Eight Tips for a Better Food Shot without involving Camera Setting

Eight Tips for a Better Food Shot

I had received some enquires on tips on taking a good food shot. I am no Pro myself but i thought i’d just share some of the things that I will observe or do for most of my food shots.

These are some pointers that I live by for food photography without involving the technicality of camera setting.

These are definitely not the magic formula to good food photo as I myself still got tons to learn in this aspect but these are some things that I’d comprehend through the years of casual shooting of food.

This is one of my favourite shots. Taken at B.K.T

I will be bluffing myself if I say that the person behind the camera is all it matters. Indeed the person behind the camera plays a big part but I know that certain kind of shots can only be achieved by using a better equipment and to a certain extend, technical knowledge of camera setting must be involved.

However, putting the technicality aside, there are some things that I can do to make the food shot looks slightly better.

Some of us may agree or disagree with some of the pointers but feel free to feedback or to add on and let’s learn together.

And here it goes.

#1. Avoid posting bad photo

A photo can’t be a bad photo when you are the only one who have seen it.

Like selfie photo, only post those that you really like and do not do wholesale upload of food photos.

This photo was taken by me about 3 or 4 years ago. I remember back then i was only snapshot-ing food instead of taking photograph. Everyone has a learning phase but definitely the food shot will be better with every practice.

#2. Get a good table with good lighting because lighting is the key to good photo

A good food photo begins even before the food is served.

As much as possible, avoid tables with harsh spot light that cast unsightly shadow on dishes. Generally, shadow tends to hide or distort the details and texture of our dishes and this is not something we want while taking food photo.

A good lighting can almost turn any dish into a mouthwatering one. Photo is taken at Lady M Confections.

Finding a spot that is near to window with natural light is good. But beware of strong sunlight coming from the window as it can cast shadow on one side of the plate resulting in half of your dish becoming too bright while the other half is underexposed.

This photo was taken at Au Chocolat. The is a typical example of strong sun light coming in from the left thus overexposing the sandwich while the right side, the fries side, was under exposed.

Avoid table that is near any coloured light (purple, green, blue) as those light will be cast onto your food and making it looks weird or unnatural.

This photo was taken at Huaplachongnonsea Bangkok. There is a blue ambiance light on the top left ceiling and the light caused a blue tint on the dishes.

You’re asking what about taking food photo at very dark places? Unless you have a decent flash or mount your camera on a tripod, it’s fated that the food shot will come out not-as-good. Sorry, without lighting, there is no cure. LOL. So as much as possible, find a spot with moderate lighting in the restaurant.

#3. Chef’s food styling may not be the best for your photo

The chef may has his own unique way to style his food but unlike human eye, the camera may not capture it the same way as our human eyes perceived it to be.

If there is a need to rearrange some of the food items, do it. As much as possible, ensure the subject of interest is at the front and is facing the camera.

Sometimes plate arrangement of hawker can be very minimal so always try to do some basic styling, for example extracting the buried prawn or cockles and placing it onto the top of a plate of Char Kway Teow.

Before: This photo was taken at Roast Bangkok. This was the arrangement when the dish is served. I wanted the bacon to be my subject of interest so i decided to turn the plate with the bacon facing me. However, the toast don’t look as good as they ought to be as they are facing the right instead of the camera.

After: I decided that the toast was not presented nicely from this view so i decided to rearrange the toast a little bit so that it faces me instead.

#4. Background of your food is not only background

Sometimes a small potted plant, or a cup of caffe latte can enhance your food photo but sometimes, a plate of half-eaten dish or dirty utensils at the background can spoil a food photo.

Spend a little bit of time to arrange, or at least clear the background of your dish to get a more desirable result.

This was taken at Ramen play, with all the unnecessary items in the background as well as the foreground. These item do not enhance my photo in any way.

This photo was taken at Marutama Ramen. The items at the background are arranged and placed there intentionally to make the background more interesting instead of only shooting a single bowl of ramen.

#5. A good camera angle that works on a dish may not always work on a different dish

Always try out different angles while taking photos of your food and select the best among those food shots.

Generally, a flat dish (e.g. Pizza) looks better when it’s taken from a higher angle while a more 3D looking dish (e.g. Molten Lava Cake) generally looks better when shooting from the front tilted 30-45 degree towards the dish.

Full frontal shot generally works on food that are stacked up and on food where the details can only be captured from a frontal shot (e.g Burger).

