I’ve mentioned a few times that I got a fancy new camera for Christmas – a beautiful new Nikon D5100 SLR. I’ve started playing around with it the past few weeks, so I wanted to post a quick update on my progress. Hopefully this is informative for any other newbie bloggers out there who have just purchased a nice camera or are thinking about upgrading!
Let’s start with what I was using before: my iPhone 4S. The iPhone was actually nowhere near as bad for food photography as you might think. As far as phone cameras go, it can take pretty amazing pictures. Sure, it limited things a lot, but I was still proud of photos like this:
(My first shot accepted to TasteSpotting and Healthy Aperture, and also featured on the homepage of Tasty Kitchen!)
After a few months taking lots of food photos with my iPhone, I felt I was actually starting to take much better pictures than at first, and that they could be improved even more with the added control that comes with an actual camera. The features I most wanted were:
- Ability to adjust white balance
- Ability to adjust amount of light (my iPhone photos were consistently underexposed)
- A better lens that wouldn’t distort subjects shot at an angle
- Larger aperture to get that nice blurred background
A.K.A. pretty much EVERYTHING.
So how is it going now that I’ve had a few weeks to play around?
Well, first of all, the learning curve to shoot in manual mode is pretty steep, as you might expect. I had thought that shutter speed and aperture were the two main things to adjust to get enough light into the picture. Boy was I wrong. ISO, exposure compensation, metering… there are way more levers to pull than I expected! Luckily I am pretty motivated to learn… just a little bit of playing around with the help of my Dad showed me that my Nikon can capture this shot of my parents’ kitchen after breakfast:
While it looks like this on the iPhone:
Holy cow! I mean, I didn’t compose anything for this shot and was just shooting whatever was in front of me, but in the first photo, your eye is definitely drawn to the pepper grinder, cream pitcher, and books in the foreground. In the iPhone picture, everything is in focus, and so overwhelmingly you just see how messy the kitchen is. That is a definite issue in my apartment, which is quite small and doesn’t have a good space for me to take pictures. To be honest, I usually have to move furniture before I photograph food for this blog! So no matter what, there’s bound to be something unappetizing in the background. Just having the medium aperture on the starter lens on my Nikon helps a TON.
You can also notice above how distorted the pepper grinder looks in the iPhone photo. I mentioned the funhouse mirror effect before… see what I’m talking about?!
And then there’s the lighting, which is probably the most striking difference between these two photos. My parents’ kitchen has 2 huge walls of windows, yet look how dark and yellow the iPhone photo came out! This is also an issue at home in my apartment. The more I take photos, the more I realize how little light my apartment gets. We have 1 south-facing window in each bedroom, and west-facing windows in the kitchen and living room. But the lot sizes in my neighborhood are super small, and the light is blocked on all sides by other buildings. This is really what causes the aforementioned moving of furniture before taking photos. It’s something I’m going to be super aware of when we search for our next apartment. Ideally I would like space for a large table and big windows to let in lots of light!
Anyway, with my new camera I’ve been able to adjust the exposure compensation and ISO to account for the low levels of light. I’m still learning, and sometimes still have to brighten photos up afterwards using editing software … I think I’ve developed an unfortunate taste for underexposed photos while shooting with my iPhone! But little by little I’ve been learning about all the different cool ways that my camera can help me take beautiful pictures, even in my tiny dark apartment.
Oops… that recipe is coming soon!
OK, this post is getting quite long, but one more thing to mention: I have a loooong way to go in terms of all the technical aspects of photography, not to mention photo composition and lighting. And that really has more to do with me as a (super amateur) photographer than with the camera I’m holding. I am just now learning the basics, and that process is going to take a while! Luckily, my new camera is so much fun to play with, and makes this a very rewarding process. I think I’m hooked!