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How to photograph delicious food

Just recently, French chefs have started to asking costumers not to take photos of their food. No more #foodporn? Well, they have a point, there’s a lot of really bad photos out there. How often do I scroll trough my instagram feed, reading “look what i cooked my hubby #bestwifeever” and thinking “wow, heated up canned vegetables and think all the world should know”. Let’s be honest, there’s just a loooot of bad food photography out there.

So, here are my tips for delicious food photography.

Stay Fresh

Nobody likes old food. In photography “old” can be one minute. Take the photo as soon as possible. As soon as the stuff drops on the plate, press the trigger. Fresh food just looks a lot more delicious. In professional food photography they work with all kinds of tricks like adding tiny “water” drops or even painting with color whatever doesn’t look fresh. So we amateur photographers have to be quick, taking full advantage of the first magical moments, when it’s all still gleamy (even though my wife, a nutritionist, likes to call that special gleamy layer “the stuff that kills you”) and steamy.

The Right Point of View

A bad perspective can ruin the nicest meal. If you just stand with your camera and take a photo right above your plate, it will most likely look neither spectacular nor too tasty. So get low and get close!

If you are getting really close to the subject, not everything will be in focus, essentially blurring the table around and maybe even parts of the plate. This gives you the chance to have certain elements stand out. The viewer of your photo will be guided what’s important in the picture. Use the chance to do guide him.

Delicious Food Photography, Oliver Erb

However, as we will later see, this doesn’t necessary have to be the only perspective. What I’m saying is: Don’t be boring, just play around with the point of view, try what works best for you – and always keep in mind there’s people around you, so don’t take it too far and knock someone over while you’re searching for the best point of view ;).

Don’t even think about the Flash

You will not, I repeat, never ever ever use the flash. Remember the magical brilliance I was talking about? Flash completely f****s that up, makes everything shine like a sweaty bald head. Would you like to eat a sweaty … well, let’s just say don’t do it.

Instead, just work with the available light all around you. Restaurant owners are smart guys (well, at least the successful ones). They are well aware of which light is best for illuminating their dishes.

Delicious Food Photography, Oliver Erb
The red light in this Indian place was the best lightning one could ask for.

Upgrade Your Photo

One of my most recurring advices will be to take a look around. All around you, there is so much cool stuff, that will enhance your photo in many ways. You just have to look for it.

In this photo for example, I could have decided to just photograph the plate right in front of me (yeah I know, just a minute ago I said go close and focus, blabla), but I felt like including the bigger picture. Just look at the great colors all around the main object. How boring would the photo be without all these colors and objects all around?

Delicious Food Photography, Oliver Erb

Different situation: dinner table. Take a look around, what do you see? Glasses, bottles? Perfect! Use them, maybe even steal some flowers from the living room and get down to work.

In this case I additionally to moving around the glasses a little bit also turned down the lights around the table, letting the light help me to focus even more on what’s important in this picture.

Delicious Food Photography, Oliver Erb

Or maybe even let the prop play the main role. Who cares about the food if there’s a wonderful refreshing bottle of real Mexican coke on the bottle? And remember what I said in the beginning, be fast. A full, dark bottle (I was very very thirsty, all right?) would have looked even better in contrast to the yellow tablecloth and the lucid red logo.

Delicious Food Photography, Oliver Erb

Be Creative

I am far from being an expert on food photoraphy, just giving you some advice how to start off. But in the end, you will have to try what work’s best for you. You wanna turn a dirty dish into art? No problem, go ahead!

Creative Food Photography

Let me knwo what you think! Or even better, post some links to your own food photography!

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How to photograph stunning sunsets

It is easy to photograph sunsets, they are already beautiful by nature. But there’s a difference between good photos and stunning images of a sunset.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Acapulco, Mexico
The sun setting behind a hill in Acapulco, Mexico

Find a focus point

There’s nothing more boring than just a picture of some nicely colored clouds. I mean, come on, anyone can take photos like that.

So, let’s take a look around and check if there’s anything between you and the sun that catches your attention. Maybe it’s a person, maybe a plane in the sky, maybe a boat on the water. Look for anything that makes your picture more interesting. And then try to play around with it. Just because something is your focus point, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the center of your photo – and neither does the sun have to be.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Maayafushi, Maledives
A water plane taking off in Maayafushi, Maledives

Create a silhouette

With the sun behind your object, you will see strong backlighting, which means that the object will appear rather dark and just as a silhouette.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Acapulco, Mexico
Acapulco, Mexico

In this case, that’s the desired effect. Now you have to make sure that your camera won’t ruin this moment. When you are in auto mode, there is a possibility that your camera will try to increase the brightness so your object in front becomes visible. There are a few tricks how to prevent that:

  • Most cameras nowadays have a special settig for sunsets. Active it and you are fine.
  • Manually adjust the exposure of the image. If you don’t know how to do this, keep reading.
  • If you are in auto mode, aim directly on the sun, press down the shutter button until the camera focuses, then move back to the object and press down the shutter button completely.
  • If your object isn’t too close, just switch on the flash. Thereby, you will make your camera believe that the flash will do the work of lighting up the scene and won’t automatically change other settings.
How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Acapulco, Mexico
Acapulco, Mexico

 Take another look around

It’s easy to get lost on the beauty of this huge fire ball right in front of you. But sometimes it’s best to turn your back on the sun. The setting sun will throw a beatiful light on everything around you. Maybe the best motive isn’t in front of you, it’s behind you.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Paris, France
The last rays of sunlight crawling over Paris, France

Hurry up!

