I want to preface this girl talk session with this fact: I would LOVE to be able to invest money into an online food photography course or better yet, learn in person, from a super talented human being. But this autism mama just can’t afford it.
So what’s a girl to do? Visit my go-to photography inspiration website, where using someone else’s image to learn from, is totally acceptable.
Why Turning To FREE Stock Photographs Is The BEST Way To Learn Food Photography Online DIY Style.
TIP: make sure the stock images you study are really free, so you don’t violate the artists copyright. You can read more about this here, in one of my previous blog posts: A NEW WAY TO USE FREE STOCK IMAGES FOR YOUR BLOG, INSTAGRAM AND PINTEREST
When you download a free stock image, you can do anything you’d like with that image. I’m not certain about other stock photo sites, but with Unsplash, my personal favorite, you can use the images any way you would like. For me, I like to study the food ones and practice with them. These photos are drop dead gorgeous y’all. So I feel like I’m studying some really great work, from extremely talented artists, who uploaded their work knowing fully that other people would be using their images for personal and/or commercial reasons.
How To Become A Better Food Photographer
So how do I personally go about learning from the Unsplash artists, who so generously share their work with me? Here are some things I do for an upcoming food photography project for this little blog of mine…also, I’ve been a professional Portrait and Wedding Photorapher for YEARS, so knowing the lingo and techy parts of shooting with a dSLR helps me easily study an image. But in case you’re new to using a dSLR, here are my study steps, broken down.
- I search for food photographs that have a similar dish to the one I’ve created.
- I will save their image to my private food collection, right on Unsplash. You can join for free of course. And one of their amazing features is collecting and curating photos for all your projects and image needs.
- I will choose just ONE image from my curated collection that I cannot tear my eyes away from. It’s something I’m just naturally drawn to.
- I download that high resolution image right to my iPad.
- Then I STUDY the crap outta it! How did the photographer style the food? What props or other items did they use with their main subject? Where is the light source placed in the image? Are they using more than one light source? Are they using natural light or a light box or both? Where is the photographer standing in order to capture that specific image? WHY am I drawn to this particular image? What do I love about it? What don’t I love about it? Etc etc etc. I really break it down!
- Once I feel like I’ve gotten to know the image more intimately, hehee, I will revisit it on Unsplash and click on the info button, in the bottom right corner.
The 5 Key Elements Of A Photograph
01 // The artist probably had a 50mm prime lens on their dSLR Nikon camera body. Although it is possible that they were shooting with a 24-70mm zoom lens, that was set to 50mm focal length.
02 // This tells me how much environment based light the artist had to work with. The lower the ISO, the more light that surrounds them. The higher that number, the less environmental based light they had to work with.
03 // This is the speed at which the artists camera captured the image and collected light. So with this number being 1/15s, I know the subject was not moving (obviously) and the artist took their time capturing the image.
04 // The F Stop number tells you how much light is entering the lens. The lower the number, the more light reaches your image sensor. A higher number means a lesser amount of light reaches your sensor.
05 // The image dimensions. You may want to just overlook this upon first glance of the stats, but it tells me one very important thing…how to hold my camera! The artist who took this gorgeous photo was holding the camera specifically to take a portrait image (up and down).
Bonus lessen: Also you may have heard the term bokeh a time or two. In order to achieve that blurred, non-focused background goodness, you’ll want to choose a low f-stop aka shoot wide open, baby. The higher that number, the more crisp/focused the overall image will be. And when you go to focus, be sure your dead focused on the main subject, which should be separated from the backdrop just a bit.
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I hope that my tips were helpful in your food photography and food styling journey. I absolutely love this style of shooting and hope to keep growing as an occasional foodie blogger. You can see my original recipes here, if you’re interested!