For everyone who wants to know what gear I use, whether I shoot with natural light or flashes, etc. here are the answers.
I rely on a relatively new Canon 5D Mark III and a relatively old Canon 7D to take the photos on this blog. The latter’s fast frame rate is still great for capturing yolks toppling out of shells, pours and sprinkles. I’ll probably retire it sometime this year. A tripod is an absolutely essential piece of gear for shooting in low light or long shutter speeds. I always use a tripod to take both ingredients and “finished dish” shots in natural light.
The light in our kitchen is classic New England, which is to say, like a basement much of the time, so all of the chopping, slicing and dicing, as well as the stovetop cooking, is illuminated with a strobe and/or off-camera flashes while I shoot handheld. My initial efforts, which you can still see on this blog, were often dreadful — weirdly blue or orange, depending on the mistakes I was then making. I believe in flashes – and I believe in modifying them with umbrellas or softboxes. When someone says to me, “I only shoot in natural light,” I want to say, “Oh, and what happens when the sun goes down?”
Two lenses serve for the bulk of my work – a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II and a Sigma 50mm Macro (the food photographer’s friend). Depending on circumstances, I might also pull out my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II or Canon 100mm Macro F/2.8 (the non-L).
All of the above is the same gear I use in my professional food and restaurant work.
That said, just about any DSLR can produce great food photographs; add a flash, a light stand, an umbrella and a reflector, and you’ve got your first home studio. All of us need to start someplace. Don’t try to invent the wheel yourself. There are lots of resources out there–books, online courses and websites devoted to photography, brick and mortar workshops–use as many of them as you have time and can afford. Online, The Perfect Picture School of Photography is great, especially Ron Goldman’s Food Photography offerings – they were helpful to me. I’m also a fan of Rick Friedman’s off-camera flash workshops. Take LOTS of pictures. Everybody has at least 10,000 bad pictures in them. While you’re busy taking those, you’ll get a rare good one. Try to figure out what you did right and duplicate it the next time.
All photographs in The Garum Factory are ©Ken Rivard. I don’t mind if you use AN UNCROPPED PHOTO (no recropping, no watermark removal) as long at it’s clear it comes from us (The Garum Factory) and you include a link back to our original content. Anything else is off the table, unless you talk to me about it. I direct your attention to the “Thieves of Photography” scene from Dante’s INFERNO, a particularly horrifying ring of hell in which digital pirates must endure the eternal discharge of flashes in their faces. You have been warned.
For commercial work, rates and availability, please contact me, Ken Rivard, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks. Tasted good too. :-) Ken
Everything starts by eyes… Your photographs are amazing! And then, you can’t believe but I can feel their smells too when I read your recipes… They are not only so beautiful photographs, they also seem so delicious. Inspiring me to cook them. Thank you Ken, with my love, nia
Thank you, Nia. Come back soon. Ken
Ken, your photos just keep getting better and better. Keep it up.
Ken, your photos are absolutely stunning. The light always looks perfect! I will be back too ogle the food & photos…Keep it up!
Thanks, Jessica. Glad you’re enjoying them. Ken
Your photoes look so wonderful! and I’m so impressed all picutres you took in the kitchen. Now I’m strugging with lights in my kitchen.. it is now easy to handle properly.. hopefully I will learn to do it somehow! Thank for sharing!
I STILL struggle with the light in my kitchen (it’s relatively dark). However, I have picked up a couple of tricks along the way. Almost all of the kitchen photos are taken with a flash–photos of ingredients and plated food are almost always with natural light. When we started the blog I tried using longer exposures in the kitchen, high ISO and a tripod, but cooking moves so fast it wasn’t very successful. So I switched to a flash, but then I often had three different sources of light hitting the food–tungsten, light coming through the windows, and flash–if you look at my early kitchen photos they often look too yellow or blue. It’s very hard to get the lighting right in post-processsing on a photo with multiple different sources of light. Now I put a CTO gel over my flash, which changes my flash’s light to tungsten; and I set my camera’s white balance to tungsten. This means I’m only dealing with two sources of light when I process the photos later. It makes it much easier to get a useable shot. Good luck. Ken
wow!! It’s not enough to say just thank you…. I really appreciate that!! now I’m a beginner of photography so honestly I can’t understand 100% what you said.. However! I am working on it! and I will keep it in my mind! here again! Thanks……
Hi! I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award – http://eatnowtalklater.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/blog-awards/
Thank you. Ken
Just recently found your website and enjoying the combination of photos, unique sharing of recipes and food adventures. As for the photos, fabulous. For fun I take pictures of food that inspires me (with whatever is at hand, including blackberry or iPad). The other day I lucked into a perfect picture in my kitchen with natural light of whole fish preparation which was so satisfying. Thanks for the beautiful photo posting which are as satisfying as the the food itself.
