Food Porn 101 at FoodBuzz Festival 2010

This past weekend, I had the honor of teaching a very large group of food bloggers how to capture truly drool-worthy food porn, regardless of what kind of camera you have. My co-presenter, the talented Laura Flowers from The Cooking Photographer focused on composition, while I tackled lighting.

My secret lighting weapon? A Satco 40W 5000K compact flourescent bulb. Yep, that’s a lot of numbers, but there are two key bits of information to remember. First, it’s a flourescent bulb, so even though it draws only 40 watts of electricity, it puts out as much light as a 150 watt incandescent bulb. The second number, 5000K, is the color temperature of the bulb. To give you some reference points, a typical incandescent bulb has a color temperature of between 2,700 and 3,300 K (yellow light) while daylight on a cloudy day comes in at around 6500K (blue light).

I use this bulb in a lamp with a translucent shade to diffuse the light (the $10 Grono lamps from Ikea work great), which makes the subject look like it’s sitting by a window. As an illustration of this, the photo above was taken at the workshop in a room with no windows. If you look closely you can see the black lamp stand sticking up next to the zucchini.

Since I’ve gotten more than a few requests for the presentation, I’ve put it up on Google Docs for everyone who wasn’t able to make the session click here for the presentation. Unfortunately Google compressed the slideshow so the photos don’t look great, but it should still give you an idea of what’s being illustrated. One of these days, I’ll turn this into a full post, or perhaps a video.

If you ever have any questions about photography, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.

  • The kitchen witch

    I loved your class. I only wish I could have had a little one on one with you because I love you style. Regardles I brought some of your tips home and I hope that they reflect in my photgraphy, espcecially your lighting tips.

  • http://twitter.com/pioneercooker Pioneer Cookerella

    Can’t wait for the full post! My camera is a dinosaur, and I’m often frustrated with my results and wonder if there is any point because of the limitations of my equipment. Maybe I’m just using that as an excuse though. Photography is brand new to me, and it doesn’t come naturally.

    • Anonymous

      Having good equipment helps, but there’s a lot you can do with even
      older cameras, and having a great camera won’t make you a better
      photographer over night. Check out the presentation for tips on
      lighting and composition. Beyond that, the next time you see a photo
      you really like, have a good look at it and try to figure out what you
      like about it. Photography is a lot like cooking in that personal
      preferences, experimentation, and practice have a big influence on
      your photos.

  • Peter G

    I’m impressed with that Grono lamo shade…I was just about to purchase a very expensive kit…Thanks for the idea Marc…I need to play around with this.

    • Anonymous

      I should mention that the Grono does have one drawback, the bulb sits
      at the base of the lamp, so you’ll need something to set it on if you
      want to elevate it. The nice thing is that you can turn it on it’s
      side, to give broader coverage. The best lamp I ever had for
      photography was one with a one foot tall base, and a white rice paper
      shade. Unfortunately Ikea stopped making them, and I haven’t been
      able to find another budget lamp that works as well.

  • Kau

    Marc, do you think a macro lens is really necessary? I am using a 18-55mm non-macro lens (Nikon). I cannot tell what it is, but I think something is missing in my food photos.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Kau, I don’t even own a macro lens (though I’d love to have one).
      Having not seen your photographs, I can’t really make suggestions, but
      based on the lens you mentioned, it could that you have too broad a
      depth of field. I believe your lens has an aperture from f3.5-5.6
      which wouldn’t give you a lot of bokeh (blur) in your background. The
      quick run down on depth of field is that you want your subject in
      focus, but the background blured out. To achieve that, you need to
      open up the aperture as wide as possible (smaller number=bigger
      aperture). Your lens should open up to 3.5, but it will depend on how
      much you’re zoomed in. If you’re looking to buy a new lens I’d
      recommend a 50mm f1.4 if you’re on a budget, or a 24-70 f2.8 if you’re
      in a position to spend more money. The wide apertures of these lenses
      will not only give you a narrower depth of field (allowing you to blur
      out the background), it will also allow you to take shots in darker
      conditions that with your current lens since they let in more light.

