Food Photography:Understanding Camera Types

>> Sunday, January 16, 2011

Photography Tips & Tricks, food photography
Welcome to another installment of Spicie Foodie's Photography Tips & Tricks tutorials. I want to thank you all for the great feedback you left on the first tutorial. It's so great to read all of your comments and really gives me the inspiration to keep these coming and sharing my knowledge with you. Before we move on to other step by step tutorials on how I shoot I wanted to share this tutorial about cameras. It was meant to be the first one, as understanding what camera you own is very important. This is a general guide with some good and bad points of each type of camera. To help give you ideas of price range and selections click on the photos for more information. Before we move on to it, there were some comments and emails I'd like to address.

The EGO Lights: It seems like they are getting mixed reviews, but the common comment was that they do work well enough. The bad thing about them was that you have to place them very close to the food and possibly buy 2 for better results. And others said that since they are table lamps they can limit you to where/how you use them. As opposed to the light stand that can be moved around, lowered or lifted up to the location you need.

On a lighter note there were comments about family expecting(demanding) to eat right away once dinner is done. Luckily I don't have this problem but I understand this can be an issue for some. The only thing I can suggest to tell them is, it will be ready when you say it's ready! No I'm just kidding :) Perhaps serve them first and save a plate for yourself to shoot after the family has been served, you can then take the time to shoot your photos. With practice you can set up and shoot a handful of photos all within 3 minutes. More on that another time...
sliced; bread; camera; camera types; which camera to buy; spicie foodie photography; tips & tricks; tutorials; cameras; digital cameras
Thoughts on Cameras:
There were some emails, comments and questions regarding cameras and what my opinion was on the type, brand you should buy. I don't believe in someone telling others "I do something this way and it's the only way of doing it or I use this product and it's the only option you have" There are many ways of doing things and many products to choose from, make educated decisions for yourself. Okay saying that I am a Pentax user, I've always found their products to be high quality, extraordinary and have always had great results. I suggest reading and looking online for reviews and photo quality comparisons before choosing a camera brand. Stop by a local photography shop and ask the staff for help, or to try out a camera.

Umm Mymoonah asked the following: "Does camera plays a major role in photography or the way we use it. Is it possible to get good pictures without any SLR ?" First part, yes and no. Yes because the camera you choose will effect what you want to use if for. For example you wouldn't use a Point and Shoot camera to do a professional shoot and sell your photography, you need a good DSLR for that. The second part of the question, yes! If you know how to use your camera, compose properly and have good light, you can shoot nice photographs. The only thing to think about then is does the camera have the quality that I need.

A common statement people say is "this camera takes good pictures" I'm not a fan of this statement because while the camera does its technical part, the operator plays the biggest role in the shot,(We compose it, we tell the camera what to do.) A person can have a $7,000 camera with all the bells and whistles, but if they don't know how to use it they might as well just take the money and throw it in the garbage. Moral of this story is learn your camera, learn to shoot in Manual mode, learn about aperture, learn composition, learn about white balance, learn about photo quality, read that owner's manual if you have to. So you can take good pictures. Now some information about camera types.

Nikon,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optioCanon,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optioPentax,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optio
- Point and Shoot Cameras, P.&S. (also called consumer cameras): These cameras are fully automatic, perfect for everyday use and are a hassle free option. They are the most compact size and can easily be stored in a pocket, making them the perfect travel companion. P.& S. cameras are the easiest to use, you don not need any training. Just point, press down on the shutter and you've got your shot. The features and controls are very easy to understand. Depending on the camera you may have the option of shooting in different modes, adjusting focus, white balance, and ISO, of course all within very narrow limits . P.&S. are also the cheapest option, and no extra lenses are required. The bad sides are obviously you will be very limited on the control over your shooting. The image quality will not be as good as the other 2 options, but you can still get good results. A P.&S. camera is a good enough camera option if you are just looking for a good vacation, snapshot and camera to shoot small photos for your blog. With a little practice and manual reading you can learn enough before moving on to the next level.

