Are you a chef who finds caramel easier to handle than a camera, or a writer who doesn’t know an f-stop from a full stop? Photography plays a bigger and bigger role in food blogs and can add a level of stress to what should be a fun, creative outlet. Fortunately, a lot of books now address the specifics of food styling and food photography with bloggers in mind.
The following books (three on photography, one on styling) are worthy of space on a food blogger’s bookshelf.
Three Photography Books
While all three authors want you off automatic mode and in control of your DSLR camera, each take a different approach, have a different focus and provide a slightly different perspective on capturing the “money shot”. All encourage you to shoot in RAW for greater processing control, and provided solid explanations of the following camera basics:
- Camera modes
- The “Exposure Triangle” (how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together)
- Depth of field
- Shooting in natural and artificial light
- White balance
- Reflectors and diffusers
- Props and basic styling
- Different types of lenses
In addition, all three authors provide details of the camera used, the lens, F-stop, ISO and shutter speed for each photograph. The similarities end here.
Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling
by Hélène Dujardin (©2011 Wiley)
Target audience: This is an inspiring start for food bloggers who shoot real food but are new to DSLR cameras. Dujardin’s explanations are solid, well illustrated and her technical requirements minimal.
Does Best: Dujardin puts all the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that makes sense. As a trained pastry chef who moved into photography, her profound respect for food comes through in her. Her photos are beautiful, artistic and authentic. What else would you expect from the creator of Tartelette?
Biggest takeaway: The picture of a photo shoot in her home studio and a tour of Dujardin’s camera bag are invaluable.
Looks elsewhere for: Detailed explanations of processing digital photos. Dujardin touches on the topic, but not in a highly technical way. Instead, she provides plenty of expert resources for the curious.
Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
by Nicole S. Young (©2012 Peachpit)
Target audience: Photographers who want their food to look as good as it tastes and aren’t afraid of technology will find this book useful. While Young employs a few “cheats”, like adding grill marks to chicken with a charcoal starter, her aim is to keep food as natural as possible.
Does Best: Young devotes a large portion of the book to digital processing, helping bloggers maximize their Photoshop skills without having to wade through a 500-page tech manual. She covers topics such as histograms and layers, and provides a helpful behind-the-scenes workflow section.
Biggest takeaway: Young’s “Poring Over the Picture” segments deconstruct select photographs, explaining compositional decisions, focus points and lighting factors. This is helpful when know your photos aren’t working but you don’t know the fix. Want some practice with feedback? Young has a Flickr group anyone can join.
Looks elsewhere for: Capturing great candid shots.
Beyond Snapshots: How to Take that Fancy DSLR Camera Off “Auto” and Photograph Your Life Like a Pro
by Rachel Devine and Peta Mazey (©2011 Amphoto Books)
Does Best: Although the authors focus on children and family portraits, the techniques and tips extend to bloggers who want to photograph the culinary world beyond plated food. It's advice which easily translates to capturing action in a busy commercial kitchen, at home with kids making cookies, or at the Farmers’ Market.
Biggest takeaway: Full of practical nuggets, this book offers advice you won’t find in other photography books. Suffering photographer’s block? Try an Inspiration Jar. Take too many shots? Follow their 2-roll rule. And my favourite tip — your shutter speed must be faster than your focal length or you run the risk of blurred images or camera shake.” This explains so much.
Looks elsewhere for: Food-specific photography advice or food styling tips.
One Food Styling Book
Don’t let the title fool you. This is about more than food. If you work with food beyond your blog, this book will give you solid business advice.
The Food Stylist's Handbook
by Denise Vivaldo (©2010 Gibbs Smith)
Does Best: Vivaldo’s no-nonsense, self-deprecating voice dishes practical advice with great humour. Topics range from running your own business to suspending foods for prolonged shoots. Immersed in oil, a sunny-side-up egg can last two days. Brownies in resealable bags last four. This kind of information is priceless if you’re doing a demonstration, working a trade show, or presenting under hot TV lights.
Biggest takeaway: There are so many. Vivaldo’s Styling Kit has clever ideas for every blogger. Her sections on marketing / business card alternatives and press releases apply to anyone wishing to promote themselves. The Q&A at the end answers styling questions that plague all food bloggers, like how to keep condensation from running off a cold drink or prevent your salad from falling flat during a shoot.
Looks elsewhere for: Photography advice and tips on shooting real food.
Food Photography and Styling Books for Bloggers was written by Charmian Christie, a freelance writer specializing in food and gardening. She shares her culinary triumphs and regrets on her blog, Christie’s Corner. She puts her hard-earned knowledge to good use via her new iPhone/Android app, Kitchen Disasters & Fixes. Follow Charmian on Twitter.