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  • Malinda M Julien

Is your Turkey Photo not cutting the mustard?

Ah, the holidays are upon us! The world presents cooks and diners from around the US to gather at the table for a wonderful meal. Cooks and chefs alike are planning the perfect sides and the most beautiful turkey! Place settings will be planned, relatives and friends are planning the trip...

There you are, poised with this tradition and you are out to create the most social media worthy photograph of your great dinner.

You Google "taking thanksgiving photos" and it all looks so simple! You have your camera or maybe just your iPhone 7 and are armed with knowledge.

Yet, somehow your images are not what you see others posting.

Food photography can be more challenging than you think, so please, don't be hard on yourself.

Here are a few tips which may help you.

1) Angle - the photo above was taken to cover the entire table - not very flattering - if this angle would have been lowered a bit - usually just slightly above where you would be seated, it would have looked better.

If you are trying to photograph the ENTIRE table - coming from the side and maybe just slightly up and pointed into the table would have been better.

2) White balance - as you see this photograph is very yellow. If you are using a camera where you can change your white balance, use the "lightbulb" setting ( looks like a little lightbulb) and see if that looks better. Most of us have incandescent light in our homes. That is what the little "lightbulb" signifies.

If that doesn't look quite right, you could try AWB ( average white balance) which will give you an "average" color - possibly better than the one above - but maybe not the best.

What I really love to do is use natural light. Open a curtain by the table and use the natural sunlight. Choose "daylight" on your camera ( the "sun" icon) or Kelvin of about 5200-5500º.

3) Flash? Natural light?

Flash on the camera will usually flatten your image, make the background really dark and in general, just make your turkey look like a cooked bird, which is not what we are looking for.

If you have to use flash - use it off the camera - over to the side and where the light grazes across the food.

If you can't remove the flash from your camera - you could always use a reflector - just a white piece of cardboard will do great! If you have a light source ( lamp, window, etc..) you can hold the reflector opposite that light source to "bounce" back light into your image.

Natural light will be the best for giving beautiful images. Try that if you can.

4) Settings?

Don't be afraid, ... try manual settings - generally if you are photographing your food during day light and you are using natural light from the window you could use:

daylight setting for WB

ISO as low as you can go ( tripod 100ISO, hand held - at least 2x the length of the lens you are using to avoid camera shake)

f-stop - depends - do you want just the turkey and the rest slightly out of focus? use the lowest f stop you have ( f2.8 or f5.6 )

Do you want the entire table in focus? f8 or above

Shutter speed - your subject isn't moving - so 125 to 200 should work out - depending on your environment.

If you are not quite sure about your settings and want to use the "Program" or "auto" feature of your camera - of course you may! Try it and see what you get. The camera will try to "average" the lighting and color.

RAW or JPEG? Well, that is a matter of opinion and what you are going to do with the photo - if you are not going to post process the image ( lightroom or such) and it will be shared immediately - JPEG will probably work the best for you.

If you are going to do post processing - RAW is always best. It allows you to retain a lot of detail and you may bring shadows up better and pull any color shifts easier.

5) and the MOST important part!

The food is fun and SEEMS to be the point - but it isn't. We photo bugs love to have our cameras out the entire time - but thanksgiving is about family and friends.

Take the group photo and some nice shots of the food, then put your camera / cell phone up. Look UP at the people who are actually there - enjoy them. Create memories that are NOT on a screen.

..... and don't photograph anyone who doesn't want to be photographed or who is eating :) Be kind -

Happy Thanksgiving!

#foodphotography #thanksgiving

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