Shot with a Pentax Optio WPi (point&shoot), on a very overcast day. Only minimal levels adjustments to bring out the clouds, and slight tone change. (Photo from my archive)

Nikon,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optioCanon,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optioPentax,point and shoot camera, camera,digital, optio
- Prosumer Cameras: This type of camera is between a point and shoot and an DSLR. The term is a cross between professional and consumer. Prosumers are the medium sized cameras but still easy to carry around. They have more features and controls than a point and shoot but are more limiting than a DSLR. A good camera for enthusiasts or someone looking to learn more about photography but not quite ready for the big boy DSLR with all it's features and controls. The price range will be in the middle of the 2 other options, or sometimes comparable to DSLRs. They have better lenses than a point and shoot, but not as good as a DSLR. The lens is attached and you cannot change lenses like you could on a DSLR. (* Though there are special attachment available to adjust lens range for some models.) The image quality will be better than a point and shoot and you will have more controls over your photography. I use to own a Fuji Finepix that had Manual controls, Aperture and Shutter priority, white balance, ISO and I was very happy with the results.

Shot with Fuji FinePix S7000, a prosumer camera and my first camera! I used natural or window light and only slight levels adjustments in Photoshop. (Another photo from my archives.)

Pentax,DSLR camera,digitalCanon,DSLR camera,digitalNikon,DSLR camera,digital

-DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex): This is the camera for those looking to have full control over their photographs. These are the bigger of the options listed here, and are also heavier. The lenses are interchangeable, you also have the option of buying different lenses for your specific needs. (* If you have old film Pentax camera lenses you can use them on the new DSLs. I don't know if you can do this with Cannon and Nikon.) You can shoot in RAW format, which gives you larger and better quality photos. The digital noise is virtually non-existant and the image detail is much better than the two other options. There are a range of DSLR level cameras, from entry level to serious professional level cameras. DSLR are obviously the more expensive and best suited for serious enthusiast and professionals. I would recommend to those looking to learn on a DSLR to buy an entry level until you get comfortable with the camera and learn all of the settings before moving on to a more expensive higher level DSLR.

Shot on a Pentax K10D DSLR, with continues fluorescent light off to the side. The background was darkened, contrast and levels were adjusted in Photoshop.

If you are in the market for a new camera I recommend this great site, Digital Photography Review or They have sections for all of the different camera manufacturers with reviews of the cameras and image samples. There are forums to ask for advice as well as learning sections.

Which of these camera types do you own? Do you know if your camera has a white balance option? Do you know how to adjust the image size and quality on your camera? I highly recommend that you look at your manual or sit and learn the camera's features. In the coming lessons we will be discussing them.


ann low January 16, 2011 at 12:20 PM  

That's a innovative post! I'm still in the learning stage of how to take a good food picture.
Thanks for sharing :)

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle January 16, 2011 at 12:23 PM  

I love how you qualify the mid range cameras as different than a point and shoot. That makes me feel marginally better that a saleperson sold me one of those when I went shopping for a DSLR! Not ever having held a DSLR; I was unaware of the difference in size til I went in to purchase a lens; which, of course, I could not do!

So I jumped several levels...already knowing I was hooked and now looking forward to your tutorials. I hate reading manuals and with good cause I think. I went to find info on something in mine; I was referred from one page to another FOUR times before they actually gave me what I needed. Why index and send users to Page 10 for info if what they really need is 4 steps away; frustrating and time consuming.

Give me hands on practice or give me death! OK..maybe a bit overly dramatic but still, having someone more experienced share that experience can make this trip so much easier, so...Thank YOU!

Anonymous,  January 16, 2011 at 12:32 PM  

Nancy, I can't thank you enough for starting this series! As much as I love and enjoy your photography, it is so educational to be able to pick up tricks from a pro. I only have a canon p&s that I am still trying to master. I've also done a fair amount of reading on the basics of photography but I know it is only the surface. This is yet another post I'll have to bookmark for photography references! Thank you!