A typical kind of shot taken at about 45 degree angle. A top-down shot will not look as presentable. This shot was taken at Quince Eatery and Bar from Bangkok.

A typical top-down shot taken at a higher angle. Shot taken at Kim Gary. This kind of shot was taken to show the whole plate instead of a particular item on the plate.

A frontal shot of a Burger from Barrossa. A top-down angle shoot would not show much of the beef patty as it will be blocked by the bun.

#6. No half-eaten food

No one wants to see a photo of a plate of half-eaten Nasi Lemak with a half eaten chicken wing.

As much as possible, if there is a need to bisect the food to show it’s filling, use the cutlery provided.

Worst case scenario when there is no cutlery, i try to tear it using my hands.

Taking a clean bite (without the saliva) of the food is my last last resort to show the exposed fillings.

I brought my own pair of scissors to bisect this as i previously tried cutting it using the provided knife but it became too messy due to the crispy crust.

#7 Always do post processing (or also known as photo editing *not photoshop*) for your food photos

Like a lady who will at least put some light make-up when attending a ball, food photos needed that too!

There are lots of free photo editing apps in the market. Increase the exposure/brightness, increase the contrast, or even increase the sharpness, but all in moderation so that the shot will not appears fake.

You will be surprise how much difference can these simple editing enhance your photo by spending a minute or two on post processing.

And no, it’s not cheating. In fact I saved time by shooting first, and adjusting the setting later, instead of adjusting the setting first, then shoot.

Before: This photo was taken outside Tango Mango Bangkok. On a typical cloudy day, your photo will appears more blue than usual and looks a little different from the actual color.

After: This photo was post-processed within a minute without altering anything except increasing the exposure, increased a little bit of contrast and most importantly, there is a “temperature” option. Like our light bulb, there is a cool light option or warm light option and the “temperature” works in the same way. I pushed the setting towards the “warm” scale to bring back the yellowish colour into the photo.

#8 The rule of third (and how to crop your photo)

There is a certain rule for everything and this includes photography. Some genius invented this rule and generally photos that observe this rule should looks better. True or false? You be the judge.

Firstly, identify the subject of your dish. Then, as much as possible, ensure that your food subject is not smack in the middle of the photo but should be somewhere at a third of your photo.

I personally feel that this rule is not always true but is a good guide.

This photo was taken at Big Mama. A very typical shot of a Ginseng Chicken Soup. How do we apply the rule of third for an instagram shot that uses a square crop?

Firstly, i identified the subject of interest as the shredded chicken pieces. As you can see, there are grid lines that splits the photo into nine squares. In this photo, the subject on interest is at the middle square. This shot looks very proper, normal and a typical frontal shot.

From this example, i applied the rule of third, with my subject of interest (which is the shredded chicken) at one third of the photo, that falls on the grid line instead of the center. To a certain extend, this kind of shot will be slightly more interesting to look at. Try and experiment it yourself.

Conclusion

After spending four nights to craft out this post and preparing those photo samples, I hope it does help to benefit some of us out there.

I wish to add on that these tips are not extracted from anywhere but something that I figured out myself so I do not have any article or any website to prove my point.

In fact, I don’t even think that this is a need to prove any point as all of us have different shooting styles and certain things that applies to you may not be applicable for me.

To me, most importantly is to have fun during the process.

If anyone has any further enquiry or feedback, feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

Salute to all food photography lovers out there for the sacrifices even to an extend of eating only lukewarm food instead of a piping hot one.

On behalf of all food photo enthusiasts, I would also like to thank all the black-faced friends out there for their patience who goes “Enough or not? When the hell can i start eating?!”. LOL.

Shoot First, Eat Later!

This was taken at Bangkok’s Mango Tango

Bangkok Good Food – My Bangkok Food Itinerary

Intoduction

I went to Bangkok a couple of times and each time, i spent quite some time researching where is a good hunt for good food in Bangkok.  I thought it would be useful to consolidate all my food itineraries into a single post instead and hope that this post will come handy to like-minded food lovers.

Feel free to click on the food header to link to my more elaborated posts in my blog which includes address, operating hours , in-depth review and more photos of the eatery.

Street Food and Cheap Eat

(1.) Sabx2 Wanton Noodle  This famous Wanton Noodle is very popular among Singaporeans. Many returned to this humble stall for their crispy-pork-lard-filled noodle and it’s location is just situated opposite Singaporean’s favorite shopping mall – The Platinum Mall. Some are also hooked by their really tender braised pork knuckle.


