Lately I’ve had the pleasure of shooting some local restaurant fare here in the Dallas area. I’ve always loved shooting food (probably because I just love food) and it presents some really interesting challenges. Every dish offers something different, and often the most delicious dishes are challenging to photograph in an attractive and appetizing way.
It’s also more than just photography — being sent on assignment with food means you get to play art director and food stylist as well. I carry a pair of tweezers and a small knife to ensure nothing’s out of place, and use a napkin to take care of any stray sauces or smudges on the plate. A little spritz bottle of water can help liven up greens and sliced fruit to make them glisten.
With food you’re also presented with a lot of variables, like what kind of lighting to expect. I try to set up shop next to a window but that’s just not always possible. Utilizing the restaurant’s ambient lighting can help bring a bit of the atmosphere into the food in ways that using a flash just can’t capture.
Sometimes trying to get food to look perfect gets in the way of making it look good; comfort food, for example, sometimes just needs to look how it looks. It can be a little messy.
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“One Hour Photo” is a new photography app for iPhone. The idea is simple (and I must admit I scoffed at it at first): You take pictures with the app, which has virtually no settings at all (it’s very much like shooting with a disposable camera or something). The screen turns white for a split-second. Then a timer starts at the bottom of the app, and the viewfinder reappears. The photos show up in your camera roll an hour later, with a dreamy black-and-white “film” filter.
There’s something very zen about the whole experience. It quite literally takes away my usual perfectionism and attention to detail and makes me take photos of moments and let them pass. I spent my dinner break last night driving / walking around in Austin snapping photos, and I really enjoyed it. Something about the format — the anticipation, the not-looking-back, and perhaps most importantly the lack of immediately firing up any number of editing apps — made me really enjoy just pointing my phone at things and shooting. I really can’t recommend it strongly enough. Almost as an added bonus, the app has some of the most convincing faux-film effects of any app I’ve ever used, and it does so completely automatically.