I've received a few comments and emails about my camera, so I thought I'd share my favorite photography links—these folks really know how to do it right.
Me, I'm a novice, and I am allergic to the instructions that come with a camera. My approach to photography is rather like my approach to writing: I'm self taught. Trial and error. Beaucoup errors. I have a B.S. in Nursing (nothing writerly about that), mainly because my mama told me I needed a career to fall back on in case my husband died or ran off with a tart.
She was right. Writing won’t pay for the feed bill on our farm, and nurses are in demand. So I keep my license up to date no matter what. But I digress. . . except let me say one more thing: writers write because they love words. Blogging is writing with the addition of photography—two creative and complimentary processes.
I never thought much about photography until I began blogging. Like everything else, I was voted the family’s worst photographer (and the worst cook), mainly because I dropped Dr. Big’s Nikon back in 1984.
When DBG began, I was using a Pentax point-and-shoot (10 megapixels).
You can read about the Pentax HERE.
Then a whole, new world opened up when I met Jain at Once in a Blue Moon. I met other foodie enthusiasts. I got wonderfully lost in their photographs and home cooking.
The more I blogged, the more I cooked. I began to understand the challenge of cooking and photographing during daylight hours. If you have other things going on, like shearing sheep or writing novels, it can be nearbouts impossible. Most of the time, supper was on the table way after dark, and all of my photographs had an orange cast.
So I began researching food photography. How in the world did people with jobs and families take these gorgeous photos? What was the secret? Surely it HAD to be a secret, one that had skipped right over my head.
But wait, these great photographers have the same 24 hours/day that I, a beginner, have. I was goofing off, watching All My Children and eating way too many cookies.
I had an ah-ha moment: food photography is just like writing books or being a SAHM. You have to be super organized. You have to be like a bird dog and stay on point. I started setting the table the night before. I also grocery shopped the day before I cooked a dish.
Did it help? Some. But it's still challenging!
Here's the clincher: you might have to make some unpopular decisions, like, taking the phone off the hook or not watching The Tudors. No matter if you are writing, making cupcakes, or helping a child with homework, it all draws from the same creative well. You need a patch of quiet. A moment where the world stops and you can focus.
When you focus (and you are enjoying what you're doing), you slip into a place that professional athletes call "the zone." That's the place where the hoop seems lower, and you're making baskets.
Zoning aside, catching the light is a never-ending problem, and it's wholly out of my control. I prefer natural light. I think we all do. But it's gold to a photographer.
After a while, I began to lust for a real camera with options. Whenever one of my photos was accepted for TS or FG, I’d call Dr. Big at the office, and no matter if he had a light down someone’s esophagus, he’d cheer me on.
At this point, he got seriously involved in my quest. He said I couldn't help being a natural-born Dropper of Things, but he agreed that I needed to upgrade. The search began for a Canon EOS SLR . I was given a used Canon 50D. It was cheap because it’s wonky (and I damaged it even more by trying to clean it), but I love it dearly. Then, Dr. Big bought a Canon T1i as the “family” camera. It’s much easier to carry around than the 50D, and it has many of the 50D’s options, such as “Creative Mode” and automatic. You can tinker, but to a point.
The wonky, heavily used 50D weighs as much as a brick. If you are traipsing outside, trying to shoot photos of sheep or goats, the larger memory card will allow you to take more snaps. The downside is, the camera gets heavier and heavier, and if you are a Dropper like me, you aren’t going to run down the goat path just for a Donkey Photo Op.
I still point and shoot. I have a mental block about f stops and ISO and whatnot.
Let’s talk about lenses just a moment. If you are serious about photography, you might want to think about investing in at least one macro lens. No, it's not mandatory. I took plenty of close-ups with my Pentax, and you can see them on my blog's header, but to get really close, a macro lens brings all the details into focus. They aren't cheap, however sometimes you can pick them up on Craig's List or Ebay. Dr. Big, who doesn't want to be called Dr. Gollum anymore because it confuses his brains, found his camera on Ebay.
After doing my research, I acquired a few highly recommended lenses. I love them all and can't pick a favorite...but if I had to, I'd pick my 50 mm and 60 mm. Both are great for close-ups, or macro photography.
I also have a 24-70 mm lens, which is great for everything. I have an inexpensive tripod but never use it because it's so stiff and won't move with me. Which is one reason my photos aren't sharp as they should be.
Another reason is, I haven't read my darn manual.
This is the first picture I took with the Canon 50D:
Nothing to write home about, but it was a milestone. I took a photo after dark and the orange-golden haze was vanquished! And, I took the picture on the automatic setting (I'm chicken) with EGO light bulbs. You can find EGO LIGHT Bulbs at Home Depot. Here’s what EGO light bulbs look like.
For a while now, I've been trying to educate myself about photography. I loved reading Pioneer Woman's photography tips: http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/category/basic-photography/ .
This is a must-read about adding Equipment.
NYTimes foodie, David Lebovitz, has great Photography Tips.
During the winter, it's impossible to take photographs because the lighting is awful. I resisted buying lighting for a long while, but now that I have my EGO lights, I can't imagine not having them. This photo was taken after dark:
So was this:
There's so much to learn. I'm thinking it IS rocket science, but (to me) a lot more fun. Getting control of the light, chasing the light...it's an on-going struggle.
You can read about budget lighting HERE.
A Styrofoam sheet is an inexpensive way to “bounce” light. You can prop it with a juice can or soda bottle and reflect light onto your foodie object. This is important because light will not fall evenly. You’ll have shadows and over-exposed places. Here’s an example:
Notice how the left side of the cake is all shadowy, but details on the right side are lost due to too much light. If you try to adjust the lighting in the program that came with your computer, you’ll tear out your eyebrows in pure frustration. It’s flat impossible to edit a photo that has too much/too little light (unless you have Photoshop. Maybe it would work. I have a disk for Photoshop Elements, but my laptop’s CD drive is broken and I can't install it...insert sad violin music). I use other programs, but I've got to have something to work with...and it all starts with the L-word.
Here's another one about lighting that won't break the checkbook.
I am a fan of Pat's photography at Back Porch Musings. You can read about her equipment at the bottom of her blog page. She's the reason Dr. Big bought a Canon Rebel.
Here's one more article about Food Photography and Diffused Light.
The only things I know for sure:
** No flash. Use Natural lighting whenever possible--but direct light will create shadows. They can be beautiful or awful. Both TS and FG rejected these—with and without the shadows:
But they liked this one:
**Take lots and lots of pictures. Then edit them with a light touch. I am presently using Windows Photo Manager, and when I need to (lightly)sharpen something or add a title, I use Picnik’s program at Flickr. The basic Picnik is free and it's really great.
**The best light is "white light," which falls from mid-morning until around 3 pm. This time span is based on my southern location, and of course, it will stretch as our days lengthen. (Thank heavens.)
**Use large sheets of construction paper (white will never let you down and makes the food stand out as the star) as backgrounds for small objects or food. Then you can bring in lamps and shoot after dark.
Well, that's it for now. It's a lot to absorb, isn't it? I re-read these photography articles over and over, trying to gleen little gems that flew over my head the first time. Mostly, I'm learning the hard way...but I'm also playing.
Playing is essential for creative critters like bloggers.
Compiled from DBG’s March 8, 2010 Newsletter
Disclaimer: DBG isn’t affiliated with Canon, EGO lights, Pentax, Cuisinart, or any photography products listed above. I am not compensated by providing the links; they were added so you can research lights, cameras, and action.