Food Photo 101 – Lesson 3 Recap

This is the review post of the third week of our Food Photography 101 series, in Nika’s words.

As was previously the case, several people contributed their results to the Food Photo 101 flickr pool.

This week’s contributors were:

  • Curt
  • LaRecetteDuJour
  • NJYar
  • Big Mill BB

As you remember from this last Tuesday’s post “FP101-3: Depth of Field”, we have been exploring Depth of Field (DOF).

Once you get the hang of it, playing with the focal plane and DOF can be fun and it can lend a whole new dimension to your images, literally.

It is used quite a lot in food photography, especially in cookbooks where food shots can be especially pornalicious and artistic. The shallow DOF can be used to focus the viewer’s attention on a particularly delicious morsel, boosting the appeal.

It can also be used excessively in some cases and some people just plain do not like it. My mom, who is an artist herself, doesn’t respond well to those photos of mine which have a shallow DOF. When asked, she can’t really articulate why she doesn’t like it but she knows that its not a style she likes. This is fine, there are many ways to communicate your vision.

If you do not like this shallow DOF style, leave a comment explaining why.

I look forward to hearing your feelings on this subject!

Lets take a look first at what Curt offered this last Thursday and then the other contributors.

Curt’s Christmas images

I have a feeling that if Curt came to visit our house around Christmas he would feel that our place is barren of holiday cheer! It sounds like he and his go enthusiastically whole hog and make it a big do :-). We have a 1 year and a 4 year old who both would love to pull it all down (not to mention the 5 cats) so we are thinking of a mini-tree or the time honored festivus pole (winks).

Leaving all THAT aside, Curt has shared a whole panel of photos of one of his Christmas, um, critters (?) – elves, yeah.

FP101-3: curt
He also varied the angle at which he shot the elf. I have circled two images above which I have then blown up below.
FP101-3: curt - close
One image is shot at an angle and the other is shot top down or perpendicularly.He did a nice job of showing the change in the depth of field in his images as he moved in closer to his elven subject. This method allowed him to direct your focus to what he wanted. Can’t wait to see him apply this to food and I think he will be posting something on this very soon!


This time LaRecetteDuJour sent us several shots of a bowl of pears lit from behind by a window.

FP101-3: lrdj
I have used a red oval to point out where you can see the differences in the DOF as she varies her f-number. Obviously the f/5.6 shot has the most shallow DOF, as is evident in the blurriness of the back wall.

Big Mill BB

Chloe from the Big Mill B&B offers several shots of sliced lemons with varying f-number.

FP101-3: bigmill
I have circled a bit of background on two of the images where I can see some change in the DOF. There is a slight variance between f/5.0 and f/4.5 but it is subtle.


These images of an interesting tea pot and glass are rich in color and texture.

FP101-3: njyar
There is also quite a spread cross f-number from f/5.0 to f/32! I used a red oval again to point out where in the background it is evident that the DOF has changed. These photos are interesting for the curious refraction through the glass and the focused light lines on the tabletop. The point at which it is the brightest is a focal point for the “lens” of the glass. Njyar keeps the focus on the tea leaves inside the glass. I think I like either. The problem with the f/32 image is that the cloudiness of the glass is really obvious. Might want to wash the glass with soapy water and then rinse with isopropyl alcohol before shooting.

A few more from this weekend from me

These days, my husband’s work is taking him into Manhattan on the weekends so we are car-less and a bit cabin-crazy. I had this hankering for saltines but didn’t have any so I found a recipe for them and spent two days making homemade saltine crackers. I will blog in more detail about it later but I wanted to share a couple of shots that I made with my Canon 30D (50mm 1.4) and my fujifilm camera that use a shallow DOF.

Homemade Saltines: How To
These are the finished product, shot with my Canon 30D. I wanted to really lead the eye to the black peppers so I shot in close.
Homemade Saltines: Cayenne Saltines
Here I shot close in on some cayenne dusted crackers, again with my Canon 30D. Its a bit flat but this was my mood today.
FP101-3: further demo
Here you can see the set up with my fujifilm.
FP101-3: further demo
FP101-3: further demo
These two are shots with my fujifilm, annotated with black lines showing the focal plane (FP). I used my macro setting and did not modify my aperture.

Thanks to everyone for their contributions!

Clearly it is possible to get a shallow DOF with the P&S, as we have seen with all of the above photos. I think everyone did an excellent job of experimenting with their cameras.


I will add a link to the top of this post soon that will give you access to a PDF version of this post. Will be doing the same for 101-2 and 101-3 lessons.

Related Posts:

Class Resources

To register for the newsletter that reviews each week’s topic, fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post (or on the Food Photo 101 page) and type “Food Photo 101” in the subject field.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

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