If you think natural light is all we need to make our food pictures look bright and right…then you are not 100% correct there. A good food picture depends on many different factors…natural light is one of them. Getting correct amount of light pass through the lens and clicking accordingly makes the food pictures look natural. Today we have Simi Jois of ‘Turmeric n Spice‘ with us to tell on how to tame light in manual mode. Simi has done various posts on food photography and styling. You can check them at her blog under the label ‘Photography Tutorials‘. Thank you Simi for taking out time and writing on this much complicated topic of using Manual Mode….
” Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman
Photography is an art but the tool (camera) is very scientific and precise. The more you understand the science behind the tool your images become more of an artistic vision. I don’t say you cannot be artistic in auto mode, yes – with framing, camera angle or styling, but not with exposure. In auto mode, the camera decides the exposure for you. In manual mode you dictate the camera what exposure you want. Let me play the devil’s advocate – you can let the camera dictate the exposure and using your creative vision with editing- probably have a similar outcome. Absolutely accurate – it is your creative vision. Maybe it’s more editing skills and not so much photography skills. Nothing wrong with that, in that case this is not the blogpost for you.
The combination of shutter and aperture determines how much light enters your digital sensor. ISO determines how quickly the sensor responds to light.
Manual mode is not rocket science – it takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it you will not look back – I promise. On the flip side sometimes it’s hard for me to go back to aperture priority mode… I feel limited. I have to force myself to use aperture priority or shutter mode, just so I have it handy in difficult situations, like low light, outdoor shoots.
Understanding exposure is key to photography.
A photograph’s exposure determines how light or dark an image will appear when it’s been captured by your camera. It has three components.
Aperture : is the size of opening of the lens. That determines the amount of light that gets into the sensor…in other words when the opening is more, more light enters the camera – brighter the exposure.
It is measured in f stops, am not going to go in depth about the formula of f-stop and how it is calculated, but let’s just say, smaller the F- number (1.8 in the example below), the greater the amount of light that passes through the lens. The number also depends on the focal length of your lens, so not all lens will go down to f/1.8 or go up to f/22. I am using those just to give you an idea f/1.8(lots of light) is fully open and f/22 tiny (less light coming in).
Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open.
Shutter speed is calculated in fraction of seconds 1/4S, 1/30S, 1/1000S the bigger the denominator the faster it is. If the shutter is open for a longer amount of time you will get more light, however if it is open for less time you get less light. In other words, the faster the shutter: lesser the light. The slower the shutter: more light. BUT, the lower the shutter speed the more the hand shake is visible (image has a blur/shake). For me anything below 1/60S, I need a tripod.
In digital photography ISO is the sensitivity of the image sensor. In a dark room, with very little light pumping up the ISO may be a good strategy to get some good light into image.
Lower ISO : Less sensitive to light : finer the grains
Higher ISO: More sensitive to light : grainy and noisier the image
Now that the technical aspect of camera is behind us, you may ask – How do I know what is the right exposure for my image. Switch the camera to auto mode, yes you read that right…go back to auto mode – write down what exposure your camera is picking – the aperture, shutter, ISO.
Now ask yourself a few questions
1- what is my story ?
2- mood ?
3- kind of food ?
Now keep the ISO preferably between 100-400. Go back to manual mode and try reducing the exposure – either by increasing shutter or reducing aperture. Make sure you are checking the depth of field (how much is in focus) while playing with aperture. Use tripod if your hands are shaky.
Now you will see the shadows becoming deeper, as reducing exposure will make the dark, darker. If you like it !! Keep playing, till you find the image that matches your vision.
Now if you want a light airy image – go ahead increase the exposure, add more light- don’t be afraid of highlights.( but try not to burn the highlights – there are nothing but dead pixels) . Push the limit of the camera.
Here are some of the images narrating a story with exposure.
I wanted the images to be light and airy. I used back light to show the delicacy of the herbs. The image had to be exposed so that the front of the image was not underexposed and the highlights in the back of the image was not over blown. In situations like this auto mode will not help – one has to play with the exposure triangle to get the right light.
Here I wanted the image to have a country look, so not only did I style it country, I have it a semi-moody light, which is bright on the herbs – probably depicting a bright day without the light being bright.
Here I wanted the image to have an organic magazine feel to it,I kept the light flat – no highlights or deep shadows.
Here is a moody cold winter day
Summer day – Mango lemonade
Colors and textures with spices
Fall light – golden and mystic