This past week I have been working (with the help of my excellent assistant, my mum) to create photos for an upcoming project. Food photography is difficult because you not only have to observe the usual photography “rules” (rule of thirds, leading lines, angles of interest, etc) but you have to do it in a way that showcases the food. Colour is indescribably important as it defines the line of delicious, edible, or repulsive. In this post, I will show you my methods of editing in hopes that it will help with yours.
First things first; when opening a RAW file (which you should always try to shoot in) in Photoshop, a menu should appear that mimics what you may find in Lightroom. I am choosing to edit in Photoshop because of its manipulation advantages, as well as I am not editing an entire photoshoot, but smaller, individual images.
I usually play this part by ear, adding exposure and playing with highlights until I get something workable. There is no formula to this, just get the image to something you feel comfortable working with.
This is my original image (after fiddling with the initial dialogue and cropping a little off the top). Colours are pretty good, shadows are a bit dark, but overall a fairly decent image (if I do say so myself).
The first thing I always do is check to see if there are things I want to get out of the image. There is a stray rice piece near the edge of the plate that I want to get ride of before I move on.
That’s better. Now to get to the part I enjoy most about photography: editing. I’m an alright photographer but there’s a magic to editing that makes a good photo a great one. To begin this journey, I duplicate the original layer (Cmd+J on a Mac). Then go to Filter>Other>High Pass.
Pro Tip: High Pass acts as a sharpening tool, almost like the clarity function in Lightroom
It’s easy to go a little crazy with High Pass, but my advice is starting out small and then adding more as you go if you decide your image could use it. Adding too much sharpness can show your inexperience as is often used to compensate for blurry or unfocused images. I usually adjust the Radius until it looks something like the below image.
Then turn the layer’s mode to Hard Light to get the desired effect. Because this image is supposed to focus on the food, I don’t want the table beneath the plate to be too sharp. I used a large eraser to remove the bits I didn’t want.
To enhance the blurred background appearance, I duplicated the background layer, added a Gaussian blur, and then erased the parts I wanted in focus.
Not liking the shadowy parts, I wanted to lighten them. However, being the Nervous Nellie that I am, I never want to destory the original image. So, once again, duplicate the background layer and then dodge the darker parts.
Now my image looks something like this. I decreased the duplicated layer’s (with the applied lightening effects) opacity to about 70% and voila! Nicely lit image.
Now, I’m pretty content with how this is looking but I want to try to jazz it up a bit. I found a tutorial on how to apply a steam effect to photos which will add a little something, I think.
Ta-da! The beautiful thing about keeping a PSD file with layers is that I can decide to remove the steam, or reduce its transparency, if I decide I don’t like it.
Find the tutorial helpful? Did I miss a crucial step that you use in your editing process? Let me know in the comments!