Nancy January 16, 2011 at 12:58 PM  

@Anncoo, Thank you!

@Barbara, Sorry to hear that and that's why I recommend that we all do research before making our educated purchases. Yes that is really annoying about manuals. I like your logic! Having some knowledge and having lots of hands on practice is a very important thing that applies to anything.

@apiciusapprentice, You are doing great and learning to master even a p&s is so beneficial! Really sounds like you are on the right track and if my tutorials can help you even a little then that makes me bien feliz:)

Shirley January 16, 2011 at 1:00 PM  

I'm one of those who have my kids breathing down my neck when I shoot. So I try my best to cook while their away. Have to read your posts again to digest.

MJ January 16, 2011 at 1:08 PM  

Hey...This is a very info sharing post...I use a Panasonic lumix point and shoot...its ok compared to usual pns cameras but without daylight, u need to get vey close to the dish and take a zillion pics to get one good shot....planing to get a Canon EOS 550D by next month. its caught my fancy and I need to move onto a DSLR considering the newly found love for photography =)

Sommer January 16, 2011 at 1:19 PM  

Very good tips! I use a Canon 1000D and have a 50mm lens (that the daughter broke but I learned how to take more control using Manual focus at least!).

I always change the white balance, I also only shoot in Manual!

Nancy January 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

@Shirley, That's also a great tip!

@Cardamom Hills, I hope you have lots of fun with your new toy!

@Sommer, Sorry to hear about the broken lens but the great thing that came out of it is that you learned about Manual settings:)

Magic of Spice January 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

He Nancy, this is perfect! I am still using a P&S but inching my way towards the next level. I agree that really understanding your camera is key, even if your still working on the basics. In some ways I was fortunate that I had never done any photography until a few months ago, so I started with food ;) As you know I have always been a huge fan of your photography and always inspired by your work, so I am really enjoying these more in depth tutorials.

Beth January 16, 2011 at 1:38 PM  

What a great tutorial! I'll be bookmarking this for future reference. I could learn a lot about photography!

Nancy January 16, 2011 at 1:59 PM  

@Alisha, I'm glad you agree:) You are doing a fantastic job and I know you will have it all figured out soon and then I'll be coming to you for tips. Hugs to you too!

@Beth, Thank you!

A little bit of everything January 16, 2011 at 2:16 PM  

I've been looking of this tutorial since you posted you're first one. I hope the next one is about composition :)

I've never own a DSLR but that's where my heart is now. Everyone tells me since I now shoot with a point and shoot camera to get the middle size camera until I grow to DSLR but I'm so stubborn :))
Shall i invest in a good DSLR and learn in time how to use it or buy a prosumer first? I'd like to hear your opinion.
Thanks Nancy

I agree with Barbara, sometimes the manual makes it more confusing :((

Have a wonderful weekend,

alison January 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM  

very useful article!i haven't a DSRL camera :),i learn to love my camera:a fuji finepix s1500...:)

Chef Dennis Littley January 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM  

Hi Nancy

I am so happy that you are doing these posts! What a gift to the community! Your absolutely right about camera's, depending upon what you want or need it to do, dictates what type of camera you might need... I have seen some incredible images taken with an Iphone, and point and shoot camera's. At this point a lot of credit needs to be given to the photography, and while its not necessarily skill, but its definitely vision, or seeing how it should look.

After that I really believe that lighting is most important, you can take great pics if your lighting is on, and being able to manipulate your camera some what. There are so many opinions on the best camera. When I first started shooting film, I loved my nikons, when I went on to fashion, I shot with a pentax 6x7 (which I still have and love), when I decided that digital wasn't a fad 4 years ago and started shooting some fashion again, I bought what all the pros were using, which was a Canon. I do like the Canon, but its all up to the user.
I started with a Canon xsi (wasn't really sure about this digital thing) and yesterday I picked up the Canon 7D.....but you know the saying boys and their I had my way I would have bought a medium format digital, but that would be more than I paid for my car!!

