Well, when I wrote that long post about setting up food photography a couple of weeks ago, I promised a follow-up post that talked about post production on your images.
What do I mean by post production? No, it ain’t making fence posts. What I mean is everything that happens to the image after taking the shot. It is really pretty rare these days that I get a shot off the camera and am 100% happy with the shot, and just upload it straight to my blog. In fact, that honestly never happens. I always end up tweeking a bunch of things with the image until I get something that I reckon is OK to show.
OK details. What EXACTLY am I talking about? I am talking about cropping an image. I am talking about adjusting white balance, exposure, color adjustments, sharpness and all that jazz – all in the computer ater taking a shot.
I have been known to say “screw it, I can fix it in post”, and at work I have heard that from a good many people (I work as a computer graphics artist) too. The reality really is that most of the time only a certain amount can be done in post. So, you put complete crap in, you are going to get what we call “a polished turd” out. Sorry for the crudeness, just a term that a few of us fling around.
Most professional food photographers I know try and get it bloody close to perfect when shooting (before doing any post work). This is honestly the way to go. Try to get your white balance right in the camera. Try and get your exposure pretty much perfect before hitting post production. This will yield a better image. Trying to fix bad lighting after taking a shot is almost impossible. Only so much can be done in those nifty software packages.
Lets talk about software packages that you can use here for a second… There are a great number of packages out there now that are aimed at “developing” digital photographs. There are a few that I really like, but unfortunately they aren’t free. Thankfully most digitalSLR cameras come with free software that lets you edit your pictures. Canon (the camera brand that I shoot with) has Digital Photo Professional, which actually can do a pretty decent job of most adjustments. It is a little slow and clunky to use, but it gets the job done (some things really very well indeed), and it’s free. I am sure Nikon has something similar.
If you are looking at spending some money, then there are three that I recommend. First off is Adobe Lightroom. This is a great piece of software from the boys and girls that bring you Photoshop. Aimed at the professional photographer, it has a really slick workflow, is easy to use, and very responsive. I like it. Next up is Capture One Pro, from Phase One. This is another high-end piece of equipment, and really does a very similar job to Lightroom. If you look on most photography forums you will find heated debates about which of these two is better. I ain’t going there people, save the drama. Finally there is Photoshop. We all know photoshop. It has some half decent tools for adjusting photographs – but it does lack some of the controls of Lightroom or Capture One, uneless you really want to jump into some of the more advanced modules in Photoshop.
If you are thinking about really getting into food photography, I recommend one of those three. Either Lightroom or Capture One would be my first choice, however Photoshop is a handy thing to have around for doing other image tasks, like removing dust, stray bits of chopped parsley and so forth. Whatever you choose, the basics are the same – you have white balance/exposure/color adjustments in all of them.
I am not going to talk about workflow in a certain package. Heck, I am not going to even mention what software I use (it is one of those three..) – because I don’t want to bias anything.
To demonstrate my workflow, we are going to take one of my previous shots through the image post production pipeline – and natter about it on the way. The shot is from the salmon crudo post I did a little while back. I shoot in RAW format (talked about before in that previous post on food photography) – and the controls that I am talking about here are available for RAW images, and (depending on the package) JPEG too.
Click to continue reading about Food Photography post production