Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Food Photography is a Real Struggle for Me

I started this blog in 2004 (during my University days) with the intention of keeping an online diary, recording in detail of my every day adventures, where I went, whom I have met, what interesting activities I participated in, any exciting events that happened and most importantly, to remember the delicious food that I have eaten. As a typical blogger who regularly posted photographs of food once upon a time, I have often found myself struggling to shoot a decent photograph of food. The struggle is very real, I can spend 5 minutes in front of a beautiful plate of noodles under majestic available light and I have trouble nailing a good shot. What happens next? All the photos were discarded and never made it here. Only very selective few survived the brutal filtering process and these shots are being compiled into this blog entry. 

I know some of you will roll your eyes and say "oh typical Asians who shoot food photos" and this scenario cannot be illustrated better in this short done by WongfuProductions. Food is a huge part of culture and you can share that through photographs. I do think food photography is art and not an easy one to master. Evidently there are just too many "average" and well..... less than average food shots being shared. I have always envied my friends like Jasonmumbles (who no longer blogs about food, boooo), whom I have learned a great deal from, and more recently Anna and Carmen both always enthusiastically shooting and blogging about food in Malaysia. 

My biggest problem with food photography is composition. This is the first time I am compiling all of "ok can make it at least for this blog entry" food photographs together and they all look almost the same in terms of angle and perspective of view. I really should explore different composition options and more creative angles. This is easier said than done! I have in fact experimented with so many alternatives and they all come out... unusable. At the same time I have always wanted to take good food photographs. 

Why shoot food photographs you ask? Because I am a food lover and I believe we live to eat. I have frequently shouted: Shoot What You Love. 

Roasted Duck Slices at Roost, Bangsar
This image was shot at 40MP High Resolution with E-M5 Mark II and printed large 60"x40" for the use in Olympus events. This is the only image in this series that is entirely straight out of camera JPEG with no additional processing. 



Heavy Breakfast (Do not remember the name, no longer on menu the last time I checked) at Chinoz On the Park, KLCC

Salmon Don at Taka, Perth, Western Australia 
I frequent this budget-friendly Japanese place back in the old days)


Sarawak Kolo Mee, Choon Hui Cafe, Kuching
Breakfast of Champions, only to be challenged by Sarawak Laksa, which I do not have a good photo yet. 

Cao Lau, Hoi An, Vietnam

Kin Kin Chilli Pan Mee, Kin Kin Restaurant, Chow Kit, KL. 
My usual breakfast before attacking the streets in Chow Kit!

Overpriced Breakfast at  Quar/tet, TTDI , a popular trend growing in KL. 

Big Breakfast, superbly overpriced at VCR Bukit Bintang, KL

Plain old Steak at Outback Steakhouse, Nu Sentral, KL

Steak Burger at Outback Steakhouse, Nu Sentral KL

Paleo Chicken in Eggplant Sandwich at Awesome Canteen, PJ

Cendol in Penang Streets

Tiramisu at Chao Italia, Mill Point, Western Australia

An Overpriced Coffee which can be found everywhere in KL now. 

Do you shoot food? Are you good in food photography? Do share some pointers, I would love to learn!

36 comments :

  1. I shot burgers for a veggie cookbook and found cropping in always seemed to improve picture. Shot with Canon 5D 135mm f2. Natural light off feflector. Veggiepowerburgers.com

    Bob gallagher

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing!! Will keep this in mind when I am attacking burgers.

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  2. The tiramisu is such an art piece .

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  3. -_______________________-lll

    humble brag... lol.

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  4. As an Italian, I approve the TiramisĂș.

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    Replies
    1. BTW the name means "Lift me up" :D

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    2. That Tiramisu was the best I have ever had!

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  5. I like to take food photo too. The challenge is always the lighting and what's in focus for me. Deciding between what F stop to use can be tricky in the close up while fighting to have fight the typical low light situation in a restaurant etc.

    What F stop do you typically use indoor or outdoor to get enough depth of field and yet want to give it some bokeh to remove some distraction in the back?

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    Replies
    1. What F-Stop depends on how much you want to be in focus and how near are you to the subject. It varies, there are time I shoot with F2,8, there are times F5.6, and even F11. Also depends on the focal length, the longer the focal length the more you need to stop down. You have to be the one to determine what is the best F stop for that particular situation. There is no magic F number.

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  6. Any preferred lens or focal length for food photos?

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    Replies
    1. I like to use 25mm F1.8. however you do need a wide angle shot if you want to fit a few dishes into one frame, and sometimes a longer focal length like 45mm works best for tight shots.

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    2. Thanks for your inputs. I find the 12-40 F2.8 Pro would fit the bill in many situation then. :)

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  7. Actually Robin, you do a very good job as usual, even with food and minimal lighting setup. I have watched a few videos on product photography since I need to learn this for my web customers (I do websites as well as coffee!) and the amount of time and lighting gear that pro's use is amazing! One setup for photographing a beer glass and bottle had 5 different light sources and several screens and reflectors.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Larry,
      Thanks for the kind words! I know the actual food photography for commercial purposes can get really scary. I just want to have nice food photographs of the food that I eat!

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    2. Without all the lighting setup it's down to the skill of the photographer and a good fast lens/camera, Olympus is a good choice of course ;)

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  8. Robin, I observe most of your shots are close up, just like how you took portrait hehehe... sometimes to bring up context you also need to show various angle of the foods and the accompanying props.

    And I just realised why all the photos you posted here are in landscape :P

    On the contrary, I've been food blogging and doing food photography for 7 years now (if you wanna check my work it's in my avatar profile, I don't want to spam here :P). Capturing people's emotion is still a real struggle for me though.

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    1. I understand that variety is important when it comes to shooting (as I shoot people I have plenty of variety as well, only a few shown as close ups). However all the other compositions I did were bad and I discarded them. No worries will check out your shots. thanks for sharing and do not hesitate to share your work. Be proud of your own photos.

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  9. "I know some of you will roll your eyes and say 'oh typical Asians who shoot food photos'." Guess what? That's _exactly_ what I was doing. I really like your other work, though. :-)

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    1. Too bad because there will be MORE of such food posts coming along.

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  10. Does everyone in KL get a coffee like the one in the last shot or is that the Robin Wong Special? I liked everything except the OutBack Steak, thought too much was OOF.

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    1. Hi William,
      Only some places that serve ridiculously overpriced coffee (I really should cut down on my expenses). Typically the coffee art is not that pretty

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  11. You master the art and the craft so well that it most certainly doesn't show that you struggle with food shots. In fact you make it look easy and incredibly yummy. Man, I already gain weight just looking at it!
    Top work!

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  12. Hi Robin, love to see all your food photos. Really make me go hungry.
    One question I like to ask is do you use any special lightings to light up the food before the shot is taken.

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  13. Hello Robin, I also agree with you.
    Yes, perfect photography can be a real struggle. You should bear in mind that food or product photography is very important for business. Only the best, most well taken images can improve your sales: whereas a poorly done image, can seriously damage your sales.
    You can find even more help from the site below about Product Photography from here!!!!

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