(2.) Chatuchak Pork Chop Bun The pork chop bun stall is situated at  Chatuchak Area 22 Soi 4. Their tender Pork Chops are freshly grilled right in front of their stall, wrapped in fluffy white steamed bun.

(3.) Chatuchak Coconut Ice Cream The famous must-eat coconut ice-cream at Chatuchak. The ice-cream comes with two toppings and the stall owner offers free coconut juice to go with the ice-cream.

(4.) Sukhumvit Soi 38 Food Street – “Bangkok Best Mango Sticky Rice” Surprisingly, this street food stall earned it’s reputation of “Bangkok Best Sticky Rice”. I thought that indeed this is one of the best that i had in Bangkok, but not sure is it Bangkok Best. The whole street of Sukhumvit Soi 38 is transformed into a Food Street at night that operates up to 2 am at night or later. With about twenty street food stalls here, it is definitely a good place to indulge in Bangkok’s street food culture!

Cafe

(1.) Roast Coffee and Eatery One of the must-go brunch place in Bangkok. Situated at Thong Lor area. Serves pretty good all-day  breakfast, main courses and award winning hand-crafted coffee. I love to chill out, relax at this cafe while watching the time roll away.

(2.) Mr Jones Orphanage Just visiting this cafe for it’s interior design is well worth the travel. This is a cafe that pops right out from a story book, with the interior decorated with giant ceiling clocks, carousel, pastries-filled kitchen and an attic dining area. Also situated at Thong Lor area, you can just pop by to this cafe after having a meal at Roast Coffee & Eatery. With a wide variety of cakes and desserts, surely one will be able to satisfy your sweet tooth.

(3.) After You Dessert Cafe This is a very popular dessert cafe in Bangkok. Long queue is formed outside this cafe during peak hours and is famous for their Shibuya Thick Toast. It comes in many variations like Nutella Shibuya Toast, Chocolate Shibuya Toast or even Melted Cheddar Cheese Shibuya Toast.

(4.) Mont Nom Sod Mont Nom Sod is situated at MBK level two that specialise in Toast and Milk. Mont Nom Sod’s bread is nothing like our square toast which the texture became a little tough after toasting, or the really crispy style like Ya Kun’s. Their toast is crispy on the surface and fluffy soft on the inside. There are many options for the toast spread, like Coconut Custard, Condensed Milk, Chocolate, Taro spread, Pumpkin spread and Corn spread. A good place to have a quick bite before heading off for the crazy shopping regime again.

Dessert Place

(1.) Mango Tango Mango Tango is a dessert place that specialises in Mango dessert at Siam Square Soi 5. They are well known for their fresh mango and mango juice at a very reasonable price.

Thai Cuisine

(1.) Soi Polo Fried Chicken This fried chicken has a reputation of Bangkok Best Fried Chicken and it’s known as the hidden gem in Bangkok. People agreed that the fried condiments that were scattered generously over the tender fried chicken are really unique and it greatly enhanced the taste of the chicken. The location is not exactly the easiest to locate but well worth to try out this unique style of fried chicken.

(2.) Thip Samai Pad Thai Has a reputation of “Bangkok Best Pad Thai”. They sell good Pad Thai and sell only Pad Thai. Each plate of Pad Thai are prepared right in front of you and served piping hot, and frequent by a lot of their locals.

(3.) Huaplachongnonsea Junior Situated at Central World, i consider Huaplachongnonsea Junior as a relatively cheap eat at a very convenient location. Their speciality are their hotpot tom yum soup as well as their curry crab meat. I enjoyed their two signature dishes and will be going back for more in the future. This is a very non-mainstream non-touristy restaurants that are frequent mostly by locals during my last visit.

Romantic Restaurant / Restaurant with a view

(1.) The Deck @ Arun Residence Great place to chill after visiting the Grand Palace, Wat Arun or Wat Pho. This restaurant is strategically situated across Wat Arun. This is one of the best place to catch a glance or take a good photo of Wat Arun during set sun or watch Wat Arun glows in a golden light in contrast to the night sky.

