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Adventures in Food Photogrpahy: Salsa and Lenses – 2 of 4

March 22, 2010

The next lesson is about camera angles and using different lenses for achieving different effects.
(The above picture was shot with a 100mm lens, aperture f/2.8; shutter 0.3s)

Vertical Angles
I always try shooting the food setting from different angles. 45 degrees is the most common and that is the angle we view our food on the table from in a natural sitting position. Somethings look good being shot from the top, some from the side and some from an angle in between. After you have laid out the setting try all angles. It takes a long time to lay out the setting but very little time to try many angles. Let me warn you.. photographing can be strenuous to muscles in your legs that you never thought you had! As a novice, if you end your photo session without anything hurting the next day, you need to go back and shoot some more! I learnt this at my first full day photo session at Talia’s where the next day I was unable to climb down the stairs.

Shooting from the top makes things look flat. I find that this angle is good for condiments and chutneys. Depth can be conveyed by changing the aperture so a spoon on the table looks blurry but the rim of a bowl for example or its contents are in focus. Shooting from the side gives us more control over depth where we can make the objects beyond and in front of our subject look blurry (like the picture above).

Horizontal Angles
In addition this lesson required not only shooting from different angles vertically but also moving around the subject to see how light hitting the subject from different angles makes them look. I tried this and was quite amazed by the results. For my assignment picture I ended up choosing an angle (shooting against the light) which I would not have normally thought of (see last picture below).

A note on camera sensor size
My camera does not have full size sensor like a professional camera does. Canon small sensors size compared to a Canon full size sensor is 1.6 (Nikon sensor is 1.5). This means that a 28mm lens on my camera makes the picture look like a (28 x 1.6) 44.8mm on a full size sensor camera. Since 50mm on a full size sensor is considered a ‘normal’ lens I feel that my 28mm lens is close to normal. A normal lens makes things appear as we see them with our naked eye and has a 45 degree field of view. A wide angle lens such as my 20mm lens has a wider view and makes the objects appear smaller and further away. A zoom lens such as my 100mm lens has a smaller field of view and makes objects appear larger and closer (see three pictures below).

Believe it or not but the three photos below were taken from the same exact distance to the subject, just using a difference lens each time!!

I don’t like using the 20mm lens for close up photography because as you can see from the edge of the table it distorts the angles too much. The 28mm lens seems much more normal and 100mm is just down right delicious!

Lenses and Depth of Field
This website gives a good overview of depth of field.
Something interesting I learnt was that even at the same aperture depth of field looks different with different length lenses.

In the photographs below, the coffee beans were shot with the 100mm lens wiht apertures ranging from 3.5 to 32. Notice how blurry the coffee beans are in f/3.5 and how quickly they change in the very next picture taken at f/5.6, but don’t change much towards the end between f/14 and f/32.


One of the pictures I submitted for my assignment is shown below. After trying several angles I decided to use this one with the light coming from the back and
reflector in front. See layout below.

Lens: 100mm
Aperture: f/10.0
Shutter: 0.6s


While I am not carzy about the composition I do like the quality of light and how it is backlighting the chips making them look translucent. I kept the aperture at 10 because I didn’t want the items in front of the salsa to get too blurry. I submitted another picture for my assignment, which I will not post here because you will see it in an upcoming blog post.

See the first lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Pears and Light – 1 of 4.

See the third lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Lemon and Textures – 3 of 4

See the fourth lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Pepper and Macro – 4 of 4

See a list of my photography equipment.

-by Noerah

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2010 1:31 am

    Thanks for sharing all this information. I have a non-dSLR Canon, so can’t directly apply all the tips, but you are causing me to ponder my photographing! I love to see your comparisons all side by side, it helps me to see exactly what the variations acheive.

    • March 23, 2010 7:25 am

      Rebecca, I have seen your pictures and I’m sure you are using your point and shoot to it’s fullest extent. Your pictures are beautiful and your compositions are breathtaking. I can tell you are using the macro mode because you get so close to the subject. You’re a natural! If you ever want to upgrade to another point and shoot know that there are cameras that have the same level of control as a DSLR where you can manually set the aperture, shutter speed and exposure. -Noerah

  2. March 23, 2010 5:22 am

    Wow, so many helpful tips! Thanks for sharing!

    • March 23, 2010 7:27 am

      I’m glad you are enjoying my lessons. The third one will be coming up in a week!

  3. March 23, 2010 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. I too find that shooting from above makes the food look flat, but doing this for sauces and chutneys is a great idea.

  4. March 25, 2010 8:18 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. I can’t believe you use a point-and-shoot, because your photos are a lot clearer than most taken from such cameras. When it comes to photography, I find that I am a constant student. There is always something to learn and more to try to perfect.

    • March 26, 2010 4:24 pm

      Actually Carolyn, I did take these pictures (and almost all the pictures on this blog) using an entry level DSLR. Here is a link to the exact equipment I have: I think you might have gotten confused with my conversation with Rcakewalk above. I love photography and am taking classes and learning everyday.

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