I have come across comments recently of someone asking for head shots and replies saying, “You have an iphone just use that on portrait mode.” Which you absolutely can do if you want to. Phone cameras have improved so much from the Moto Razr days. Gotta love those old phone photos though.
But I digress. There is nothing wrong with using your camera to take photos, however the quality and final product you can get from professional shots is the reason you hire those people. Now before you think, “We get it James you wan’t people to hire you that’s why you are writing this post.” That actually is not the intention of writing this. I really just wanted to share my process of editing and the effect it can have on the final outcome of the photo. The advantage of shooting with DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex) and especially in RAW format is the ability to post edit the photo. Some photographers will go heavy on contrast, others with fade. It is a way of putting their signature look on a photo which can look great for portraits, architecture, and nature shots. However my personal ideology with food photography is to let the food shine and don’t go too crazy on the edits. That being said there are some subtle little adjustments you can make to really have the food pop and push that dish photo to the next level. So for today’s post I wanted to walk you through some of the steps I take to edit my food photos and really help make it feel like you can taste that dish. Just please don’t lick your screens. Or do, I really don’t care. Just don’t lick my screens, that’s gross.
The steps for these edits will be done in Lightroom. It is a really straight forward program with everything you could possibly need when touching up photos and doing post. If you don’t have Lightroom no worries! A lot of these sliders can be found in other editing programs as well!
I always start off with cropping the photo. I used a sheet tray for the backdrop of this photo so I knew I needed to crop in enough to get rid of the sides. You’ll also want to make sure that the photo is level. It can be the table, horizon of the landscape photo, or maybe a bridge you are taking portraits on. If the horizon line is not level it will instantly look odd to the eye.
Next what I will do is utilize the lens correction feature Lightroom offers. Depending on the lens you are using there could be a slight to possibly severe distortion from the lens focal length. This groovy feature will adjust the image to compensate for that slight distortion , for example getting rid of a fisheye effect.
*You will want to do this early on because it can brighten the image which will have an effect on later settings*
White balance can be one of the most important tweaks to a photo. If a photo is too blue it can look cold. Too orange and it can look too warm. Messing with this can really change the life of the photo and mood which can be really cool. For food I try to hit that perfect balance of natural light. Next I will adjust the exposure and contrast. If the photo is too dark bring up the exposure for more light, too bright bring it down. Just be careful with how far you push it as to not ruin the image quality. Contrast is up to you. I prefer just enough to bring a little punch without over doing it.
These next four sliders are very important. Highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. All should be adjusted according to what the photos needs are. I will always bring up the shadows to show some hidden components like the onions for example, and in return I will bring the blacks down a bit to get rid of some of that fade. If the light is too bright in certain spots (reflection from flash or sun bouncing off a plate) you can bring the whites and highlights down to even it out.
Just like contrast, the clarity slider can add the extra little punch to an image when brought up. Bringing it down will make the image softer. I will use a mix of contrast and clarity to find that good balance of making the image be sharp and pop without making it look unnatural.
A big advantage of doing post is cleaning up some things that you may have not noticed like some crumbs or a stain on the wood or just wanted to get rid of from the beginning like the logo for the sheet tray. The spot removal tool is perfect for these quick clean ups.
To use the spot removal tool just adjust the brush size for the spot you want to remove and place. If it looks a bit odd you can move the adjustment circle to fit the heal better.
The adjustment brush is incredibly handy for food photos. For this example I really want to bring out the grain in the wood and bring up the contrast but I don’t want to add more contrast to the rest of the photo. Using this tool you can brush in the area you want for specific adjustments. In this case I increased contrast, clarity, and sharpness to make the wood grain more prominent.
I used the same tool for the right side of the burger but this time I brought the shadows up and a little bit of exposure. I didn’t have enough fill light on the right side of the burger so by selecting the right side I can even out the light and really make the burger shine.
Vignetting is another personal choice with editing, I personally like to add just a bit to create a border for the photo and helping out the mood of the shot. Dehaze is used a lot of times to get rid of some fog or surprise surprise haze in a photo, but I will often use it for some food shots to get just a bit more sharpness and pop in the photo.
One of the final tweaks I will make to a food photo is the saturation. A really nice thing about Lightroom are the color sliders for saturation. More often than not you can lose just a bit of color in the photo because of the lighting, possibly your camera settings, or maybe aliens. Subtle tweaks to these sliders can help bring that touch of color back into certain parts of the photo like the cheese or jalapenos.
Just be careful with using these, adjusting too much either way can make the photo look unnatural and downright weird. Proceed with caution.
Do I have a problem with the original shot below? No not really, I think it looks delicious and has some good lighting. However when you look at the edited photo it’s night and day. These simple adjustments can really change the feel of a photo and help the food shine without being a distraction. My advice when it comes to editing food is don’t take away from the dish itself, but have it make you go, “Holy juicy burgers Batman, let’s grab some grub!”
Or for all you young kids out there, “OMG LAURYNN WE HAVE TO GO HERE!!” YAAAASSSSSSS. NEEEED THIS!!🤤🤤🤤🤤🤤🤤 #howdiditcometothis
I know this post was a bit longer than most and a lot of info to take in, I just wanted to share a bit of my process with how I do some editing and hopefully give some tips that you can use! Thanks again for checking out the post today, I will have some new recipes coming next week. Bye gurrllll.
Just for shiz and gigs I decided to do an edit that pushes some of these sliders too far to show you and example of some uggo food editing.