Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Photography Therapy: A Cry For Help

They say that obscenity is the crutch of the inarticulate motherfucker.  As for me, I can put words together fine, but I can't take a picture worth a damn.  My crutch?  Hipstamatic.

Seriously though, can we talk this through?  I'm having an issue.  See, I am MTV generation through and through.  I have the shortest attention span of them all.  So I totally get that, for a food blog to actually be read, you could write like David Foster Wallace himself (still makes me sad), but you better have awesome pictures.  Hello, it's called food porn.  And, the fact is, people are actually doing professional-quality photography out there.  I look at blogs like Gastronomy or Sinosoul, and they go to restaurants, with their unpredictable and often low light, with the stigma of being that guy taking pictures of his food, with the fact that you are actually there to enjoy your food by ingesting it, before it gets cold (and clearly they do), and yet their photos are mouthwatering -- delicious things bouncing off the screen in vibrant technicolor, fancy depth of field focusing your eye on just the right bit, blurring out all the rest.

I have a little Canon point-and-shoot.  (Before that, I had a little Sony point-and-shoot, which I think I may have liked better, but then I got mugged.)  And my photo processing consists of little more than hitting the 'Enhance' button in iPhoto.  Sad, but it's all I know.  My only saving grace is that my kitchen at home gets quite bright.  Now you know why there are never dinner posts around here.

I am very interested in improving this situation.  I would love nothing more than a dslr camera, the know-how to wield it honorably, and the photoshop (or whatever) skills to take its photos to the next level.  But I don't even know where to begin.  Furthermore, there is the catch-22 of the inability to learn how to use  a dslr without having one, but the hesitation to commit to a very expensive piece of machinery without the foggiest notion of what to do with it.  On top of this, I guess there's this whole lens thing?  Evidently, you shell out for a fancy camera, but you can't actually use it without a lens as well?  This is a strange and confusing world.

So, you can see that I need some help here.  I'm standing at the bottom of the hill, looking way up.  I need a mentor, I need handholding, I need advice.  I need a photography sensei.  Tell me people, what's a photographically-remedial food blogger to do?

In the meantime, I have discovered Hipstamatic.  It's a cop-out, and it's amazing.  A 2-buck iphone app that takes my crappy photography skills, and seals them over with its own flavor of untouchable I-meant-to-do-that coolness.  It eschews the invasive world of gigapixels and high-def and gives us the beautiful retro-sexy blur that we crave.  I know it's splashed all over facebook so much it's a cliche, but the fact is, it's pretty awesome.

So for now, you're gonna see some Hipsta-shots in these parts.  Because it makes my blog pretty.  But, really, I want to learn the ways of the true masters.  Someone, please, show me the way.

Incidentally, if we're going to talk LA food blogs with amazing photography, we really need to mention eat drink & be merry -- he really elevates it.  For one, I can attest that his Sunset Junction photos are a lot more beautiful than the real thing.  And he does all these actual professional photo shoots at local restaurants, butcher shops, bars.  Lovely stuff.


  1. I am a huge proponent of the Canon powershot s90. It takes amazing low-light pictures and is still a point and shoot with a whole lot of manual tweaking available if you so desire. Neal actually turned me on to it.

  2. Alex Mircheff1/25/2011 9:46 PM

    It's actually not as expensive to start shooting with a dslr as you think it is, or as complicated. If you're just starting you could pick up a Canon Rebel - the newest model runs $770, but if you go for the slightly older T1i, you're looking at just under $600, including the 18-55 kit lens. Given that you're doing closeup work in low light, and where you want a shallow depth of field, you can also pick up Canon's cheapie fast portrait lens - it's a 50mm 1.8, it's only a hundred bucks, and it will get you the look you need.

    As for the photoshopping - start simple and opt for Adobe Lightroom instead. Instead of a million options, layers, menus and other complications, there is just a set of sliders lined up on the right hand side that lets you control all the essentials - temperature, contrast, colour, highlights, blacks, cropping, spot removal, funky filters (hello hipstamatic), vignetting and all the rest. No specialized knowledge required, you don't have to work to find anything and it's as easy as iphoto.

    If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them, hold your hand, whatever :)

  3. F**k being THAT girl. I'd much rather be THIS guy.

    Having an asshat at the table w/ a DSLR (yes, I'm self incriminating) ruins a good 1/4 of the dining experience. I'd rather you show up with the most beautiful leather bound note book with your initials embossed.

    That said, if I had to buy a new camera right now, it'd have to be Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. (am carrently carrying the S90).

  4. Let me know if you want to get together for food porn talk! I'm in the midst of writing a "how to take kick ass photos in a resto" guide on the site, hopefully that will be out in the next six months ;-)

    In the meantime, sign up for this: http://whiteonricecouple.com/photography-travels/food-photography-shoot-out/

  5. dear commenters: you are amazing! thank you for all these hints and tricks!! and:

    brian: we will talk about this s90. i'm intrigued.

    alex: thank you for the support! looks like i've got some homework.

    sinosoul: well, i'd rather be somewhere in the middle. i am super-shy about compromising the dynamic of the table for a shot (or to take notes, for that matter), but i still want pretty pictures! in addition to good writing, of course.

    and ms gastronomer: thank you, and thank you! just signed up for the shoot-out (hello, perfect), and would LOVE to talk food-porn (and bake sales, of course) with you. you'll be hearing from me!

  6. I love my little Canon! Also, p.s. eat drink & be merry is a she... :)