Food photography may be more popular now than ever before. The blogosphere is exploding with pictures of food, and social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram are flooding you with never-ending streams of food photos 24/7. Creating food images that stand out in this massive sea of content is a difficult task. Here are five tips to help you get your food photos noticed.
#1 Don’t be afraid of shadows
Shadows make a scene look realistic, give your food texture, and create mood, so don’t hesitate to make them part of your food photo. To create nice, dark shadows let your light fall onto your food either from the back or the side at a fairly low angle, from just a little bit above the surface of your set. Use reflectors sparingly, or not at all. Reflectors bounce light back into the areas of your photo that your light source doesn’t reach, in other words, into the shadows. So to keep the shadows dark, don’t reflect the light.
In the salted caramel candy photo above my light was falling onto the set from the back at a low angle and I didn’t use any reflectors.
#2 Imply action
Action makes your viewers feel as if they are part of your scene; that kind of engagement is always a good thing. Action can be literal, such as a hand holding a hamburger or pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes, but there are other (and actually easier) ways for you to suggest that something is happening in your photo. One example is a glass of freshly poured beer. Your viewers likely know that the lifespan of the foam top on a beer is only a minute, so seeing a fresh beer tells them that someone must have just been at the scene to pour it.
#3 Point your lens up at food that is tall and stacked
Shooting up from slightly below the food is an unusual angle for food photography; but it can create really compelling images of tall items such as cakes, and things that are stacked, like burgers or, as in the example below, shards of toffee. The food will be towering above the viewer which makes it look big and impressive. Needless to say this angle doesn’t work for flat food, so don’t shoot a pizza with this method.
#4 Create visual contrast
Contrast comes in many varieties and helps make your food photo look interesting. You can create contrast by incorporating different shapes into your photo, such as round and rectangular (or square). You can also create contrast by including colors in your photo that are on opposite sides of the color wheel (complementary), like red and green, or blue and orange. The lettuce cup photo below illustrates both of these concepts, the square dish contrasts the round lettuce cups and the red sauce provides contrast to the green lettuce.
#5 Leave negative space in the image
Don’t feel that you have to fill every square inch of the frame with food or props. A little negative (empty) space gives the food room to breathe, and will keep your viewers from getting overwhelmed and feeling claustrophobic. There are no hard and fast rules that dictate where to leave negative space in a food photo but the rule of thirds is always a good place to start. Imagine your photo dissected into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and place your subject on or near one of the four points where those lines intersect. Leave the rest of your photo empty and take a test shot. Does the scene look good to you or is it too barren? If it looks like it’s missing something, add more elements to the frame, one by one and along the imaginary lines that dissect your frame, until you have a composition that looks pleasing to you. That’s how I went about composing the Thai curry ingredients shot below.
I hope these tips give you some new ideas for your food photography. If you have any others please share them in the comments below.
Watermarks, love them or hate them, are a way of protecting your images. Although, just because you have one on your image doesn’t mean it won’t be stolen. If you are like me, I do it as a deterrent.
There are many ways to watermark your images. In this article I’m going to show you how to add a watermark to your images using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC.
Lightroom (6) CC
Lightroom makes watermarking your images very easy, there are a couple of ways of doing it. Once you have processed your images and are ready to export them, then it is also time to watermark them.
Exporting Your Images
Select the images you want to export and watermark. You need to make sure you are in the Library module, then click on Export.
The Export Window will come up. We aren’t going to go through how to export your images, there are other tutorials that will show you how to do that. For this purpose we are concerned with the section down near the bottom, so scroll down until you see Watermarking. Take a look at the following image.
If it hasn’t been ticked, then check the box for Watermark. Next to that is a drop down menu click on that.
If you’ve never watermarked anything before, then you could simply click on Simple Copyright Watermark and it will just put your name on the photos. Though you must be registered in order for Lightroom to know your name.
Another option under that drop down menu is Edit Watermarks, so let’s go through that option.
