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All We Can Eat
Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 08/22/2012

Chat Leftovers: Photographing your food


Taken by an iPhone, this photo is sharp enough to make you hungry. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Good morning. Plenty to read about in today’s Food, starting with The Process columnist David Hagedorn’s take on vacation cooking. Then, inspired by California’s foie gras ban, staff writer Tim Carman looks at U.S. government restrictions on certain imported foods and how they affect immigrants. And Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan uses summer fruit to create quick single-serving desserts.

All three will be on hand for today’s Free Range chat, as will Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and the rest of our usual band of stalwarts. With all that firepower, I’m pretty confident there’s no question you can throw at us that we can’t answer. Try it and see.

The chat starts here at noon sharp. Meanwhile, to tide you over, here’s a question from last week’s chat. But — big departure from tradition! — it’s not exactly a leftover, as you’ll soon see:

I’ve added a cooking “wing” to my tumblr after followers said it’d be useful to watch my process in the kitchen. Any suggestions for capturing my food looking its best? I watch the lights and use my iPhone to keep it low-key, but I don’t want to Instagram things.

In a follow-up, the chatter explained that s/he shares recipes online with work colleagues and wants to illustrate them; also that most of the photos are taken from above, standing on a stool.

Tim Carman’s response was right on; he advised using as much light as possible (but never a flash), getting close to capture details, and not shooting every dish from directly overhead. Take a look at his mouthwatering sandwich photo at the top of this blogpost and you’ll see that he knows what he’s talking about.

Tim also mentioned that the Post’s photo staff might have some advice. So I asked features photo editor Anne Farrar for tips, and she obliged.

First, if you don’t want your photos to include distracting elements — the dirty dishes piled on your counter, for instance — consider buying a large piece of paper or plastic sheeting to use as a background. Tape the top to the wall, let the bottom cover the floor and place your food on the paper. It will create a seamless background that will make the food pop. Anne says you can even color-code your dishes by selecting different colors for different categories — say, one color for summer foods, a different color for fall foods, etc. — for a cohesive approach. (Or you could do different colors for different kinds of dishes, such as desserts, appetizers, etc.) If you’re using color instead of white, paler/pastel hues look much better than darker ones.

You want the lighting to be even, with no dark shadows. Anne suggests using a halogen flashlight, or other flashlight that emits a bright white (rather than yellow) light, to eliminate shadows and make the photo look less harsh. “The closer the light, the softer the lighting,” she says. And yes, she says, you can hold the flashlight in one hand and the iPhone in the other, no problem.

Remember to tap on the phone screen in the area where you want the camera to focus, then take your shot. (The tap-to-focus feature also adjusts the lighting.)

Finally, Anne recommends getting a photo editing app. She likes Snapseed, $4.99, which she describes as being “like Photoshop for the iPhone.” After taking a photo, you can use the app to sharpen, crop, enhance, straighten and frame it. There are other apps; to learn more, don’t miss Anne’s app story in this Sunday’s Travel section, when we reveal the results of the annual travel photo contest.

I take food shots with my phone from time to time, and the only thing
I’d add is that I like natural light when possible. I’m not very skilled at getting artificial lighting to look good, so I tend to take my photos right under a window that gets good indirect sunlight, and they generally turn out pretty well.

By Jane Touzalin  |  08:00 AM ET, 08/22/2012

Categories:  Chat Leftovers

 
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