On Friday I met Jonathan Pollock, a London based food photographer. He showed me his fantastic portfolio which ranged from florentines for Fortnum and Mason (pictured here) to sausages and mash for a leading supermarket and foodie dishes for the Onion Council. I also love his meille feuille pic here. He was kind enough to give me some tips on how to take great food photos which I’ve summarised below.
- Use natural light wherever possible – that means I need to be photographing my baking either outside or by the windows – not using the overhead lights or underlighting by the cupboards
- Use a DSLR if you can so you can have a lot more control over the exposure, shutter speed and aperture – I am going to have to get a new camera soon! Jonathan recommends the Nikon D90 with a 15-105 lens
- If you can photograph outside on a cloudy day or use the light one hour before sunset it should work well
- Don’t use the flash on close up shots (which I try not to) but adjust the exposure to +1 if the photo looks too dark
- If you don’t want to use flash then 400 ISO should be about right in low-level lighting (it has a faster shutter speed)
- To take crisp shots and avoid blur, rest your back on a wall or your elbows on the table and slowly breathe in before you take the shot and then gently press snap!
- If you want some basic principles on how to use a camera, then John Hedgecoe’s Guide to 35mm Photography is a good book
- For food, it’s good to take tight shots and remember to have the food at the front of the plate
- Composition wise, remember to visually split the picture into three and take the interesting part of the pic in the left hand third
- 50 ASA/ISO is good quality but has a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) so you need to use it in an environment with higher light levels
I also asked Jonathan for some anecdotes about what it’s like to be a food stylist. He said you have to have incredible patience – each shot takes about two hours – and it’s more like being an alchemist or perhaps an illusionist? For instance, to get a frothy cup of coffee with marshmallows bobbing on the top, gravel is used for 90% of the cup with coffee poured through it. Then a bit of milk is added on top and the marshmallows can sit nicely on the gravel. Who knew!