(2.) Quince Bangkok Eatery & Bar Quince, a newly opened restaurant in the second quarter of year 2012, offers a fine dining menu at a typical Singapore restaurant price. It’s located at Sukhumvit 45 which is a couple minutes walk away from Phrom Phong BTS station. The amazing interior provides a great ambiance for couple to indulge in a romantic evening dinner.

Conclusion

This list will be updated if there is any new post on Bangkok food by me. Hope this is useful enough for you guys and have a great trip!

Ice Edge Cafe (Kovan) – Cosy not-so-little Ice-cream Cafe

Ice Edge Cafe

Address: 2 Kovan Road Simon Plaza, #01-10,

Operating hours: 12.00 pm to 12.00 am daily

Introduction

Ice Edge Cafe is one of my favourite cafes along the MRT north east line region that is within walking distance from Kovan MRT. Most of the time I will just pop by for their hand-crafted ice-cream and sometimes for their buffalo wings.

Ice edge cafe had recently just expanded their business floor area after taking over the shop beside it and they are offering a more extensive savory menu that includes a fixed 1-for-1 weekday lunch item on their menu. I had indicated the 1-for-1 menu at the bottom of the post. I had tried a couple of their dishes and I am writing those that I personally think it’s not bad.

Pesto Cream Chicken (17.90+)

This dish comes with a small portion of salad and flavored potato wedges. I like how Ice edge prepares their chicken which the surface of their chicken thigh is pan fried until it’s a little charred and crispy while the chicken still retain it’s overall tenderness. The aromatic buttery peppered pesto sauce is also quite well done which Ice Edge claimed that it was prepared using eight different kinds of herbs.

Salon Steak with Potato Gratin (19.90+)

Some of you will agree that some salmon will have a very ‘fishy’ taste that affects the overall taste of a grilled salmon. I am rather sensitive to that taste but Ice Edge’s grilled salmon contains almost no such ‘fishy’ taste (at least for this time).

Similar to their Pesto Chicken, the surface of the salmon is pan fried to crispness while it’s still soft and succulent on the inside. I thought the potato gratin is quite decent as well. It’s soft and well-flavoured with pepper, cheese and cream without overpowering the potato’s natural sweetness.

Buffalo wings (10.90)

The price is not exactly cheap for three pieces of drumlets and three pieces of mid-wings. But somehow the taste of these crispy wings managed to convince me to order their wings again on my subsequent visits. I particularly like the spicy/sour vinegar pepper hot sauce of ice edge’s buffalo wings.

Waffle and Ice-Cream

My favourite items from Ice edge’s menu -their handcrafted ice-cream. Ice Edge offers a decent variety of flavours like Lychee Martini, Salted egg yolk, Tiramisu, Rum & Raisins, Belgium Chocolate, Baileys, Champagne Vanilla, Pistachio, Snickers, but my favourite? It’s their Rocher and Mao Shan Wang Durian.

On a typical day, I will just pop by for a scoop of ice-cream but on pay day, I will order two scoops of ice-cream with their freshly made waffle! This is really sinful, as well as satisfying. Just looking at the waffle alone makes me a happier person. LOL. After Ice edge’s expansion, they are also offering sherbets but I have yet to try them out.

Others – Mao Shan Wang Lava Cake

By the way, i had also tried their Mao Shan Wang molten lava cake that comes with a scope of Mao Shan Wang durian ice-cream. I didn’t have my camera then so there’s no photo. The fillings of this cake is replaced by molten durian paste instead of molten Chocolate. I thought the cake does not taste as good as it sounds. The Molton durian paste is a little artificial for my taste and not the expected natural Durian taste like their Mao Shan Wang ice-cream. Their ordinary Chocolate Lava Cake is much better in my opinion.

Conclusion

I consider ice edge to be one of the very decent cafes at the Hougang/Sengkang/Punggol area, especially so if you are looking for one that is near a MRT station. This cafe will always be on my mind if I am having my meal in this area and is looking for a good place to chill out and to have dessert, maybe after a Soon Soon Teochew Porridge, Punggol Nasi Lemak, Qi Wei Chicken Pot, Nakhon Kitchen or Xin Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh at that area. Quite some good food at Kovan right? Not to mention about the Kovan Hawker Centre.

