In search of a few good themes ..

February 16, 2008 in Food Photo 101, Meta Talk

my workflow

I thought I was blocked before, the hacking didn’t help matters. I strongly urge you all to backup your databases and all blog related files. You wordpress people, you need to upgrade and not delay.

I also suggest that you keep an eye on those plugins that become classed “dangerous” because the wretched small-minded hackers have figured out how to exploit the plugin’s weakness to access your blog. In my case I am thinking its the forums (wp-forum 1.7.4) so I have disabled it. I am sorry to you all who use it but right now I have to figure out two things: a secure forum and then how to import everything from the current forum onto the new forum system.

The forum is not my highest priority right now tho because I have to do the following:

  • write up my Lou Manna post
  • find, test, and customize a new theme
  • Write the next food photo 101 class (so darn behind from all this disruption and I am so verrrrrry sorry)
  • catch up on my other posts!

There is more but I am trying to concentrate on these few things.

I am sorry if there are parts of the site that do not work correctly yet, thats part of the process. You may also find that the theme changes erratically from visit to visit or even during the same visit .. I am testing new themes when its like that. Sorry if it makes you feel dizzy!

Food Photo 101-5: Curt’s Results

January 29, 2008 in Food Photo 101

Today we have Curt’s post on his results from the 5th lesson in the Food Photo 101 class. I think he did a fantastic job! Read on and learn from Curt

Finally, I have my results from Lesson 5 of Food Photo 101!

I have to first say that having weekend time makes a big difference, and I hope others following along took advantage of having natural light. This time of year means I leave either in the dark or just after dark, and I get home after dark, so the only light I get is the good old plug-it-in kind. I have a window that gets great afternoon light right onto my dining room table, and I really liked how it worked out.

Just a note about a bit of a difference I had with this lesson… I looked through a lot of my old photos along with the shots for this lesson, and I found that, even when I thought I was taking shots using the thirds, I’m off a bit. Of course, a bit here and there isn’t noticeable unless the grid is overlaid. But I found that with my stuff, I was using a slightly different ratio, I think, called the Golden Section. I’m not going to go into it too much, but the rule of thirds is a bit of a simplification of the Golden Section. It’s a ratio used since ancient Greece, and is supposed to be pleasing to the eye naturally. I think the reason is that it’s something I remember from school, and I just got used to using it then. There’s nothing wrong with the Rule of Thirds; I just found I missed it by more than a bit, but found I was hitting the Golden Section instead. Some of my photos I pushed to the Rule of Thirds, but also included examples of the Golden Section.

So what did I use for my photo subject? I went back to pears. Is this because I think pears look great? They are kind of nice looking, I suppose, but it’s mostly because it’s the fruit I most often have around, especially in quantities of more than 1 or 2.

Without further rambling, here are my Lesson 5 shots:

The first shot is a bit different, in that it’s not so much the intersections of the grid that I used, but the proportions within the grid as sections:


And the Golden Section grid overlaid:


The far left is all in shadow, with pretty much the whole section being empty space, with some shadow lines I found interesting. I also really lucked out with this glass slab; the light was hitting it ust right to have it refract along the back corner of the slab. Not planned, but I’ll take it!

Also, I did highlight some parts of intersections that lend themselves to showing off the intersections just a bit: the back corner and the part where the refracted light starts. Also, the axis for the right side of the grid goes along the shadow on the front pear, so the middle section ends up being in shadow, but with the fruit in the shadow instead of being empty.

The right side is then mostly the first pear in natural light.

Maybe not the best example, but I was happy with the shot.

My next shot, I did the “not Rule of Thirds” intentionally, to see if I could get things to look better by playing with the cropping. The first shot ends up looking just not balanced well, I think:


And it’s overlaid grid:


Nothing really fits well in the grid or on the interections, and it just looks like some pears on a table.

Now with some cropping, I think it gets a bit more interesting:


Showing the grid shows that the Rule of Thirds is more in effect now:


The main point is a blemish on the pear in the lower right intersection, with the edge of the pear in the upper right, and a shadow between two of the pears in the background is in the intersection of the upper left. Light and shadow both can be used for proportion, I think.

I also like that the background pears are mostly in the top third of the photo for some reason.

