Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to use Manual mode-1

Food Photography tutorials email me -

1- How to capture Steam in food photography
2- How to capture white objects on white.
3- Composition theory for food photography
4- How to shoot moody and intense images
5- Painting props for food photography
6- Personalized tutorials.
365 days of photography 

Thanks for the queries, it gives me a great push to keep doing these post. Please keep them coming. Email :, or message me on Facebook 

Some of the queries I received:

How to capture smoke?
Go over the basics of photography Jargon/ basics of photography 
What is RAW files?
A little about artificial lighting? ( am afraid, I have yet to explore this….so as and when I learn)

I am no expert, but I learnt my basics with the help of  blogs and books online, Every bit of material played a role, reading the same things with different explanations/interpretation,  really helped cement the concept. So much material is available on blogs/internet about the basics of photography this is almost a redundant post. But then I thought,  my blog is about my experiences and if some of my friends have asked me to, maybe I should. So here I go….

Photography is all about the play of light, yes composition, color, harmony and framing plays a major role but if you have learnt to read light, you have realized the magic of photography. 

Even before we embrace on the basic of aperture, shutter and need to understand light. It does not matter if it’s natural to artificial, you need to understand what kind of light you are dealing with, some basic questions….

It is harsh or diffused light?

What color is the light ? yes, sometimes light can be a golden hue - early hours or sunrise and late hours or sunset - called golden hour. 

Is it blue - some very cold snowy days it might have a mild blue cast.

What direction is the light coming from ? How do you want to use it, back lit, side lit, front lit - it will totally change the mood of the image. 

Where are the shadows? How intense are the shadows? How can you use the shadows to narrate your story. 

What time of the day are you shooting, light changes it’s character depending on the time and the season. 

Slowly, reading light becomes a second nature, sometimes I take a phone picture of the light - I write down the time of the day ( sunny or cloudy) So I now know that  on a sunny day at about 11 am I have a beautiful directional diffused light that falls on a chair in my basement, the other side of the chair is dramatically dark, so if I want to shoot a moody picture, that is a good spot. ( In fact, I have not had sun in a while and am waiting to use the light in that spot) So explore! Even if you use the pre-set ( program  mode) settings on your camera, a good light will help you paint your story.

But, if you want to take FULL control of all the possibilities and creative options you have with light, you need to understand these basic camera operations. Trust me if I can do it you can too. It’s  a journey, every day you learn and at least with me I feel every image needs work and could have been better. 

There are just 4 controls 

White Balance

Aperture : is the size of opening of the lens. That determines the amount of light that gets into the sensor…in other words the opening is more, more  light. 

It is measured in f stops, am not going to go in depth about the formula of f-stop and how it is calculated, but let’s just say,  smaller the F- stop, the greater the amount of light that passes through the lens.  The number also depends on the focal length of your lens, so not all lens will go down to f/1.8 or go up to f/22. I am using those just to give you an idea. 

Here is an iPhone photo, don’t judge my sketching skills ;)

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With me so far? Simple? Aperture not only controls the light, but it also controls Depth of Field. 

What is Depth of Field?

DOF is the amount of your shot that will be in focus. 
Larger  DOF : More in focus 
Small/Shallow DOF : Less in focus 

How does aperture effect DOF?

Now let me show you images that will explain what am trying to say in words. See the blurred (shallow)background in F/1.8, how dreamy the blur looks…all you are doing is playing with light. 

F/1.8 : Full lens open : shallowDOF
F/18 : Lens very little open : larger DOF

That is DOF and aperture for you. Simple right?  Questions?  comments or emails. 
Let me know what you feel about this post, will do the other 3  fundamentals in my next post. 

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 Before I forget,  a BIG thanks to Meeta from What’s for lunch honey ? to feature my sorbet in her connect section! Thanks Meeta, am honored.  (a  fan of your work) :) 

Images from 365

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February 17, 2014 : 48/365 :  Another blizzard with brutal temperatures 
On the Snow image above I was working on White Balance and getting a good exposure so the whites are not blown, nor gray.

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February 18, 2014 : 49/365
The beads are a good example of shallow depth of field. 