Thank you! Glad you’re enjoying the pics. Ken
Beautiful photos, congratulations ¡¡
I think your photos are lovely! Yea for Ron Goldman. I loved his classes.
Me too. He’s a very patient teacher, always willing to answer questions, and supportive of students efforts. Thanks for the compliment. Ken
These photos are incredible. They inspire me to try harder with my photography, but I don’t think I’ll ever get to this stage of perfection!
Sure you will! The photos in our first blog posts are embarrassing to me now, but everybody gets better. There’s a photo in Friday’s post showing the flash setup we now use in our dark kitchen. Our kitchen isn’t actually as dark as it appears in the photo, but I had to drop the exposure so everyone wasn’t blinded by the flashes going off.
My house is old and dark, which doesn’t help. Can’t wait till the temperatures rise so I can photograph outside. I’ll just have to fight off my dogs!
Ken, you are one very humble guy, and, one very talented photographer in the making. As a commercial photographer for almost 30 years I know talent when I see it and it’s a joy to tell you, you’ve got it! While you and I know that good camera gear helps, the real magic in an image comes from the person behind the lens. And with food photography it’s not just the technical things like camera settings, but equally, if not more so, it’s the layout of the food and the overall composition. And you are already doing exceptional work. It will be a joy following along on this blog not only to discover some new recipes, but to enjoy the beauty of your images.
Hi, Rick–What a generous comment! Clearly you weren’t looking at some of our early posts. :-) I appreciate the encouragement. I love taking photographs and relish every extra opportunity to try to extend my experience outside of a kitchen. Life handed me a plum recently in the chance to go to Haiti. Pics to follow soon. Ken
One thing I love about WordPress is that it shows the most recent posts (and on your blog, your most recent images) first. We all have images from early in our photography that we can shake our head or wish we’d been better “then.” What’s most important though is how we’ve grown and the skills we’ve learned. And, you’ve done, and are doing fabulously. I will definitely be on the lookout for photos from Haiti when you return. Rick
The Haiti post is up today. Among other things, it includes a link to a Haiti set on my Flickr account, a set that resides cheek-by-jowl with some VERY early photos. Ha! It keeps me humble. Thanks. Ke
Gorgeous Photos! I love the layout as well. http://www.gustatori.com
Thanks! It helps if the food’s good too. :) Thanks for the comment. Ken
I’m really loving the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?
That would be like looking under the hood of my car, where giant worms live. Sorry. Ken
Your photos are amazing. As I was browsing through your homepage my tummy was literally craving for all the delicious food you have captured perfectly. Excited to be following your food adventures!
You are so sweet! It’s been a learning process. We’re happy to have you following along. Ken
wow! amazing photos
Thanks. Glad you’re enjoying them. You, by the way, seem to have a very interesting life in Croatia. Jody and I have been offered some biking opportunities there–now we’re going to have to look more closely. Thanks. Ken
yes Croatia is good for biking. There are also island-hopping cruises you can do, where the ship supplies bikes, which you can use when you stop in every island and destination every day. Looks like a great holiday.
This blog is absolutely STUNNING. Truly some of the best food photography I’ve EVER seen. Thank you for sharing, I’m very excited to be following you :-)
Hi, Sis! I told you at Christmas dinner you didn’t need to write effusive comments like that. But if you insist… :-) Ken
(Thank you.) Ken
You’ve done a great job with your photographs! Your blog is definitely one I will look forward to visit when looking for inspiration. I have been using a Canon 600D until I upgraded to a 5DMark2 six months ago. It changed my world, as the cliche goes. The lens I use most of the time, especially when shooting for a magazine, is the 24-70mm f2.8. So versatile.I also have the cheap 50mm f1.8 which I’ve outgrown. My question to myself right now is ‘Should I get a 50mm f1.2 or a 100mm f2.8 macro?’ Any suggestion?
I was just about to leave comment on your blog – asking if you took the shot of the bolognese with a 24 -70. I think you’ve answered my question. The 50 1.2 is a fabulous lens, and good for food. I used to use mine a lot, but to be honest I use a much less expensive Sigma 50mm macro now just because of the greater versatility it offers. You might want to ask yourself what else you’ll be using the lens for (besides food). As a portrait lens the 50mm 1.2 is controversial. It distorts a fair amount in close-ups, but for full or half – length it’s great. Do you use your other 50 now? Great shots on your blog, by the way.
Thank you, Jody & Ken! You two are such a wonderful tandem. I’ll be regularly visiting your blog for more food and photography lessons to learn “for free ;)”.
Kiponshooting and more power to both of you!!!
Thank you, Nino. I’ll stop by your freighter to see what you’re cooking up. Ken
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Love your vibrant photos! Well done :)
Thank you – we try to make everything look as good as it tastes. Ken
You’re killing my diet, Ken. Tasty work!