Anyway, please keep these great tutorials coming, we sure need the help!

kita January 16, 2011 at 2:53 PM  

My camera (nikon d3000) has a white balance option but I have yet to figure out how to change it. I have tried to flip through every option and things (of course, I could just read the manual). If you come acrossed any tips, let me know. Thanks for the camera post! Great pics :)

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine January 16, 2011 at 2:56 PM  

you amaze me! your knowledge is superior! Your contribution to the blogging world is tremendous with these post
I for one am very grateful. Two years later with the Rebel 15 mega pixel camera, and all I know how to use is close up and click! thanks for all the info!

Nancy January 16, 2011 at 3:21 PM  

@Roxana- A little bit of everything, If you are set on the DSLR perhaps you should start with an entry level one, then move on to the higher professional DSLR. You will still learn on it the same and if you are set and ready to lean, why not? I would only recommend against it if you were unwilling to learn more about photography.

@Chef Dennis, Thank you:) You are absolutely correct the vision is what will advance one to the next level. Better late than never right:) Congrats on your new toy, have fun. I would love to have the medium format- for what not really sure- it's just such a great toy. I know it's so so expensive , but wow 40 megapixels that's crazy!

@Kita, I did a quick search and found it. I'll send you a message with the info .

@Claudia, Thank you that is so sweet of you to say:) I'm sure you will learn more and have it down in no time.

Carolyn January 16, 2011 at 3:46 PM  

I have a Canon Rebel that was a hand-me-down from my brother who was studying to be a photographer. I honestly don't know how to use it very well, although I have lucked into some good settings that work well with the light from my front window. It does have a white balance option but I can't say I know anything about how to adjust for that so I am eagerly awaiting your tutorial on that bit!

All That's Left Are The Crumbs January 16, 2011 at 3:58 PM  

Thank you so much for the tutorial. I am an experienced baker but a very inexperienced photographer, and I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to explain photography and cameras.

penny aka jeroxie January 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM  

I usually shoot with a DSLR. But always have my point and shoot with me. And then I post process in lightroom :)

Sandra January 16, 2011 at 8:35 PM  

This is just wonderful Nancy..thank you so much for explaining. I just got few weeks ago Sony Nex5 and I am impressed. It is not professional camera, but it is really close and I love it. Also I finished building light box, which wasn't hard at all, however will try to improve on lights..I think that I need bit brighter like "halogen". I know it is using a lot of energy, but I will not use it a long period of is 5 minutes top to get that shoot that you want. This is really cool that you started this so thanks again!

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines January 16, 2011 at 8:36 PM  


What a great post as always! I've taken lots of snaps of the kids, but never anything more than a point and shoot. When I started blogging, my first photos I thought were disappointing because they didn't look as good as I thought the food tasted. I couldn't afford to spend a lot so I bought a entry level Sony dslr and saw an improvement immediately. I still want to buy a shorter lens, but one thing at a time. I'm still working with the settings. This is still so new to me, so I love learning as much as I can. Thanks.


Tiffany January 16, 2011 at 8:55 PM  

Super informative! Now, I have some guidance on the next camera I buy!

Belinda @zomppa January 16, 2011 at 11:48 PM  

Another amazingly helpful tutorial. I'm still learning more and more about my camera, and trying to do more on manual. Thanks for sharing more tips!

She's Cookin' January 16, 2011 at 11:49 PM  

I have a Canon PowerShot SX200IS which takes really good pics for a P&S. I know how to adjust the image size of my photos and the camera does have a white balance option which I haven't experimented with. thanks for sharing all your expertise with us, Nancy!

buywowaccount January 17, 2011 at 2:12 AM  

I was in dilemma in choosing the right camera for me. Thanks to this post its clear, I will pursue a dlsr just the right techy for my photo-style.

