The rising popularity of minimalist cooking has been changing the realm of food photography. With minimalist cooking, rarely used and specialized cooking utensils, expensive and hard to acquire ingredients have been scaled down to the bare minimum. Some people think that the recession has spurred the rise of minimalist cooking but there are those who think that it is due to a genuine desire to simplify and downsize. Let’s look at the photography side of things…
Whatever the real reason behind the rise of minimalist cooking may be, many food photographers have noticed how it has changed the food photography landscape and have heeded the call of the times. Many food photographers have been adapting and evolving their photography techniques to suit it. The new approach is far from the sumptuously glittering and overfilled image that once characterized food photography.
Food photographers who understand the changing landscape and who understand that less is more have started to use specific photography techniques to emphasize the subject in a more understated manner. Many of these photography techniques do not call for the use of expensive photography equipment. With the right minimalist food photography techniques, you can create good photographs with the basic camera.
When doing food photography for minimalist cooking, even the basic dSLR camera will do. A basic dSLR camera gives the photographer more flexibility compared to the best point and shoot cameras. However, one can still use point and shoot cameras when photographing minimalist cooking but be prepared to contend with limited possibilities as compared to using a dSLR camera. Whatever equipment you choose to use, here are the most basic considerations and simples techniques you can try when doing minimalist food photography:
Keeping It Simple
When considering the composition of your image, simplicity is the key. Plain white plates and plain or brushed steel countertops work well in minimalist food photography. If you need to have a bit of additional color to your image, a sprig of parsley, sage, or any fresh herb will do.
When shooting, shoot on a level with the food or just a few degrees above it. Many people are used to look down on food so offering a fresh perspective would be a good idea to wake up the viewer’s brain. Besides, photographing the food on a level with it or a few degrees above it adds interesting possibilities in terms of lighting.
Many minimalist food photographers also use a blurred background to emphasize the subject. If you want to try this technique, use long lens with a wide aperture and shoot the subject a few feet away with your dSLR camera. If you are using a point and shoot camera, use its macro setting and get close to the subject, about a foot away from it, and shoot. Both these approaches will give you a narrow depth of field so only a small portion of the main subject will likely be in focus. This will concentrate the attention of the viewer even more.
Using A Tripod
The tripod is very important if you want to take high quality food photographs. The tripod may not necessarily be needed in every single shot you will take but not having one handy will be a big mistake. As there are many kinds of tripods, the small tabletop model would be your best choice if you are using a point and shoot camera. This tripod model will allow you to use it on the same surface as your subject and is very useful when you need to have the camera close to the subject.
There are also small tripods that have flexible legs which you can wrap around objects such as signpost poles and tree branches. This type of tripod is great when you are doing minimalist food photography outdoors, say on a picnic or a barbecue. If you are using the bigger dSLR camera models, they will be quite heavy for the aforementioned tripods. If you are using this kind of camera, you would need to use normal-sized tripods.
Whatever kind of tripod you use, always release the shutter of the camera either remotely or by using its timed delay function. If you press the camera’s shutter, it will vibrate so if you want sharper images, do this off camera or by giving the camera the time to settle down before you release the shutter.
There are certain lighting approaches that will give a photograph a more minimalist feel. One of these approaches is using a very strong backlight. The best natural light source would be a window that occupies an image’s entire background. With this very bright background, any color will be reduced to pastel shades and any objects in it such as trees, buildings, cars, and the like will be reduced to abstract shapes.
If this is the only light source you can use for your image, the subject will be silhouetted and appear very dark so you would only need a little fill light. The light from your camera’s flash will be powerful enough to illuminate your subject but not as powerful as it would be if there was no ambient light. Point and shoot cameras are usually equipped with settings that automate this process. If you are using a dSLR camera, you would need to do some experimentation first to get it right.
Another important thing to always keep in mind is that direct light is harsh and will produce heavy and sharp shadows in your images. In minimalist food photography, you need to soften the light. You can use a small diffuser that fits over the bulb of off camera flashes. If you are using a small camera with built-in flashes, you can cover the flash with a piece of clear plastic that is semi transparent. You can even use a piece of greaseproof paper for this for a more dramatic result.
More often than not, good natural light is better than artificial lighting. However, you can use a combination of both to create breathtaking photographs. If you want to stick to natural lighting, avoid direct sunlight. Choose a window that faces north or south. If you have no other option but direct sunlight, diffuse it by attaching a semi transparent plastic shower curtain to a frame of plastic piping.
Many photographers now use an image editing software to enhance and improve their images. Images can now be uploaded to a computer where it can be edited with the help of a special software. You can do simple editing like cropping images or doing slight color correction or doing a bit of sharpening. If you are really tech savvy, the computer can be a very creative tool. With a little imagination and the correct technical know-how, you can produce really astounding images from the raw materials that you have.
When doing minimalist food photography, you need to know what is essential to the image and what are the elements are just incidental to the image. Knowing this would help you determine how much exposure to increase and to ensure that you do not lose any vital elements of your image in the process. You can make an image pop with the help of technology and you can make dull and off whites bright in the process.
I know this is a little different but I thought you might be able to apply some of this stuff to other shoots as well – keep well and stay focussed!