In this section you can edit the text for the water, or what you want it to look like.
Before you can change the simple watermark you will have to make sure that at the top where it says Watermark Style, you have selected Text. In the image below you can see the window for the Watermark Editor and in the top right corner you can see Watermark Style.
There are various sliders in the Watermark editor as well, one allows you to change the opacity of the watermark. How opaque you make it is up to you. I like to make mine so that you can barely see it. A lot of people looking at images can find watermarks distracting, so it is something you should keep in mind when you are adding them to your images.
There are different things you can do to adjust the watermark, for example changing its position. There is also a size slider to make it bigger or smaller.
Add a Logo or Unique Watermark
If you have a logo or a special watermark you can use this in Lightroom too.
In the same window that we have been using, go back to the top and select graphic. Directly underneath you will see Image Options where you can load your file. You can make the same changes in regards to size, opacity and location as you did with the text watermark.
Saving the Watermark Preset
Once you have worked it all out, you don’t have to do all that every time you want to export images. You can save what you have done as a watermark preset, and give it a name (pull down the menu top left where is says “Custom” to find Save Current Settings as New Preset – select that to see the pop-up box below) . The next time you want to watermark an image, just look in the same drop down menu that you used earlier to edit the watermark, and you will find your saved preset there.
Here you can see that I have called one of my presets: watermark-3.
There are also some simple ways of watermarking in Photoshop CC as well. It is a little different, but not harder.
Prepare your image as usual, then get it ready for its designated use and how you want to add a watermark to protect it. I resize every image I put online, that is my choice, it is up to you whether you decide to or not.
Once you are ready to save your image, read for use, one of the easiest ways of watermarking it is to simply use the text tool, located in the tool bar on the left of your workspace. The image below shows where it is located.
Click on the image where you want to put the watermark, and start typing. Remember you can also add the copyright symbol the same as you did using Lightroom.
You can change the size and colour of the text at the top, in the tool options bar below the main menu (or choose Window>Character to show the text adjustment panel). Select the text to change it. You can also move it around when it is highlighted as well. The opacity slider is above the layers panel on the right, you can change it to suit your preference.
Making Your Own Logo or Watermark
You always have the option of making a custom watermark, which can be saved and used any time you need it, and can also be used in Lightroom.
To start, go to File in the main menu and click New (File>New). I usually make the size of the new image match my final image size, so the longest side is 1000 pixels. Make the width that size for this example. For the height, it doesn’t have to be that big, it just depends on what you are going to do. For this one it was 300 pixels. You will also need to make sure the Background Contents setting is set to transparent, see below.
So you can see what you are doing, you could add a new layer. Do that from the new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel, or go to the main menu at the top and select Layer>New>Layer and click OK. Once that is in place use the Paint Bucket Tool which is in your tool bar, it is under the Gradient Tool icon. We are going to make the layer black, so make sure the foreground colour is black. The foreground and background colour selection is also in the tool bar, down near the bottom. There are two squares, one black and one white (click D on your keyboard which defaults the colors to black in the foreground, white in the background). Click on your new layer and it should be filled with all black.
Select the text tool (T) and make sure that white is now the foreground colour (click X on your keyboard to switch the foreground/background colors so white is now on top). Click on your image and start typing. Like you did for the Easy Watermark you can highlight it, then change the size. Once you’ve done that, you can crop it further so just the text appears.
Double click on text layer, towards the right side, and you should get the following window, Layer Style.
You can see I have checked Bevel Emboss, and the Contour option underneath. You can play around with the sliders, but just ticking those did enough for this purpose. Then the black layer is deleted. You can do that by dragging it to the rubbish bin (trash can) in the bottom right corner. You can also right click on the layer and find delete. The easiest way is to highlight the layer by clicking on it, and pressing delete on the keyboard.
It is very important when you save this file that you do so as a .png or a .psd, otherwise the transparent part of the layer will be made white and you will no longer have the watermark that you desired.