It’s easy to get lost in the menus of your camera trying to find just the right setting for this image, but there’s nothing more aggravating than looking up from your camera and to realize that the moment has passed.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Maayafushi, Maledives
Maayafushi, Maledives

You will see that a sunset actually takes place faster than you might think. More importantly, everything around you changes as well. Maybe clouds disappear in minutes, maybe they suddenly block the sun, maybe your focus point moves away. The perfect moment can be over in split second. So when you can take the perfect shot, but your camera isn’t set up correctly, go for it anyway. I’ve missed too many good shots because I chose to configure my camera before taking it. Don’t do that. In post-editing you still improve your picture immensely, so nothing’s lost if the colors aren’t all right. A “bad” photo is always better than no photo at all.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Paris, France
Paris, France

Be ready for more

So far, we’ve just covered the basics. For now, you’re good to go and play around a little bit with your camera. You can check online when the sun sets in your city, so let’s get going.

In another article I’ll explain how you can techniques such as HDR to create even more stunning images of sunsets.

How to photograph beautiful sunsets: Paris, France
Paris, France in an HDR shot

Better ideas?

As always, I’m interested what you think. Let me know how my tips worked out for you or if you have made different experiences.

Beginnings

A few days ago I posted my article Rocket Science with some pictures of a New Year’s celebration. Now I want to share my beginning of 2014.

This year I celebrated the end of the year in the German city of Karlsruhe, more precisely the “Schlossplatz“. The Palace (“Schloss”) was the first building to be erected in this city in 1715 and the city has since grown around it. So there you have even more beginnings.

New Year's in Karlsruhe

People gathered all around the huge place in front of the palace, celebrating and getting ready to blast their rockets into the sky.

And then … 3 … 2 … 1 … it started.

New Year's in Karlsruhe

The sky was immediatly full of colorful explosion, as was the ground immediately filled with smoke – you could barely see the castle behind the thick wall of smoke.

New Year's in Karlsruhe

The historic decorations of the Karlsruhe Palace such as the statues were an interesting view against the sky, which was illuminated in all kinds of colors.

New Year's in Karlsruhe

The smoke, darkness and sudden flashes of light made it incredibly hard to get my camera to focus. Some really cool pictures ended up pretty out of focus.

As most of the time, I was working without a tripod. I might take better photos with one, but I can’t get around the idea of carrying all this clumsy equipment. One reason why I decided against a DSLR was being able to put my camera into a pocket, so now I wouldn’t wanna carry too much extra equipment.

New Year's in Karlsruhe

In other moments the place around the palace looked more like a battlefield. And sometimes it felt like one, rockets and other fireworks exploding all around you. For the occasional drunk idiot throwing fireworks into crowds seems to be an appropriate way to welcome the new year ;).

New Year's in Karlsruhe

Altogether, it was a really nice New Year’s celebration. If I wouldn’t move away (there is another beginning) I would probably spend next year on top of a hill, the Turmberg. From there, you have a spectacular view of all the city, that would for sure have been interesting.

Where People Eat

What I love about travelling is trying new kinds of food. Hence I have seen many different places, where people eat. An interesting one I came across in Baños, Ecuador.

Strolling trough the town, I had seen many people entering something that from the outside looked like a storage building. I couldn’t resist to follow them and check it out. Surprisingly, I ended up in a market/restaurant.

Baños, Ecuador

In one part of the warehouse merchants sold fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.

Baños, Ecuador

Baños, Ecuador

The other part of the building was filled with tiny kitchens. Assigned to each of these kitchens was a table right in front.

Baños, Ecuador

For me, this was a concept unlike everything I had seen before. Each of these kitchens prepared food only for one group of guests at a time.

Baños, Ecuador

Unfortunately, my pampered European stomach didn’t feel brave enough this day to try some of the food from this community (ironically, I got sick the next day from a supposedly “clean” restaurant, damn you weak stomach!).

Baños, Ecuador

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One day on my way home I stumbled upon a very rare kind of tree. Please take a moment and think about what you are seeing here. Is it really a tree? Could well be, but then it would barely be an interesting photo. So of course it’s not a tree. Any further ideas?

Urban Tree
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Geeks with Ambition

If you wanna be the next Zuckerberg and you happen to live in Germany, there is only one place to go: Berlin. The capital of Germany is THE place for geeks with ambition. We are talking a billion startups starting up every day. In a nutshell, the city is crowded with hipsters.

For some reason, these hipsters have made a habit of working most of the day in coffee shops. I don’t know what it is to sit in these crowded places with their overpriced cookies and coffees and work. Maybe it’s all about “see and be seen”, sitting there with your fancy MacBook and a Club Mate pretending to work on a super secret app that is gonna change the world…

Coffee Shop in Berlin

But at least the wifi is for free…

Coffee Shop in Berlin

Horizon

One of the cool things about being on a lonely island in the middle of nowhere are the amazing sunsets.

SONY DSC

Me and my wife spent many nights sitting on the beach or on a pier watching this huge glowing ball sinking and disappearing into the ocean.

SONY DSC

I took many photo every time we sat there, but I really loved the ones with this plane. Every day, new visitors were brought to the island by plane. Taking off, the waterplane was followed by a small cloud of water that glimmered in the sun.

Horizon