And for good measure, here’s a final shot I also liked, with the Golden Section showing the main focus in the middle section, but that’s about all it really showed me, so I didn’t include it:


I’m the first to admit I may be completely off base with this proportion stuff; for those of you in the class or just browsing, I’d appreciate any feedback, before Nika tells me how far off I am!

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Learning from a Master – Lou Manna

January 25, 2008 in Food Photo 101

lou manna

OK kiddies, I just wanted to share my excitement about this fantastic class I will be taking this coming Sunday in NYC.

Lou Manna, food photographer extraordinaire, has been running food photography workshops for years and I have been wanting to attend one for years. Well, finally, I can afford to take one. This Sunday I will be driving down to NYC, into the heart of Manhattan, to Lou’s studio to soak in his experience and check out his studio.

The screen shot below shows you a description of the class.

lou manna

If you want to attend his next class, check out the Adorama workshop sign up page. The next class is on March 2, 2008 (sign up here).

I just can NOT wait! You know how when a little dog is so excited that it’s wagging tail whips it’s whole little body around? Yeah, thats how I am feeling.

I will post back with a report on my experience.

About Lou Manna:

Lou Manna’s award-winning photographs have appeared in national ad campaigns, major magazines and over thirty cookbooks. While working as a photojournalist for the New York Times, Lou developed a passion for food photography as he was creating appealing images to accompany reviews by noted food critic and cookbook author, Craig Claiborne. Lou went on to establish his own studio on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan where he has produced thousands of digital images while working with a wide range of major advertising, corporate and restaurant clients including Barilla, Kraft Foods, Marriott, Starbucks, Kellogg’s and Coca Cola. Honored to be one of an elite group of Olympus Visionary photographers, Lou recently authored Digital Food Photography, which is the only book on the art of food photography devoted exclusively to digital techniques:

FP101-5: Rule of Thirds

January 15, 2008 in Food Photo 101

Before I get into the core of this lesson, I wanted to let you all know about a change to this course.

To allow people more time to do these lessons, the timing has been changed (some of us do not have any light when we get home from work during the week!).

I will publish a lesson on the Tuesday and then Curt will publish his results (which I mirror here) two weeks later, on a day of his choosing. We will then send out the newsletter for that lesson that next Sunday. The next lesson will then be on that next Tuesday.

Thus, I am publishing this lesson on Tuesday January 15th. Curt will publish his results and you all will send me your links and/or you will upload your images sometime in the week of January 28th – February 1st. We will send out that lesson’s newsletter on February 3rd.

On to today’s class

I mentioned on the previous composition post, in swift passing, something called the thirds rule. I am going to talk in greater length about this handy concept today and then I want you to chose several shots of your own to analyze.

What is the Rule of Thirds

The term “rule” is not meant to hem you into thinking that this is a hard and fast rule. This is more of a suggestion but an important one to help you develop your aesthetic “palate”.

Without getting excessively technical, a composition that has it’s focal points near the intersections of a tic-tac-toe box (shown below) will be perceived as more aesthetically pleasing.

A Few Examples

As with almost anything having to do with composition, its easier to show than it is to tell. I will simply show you some images that I shot this last weekend that have been marked up to show the grid.

Winter’s tulips

The grid overlay

Focal points show with blue circles

Further illustration of composition in terms of movement, notice all sorts of circular movement.

Here is another example of a photo that conforms to some extent with the rule of thirds

Cayenne Rosemary Cornish Game Hens – before roasting (I know, thats not rosemary)

The grid overlay

Grid with focal points outlined with circles

Your Homework

Find an image (or take a new one) that demonstrates the rule of thirds. If you know how to, add the lines like I did in the examples above to show how your photo conforms to the rule.

Now find a photo that doesn’t seem to be very pleasing in terms of composition and then do the same, add the lines. See how this photo may not be maximizing the rule.

Go a step further and see if you can modify that image by cropping to bring the various focal points closer in alignment with the grid intersections and see if that has a positive effect.

When you have done these things (or selected two images, one that uses the rule and one that doesn’t), upload it onto flickr, add the tag “fp101 rule of thirds” and then add those photos to the Flickr Food Photo 101 photo pool!

If you blog, please blog with your words and photos to describe how this exercise went for you. When you have done this, please send the link to me by filing out the contact form below, making sure to put “FP101-5 blog link” in the subject line.

Thats it! I am looking forward to seeing what you all submit.

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