Quay Po Cooks January 17, 2011 at 6:25 AM  

Thanks so much for the valuable info. I am still learning about my camera and definitely want to improve skill on photography.

Finla January 17, 2011 at 7:57 AM  

A very informative post, loves reading them and now i am gonna hopp over your earlier post.

Nancy January 17, 2011 at 1:02 PM  

@Carolyn, I'll make sure that is on my list of Tutorials to write.

@All That's Left Are The Crumbs,Torviewtoronto,Penny, Thanks!

@Sandra, You could also buy a fluorescent bulb for your lamp. It sounds like you have a great setup going.

@Gina,Tiffany,Belinda,Priscilla,buywowaccount, Quay Po Cooks and Happy Cook, Thank you !

Cakewhiz January 17, 2011 at 4:53 PM  

Thanks for sharing this wealth of knowledge. I am still learning how to use my camera...hopefully, my pictures will get better.

FamilySpice January 17, 2011 at 7:07 PM  

I bought my Nikon D60 last year and love it. I am still toying around with it, as I don't have much free time to experiment with it. Compared to my old Canon SureShot, the difference was HUGE. The lens itself makes a big difference in the quality of the picture. I really enjoy your photography posts. Very insightful!

Tasty Trix January 18, 2011 at 8:02 AM  

I love my dslr - Canon Rebel XT. Always something to learn!! And my husband is getting used to cold dinners ; ) But seriously, one thing I like to do is to make enough for leftovers and shoot them the next day in an unhurried way.

Claudia January 18, 2011 at 11:25 AM  

One of my blog goals is to take better photos. That said, I am staying ith P&S. Economically and because the blog is for fun and I never intended tomake a financial investment where I would need to take a kid out of college. I am working up to making a little extra food at dinner to have the time to set up the shot later - after the family ate!

This is very helpful, Nancy. I'm going to reread my manual! Thank-you.

Dimah January 18, 2011 at 12:16 PM  

Great tips! thank you so much for sharing!

Emily Z January 18, 2011 at 1:45 PM  

Thanks for sharing your tips. Sometimes I feel like my food pictures are inferior to those posted by other food bloggers. I never know if I am just not very good at photography, or if I just need a better camera. Unfortunately, I can't afford a better camera anytime soon, so I will have to settle for what I feel are mediocre pictures! ;)

Nancy January 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM  

@Cakewhiz, My pleasure and I'm sure you will achieve your goal:)

@Familyspice, Thank you! Glad to hear you love your new camera and lens.

@Trix, Hehe:) I try to keep the heat on until I'm ready to serve, I hate cold food :) That's is another great way of shooting too!

@Claudia, It's important to stick what works for each of us. There is nothing wrong with a P&S, you can get great results:) That is also a good idea and if it works for you then perfect! Glad to help Claudia:)

@Dimah, Thank you:)

@Emily, I don't think your photos are mediocre, they are nice and you are doing a good job! Stick to what you have, learn your camera and don't worry about the photos. It's not just about the photography the recipes have to also be good and yours are great!

Evan @swEEts January 18, 2011 at 9:44 PM  

I got my new camera back in Sept and I'm still learning as I go.. its a digital but its a manual digital so it's the closest you can get without going DSLR.. I love it though.. a canon s90 if anyone is interested. It has some amazing features and you can adjust it just like you would a manual cam.

Maria January 19, 2011 at 3:01 AM  

What a useful post! Thanks for sharing :-)

Nancy January 19, 2011 at 11:51 AM  

@Evan, Sounds like you've got a great system. It's all about how it works for us/individuals.

@Maria, Thank you and my pleasure:)

Mihaela January 20, 2011 at 12:21 PM  

thank you for sharing this with us, I'm going to look for my camera manual and see what is the white balance :)

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