Monday, February 7, 2011

Experimenting with Food Photography

In the spirit of improving this blog, I put away my trusty little iPhone camera and pulled out the heavy duty Nikon Coolpix P90.

Ok, I lied - I used my iPhone to take a picture of the real camera. The husband bought this digital behemoth a few years ago and I don't think I've really ever used it. I don't think I even knew how to use it. It's not a DSLR, the fanciest of the fancy, but a fancier than most digital point and shoot camera. We do have a smaller point and shoot model, but I thought I might as well try the one with all the bells and whistles.

This involved me pulling out the comprehensive user manual and dutifully reading almost all of the 178 pages of technical information. I was studiously poring over a section when the husband commented "I don't even think I've read that". I was then able to show off my new found knowledge by helpfully pointing out a shortcut on the camera that he didn't know about.

Here are some of my experiments so far, taken on a weekend when the sun was out:
This has been challenging for my left brain ways, since a) I'm not artistically inclined, and b) I'm also not the most technologically inclined either. First, the photos themselves. They were all taken by the same camera, obviously, but the first was set on the standard macro setting, and the second was the "food scene" option. For the food scene setting, the only choices seemed to be bluer or redder, and I didn't like either, so macro will probably be my default. I will start playing around with shutter speed and aperture, once I figure out what changing both of those things do to a picture.

After I successfully downloaded the pics from the camera to the computer, I realized I would need to become at least marginally competent with photo editing software since Google's Picasa just wouldn't cut it. Adobe's Photoshop was far too fancy and expensive for a novice like me, and even their next step down (Lightroom) was pricey at close to $300. The free independent software programs on the web seemed unreliable to me, but in my research, I found a number of positive reviews from amateurs using Adobe's Elements with a much more reasonable price tag of $80 after rebate. Even better was the free 30-day trial that I promptly downloaded to our computer.

The trial involved many hours of staring at the computer screen, not moving and probably not blinking, and doing a lot of muttering. Elements isn' an intuitive program at first glance, or at least not to me - I don't recommend you do what I did which is hack randomly in the program, not get anything to work, and end up wasting a lot of time. There is plenty of help on the web and it's only a Google search away. Once I actually read the instructions, it became quite easy to combine photos, as in the above and this one below.

I now appreciate how much of a pain it is to take pictures throughout the cooking process. I was repeating the homemade oreo experiment (TKO's!) since I had plenty of leftover filling, and decided I should at least try taking some shots partway through. Not terribly easy when your hands are covered in chocolate grease (these cookies are all butter), not to mention it really does interrupt with the flow of things.

The husband, who is the one in our household with the greater interest in photography, came along and snapped these shots. Maybe I can convince him to take the in-progress photos - or maybe I should take the photos while he cooks for me... 


Jennifer said...

Love these photos.

I wish I was better at photography. I really stink at it.

Maybe Santa will bring me a new camera in 2011.

here's hoping!

sarah said...

Great stuff. I use iPhoto on my Mac, it's really easy, but I imagine that there are more professional options out there that perhaps I should investigate. Reading the manual is another useful step. Do you find that it reads like something that's been translated from Japanese by a non-native speaker? I always find myself wondering how to interpret the sentences correctly! :-P

PharmaFoodie said...

I love those oddly-translated manuals, but this one wasn't too bad - short, to the point sentences. Seems to be effective since i can now at least operate the camera decently!

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