That is an easy way of doing a watermark that you can save so you can use again, but you could make a logo or something similar as well. One thing that quite a few people do is add a signature, like below.
There are a couple of ways of doing this, but the most common is using a tablet with a pen, I use a Wacom Intuos Pro. Do everything the same as you did for the last one, but instead of using the text tool, get your brush, make it small enough using the left square bracket key, then write your name.
If you find the surface too slippery, try putting a piece of paper over the top, it will help add some resistance. You can also try doing it with a mouse or touch pad. Again, save it the same way.
Easy Way of Adding Watermarks
One of the easiest ways to use the watermark you have just created is to open it, then select all (Ctrl+A on a PC and Command+A on a Mac), then copy it, (Control+C on a PC and Command+C on a Mac). Go over to your image and press Ctrl+V or Command+V to paste it; the watermark should now be in the middle of your image.
You can use the move tool (V), which is the first one in your tool panel, and move it to where you want, like you did with the Easy Watermark.
Hiding Your Watermark in the Image
With a simple watermark you can also put it into the image and sort of hide it. This is the method I use for many of my fine art images. I try to place it where it isn’t obvious, and where it could be more difficult to remove.
Once your image is ready, copy and paste your watermark onto your image. Now you need Transform it; Edit>Transform in the main menu, or by pressing Ctrl+T/Command+T. You will notice a framework around your image, as shown below.
By clicking and dragging on the corners, or in the middle of the lines, you can change the size. Click and drag to make it bigger or smaller (hold Shift down to keep the proportions the same, otherwise it will stretch out of shape). If you want to rotate it, hover around just outside a corner and a small curve arrow will appear, then you can turn it around. You can also move it by clicking in the middle and moving it where you want. As I said, find somewhere to hide your watermark in the image, hopefully somewhere not too noticeable, as demonstrated in the image below.
To apply the Transform Tool you can double click inside the box, press Enter or click it with the move tool. Then the opacity of the watermark layer is changed to help it blend, see below.
Once you get good using Transform, you can experiment with what else the tool does.
Using a Brush to Watermark Your Images
There is a very easy way of doing your watermark, but it takes a bit to set it up. Getting the watermark ready pretty much works the same as before, only this time you want a white background, and you need to use black to create it. Take a look at the image on the right.
Note: create your new file 2500 pixels wide as that is the maximum size for a brush. You can always make the brush smaller when you apply it to your image, but making it the largest size now will give you the best quality.
I created the signature with my Wacom Tablet, but you could also use a pen or black marker on a piece of paper and scan it, that will work just as well.
Once you have your signature, you can now make your custom brush. Go to the Edit menu and choose Define Brush Preset, and click on it.
Next, you will see another window pop up window ,asking you to give your brush a name. You can name it what you like, perhaps something that will remind you what it is later; I called mine Brush Signature Watermark.
Now your watermark will work just like a brush, you can make it smaller or larger (remember if you made it 2500 pixels it will hold quality up to that size with out pixelating), you can also change the colour. It works exactly the same way as the normal brush does; use the square bracket keys to make it bigger or smaller. If you want to change the colour, click on the foreground colour and the Color Picker window will appear.
I would suggest adding your watermark to a new transparent layer, so you can also change the opacity as needed.
To find your new brush, go to your brush presets, they are over on the side of your layers panel, and click on the icon that looks like small lines at the top where a drop down menu should appear.
Go down to Preset Manager and click. A new window will appear with all your brushes. Now you can click, and drag the brush you just created to a spot where it will be easier to find, like up to the top.
You are now ready to use your new watermark brush any time you want.
As I said, you can change the size of it using the square bracket keys [ ] on your keyboard. You can change its colour by clicking on the foreground colour in the tool panel and selecting a new one. You can also add layer effects like a drop shadow, emboss, etc., you can even make the text itself transparent and only leave behind the shadow.
To make text “invisible” change the Fill Opacity Under Blending Options, in the Advanced Blending section to 0%.
