Theme: Street Food
Continuing with the ‘Street’ theme, this week we look at how to photograph the variety of colour and texture that is Street Food.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a culturally diverse area, you probably have access to an amazing variety of Street Food. I live in Asia, so we’re going to take a look at some of the more unusual foods I’ve seen in my travels.
Part of the fun of photographing street food is sampling what’s on offer… if you have the intestinal fortitude that is!
Street food is all about high turnover, freshness and colour. Stalls are usually temporary so a great deal of effort goes into preparing food and cooking quickly. Stalls are very busy, hot and are lit up with artificial light. So there’s lots of movement and colour to try to capture.
The biggest challenge is compensating for the artificial light and the colour it casts. Incandescent light from filament light globes creates a yellow or warm cast, while fluorescent lighting creates a blue or cool cast. The colour in your food shots will be affected by the type of available light and its cast. It will also be influenced by any light reflecting off nearby coloured objects. So you may end up with very strange, oversaturated colours that won’t look appetising at all.
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There are two simple ways to fix this problem.
Firstly, adjust your white balance. Some smartphone apps and all DSLRs have this function. Basically you focus the camera on something in the frame that should be white, the camera will adjust colour settings to make the white, less yellow or blue.
If this is not available to you adjusting the colour balance in editing is very simple. For a warm cast, adjust setting to less yellow and more cool colours, and visa versa for fluorescent cool casts.
It is important to remember that food is more appealing to the eye if the colours are realistic so you may need to adjust the colour saturation. Also food is all about texture so be sure to feature textural variety and glossy surfaces.
Street Food, presented for sale by vendors are like beautiful tiny sculptures or still life, just waiting to be photographed. These tips will help you on your way;
Be aware of any artificial lighting or reflected light influencing your image. Compensate with White Balance (WB) or adjust colour balance in editing.
Look for colour, texture and gloss to create a more appetising image.
Be on the lookout for open flames, clouds of steam or smoke to add interest to your images.
Be mindful not to get in the way of any customers or prevent sales- the vendors won’t be happy.