How to photograph in public


MAY, 2017

The other day, I shared in one of my posts on Instagram my fears around taking a photo of food IN PUBLIC.

I don’t just mean a quick iPhone overhead snap, I mean pulling out my DSLR, arranging things on the table to get the right composition, moving around the table to get the right angle… Taking a photo like I would when shooting in the comfort of my own home… only with lots of people around!

I hesitated over whether or not to post it. After all, it’s pretty trivial in the whole scheme of things right?

But in sharing, some of the responses surprised me.

Quite a few people had a similar fear.

Others embraced it.

But then Brittney, who runs the account @easydoesit_nutrition with her partner Nick, shared that they too felt nervous about photographing their food in public, but reasoned that

“It’s our passion and that makes it okay”.

This really resonated with me. Why do we let the (perceived or real) thoughts of those we don’t know impact our decisions to do the things we love?

I have always been fairly shy and self conscious. I’m slowly trying to change this, but when you’ve spent your whole life worrying about what people think, it’s a hard habit to break.

Knowing this, I’m not going to tell you to just “not worry about what people think, go out and take those café photos” or whatever you might feel self-conscious shooting, because I know it’s not that easy. But what I do want you to do is to go and start taking those photos, in whatever way feels comfortable for you.  You can pick situations that don’t feel as intimidating, but through shooting in settings that you aren’t familiar with, are comfortable in, and don’t have as much control over, is a great way to practice and improve your food photography.

And you don’t need to limit this to food either. Take your camera out in a public place and take photos of things you like. Focus on smaller details, as well as wider scenic shots.

It can be quite challenging to emulate the look and feel that you usually favour in your food photography when shooting in public, but in doing this you’ll be forced to look at how you shoot and how to work with the options available to you when shooting away from your usual controlled environment.

So…. how exactly do we shoot in public when we’re not used to it? Here are some tips that work well for me..

1. Work with the available light and shadows. Dappled sunshine and soft shadows can really add to a shot and make it more interesting. If a scene you like is completely covered in harsh shadow or really bright light, choose another shot instead.

2. Try to focus on smaller details, as well as more obvious shots such as sweeping landscapes and street scenes. In food photography, we focus so much on the detail, so try and emulate this outside as well.

3. Shoot in AV. *Did I really just say that!?* Normally, I would strongly encourage everyone shooting food with a DSLR to shoot in manual only. However – while shooting in manual can allow you complete control when shooting in your own home or a studio, where you have control over most aspects of the shoot, we don’t have that same luxury when shooting outside, and therefore shooting in AV (aperture priority) allows you to choose the aperture setting (allowing you to control the depth of field) while the camera automatically selects the other settings to ensure the image is correctly exposed.

4. When shooting in cafes, try to sit in a corner or an area a bit out of the way if it’s available to you, so that you are able to move around a bit more when shooting to get the right angle and lighting for your shot.

5. Take a friend with you. You’ll feel more comfortable and confident, and they can also double as a hand model for you 😉

6. Move stuff around on the table to get the right shot. Often we want to be quick when taking photos at a café so we take a quick shot, but the way food has been laid out on the table might not look best in a photo. Take a shot, and then look quickly at that photo to see what looks out of place, any negative space in the photo, or an empty coffee cup that needs to be moved. Quickly make these adjustments, take another shot, and then you’re good to dig in and enjoy your meal!

Do you struggle with the idea of shooting in public, especially taking photos of your food in cafes and the like, or are you one of those confident people up on the chair getting the perfect flatlay of your brunch spread?

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