  • http://www.bakecupcakes.blogspot.com Sally Vargas

    This is such helpful information! I just found your site and will be following you! I am teaching myself this trial and error, so can use all the help I can get. Too bad so many blogger/food photo events are on the west coast. Let us know if you come east and thanks.

    • Anonymous

      I actually live in NYC, so stay tuned:-)

      • http://www.bakecupcakes.blogspot.com Sally Vargas

        That’s great, I will!

  • http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Thanks so much for posting this useful information Marc!

  • Joan Nova

    I’m still thinking about your ‘clock’ illustration as it regards to lighting. You need to share this with readers too. I found it very interesting.

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalynskitchen

    Thanks so much for sharing this; very nice presentation! Wish I could have been there (maybe next year!)

  • Kelly

    Your food shots are gorgeous, thanks for such a helpful tutorial.

  • Norma823

    I enjoyed the class and was so happy to have met you. Will keep in touch and mmaybe plan something after the holidays with you and more new York bloggers.

    Norma
    Platans, Mangoes and Me!

  • http://stephchows.blogspot.com Stephchows

    thanks so much for doing the class, wonderful to meet you!

  • Diana @ The Chic Life

    Thank you for sharing your photography knowledge with us. I learned a lot in your presentation with Laura. You two are so nice! :)

  • http://www.thecookingphotographer.com Laura Flowers

    Marc thank-you for posting this! You are a joy to work with.

    Laura

  • Katheats

    Thanks so much for the lightbulb info!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000521888754 Jackie McMullen

    Laura is a fabulous and very creative cook and photographer! Great pos!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000521888754 Jackie McMullen

    Great photography! Love Laura’s photography and recipes!

  • emme @foodsamba

    Thanks for posting this! I was sad I missed your presentation at fbzfest…so at least now I’ve got some great tips!

  • http://twitter.com/foodiewife Foodiewife

    I’m so glad you posted this. You were surrounded by so many folks, that I didn’t have a chance to talk with you. While the presentation was short, it was sweet. I’m glad that I got to attend the early morning session. Thanks again!

  • http://www.mylifeasamrs.com Kristina (My Life as a Mrs)

    Where did you buy the Satco bulbs?! I’ve been looking for them… thanks! :)

    -Kristina

    • Anonymous

      Just do a search on Google. I found them at a local light bulb store
      in NYC originally but I made my most recent purchase through Light
      Bulb Emporium online.

  • http://www.vulcanmold.com injection mold

    I’m so glad you posted this.

  • http://healthycoconut.wordpress.com/ Lea @ Healthy Coconut

    Thank you so much for having this available for us. I attended your Photography session and I learned a lot. I used the trick of having the light come from 12 o’clock when I shot a plate of couscous, it gave it depth. I learned that from the class. Thanks again :)

    • Anonymous

      Glad to hear you were able to use something you learned:-)

  • http://www.afoodiestaysfit.com Teri [a foodie stays fit]

    i wasn’t able to attend your session so this is wonderful! thanks for sharing your tips!

  • http://inthekitchenwithkath.com Kath

    This is so great! I got the Grono lamps from IKEA and 27W 5000K bulbs (equivalent to 150 watt incandescent), and my lighting is much improved. I think I’ll have to get 40W 5000K bulbs, though, for brighter light.

    Thank you SO much for this information!

    • http://inthekitchenwithkath.com Kath

      I meant the 27W bulbs are equivalent to 100 watt incandescent.

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  • http://www.thelittlekitchen.net Julie

    Thanks for this post and your advice on twitter. I bought the bulbs you recommended and already have the Grono lamps you recommend. Do you put the lamp on a light stand? I have them on the table and I’m not getting the correct lighting/colors I’m expecting. Thanks!

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Welcome!

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