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Book Review – Food Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots By Nicole S. Young

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Food Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots is a book that is geared toward “foodies” – those who want to take eye-catching photos of culinary delights. In this book, author Nicole S. Young takes you through everything that you need to create photographs of your favorite foods as well as techniques for making images of food appear as delicious as it tastes.

It doesn’t matter if you are a food author and want to supplement your written words with high quality images, a blogger who wants to show what the final outcome of a recipe that you are sharing looks like, or you want to get into professional food photography, the goal of Food Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots is to provide you with all of the tools and techniques to create high quality images that truly express the beauty of the food that you create. This book is 288 pages in length and is contained in 7 chapters.

Chapter 1, “Photography Fundamentals,” begins with the idea that the basics of food photography are really no different than those of other genres. Here as well as with any kind of photography, it is important to have a handle on the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and white balance if you want to make high quality images.

In this chapter you will review the basics that you need to create high quality images when working with food. This includes working with RAW files as opposed to JPG’s, using white balance and how it can affect the color of food, as well as looking at the exposure triangle – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and how they affect the shots you take.

Chapter 2, “Photography Equipment,” is important in that to take quality photographs of food there is a certain gear that you will need. It doesn’t have to be the highest quality, but there are some basics that you should have if you want to reach a certain level of quality.

Here you will look at the various types of cameras – point & shoot vs. DSLR’s, full frame vs. cropped sensors, and what kind of camera that you should buy. You will also take a look at the different kinds of lenses that you should consider and how they affect the look of the food that you will be shooting. You will also consider accessories such as tripods reflectors, cable releases, and lights.

Chapter 3, “Lighting,” is the most important aspect of any kind of photography and with food photography, it is no different. It is because of this, that this may be the most important chapter of this book. While overall most of the setups are basic simple lighting, it is the nuances’ that make the difference in how the image will all come together.

You will explore the various aspects of light including its quality – color, intensity, and distance, as well as what kind of lighting works best when photographing food. You will also look at the types of light – natural, strobe, flash, and continuous, as well as the various tools that you can use to modify the light.

Chapter 4, “Styling & Props,” form the basics of food presentation. When you look at a photograph of food, you only have your sense of sight to capture what the rest of your senses can only imagine. When it is done correctly, the viewer of your image will feel the desire to want to sample the food.

In this chapter you will take into consideration things like, should you use a food stylist – a professional artist whose specialty is laying out food in its best light, ethical situations, and food quality. You will also get into the basics of food styling. This includes the use of gadgets and tools that you should have on hand to help you with your presentation. You will also learn about various styling tips and tricks to ad bulk, how to work with garnish6es, faking grill marks, and adding steam to the look. You will also work with props such as dishes and other accessories.

Chapter 5, “Framing & Composition,” is important to creating a beautiful food photograph. Being able to create a good composition is extremely important in getting your point across to the viewer and presenting to them an appealing vision.

This chapter looks at various compositional elements such as using the rule of thirds to help find balance within your image, balancing the background and foreground, and using triangles to create balance. You will look at perspective and framing through the use of the vertical and horizontal aspects of the image. You can shoot three-quarters, level, and overhead viewpoints, as well as how to use point of view to your advantage for perspectives to what you shoot. Here you will also look at focal length, lens compression, and depth-of-field as well focus, shapes, lines, & color to create a compelling photograph.

Chapter 6, “Processing Images with Adobe Photoshop,” is not about creating the image in post processing, but making it look like your photo has never been edited. Through the use of subtle techniques you can make your food creations look like they were straight out of the camera.

The first thing you will learn about is the need to calibrate your monitor. Then it is on to photo editing software – the ones in use here are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Here you will see how to work with RAW files, making adjustments, viewing clipping warnings, and in general setting up your image. Then you will learn about working with layers, blending modes, as well as other tips and tricks to bring out and clean up your photographic images.

Chapter 7, “Behind the Scenes,” now takes you backstage to creating great food images. Here you will see how several shots were created as you are taken through the various steps in creating a photograph of a prepared dish was set up.

This chapter will show you how to set up and shoot mussels with linguine, chocolate fondue, a basket of cherries, banana bread, shrimp spring rolls, French toast, pork dumplings, and pasta on a fork. Each of these includes many various images, the styling and props, lighting setup, and post processing.

I really like the way Food Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots is laid out. Each chapter begins with an introduction. Then you have two sidebar spreads called “Pouring over the Picture” which features an food photograph and a discussion about the image and how it came to be. It includes the setting on how the picture was captured and dialog as well as arrows highlighting specific items within the shot.

The text then goes in to the main material, but throughout the chapter is illustrated and highlighted with many shots and descriptions along with the technical aspects of the shot – camera used, ISO, aperture, etc. It is very easy to read and understand and really makes for a great book for beginners to the realm of food photograph and even for those who may not be beginners to food photography, but want to learn more advanced techniques in this creative art form.

If you are a photographer and want to learn how to photograph food using proven techniques, if you have been shooting food, and want to see how a professional does it, or if you can create the food, have limited photographic technical experience, but yet want to create photographs that will do your creations justice, then I highly recommend Food Photography: From Snapshots To Great Shots.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.