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February 19, 2014 : 50/365 : my curry leaf plant 
Again both the curry leaves and the smoothie are examples of shallow depth of field, I wanted the second glass of smoothie to merge into the light …
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February 20, 2014 : 51/365: breakfast, homemade healthy spinach smoothie - recipe 

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February 21, 2014 : 52/365
In the cauliflower I played with the aperture, so as to capture the entire veggie and have the background blurred. 
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February 22, 2014 : 53/365 Pina colada sorbet - recipe 
In the sorbet I wanted a shallow DOF and pumped up the ISO to 800 to experiment with a grainy Portra 800 look,  It was a happy accident. 

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February 23, 2014 : 54/365
Just played with the light that was coming from the window, and loved the red reflection of the box on the harmonica. 
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February 24, 2014 : 55/365 Pina colada sorbet - recipe 
Again Shallow DOF and ISO 800 going for the Portra 800 look. 

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February 25, 2014 : 56/365: Every cloud has a silver lining, morning sun 
Simple 1-phone shot… 

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February 26, 2014 : 57/365: A bell from Sikkim, India 
Saw the golden reflection on my dishwasher, captured it giving a shallow DOF…so you see a touch of gold. 
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February 27, 2014 : 58/365

I am not that happy with this, trying out table top photography, I wanted the gold to glow…

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February 28, 2014 Cold snowy day is perfect for reading and a hot cup of tea
One of my favorites, I love to capture steam, back lit and a dark background, is always a winner with steam shots. 
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  1. These are really beautiful photos! I never seem to be able to get the warmth and clarity of these. I think I've got a pretty good grasp on my camera settings and can usually get a setting that gets my exposure pretty good, but it still doesn't match the quality of these. Any tips for getting clearer, crisper photos?

    1. Courtney,
      Thank you so much, you are very kind.
      I loved your images and really like how you style them that are clean and bright… I think they look amazing, a little bit of contrast might help. I think your images are nice and sharp put a bit of contest will add the pop. You can either post process to do that, or increase the shutter and see. Do you want to join a Food Photography Critique Group,( on FB) I really learnt a lot there and some amazing commercial photographers and stylist out there, let me know…
      Hope this helps!

  2. Simi...great explanation of basics of photography!! My DSLR is still sitting in its box...this will help me get started...looking fwd to more tips :)

    1. Rumki,
      If your DSLR is sitting there for another week…. am going to come over and claim it. :) let me know if this was easily understood or I was talking crap ! lol

    2. hahaha!! It was hubby's Christmas gift to me...I wanted it for years!! and this weather has not helped...I am waiting for pretty flowers to bloom...:) but I guess I can start with indoor food photography...thanks for the chase!! xxoo!

    3. Rumki,
      Let me know how the journey is .....;)

    4. will surely do that...with tons of questions for the expert, too :))

  3. Simi, I love all of your shots.... What kind of camera and lens do You use? And I'm really jealous for your snowy shot, as here in UK there was no snow at all during all the winter :-(

    1. Aniko,
      Thank you soo much ! Am ready to transport all the snow to you, am done with this…we have had more than we have had in the last 2 decades and that is a LOT of snow.
      I use Sony Nex −6 It is a mirror less camera and love the nifty fifty ( 50 mm) lens and 16- 50 mm. I also use Nikon D-70, it’s an old DSLR and does not behave well in low light… saving up for a full frame ;)

  4. Simi, great job explaining the photography basics... I totally agree with you on reading multiple posts from different people on the same subject... It really makes you think in different perspectives and also helps you understand the concept better..
    Lovely images.. I declare you as the steam queen.. LOL ...!! Keep clicking..enjoying your series:)

    1. Thanks Shema, I love the name you guys have given me - steam queen and steam catcher ;)

  5. this is very comprehensive and useful...! i am waiting for the next post..
    And lovely photos.. :)
    Happy clicking

  6. Hi Simi,

    I have become a fan of your photography lessons. Thanks So much for taking effort to write all these details..I hope someday i match 10% of your callibre.

    Soma Pradhan


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