Friday, July 15, 2011

Photography Tip: What's Your Angle?

Angles are everywhere.  When you look at a picture you are viewing it from an angle. When you take a picture you are telling a story with an angle.  When we use props or food, we involve angles.  So how do you pull it all together to make an image that is "angle-amazing"?

I wish I could give you the formula for creating the perfect image, but there is not one.  This is my opinion. I say this because we all see things differently, we all want to be creative or unique in our style.  It would be boring if we all shot at 45 degrees or all from above.

I like this quote I found by Michael Ray:

"Why photograph food from a different angle? The truth is that photographing food from a forks-eye view is different, and in the world of photography, different means unusual, and unusual means interesting."

I like that!

It's not always that easy to capture the image that makes it interesting and unusual.  I will tell you that with practice you will get better with preparing your shot, deciding in advance how you want the image to look starts to become natural after shooting for a while.  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

I will take you through some of my images and let you see how changing certain things can make or break the photo.  Keep in mind, that when I shoot an image there is a certain ambiance, look and creative freedom that I already know I will create in processing the picture.   I probably overthink every image I take, but I have been doing this a while, I am a bit of a perfectionist and it's fun to PLAY and create ART.

When I shoot my own images, I can certainly think outside the box.  Working with clients is a bit different, you listen to what they want and, on occasion, you can do something different.  Clients have the final word, they can make or break your reputation and sometimes, they don't know what they want until they see it.  That is the tricky part.

If you want to shoot food professionally learn your camera, read your manual, practice a lot and move your feet.  Capture those angles that will make your image speak to the reader.  Tell the story.  Have FUN!

I have 8 sets of pictures that tell a little bit about the way that I shoot.   I don't believe there is a right or wrong's all relative to your situation.  The industry may dictate what is popular but that does not mean it's always right.  The beauty of digital (if that is what you are shooting) is you can take lots of pictures of the same image.  YES, post-processing will be time-consuming; BUT, I can tell you, we have all done it and you will learn so much.  Here we go...

1. Pictures, when taken from the perspective of different angles, for the same recipe, blog or article, let the reader experience the "process" of what was made.  They can see from above and from the side.  They see the food being made from beginning to end.  It's fulfilling to a reader to have this experience.  You can see below that I used different angles to tell the story of the Peach and Raspberry Tart.

2.  I often times will take a wide-angle shot of what I am shooting.  I think there are times when you want everyone to see the "whole" picture.  The crab cakes are seafood.  Seafood comes from the sea. We all have memories of the sea...starfish, sand buckets, flip are taking the reader with you on this trip, through your picture.   To finish off the recipe, you zoom in and capture your STAR, and let it shine.  In this case, it was the crab cakes.  I took lots of pictures, but you can see how by tilting my camera just a little bit, I had a decision to make..sand in the front or the plate in front?  My final image was the crab cake with the sand in front.  I liked the look of it.

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3. You can shoot from above or straight on, OR, you can shoot everything in between the two.  These cupcakes were fun to shoot.  I wanted to do something different and unique.  I took a ton of pictures to get the right angle that I wanted.  Practice with moving your feet, your body and the camera.  You never know what you will catch with a little tweaking here and there.

 4.  Some foods showcase better from above and some don't.  Some food items need to be shot from the side.  Like a steak, you want the reader and viewer to see the thickness and the color of the meat.  From above you lose that.  The eggs below, are a good example of how the two angles will appear different to the viewer.  The Masa cups are okay from the top, but you really see how cute and little they are from the side.  I like both, and I think they each have their place for telling the story of the recipe.

5.   I took the eggs straight on because I felt it was the right look for this image.  But, I did experiment and turn my camera and reshot the eggs.  It was not my favorite, but you can see how a slight angle or turn of the camera gives a different feel to the image.  One is fun and the other is all business.  You have to decide these things first, or take lots of images from different angles and decide later.

6.  Extreme angles are tricky to find the right picture to use.  I don't use these a lot.  I cropped it in tight so that the eye was not overwhelmed with all of the things going on in the image.  Again, it's not a popular shot, but it worked and I liked it.

7.  Above or side?  You decide, and take both if the decision is unknown.  I like these two images.  It worked great.  Although the other image I like, especially if you need some "working" pictures.  It involves the viewer.  They feel they are there making the muffins with you.  Tell the story by using angles.

8.  We have talked about using your body and camera to capture the angle of your image, but what about the angles in the image that also play into things.  We forget that our props and sometimes our food has sharp lines, curves and dimensions.  The key is finding the balance to work in the image.  In the examples below, you can see that the cutting boards have lines, knives create lines and curves look great with other curves.

I always try to put my food so that the angle of my butcher blocks lines are pleasing to the eye.

I have a cutting board with lines, a popsicle holder with sharp edges.  I felt an angled shot was perfect for this image. It combined them all nicely.

Same as above, other than I tried to soften the lines on the cutting board, with the tops.

I like the angle of shooting from the side on this image because the curve of the plate enhanced the round cup cakes.

Again, lots going on with the board and knife.  Above and from the front shooting was plain and generic.  By turning the camera a bit,  it was exactly what I wanted.

WOW, so much to cover and so much to learn.  It takes time and practice to get to the point of it being "second nature" while shooting food.  There are so many things to remember and think about.  I hope that this will get you thinking about the angle of your next food shoot.  SO, what is your favorite angle?

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