Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Not Styling and Photography

I said in my last post that I would write a manifesto about how I don't style food, so here it is, and I thought it might be helpful to someone out there since I get emails about my setups (or as you'll see, lack thereof):
I don't style food: I don't know how to do it, and to be honest it's not something for which I feel I have either a knack or an inclination/interest. Yes I love beautiful ceramics and nice fabrics, but no I don't want to collect them for the sole purpose of styling food to take pictures of it. You'll read why just below.
What interests me is photography. Taking photographs of food is necessary for a food blog and while I was incredibly lazy about it before my little girl was born, for whatever reason, her coming into the world motivated me to actually put some effort into the act of taking pictures for the blog. Don't ask, I don't know why this was the catalyst.

I've mentioned here and there before that we don't live in our own house so to speak, and by that I don't mean that it's not our house because we rent it, I mean that it's not our house because we've been made to live in it for reasons that are too complicated to describe here; think of it as a corporate house with corporate furniture that we are neither allowed to discard nor even move out. This means that I don't have a separate table nor the room for a separate table, however small, to set up by the windows with the best light here. On top of that, we've been living in and out of boxes for more than a year as our moving plans keep changing. This significantly affects my desire to collect props for food pictures, as in I'd rather not collect things for which I mostly have little practical purpose other than to style food, especially when I might have to pack a lot more breakable things to transport somewhere else that way (and with the baby who takes great delight in opening up boxes and taking as many things out of them as possible before I can stop her).
Moreover, I believe in the food being the thing of greatest interest in the shot so I tend to photograph the food as I see it when I'm going to eat it or sometimes completely abstractly if that is the way it strikes me, e.g. pictures of matcha macarons.

So, an average setup in my world -actually this is quite a neat and simple setup, nothing like some other setups I've done which were totally guerilla compared to this- means something like this:
Chocolate Picture Setup
What you're looking at is a notepad upside down on a serving tray flipped upside down onto a moving box which is shoved up against the TV table, with the background being whatever I could find at the time so the lid of a gift box for the baby's birthday. The usual back of a white baby floor mat that I use as a reflector being unfindable at that moment in time, I grabbed the first thing I could find to reflect some light, that being the bottom of a box that had been mailed to me which, in spite of the airmail tape on it, reflected enough light to be of use to me. Why the quick and dirty setup you ask? Because I take pictures when my baby naps which is not often and not for long and I want to be done with it as fast as possible, so I set up the most basic thing that will get me the result I'm after. With this setup I'm on my knees on the floor taking pictures. I have a good tripod which I mostly don't use for lack of room and setup time.

Obviously it's not an ideal setup but it gets me where I want to go. On the left the picture just out of camera and on the right, the picture after adding a touch of contrast (+.05) and adjusting the exposure (+.20) a little bit.
Chocolate Before & After
Why am I showing you this? Because I think it's a shame that people think you need anything fancy to get a decent picture and because you don't have to have a lot of props (or any props in my case) to get a decent picture; If I can do it by cobbling a few things together that have no apparent relation to photography, there's no reason for anyone out there to get a bunch of equipment to do it. On the contrary, having very few things forces you to have to think as creatively as possible.

One thing I haven't shown is that I make sure that no direct light fell on the chocolate. It was actually a slightly cloudy day here and my diffusion paper having been packed away a long time ago in the far reaches of the boxes in the back of the garage, I just left the Roman blind down and let that filter the occasional bursts of sunlight coming in. It's thicker than what you'd probably want to filter your light but shows that you can use anything, even a white bed sheet for example. On overcast days I simply pull the blind up and use the light as is, for example in the pictures in the brioche post.

Basic info on this shot is my Nikon D200 with the 17-55mm/f2.8 lens, the Aperture set at f8, shutter speed of 1/40 with an ISO setting of 250.
Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
I've got something exciting to share with you all in an upcoming post. Not sure if it's going to be the next one but working relentlessly to make it as soon as possible, so stay tuned.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

To Blog: Why? What? and Pumpkin Coconut Sour Cherry Bread

So here I am again a few days later than I thought I would post this because I've been thinking about many things relative to this blog, the most salient being: why blog? Or more precisely, why blog about food in my case.
Pumpkin Coconut Sour Cherry Bread
There are many posts out there about why blog. Some of them make a lot more sense to me than others but they're all valid to their own authors, and in the end I have to find the reason for myself. A while back I had whole new plans for this blog which all revolved around food, and of course as things are wont to do, things changed. Then I decided that I would post photographs and other things and write fewer recipes and that it would become a more general blog, and that got under way, but somehow I was driven back to more recipes and fewer other things than food, basically only food.
The thing is, dear readers, that I really love food, but I'm not sure I love blogging about it anymore.

When I started blogging about food almost three years ago, I'd been blogging for a year on another platform and was a bit frustrated with my blog because it was general and I felt the lack of focus meant that it was more of a journal than anything else, and between you and me, I've never been much of a journaler. At all. Then one day while doing a recipe search, for a cupcake recipe of all things, I discovered food blogs and started perusing them and loving them, because I love food, and after a while I thought to myself that the simplest way to create focus in my blogging would be to blog about food. Thus Saffron & Blueberry was born.
Pumpkin Coconut Sour Cherry Bread

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