I have a confession to make. I am a little self conscious of my photography skills (or lack thereof) on this blog. I am most definitely not a photographer and will never claim to be. I am all about Instagram filters, PicMonkey, and taking pictures in natural light. Most of my pictures are taken with my iPhone.
However, this is a food blog and I know that I wouldn’t even bother making a recipe that looks like garbage in a “styled” picture online. If the original creator can’t make it look good, how on earth am I going to be able to? When I first started blogging I was using a little point and shoot Canon that I got my freshman year of college. My pictures were grainy, blurry, and the colors were terrible. It also doesn’t help that my kitchen has ugly lighting so if I can’t get shots in daylight everything has a lovely fluorescent glow.
I actually had someone comment once that my pictures were so bad. I cried. I had just started and hadn’t developed the thick skin that blogging requires. Needless to say, I was even more self conscious.
I immediately started researching fancy cameras and lighting to make things look better. I write this for you guys and wanted to make everything look as professional as possible. I looked everywhere online. I was looking at several hundred dollar DSL-R cameras. Saving my extra pennies hoping to buy something soon.
Then I realized that 1. I am a grad student 2. I have a family 3. I need to buy groceries so that I can actually make food to photograph for you. It doesn’t make sense for me to go buy a fancy camera right now. Practically-speaking. Or financially-speaking. Maybe some day when I have kids and a life outside of textbooks I will consider it. But right now, my iPhone is what I have.
Despite my lightbulb moment, I still wanted my pictures to look better without hours of photoshopping or millions of dollars. I did a little research and decided the easiest thing to do is to make a photobox.
This photobox cost less than $20 to build and took less than an hour. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, and gets put in the spare bedroom out of site when we have guests. But it really makes a world of difference in my photos. The box eliminates unwanted shadows and creates a really clean, easy back drop for me.
When I cook I usually plate Josh’s meal for him and serve him, and then make mine look pretty, run downstairs, take a few shots and come back up and eat. I’ll probably figure out a better system eventually, but for now, this works fine.
We bought all of the supplies at Theisen’s (like Fleet Farm or Home Depot).
Heres what you need:
1 large box
white tissue paper
3 – 100 watt daylight light bulbs (make sure you get “daylight” bulbs to create the most natural light possible)
3 utility lamps with clamps (ours are from the farm section, I think normally used for baby chickens?)
Power strip with extension cord (recommended)
Paper/fabric for back drops
1. Use a box cutter to carefully cut the top off the box, leaving one flap on the side that will become the bottom
2. Flip the box onto one side so the top is facing you (as shown below), cut the center out of the box, leaving 3-4 inches of an edge along all sides
3. Rotate the box 90 degrees onto its side and cut out the center of of that side, leaving 3-4 inches of an edge along all sides
4. Rotate the box 180 degrees the opposite way to cut out the opposite side, leaving 3-4 inches of an edge along all sides (it should like like below, with the top and 3 sides cut out. You should still have the bottom of the original box and the new bottom you’ve created)
5. Cut a sheet of white tissue paper to cover the top hole, use duct tape to attach the tape around all sides of the square
6. Repeat with the other 2 sides (this doesn’t need to look pretty, just make sure the tissue paper is flat and doesn’t have any holes in it)
7. Place the box on a flat surface (we used a small end table)
8. Put the light bulbs in the utility lamps, position the lamps so that one lamp is shining in each of the tissue paper sides. We used chairs and a bar stool. This was the hardest part of the set up, just play around until you find something that works for you
9. Plug the utility lamps into the power strip and turn the lamp on
10. Adjust the lamps so that the light is centered
11. Use tape or push pins to put your back drop in place (I usually use a pretty towel, napkin or paper)
12. Put another piece of fabric, paper or board down for the bottom.
13. Put your objects inside the box, grab your camera and shoot away!
I like using a large bamboo cutting board for the bottom and layering plates, napkins and silverware to create the shot. I usually end up using PicMonkey to crop the edges out of theshot, but the photo box takes care of the lighting aspect for me which is usually the hardest part.
Here are some shots that I’ve taken with the box. If you want “before shots” take a look back at previous posts. It hurts me too bad to see some of those pictures.
Question of the day:
What kind of camera do you have? Do you like it?
Do you use photo editing software?
What’s your favorite subject to photograph?