Review: Tasty Food Photography by Lindsay Ostrom

Lindsay-Ostrom-Tasty-Food-Photography-ebookLindsay Ostrom is a food blogger and photographer. Together with her husband, she built the Pinch of Yum website where you can find all kinds of recipes. To be honest, when I look at these recipes and the photographs, I want to have all of these dishes… and I want them right now. And this is because Lindsay brings those recipes to life with her beautiful photography.

That makes it even more surprising to learn that she is not a full-time photographer (yet). Her “real job” is to teach kids in elementary school. And do you know what that makes her? …a wonderful photography teacher.

She really knows both worlds – how to create beautifully delicious food photos and how to teach others how to practice this craft.

The Topic

We’ve probably all taken many pictures of food. In fact, in the age of Instagram, taking food photos has almost become a mass obsession to a degree that forces many restaurants to ban photography to protect their regular customers.

But honestly: How many really good food shots have you taken so far? I mean shots of the sort that waters your mouth immediately. Not too many, eh? Me neither!

Great food photography is an art and a craft that requires careful planning, execution, and passion beyond the mere snapping of a photo. It requires an understanding for food, how to set it up, how to light it and how to frame it to evoke that feeling that we all know too well – appetite!

The eBook

Lindsay gives you an easily digestible (pun intended) introduction to her craft covering all aspects from the basic technology, the lighting and compositional aspects all the way to preparing and setting up the food and editing your pictures. She even gives you some ideas for organizing your work schedule.

Throughout all of these sections, she presents before and after images that make it really easy to understand the effects of different setups.

If you’re into food and recipes more than photography, she makes it easy for you to grasp the technical stuff. On the other hand, if you have proficient knowledge about photography but know little about how to make food look really good in a photo, you’ll learn a ton of techniques that will help you take the next step.

On top of that, you’ll learn how to produce professional results with very inexpensive equipment. A decent camera, a window and the right time of day is really all you need if you know how to use it right. And that’s what Lindsay shows you in her book.

Chapter Overview

  • Chapter one is all about the technical stuff. You’ll learn which cameras are best suited, which lenses to consider and which other gear you need. Next are the camera settings that are best suited and things like depth of field (aperture), shutter speed and ISO. You will learn how to set what and which affects the different settings have in the context of food photography based on examples. Lindsay even gives you tips in case you do not have a DSLR camera.
  • Chapter two is all about the lighting. She teaches you how to use natural light (no expensive lighting equipment required). She shows you the difference between window light and open shade and she explains how to modify the light using simple means like reflectors, curtains, and sheets of paper.
  • Chapter three teaches you how to compose your shots. This ranges from basic principles like the rule of thirds and whether to shoot vertically or horizontally to more advanced considerations like creating negative space and achieving different visual impressions. She literally shows you how to evoke different emotions with your composition which is very important to get your message across to the eater (sorry… urm… viewer).
  • In chapter four, Lindsay explains how to prepare and set up the food. She discusses the choice of backgrounds, which dishes to use best, and how to set up a repertory of arrangements that you can come back to again and again.
  • Chapter five is about the post-production of your food images. Lindsay discusses which software to use and how to set up an effective workflow. She explains how to work on basic things like white balance, exposure, contrast, and saturation. She goes on to things like retouching, getting the right image crop and resizing your photos correctly.
  • In the final chapter, Lindsay gives you tips on organizing your work schedule effectively. This chapter contains many useful tips that will make your food photography adventure much more enjoyable, including how not to end up eating cold food every day because you had to shoot it first ;-). She ends the book with her personal five things she wished she would have known when she started.

Other Things You’ll Learn

In the book, you will get a lot of valuable tips. But above everything else, I liked how Lindsay made the whole process enjoyable. While many photography books and tutorials have an overly technical touch, Lindsay really gets the message across that life (even work life) is about more than chore. It’s about enjoying yourself, creating a balance, and arranging your schedule in a way that leaves enough time for the most important things in life… your family, sharing the love and… of course… really enjoying your meals. 😉

The Style of Teaching

Lindsay has a relaxing way of making things that should be complicated feel simple. That’s something that only few people have, and it makes learning so much easier. She does not waste your time using too much space or words. Every topic in this book is presented in just the right depth and breadth. Of course, this depends on your personal taste, but that’s at least how it was for me when I read the book.

The Summary

The Pros The Cons
  • Lindsay uses lots of example for every topic. This makes it really easy to follow along.
  • Especially the before and after comparisons will give you many ‘Aha!’ moments.
  • The tips are all easy to grasp and, above all, practical.
  • The length and style of presentation are perfect for the subject at hand.
  • You will have that cozy warm feeling of being home with some great food when you read the book.
  • Simplicity is king in this book. Hence, more advanced lighting techniques that make you independent of natural light are not explained.
  • One topic that would have made this book even better is left out: How to monetize your awesome food photos. I would have enjoyed reading a little bit about the different ways of benefitting from your newly learned skills beyond the mere joy of applying them.
  • Be warned: You will be hungry from page 1 right to the end even if you’ve just had your meal. 😉

My Personal Tips for this Tutorial

Here are my personal tips on how to work with this book:

  • Print it or put it on your tablet and have it next to you while you practice.
  • Make sure you have some (nice-looking) food prepared while you read. You’ll feel the need to put your newly learned skills into practice right away.
  • And finally, eat before you shoot. Otherwise, there won’t be much left to shoot after a few minutes. 😉
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