photograph will be used.

Kitchen & food photography can be quite tricky but also good fun. It depends a bit what your aim is. Do you want to create professional food images that can be sold and used for adverts, packaging, menus etc. Or do you want to use them to share with friends or family and on your own blog. For the first, you will need special equipment and quite some food technology knowledge to get the best photos. For the last, some simple tips and tricks can give you great results.



For both there are some great tips that would improve your image quality.


1. Lighting

The right light can make or break any image and not more so when taking images of food. I think we have all been walking past restaurants with images on display of food that does not look even slightly appealing. For the best result lots of natural light is important. Now that can be quite difficult in some kitchens as well as in the winter months. To overcome this use some indirect lights through lamps and make use of your flash. Aims the flash at the walls or ceiling so the light bounces and does not reflect on the food.

Alternatively for some great mood setting photos, take images by candle light. But I would leave that for the finished product.

2. Materials

It’s not all about the final product, but also about the scene. Use plates, napkins, cloths and anything else to enhance the product. For example when taking images of Eastern Food, use chopsticks and shallow dishes that accompany the product. You often have more stuff lying around in the kitchen then you think, and experiment with different materials and settings. Important is that all is shiny and clean. If needed give your glasses and plates an extra polish to make sure there are no waterdrops or finger prints visible. An extra couple of minutes spend on preparing your scene will greatly enhance your end result.

3. Keep the pace up

Unfortunately most food changes the longer you leave it out in daylight. Products can change in colour and consistency quite quickly, so pace is of the essence. I always suggest that you have a little dry run before you start. Set the scene and work through your options. Have everything in place so the moment you have your product available for photography you are ready.

4. It’s all about the scene

Use anything you have to create that mouth watering experience. If you look in magazines or on restaurant websites you can get some great inspiration of how to make and not to make appealing images. Try to play with colour but keep it natural. Remove all clutter from the area you are working in and keep the work surface clean. However a bit of a mess on the dish is ok as this enhances the idea of realism. When you take the image, keep in mind that what you see needs to be mouth watering. The moment you see your image and think “yuk” you are probably on the wrong foot.

When taking the image, try different angles. Most people will go straight from the top or the front, but sometimes it is better to work at an angle. Try to get perspective in your shot so what you see looks bigger than it actually is. Create depth in your image by focussing on the food and blurring out the surroundings.

Try to find a detail on the food that is of interest. You don’t always need the total product in the photo. Sometimes it is better to have a very detailed image of a bit of the food. Take a range of image from total to detail so you have a choice to play with.

5. Some great ways to enhance the look of the food

There are a couple of little tricks that you can use to get that wow factor. For hot food, try to get the steam in the image. Smoke circling off a fresh of the grill burger looks very appealing and enhances your image – it helps make it look energetic. When working with very cold products, try to get the condensation on the glass or bowls.

A great way to improve your product and, providing you are not going to eat it, is using oil to create shine on your food. Take some images first, check where you think you want to create some extra reflection or light, and with a little brush add some oil to the product. Alternatively for some products you can use water, for which a plant sprayer is extremely handy.

For any food products, gave them a wash and really polish them with a dry cloth. Especially vegetables and fruits look amazing after a proper polish. That’s how you get those really shiny apples!

If you want to have a go over Christmas, try to also get images of the preparation. What is really good fun is trying to get some action shots. Set your camera on multi shot and ask the chef to do some cutting. See if you can get that moment when the knife slices through the product or just hangs over it. One piece of advice, don’t anger the chef. You are relying on him for your dinner 🙂

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