Photography

Photo courtesy Fridgg.com

If you’ve spent any time submitting your gorgeous food photos to the various so-called “food porn” sites, you may have noticed that there are just a couple of big players, and then a ton of copycats, very few of whom actually improve upon the formula. Most collect small-format, square photographs, and some include a few bells and whistles, like the ability to sort by “Most Popular” or “Most Viewed” submissions.

When we first discovered Fridgg.com thanks to a tip from a reader, we were pretty cynical; our bookmarks list already has a pretty full roster of sites to submit to, and we don’t get too worked up about adding a new one to the mix. After using Fridgg for just a few days, though, it was clear that founder Allison Day has no interest in running just another Foodgawker clone.

The first thing you notice is the photos themselves. Gone are the teeny tiny 25o pixel square mini-prints so common to these types of sites, replaced by larger-format, 3×4 ratio photos that really pop against the websites stark black background and allow submitters to include as much (or as little) meta data as they’d like. Perhaps even more significant than the photos themselves is how they get “promoted” to the front page of the site. The front page is populated with user-submitted photos that are chosen not by an all-knowing editor, but by a democratic process using secret algorithms (and lasers). Woah.

Intrigued, we stole a few minutes with founder Allison Day, to talk to her more about her vision for the future of Fridgg:

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Just because you rushed home from work, whipped up dinner, and have 468 chores to do before tucking the kids into bed, doesn’t mean snapping a few pics cuts it when it comes to good photos. Okay, okay: we have ALL done that. But when it comes to the photos that I sit back and am proud of, it’s the ones where I put a little effort in. A little more then a spare napkin and utensil. The ones where I set the mood and build the scene.

This is something I am working on with every post. It is so tempting and easy to just snap a few pretty pictures, and call it a day. The resulting photos will make it onto food sites, and people will comment on how delicious the baked good or savory creation is. But will anyone be really WOWed?

No. No one will be “WOWed” by that. 

I’m writing this at 8:54. There is a cake cooling on my counter. It will be photographed in the morning, because I want a warm glow of natural sunlight in this particular picture, and I am already building the scene in my head. If you take some time to brainstorm your scene, plan your background and props before rushing to snap the picture, the images will be stronger from the ground up.

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Ever wonder why even with natural sunlight, the camera set to manual, and shooting at the highest possible resolution, that your photos still turn out a little too blue, orange, or just plain wrong? It’s really annoying when you sit down and load your pictures and they are all flat and grey, or overcast and orange. Who doesn’t hate that?

Here’s a quick tip: Try adjusting your white balance. Depending on where I am and the type of lighting, I am always adjusting my white balance. And my camera makes it really easy. Chances are, if you own a DSLR, yours makes it easy, too. Seriously, this is a less than 1 minute, easy tip that will change your picture quality and drastically reduce editing time forever.

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I’m assuming anyone who just hit publish on a new Blogger page isn’t searching a site out like ProFoodBlogger for tips on how to get started. Forgive me for the assumption, but I’m guessing if you are scanning these articles, you have probably put some time in, consider yourself an official member of the blogging club, and have heard of sites like Tastespotting, Foodgawker and the like. Maybe you’ve even had an image accepted, or hundreds declined. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

In this post I will reveal that there is no secret formula for being accepted on these sites. I have had and seen hideous blown out over exposed pictures accepted, and flawless ones ignored. The short decline and harsh words, “Composition”, “lighting” and “balance” will haunt your dreams. I will also try to remind you countless times throughout this post that getting on these sites is not as important as have a quality blog and good photography.

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One of the first terrible photos I ever took of food. We’ve all gotta start somewhere, right?When we first started taking photos of the meals we cooked or were served in restaurants, we were very disappointed in the results. Taking photographs of food can be incredibly challenging, as anyone who has seen the large, picture-based menu at a Chinese restaurant can attest. Bad angles, harsh lighting, and unappealing compositions can all combine to make a delicious tasting dish look just terrible when photographed. But those inherent challenges can make food photography all the more rewarding. Learning to take appetizing photos of food is one of the biggest challenges a food blogger faces, and it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked.

While I’m still learning how to properly photograph food, and still have a long way to go, there are a few tricks and tips I’ve picked up so far that anyone can use to get better, more appealing food photos out of their point-and-shoot or DSLR cameras. The best part? When you’re first learning to photograph food, you don’t need to spend a dime. As you progress, you can start spending a few bucks, and your results will only get better. Here’s are some of the tips I’ve collected along the way, presented in order from least expensive to most expensive.

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