It will look something like this and will blend into any area:
Here is one I played with:
There are so many different ways to do a watermark and it is really up to you to work out which one will work best for you. Do you have any other tips for watermarks or methods you use to make them? Please share in the comments below.
Chances are you have a tourist attraction in your town. Each day people crowd around and line up to take photographs of it. If you think of the most photographed tourist spots in the United States, you probably come up with the Statue of Liberty, San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, or Grand Canyon.
Thousands of pictures a year are taken at these destinations, however despite all of the mundane images some people can still produce incredibly unique and breathtaking photographs of these attractions.
If you study the most impressive photos you will find consistent aspects that make the mundane magnificent. To fully appreciate the qualities of such fine art, you should consider working backwards, finding inspiration in everyday objects.
A simple way to make better photos of ordinary objects
Step one – pick something, anything
Pick a simple object from around your house that you see everyday. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just something you use mindlessly each day. It could be anything from your car keys, to a spoon, or a pencil.
In this example we’ll try to make a picture of an ordinary mailbox unique and interesting. This first photo is an example of a mundane run-of-the-mill photograph of a mailbox (above). You should duplicate a similar photograph of your object. Use your camera or camera-phone, and without giving it much thought, just snap a picture of the scene.
Step two – choose a unique camera angle
There are a few variables involved in composing a unique image, but an important one we can explore is camera angle. Beginner and amateur photographers tend to take pictures at the angles in which we are used to naturally seeing things (eye level). One example is a photograph of a pet taken from a standing position looking down at the pet. This is the most common perspective of pet photographs, thus it also tends to be the least interesting or unique. While this is a often heard tip, it gets to the heart of why the angle of a photo is so important. Getting down at ground level provides a perspective that adults are not used to seeing of a pet.
Start to think about atypical angles to which people are not generally accustomed. In the pet example, simply lying on the floor and taking a photograph from the perspective of the ground, creates a much more interesting perspective.
In the mailbox example, this photograph (below) was taken from the ground, looking up. By shooting the mailbox at a wide angle, the post of the mailbox becomes slightly distorted and creates a powerful and aggressive look. The mailbox looks much farther away than it is in real life. Furthermore, who ever looks at their mailbox from the ground? It’s a perspective most people are not used to seeing so it creates a unique presentation.
In this next image you are seeing the mailbox from the perspective of the flag. The subject becomes the flag, and creates a sensation that the flag has a meaningful and powerful purpose; there is mail that needs to be picked up!
When taking pictures think about how you can present the photo in a unique fashion. Is there any interesting angle you can get? Can you lie on the ground and look up? Can you get far above and provide a birds-eye view? Look at the people around you, and try to do something different from what everyone else is doing. Often we might see photographers in these awkward positions and think they look silly, but the result is usually a great photograph.
Go beyond just shooting the easy way
Chances are if the picture you are taking is convenient and easy, it won’t be original and breathtaking. Try to get to a place no one else is willing to get to, like climbing a wall, or laying on the ground, or holding the camera high up above your head. These unique angles, blended with the willingness to get into positions others aren’t willing do, typically provides photographic results that are above and beyond the norm.
Even with the most mundane objects, taking some time to think about how you can take the photo differently, can result in a stunning perspective, or unique angle, that makes the ordinary extraordinary and the mundane interesting.
What is photography anyway? It is a fraction of a second of eternity that you try to capture, with better or worse technique, with deeper or shallower depth of field. But, in short, that’s all about photography, and it is this magic what makes photography an art. The essence of why many of us like photography, goes beyond what we can capture with our DSLR and show to others. It is the experience of the moment, and how one learns through the years to be aware of the present. It was just a few months ago when I learned what mindfulness was about, and I immediately noticed the similitude with how I experience photography. It is all about being present in the moment that one is trying to capture.
The journey back home – something so magnificent like ephemeral cloud formations could pass right away if you are immersed in past or future thoughts instead of being present.
