You must always use a tripod in your food photography, here’s 5 reasons why
Hang on JT!! Just a minute.. Didn’t you write a post about how you should never use a tripod in food photography? Yep, I did. Here lies the paradox of creativity. Learn “the rules” then break’em. Not like I’m telling you this is all gospel and the rules, not one bit. You do whatever works for you and the photography you’re creating. Today it’s why you absolutely, on every given occasion, kind of, must use a tripod for your food photography.
Always use a tripod: One
It’s Sunday morning and you’ve been planning a shoot to practice your photography and styling. A beautiful breakfast is what you want to create. You nipped out early to the local artisan bakery to pick up some delicious goodies. The fresh coffee is made and piping hot. Fresh fruit is carefully sliced and ready for styling. You even picked up a fresh, crisp newspaper to add to the scene.
As you’re about to set up your scene, the clouds roll in and it gets overcast and a bit gloomy. A couple of test shots confirm you’ll have to push your ISO pretty hard to get the exposure you had in mind. You could drag the shutter but that would take you to 1/20 of a second and you can’t get a sharp shot hand holding like that. It’ll end up a smudgy mosaic at best. There’s nothing for it but to use a tripod.
Now you can wind back your ISO, drag the shutter and you’re onto a winner. You’ll be amazed at how beautiful the light can look on a dull day with a longer exposure. My tripod is also a go to when I’m shooting interiors. I may want multiple exposures to bring together later or paint the light around a scene and have the camera fixed. Not to say I haven’t had to hand hold to get interior shots, but there are techniques you can use to help that process. I’ll be writing about them another time.
Sometimes there’s nothing for it but to use a tripod
Always use a tripod: Two
You break out your tripod and already you’re feeling more comfortable because you know you’re in for your best chance of a nice, steady, sharp shot. Your ISO is back to it’s cleanest setting and as you take a few test shots, you see the images are a really nice quality.
Lower ISO isn’t just about grain in your photos. Two other aspects are effected. Sharpness and colour rendition. Sharpness fades away with high ISO, even with a crisp sharp lens. While colour tends to shift and looses its range and vibrance as you raise the ISO.
While this is true, each camera sensor and manufacturer are different. Some handle high ISO better than others. The other thing you’ll benefit from lower ISO is because the colours are full and the noise is none existent, you’re editing will be a breeze. Less time in front of the computer has to be an awesome reason to use a tripod.
Always use a tripod: Three
Your tripod is set up and you’re about to create the scene. You’ve decided you’re going to shoot vertical or portrait orientation. You may have read my post on the importance of deciding on your camera orientation before you style. Because of this you now know how to approach your styling.
You kinda lay things out the way you want but you’re not sure how it’ll look in camera. Thanks to deciding to use your tripod you can set up the camera in position. Turn on live view. Now build your scene checking back at camera to see how it all looks. What you see on the screen is fairly close to what your photo will look like.
Even better if you tether to a computer and you can see the live view on a bigger screen and adjust the styling with much greater creativity and accuracy.
A small disclaimer… I shoot Canon and I can use live view through Canon’s own software to see what the camera sees on my laptop as well as control the entire camera remotely . Not sure, at this very second, how you do that if you own an alternative brand of camera
Always use a tripod: Four
Your excitement is building now, you’ve got all sorts of issues dealt with. There’s a beautifully styled scene in front of your lens and there’s one thing, apart from dreary, flat as a pancake, characterless light, which will kill your image. Can you guess what that is?
Go on, give it a guess, I’ll wait…
Did anyone guess… Critical sharpness. If you can’t get a sharp image when you’re subject is still with the camera locked onto a tripod, then something is most likely amiss. The other thing you can screw up is focusing on the wrong part of the image. Missing focus on your hero ingredient or the key part of a dish, is not an option. Locking down your camera onto a tripod will give you the best scenario to achieve a tack sharp photo in your food photography. Either move your focus point and use auto focus or zoom in on live view and focus manually.
Of course you may be using a lens which isn’t critically sharp or it may require some micro adjustments to better marry up with you camera body. There are plenty of You Tube videos to show you how to calibrate your lens through micro adjustments.
Always use a tripod: Five
Your beautiful breakfast set up is the best you’ve done so far. You should feel very pleased with yourself. So you’ve got the shot you set out to create. That’s that then, lets pack it all away and get to editing the photo…
Wooooooooow there, hold them horses. All morning you carefully creating this delicious scene of a breakfast banquet. You’re not just going to get one shot, surely! Time to work those angles. The light is still low so you’ll continue to use your tripod. This is where you’ll practice mastering your tripod. Being able to quickly and precisely adjust your tripod may one day be one of your asset saving moments.
Practice makes improvement
This is your time to put in the practice getting your camera where you need it and locking it down on a tripod for all the reasons above. When do you suck at something…? At the beginning. Practising is the only way any of us get better at anything. You certainly won’t get good at using anything if you never use it.
That said, if your tripod isn’t user friendly, you won’t use it either. Find something that is well designed by a good manufacturer because all the rest of your kit will change but your trusty tripod, will be with you for years. Here’s one of the tripods I use. The Manfrotto 055
One more thing I want you to remember. When you use a tripod, make sure you turn off any lens or in body stabilisation. After all, the camera is rock solid, so there’s nothing to stabilise, but that won’t stop your camera or lens trying.
Back combing the beard
I’m sure there’s the a few people saying how they hate using a tripod and always get sharp images. That’s amazing! I hope there are, after all that’s what we all want. Perhaps you’ll like my 5 Reasons why and where you should never use a tripod in food photography.
I’m that person who learns how to do thing the way they say it should be done. Then promptly heads off to do it a different and sometimes better way. What’s better for me is a nightmare for another. Learn many ways to approach your photography, it’ll make you a much more capable and a better storyteller.
So remember, always use your tripod in your food photography and then lock it away for a month, and do without it. You’ll soon figure out which camp you prefer to be in.
Thanks for stopping by there’s much more to come. A big thank you to all of my subscribers too, I really appreciate you letting me visit your email from time to time.
See you all back here really soon with more of my tips from the food industry and photography.