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Food Photography Adventure - More On Color
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Food Photography Adventure  -  More on Color

There's a whole lot more to using color in food photography than just picking up the color wheel as I talked about in Lesson 1. Once you've got your colors, what can you do to make them stand out?

We've all heard of programs such as Photoshop and Paint and certainly colors can be enhanced, brought out, and otherwise tweaked with these programs. But you have to have something to work with in the first place.

When I was first married and moved into my first house, I picked up a home decorating book on a whim. It was about home decorating based on color themes. I loved the photos which showed rooms designed with a monochromatic theme--everything blue, everything mauve, etc. The basic technique advised was to pick your main color and use that color in nearly everything. It was a dramatic look.

Another book I bought suggested that you go all over your home, inspecting your belongings and grouping things that shared a common color but including a variety of tones and hues so you would end up with a color grouping but not entirely monochromatic. The items themselves did all not have to "belong" in the room. So you could find in your garage a copper watering can that had a rich patina and put it in your bedroom that had a green theme alongside a pile of green books.

Ahhh the '80's! This was what was considered "artsy" then. Of course you weren't watering anything in the bedroom and you weren't necessarily reading any of the books. They were there simply because they are green. This seemed like a good idea for a new homeowner like myself who had an extremely "eclectic" selection of furnishings and decor in the house. (That's the diplomatic way of saying I had a mish-mash of handed down and thrift store items plus some truly loved and truly eclectic favorite things.)

I liked both these books because they had enticing photography but I never fully decorated a room using either of these techniques. I decided that if I were to go monochromatic [containing or using only one color], I'd want to be able to change it often because I wouldn't want the same color all over a room all the time. It didn't seem feasible to do that.

I didn't do the second method of gathering up items just because they had a certain color and putting them together in a space. I don't really enjoy having a lot of things sitting around on the surfaces of my tables that have no use or reason to be there. I'm a bit of a minimalist that way.

But what I did pick up--and this is the point--is the idea that a color theme can be very helpful in making a statement and applies very much to food photography. Most food already has a color theme that sort of shouts at you. "Look at me! I'm a carrot and boy, am I orange!" It is very useful to include similar colors as well as contrasting ones in your set design.

I did this recently. I was looking to take a photo of beets which have a strong red color and I was eyeing a vase of dried flowers as a background for them and decided to shoot the beets near the vase. I set it up and took the shot. The result was an interesting photo with this vase in the background in contrasting color. I then realized that the table I shot it on, which happened to be a shade of red, created a nice, subtle contrast to the beets and helped soften and warm the picture overall. Unintentional but successful all the same!

Likewise, finding items that may not come just from your kitchen but do pick up the color theme of your food and using them in your photo can result in a more interesting photo. You can naturally enhance the appearance of the food by playing with objects of various shapes and sizes that either contrast with or pick up your colors.

I learned this accidentally one day when I was taking a photo of some Moroccan chickpea soup. I wanted to use outdoor light so I took the soup outside and put it on a little brick wall on my balcony. In this case the brick color did not enhance the soup or the bowl it was in so I grabbed one of my favorite linen napkins not really thinking about what color other than it was a light blue napkin and the bowl was dark blue. I wanted to do something to make the brownish soup more appealing. After the shoot was done and I loaded the photos on my computer I saw it . . . The napkin had a little touch of golden yellow in the design that picked up the color of those chickpeas and their lemon zest garnish very well. I was delighted!

Both these happy accidents, though they were subtle in their effect, enhanced my food photos and taught me a valuable technique about using color in food photography.


Street Talk

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