1) Be there
To be present involves being aware of oneself in the present moment. The fact that one is observing and capturing a situation is not enough to take a great picture. I am a visual person. There is large chance that since you like photography, you are as well. That means that you learn better by watching a film than by reading a book. You then may prefer a figure or infographic, rather than its explanation. In my case, long before I got my first serious camera, and committed myself to learn the techniques and nuances to show other people the way I see the world, I already enjoyed looking at other people’s pictures. However, it was seldom that I actually observed the world around me.
Photography teaches us that those amazing pictures we love viewing from other photographers, are actually out there if you dare to look. I don’t remember a particular moment when I realized I was alive. There was no such an experience. But I somehow learned through photography that the best camera obscura that I can count with is my eyes. The best film is my memory. And it is awesome because it also comes along with many other senses. Once you realize that, you discover that the difference between a snapshot and a great picture is that: for the latter you acknowledge all the angles of the scene, you walk your picture before you take it, you breathe it, you feel it, and then compose it. You ARE in the picture as the one capturing it. And you want somebody else to BE there with you seeing the same scene.
2) Chase the moments
Daddy, when will it stop?: This is my daughter’s frustration for not being able to go outside on a long, boring summer Sunday. It wasn’t until I realized her feelings that I knew what to photograph.
You have to be quick if you are for example, a street photographer, but that’s how life is in cities, right? However, there is not much difference than, let’s say, a fashion production in the sense that it is a fraction of a second, just a moment that you are able to transmit into a picture. We have to learn to chase the moments… to do so we have to BE in the scene.
If you run out of battery, or you find yourself without your bulky DSLR with you, then simply capture it in your mind. I literally make the sound “click” in my mind. You don’t need to, that is my own mental issue. But whatever it is that you like to chase and capture, whether it is your cat, a pint of beer, or the garbage on a street – be there. Paraphrasing Henri Cartier-Bresson, most of the situations that you see around you will repeat if you wait long enough. Yes, even those pictures that you missed because you didn’t bring your camera with you. Be present to know what you are after. Learn about your subject, revisit the site and you will get the shot you want.
3) Know what you feel
Christmas eve in Oslo – This time, it was my feeling of confinement on a cold Christmas eve that I tried to capture. Me and my friend (in the picture) are used to warm and sunny Christmas festivities. Not this time.
If the scene you are watching makes you angry, then be angry and capture angriness. Be aware of the weight of the camera in your hands. Be aware of your finger pressing the shutter in the moment you do. Reflect about why did you choose to press it just then, and not before. Watch the object’s geometry, its beauty. Do you really want to be there? Does the marriage of that couple you are photographing make you happy? What is it that makes you happy? Their smiles? All the people celebrating together? You don’t need to do anything else with those feelings. Let them be in you, and let them go away. But just when you realize them, capture that moment in a picture. Capture with the camera the pictures you would like to share, but capture for yourself every fraction of a second of your life. BE there where you are.
4) Use your other senses
Smelly shoes – When I see this picture I can’t stop feeling the heat coming from these shoes that have walked who knows how long under the sun.
To some extent, you can also transmit with a picture, what your other senses were capturing. This is one of the biggest challenges of photography. Smell, listen, feel, taste. To me, the perfect picture is one that transmits all those other sensations, smells, noises, emotions, and temperature apart from what you are just watching. That takes a level of mastery that not everyone achieves. But if you are still there like me, on your long way to becoming a great photographer (even if we may never become a renown one), learning photography in its broader sense is an excellent way to learn to be present in that short lapse of time that our lives are meant to last.
Rotten fly – What are your feelings about this dead fly?
I watched the future football Hall of Fame quarterbacks practicing on the sidelines just before the Super Bowl. Although they had thrown the football perhaps millions of times before, they were practicing their throwing before the big game. They believe in the old (but true) saying, “Practice makes perfect.”
