Learn with Calumet. Food photography for beginners.

#CalumetGallery’s first photo month challenge can be even more challenging if you decide to ditch your auto settings and try to use your pro skills with manual camera settings. In this blog post we will cover some basic ideas to help you overcome the challenge and produce some mouth-watering shots.


What is shutter speed?

First let’s take a look at shutter speed. In simple words, it is the speed at which your camera closes the shutter upon pressing your shoot button. It is usually expressed in seconds or to be more precise in a split of a second. One second means the shutter will close one second after you’ve pressed shoot. It might sound like a blink of an eye, but for a camera it is quite a long time. When shooting by hand, the longer you leave your shutter open, the higher the chances of the image coming out blurry. Set your camera to 1/80 (that’s one eightieth of a second) and your images should be quite crisp when shooting without a tripod. If your setting environment doesn’t provide enough light and you need to increase the setting to 1/20, we recommend using a tripod to capture sharp photos.


What is Aperture?

Aperture or the f-stops is the opening that is created in your lens by the closing and opening of the ring of blades letting the light into the camera. It’s usually expressed in fractions 1/x (the x standing for f-stop). An f-stop of 2 means the aperture is half open (1/2) and an f-stop of 15 means it’s only open in the 15th part (1/15). This can be really confusing as the lower the f-stop number the wider the aperture is opened. But what does it really mean? The wider the opening (the lower the f-stop number) the more light gets into your camera allowing it to register fewer or more details of your shot.

The size of the aperture translates into depth of field. With lower f-stop and faster shutter speed your camera will register details on the foreground, leaving the background fuzzy. If you want to create depth in your food shots and bring the background to focus, you need to set the aperture to a higher f-stop and a longer shutter speed. This way your camera will have time to let enough light allowing it to register details deeper in the background.


Understanding ISO

ISO is the speed at which your cameras sensor registers light (it still also refers to the speed of your film roll, if you’re shooting old school). The lower the ISO value (100, 200, 400) the better it performs in great natural light conditions, however if you’re doing your project on a dull day or are working in artificial light conditions opt for a higher ISO speed which will allow you to use faster shutter speed and thus crisper images. Note to remember here is that, the higher ISO you choose the grainier your image will be. If you want your images printed in larger format or need high res photos for print purposes, try to keep to ISOs not exceeding 600.


Bring it all together

To recap, best settings for two different scenarios:

Low light environment – higher ISO with wider aperture and longer shutter speed, most preferably shots taken on a tripod.

Well-lit environment – lower ISO and higher f-stop number (narrower aperture).

Photos credit to Alicja Korbinska.

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