Tips for entering our food photography competition

Wed 25 Jan 2012 @ 10:09
Author Adrienne Pitts

Do you love to photograph your food?

We're running a pretty fantastic competition here at Jamie Magazine. We're searching for the best amateur food snappers out there. Not only will our winner receive an iPod Touch loaded with some of Hipstamatic's amazing range of films and lenses, but we'll also publish their work in the magazine, along with a selection of runners-up. We've had some great entries already, but there's still lots of time to enter.

I admit it; I'm guilty. I'm one of those people who is always taking photos of their food before they eat it. Dishes have gotten cold while I find just the right angle. A good coffee has never gone undocumented. Yes, I am sometimes the subject of friendly ridicule. But I love photography, and enjoy documenting day-to-day life. We're lucky that there is so much great food and fresh produce around us, so why not snap it for posterity?

If you're shy about getting started, here are my top tips and tricks to get the best out of your food photos:

Get close. Get closer. Now, get closer again
I think this may be one of the best photography tips I have ever been given. You might have a lovely punnet of fresh raspberries – what is it about the raspberries that you like? Is it the colour? The texture? Then you'll need to get really close so that you can show us that texture. Crop out the punnet that it's in, crop out your cat playing with a ball of fluff in the background, and concentrate on what it is about the food that is really beautiful!

Keep it natural
Your camera might have a flash, but sadly food rarely looks good when it's been lit with a flash. If you are somewhere which is dark, or in a place where there is a lot of artificial light, it can be worth having a quick look around - is there a window you can move your food to, so you can photograph it in natural light? If you can, do it!

If you are stuck in a dimly lit restaurant, then sometimes the best you can do is try and make sure you are not casting a shadow on the food. If you are shooting on a smartphone and using one of the many photo apps, then try some of the interesting filters and effects which are available – if I'm stuck somewhere dark I usually use Hipstamatic and choose from the range of film/lens combinations. Making images black and white also gets rid of that pesky orange glow given from indoor lightbulbs!

Hold your breath!
It's really easy to take a photograph, get super excited about it, then be disappointed to discover later that it's shaky or out of focus. Personally my eyesight isn't the greatest, so I always rely on Autofocus to make sure I'm focusing where I want to. It also helps to make sure you are holding your camera steadily when you take the shot. If I'm somewhere where there's not much light, I tend to lock my elbows in tight to my side, and breathe in and hold it just before taking the shot – it's amazing how often it works to get a steady shot even on a gloomy dark night!

The rule of thirds
I'm letting the cat out of the bag here. But everyone I've taught this simple rule to has seen a great improvement in their photos, so why not share the love? There's no denying that sometimes placing your subject in the centre of the frame can look amazing, especially when it's very deliberate. But what is also amazing is the rule of thirds. Easy to do – just imagine your photograph divided up into 3, and place your main subject in one of those thirds. Try taking photographs of things a little off-centre. Try cropping them differently. Try moving your subject to the top or the bottom of the frame – what happens then? You'll be surprised how much this simple rule can change your photographs.

And, as with all good rules, feel free to break it whenever you want.

A little iPhone tip
If you are taking photographs on an iPhone, a good thing to know is that you can actually pre-focus your photograph by pressing and holding down on the shutter button. The phone will then take the photo when you release your finger. By taking a photograph this way you reduce the chances of your camera moving as you are releasing the button, and not pushing down on it (and potentially moving the camera!)

I'm judging the competition with Jamie, and renowned photographer David Loftus – click here to read David's tips on what makes a great food photo. And remember – if in doubt, keep it simple. And it doesn’t hurt to note that you don't have to send in photographs of finished, cooked dishes. Here at Jamie we are all about the fresh, the beautiful, and the seasonal. So if you have a glut of winter greens grab an armful and get shooting. Whatever you like to eat, how you like to eat it, the carnage of the kids helping you bake some cookies – we want to see it all!

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