It’s important for us as photographers to continually practice our skills as well. Although we may have pressed the shutter button a million times, we need to be sure that we are always “ready for the big game”. Like the Super Bowl quarterbacks, it is important that we keep practicing our skills; whether we are professionals, aspiring professionals, or enthusiasts.
Old Barney lighthouse in Barnegat Light, NJ
Although practice does not make perfect (we can practice doing things the wrong way), it does make our techniques more natural, and more permanent. For example, using back-button focus on my camera the first time seemed strange to me, but after practicing it over and over, it become an automatic technique that I use without even thinking about it. It’s a challenge to try turning off your brightly lit LED display on your camera once the theatre is darkened, but with practice it’s an automatic, and easy process.
Practice not only gives us a chance to make our shooting techniques more automatic, it gives us a chance to try new techniques. Practice gives us an opportunity to learn new poses, try a new lenses, or try a new post-processing technique to enhance our photographs before we use them in a client shoot. As a photographer, learning never stops; practice is a good way to try out things with no pressure or fear of failure.
Maybe I’ll Practice Tomorrow
Unless we are full time photographers or we have the luxury of having the time to shoot whenever we want, finding time to practice can be a challenge. Life is busy; there are so many things that need to be done that we are sometimes tempted to say, “Maybe I’ll practice tomorrow.” Sometime we need motivation to force us to make the effort, despite other things that may get in the way, to practice our photography techniques.
Picture of the Day
If someone asked me what the biggest thing was that has helped me to improve my photography skills, I would have to say that it was my commitment to what I call the Picture of the Day. A little more than a year ago I started trading photographs that I took with my sister who is a photography enthusiast. Very quickly that practice spread to other family members and friends. Today, I send a new photograph to more than a hundred people every morning. The list continues to grow. But it’s not the number of people that receive the Picture of the Day that is the motivator, it’s the commitment to taking, and sending the picture, that benefits me as a photographer.
Even though my photography business focuses mainly on people (weddings, portraits and events); my Picture of the Day photos may include people, animals, architecture and landscapes. People that receive my Picture of the Day have commented that opening my morning email is like opening a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re going to get”. Sometimes my pictures are not meant to be works of art, but rather just funny, like the shot of my dog Clyde (above), sitting by the dinner table with his sunglasses on, waiting for dinner. The zoo is always a great place to take pictures, so I make that part of my list of places to shoot.
Jaguar at the Elmwood Park Zoo (Norristown, PA)
Admittedly, I shoot most days, but not every day. I make time during the week to practice shooting; I am committed to take that time despite everything else. I have my camera with me most of the time, and many of my shots are unplanned. I stockpile the shots so that I always have a reserve of pictures to use for my morning emails.
How has the Picture of the Day Helped Me?
My commitment to the Picture of the Day has helped me to grow as a photographer more than anything, including the following:
Four month old lion cubs with mom (Philadelphia Zoo)
Knowing that I need a new picture every day motivates me to get out and shoot, even if I am not shooting the things that my business is focused on.
Knowing that my Picture of the Day needs to be different than all of those that I previously sent out, motivates me to try new techniques and to look at things more creatively. That has helped me to start thinking out-of-the-box and has greatly expanded my composure skills for when I am shooting weddings or portraits for clients.
Shooting for the Picture of the Day has given me the opportunity to try and to practice with new lenses and filters, so that when the time comes to use them in a business shoot, I am ready.
My Picture of the Day has enabled my business to grow, as people that receive my email every morning are reminded that I am in the photography business. I can’t think of a more effective, less costly marketing tool.
Lastly, shooting for my Picture of the Day has been just plain fun!!!
Make the Commitment Today
Nina and Pinta replicas at visit to Viking Village (Barnegat Light, NJ)
If you are not just a picture snapper, but rather, serious about photography – make the commitment to start your own Picture of the Day project today. Like mine, it can start small and grow over time (I had only one person on my list initially.) I sometimes post my Picture of the Day on my personal Facebook page which adds more visibility to my work. This visibility also adds to my list of people that subscribe to my Picture of the Day.