I remember how badly I wanted to shoot a good pancake pour shot when I started food photography, and how intimidated I was by it. I was even more nervous when I stepped into my first restaurant shoot and had to shoot 4 drink pours. As I went, I realized that movement shots weren’t something to be afraid of, and given a few good camera settings they could actually be quite fun and easy!
Movement images are a great way to beef up your portfolio. They are more dynamic and interesting to look at, and they’ll make you a more attractive photographer to potential clients. Here are a few tips to think through the next time you attempt a movement shot that will help your image go from amateur to pro.
Properly expose your image.
If you’re working with natural light for your food images, you’ll likely have to bump up to a pretty high ISO in order to get a fast enough shutter speed for your image. With ISO comes grain, which can be especially tricky to remove from an image, detracting from your beautiful pour. A key thing I’ve noticed over the past couple years is that if an image is properly exposed in the first place, grain in much easier to remove using your noise sliders in Lightroom. If an image in underexposed, bumping up the exposure in editing tends to magnify the grain, making it even more difficult to remove. Even if you have to work with a high ISO, try to get the right exposure from your images and you’ll end up with a much better final shot, even with natural light.
Play with timers/remotes to find the method that works for you.
There are a lot of ways of setting a timer or using a remote to capture a pour shot with your hands in the frame. I use a tripod and a mixture of the Canon connect app and the 10-shot continuous setting on my camera. I have friends who also like to tether for their movement shots, which is another great method, though it may be limiting depending on the tethering software that you’re using.
Play with your shutter speed to blur or freeze your movement.
Sometimes you’ll want to blur your motion, and other times you’ll want to freeze it in time to tell the story you’re after with your image. There is no one-size-fits-all shutter speed since both of these approaches can lead to beautiful food images. In general, a slower shutter will lead to blurrier movement, whereas a faster shutter will allow you to catch a crystal-clear movement shot, such as a sugar dusting. Play around with both to find the approach that works best for your image.
Consider artificial lighting
Artificial lighting is wonderful for getting perfect movement shots because it doesn’t require you to have a super high ISO or shutter, because the flash is actually what is freezing the motion. In other words, you can shoot at your camera’s sync speed with the lowest ISO and capture a crystal clear movement shot (see the sugar dusting below.) If you work in unpredictable lighting conditions, flash is a no-brainer way to up the quality of your work.
Use manual focus.
I shoot with a mix of manual and auto focus when I work since my Canon has a wonderful touch screen feature, but I always use manual focus when shooting movement. This allows you to choose your point of focus and lock into it, so you know you focus won’t jump once you start shooting. Take a few minutes to think about where you want your pour/dusting to land and where the best point of focus will be.
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