1-for-1 Weekday Lunch Menu

Here is the 1-for-1 menu during weekday lunch. You will be charged the higher price among the two:

Salad – Tomato Salsa 8.5, Sausage Salad 11.8

Soup – Mushroom Soup 5.8, Minestrone Soup 5.8, French Onion Soup 5.8

Appetizer & Light Snacks – Calamari Fritti 12.8, Chicken Wings 8.8, Buffalo Wings 10.8, Potato Wedges 6.8, French Fries 6.0

All Day Breakfast – Breakfast Stew 14.0

Oven Baked Rice -Salmon Baked Rice 17.0

Pasta – Seafood Aglio Olio 16.8, Penne all’ Arrabiata with Bacon & Ham 14.8, Spaghetti alle Vongole 15.8, Spaghetti Beef Bolognese 14.8, Prawn Pesto Cream Linguine 17.8, Chicken & Mushroom Cream Linguine 14.8

Western – Beef Ribeye Steak 26.8, Beef Tenderloin Steak 28.8, Salmon Steak 19.8
PEsto Cream Chicken 17.8, Double Pork Chop 15.8

Kids Meal – Chicken Nugget Set 9.5

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe 早安南洋 (Time’s 24 World’s Best-Kept Secret)

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe

Address (Main branch): 20 Upper Pickering Street, #01-01, Singapore 058284

Operating hours:  Mon – Fri 7.30am – 5.30 pm, Sat 8.30 am – 5.30 pm and closed on Sunday

* Important Update (20 August 2014) *

The main branch at Upper Pickering Street will cease operation at the end of August 2014 due to various issues. You may visit their other branches at:

1. The Grandstand @ 200 Turf Club Road #01-34A 

2. Far East Plaza @ 14 Scotts Road, #02-23 

3. 75 Pagoda Street

4. Maxwell Chambers @ 32 Maxwell Rd

Introduction

I got to know this less-widely known cafe through  a Times article entitled “24 World’s Best-Kept Secret” and i have to agree that Good Morning Nanyang Cafe is indeed a well-kept secret in Singapore.

This little cafe tucked at one corner of Telok Ayer Green CC starts their operation as early as 7.00am on weekday. I estimated the timing wrongly and i reached this place at 6.30am! To my surprise, they are already opened and invited me to have a seat and offered to take my drinks order first as the food will only be available from 7.00am.

There is an air-conditioned indoor and outdoor dining area which can accommodate not more than fifty people. The menu items that particularly interest me is their orange peel ciabata toast and ciabata toast.

Ciabatta toast

After having it once, this delightful toast immediately became one of my favorite kaya toast in Singapore. First I will talk about the kaya. Good morning nanyang cafe’s kaya is a little unique in the sense that it’s not smooth but rather grainy, which gives a very different and yet delightful texture. I can almost chew on the not-too-sweet kaya custard and i particularly like the kaya for it’s “eggy” taste. It’s like a 70% coconut taste and 30% egg with overflowing pandan fragrance.

The butter was melted into the toasted Ciabatta bread. It maintained it’s softness on the inside while it’s really crispy on the outside. Arguably one of the best kaya toast in Singapore.

Orange Peel Ciabatta Toast

Basically the kaya, butter and toasting method is the same, just that Good Morning Nanyang use a different bread. The orange peel ciabatta is thinner, with a smoother surface and with orange peel baked into the ciabatta bread.

The exterior is not as crispy as the ordinary ciabatta toast and bread gives off a rather unique tinge of orange aroma that I don’t normally find in kaya toast which goes unusually well with kaya and butter.

Curry Chicken

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe also offer lunch items like Curry Chicken, Curry Chee Cheong Fun, Chicken Stew with Rice and pre-packed Nasi Lemak. I will often order their Curry Chicken with toasted ciabatta bread if i’m a little hungry.

I am not going to elaborate more on the curry chicken. The curry chicken is not fantastic, or heavenly. It’s rather decent. Good enough to complete my meal for the day. But i do like to order their crispy ciabatta instead of white rice to go with their curry chicken. Much better to go with curry than traditional baguette.

Conclusion

After trying their toast once, i had already returned to Good Morning Nanyang Cafe for at least seven to eight times since. I also wish to highlight that their soft-boiled eggs are greatly done every time. The staff there are always friendly and made me felt like home. I am always left satisfied when i had my breakfast at Good Morning Nanyang Cafe and i do hope that they can maintain this great service and food standard.

It’s too bad that they will be closed by dinner time. The only alternative is for me to visit their franchised branch at Chinatown. Although the toast ciabatta is not as crispy, i am glad that the rest tasted as good.