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Adventures in Food Photography

One of my first big projects was for a tapas restaurant. They asked me to photograph their newest menu items. Looking back on this early project, I’m not happy with the work I produced. Generally I close a project and I’m done with it. However, knowing that I’ve come a long way I’ve gone back and have redone many of those original images.

scallops and squash in a torilla bowl.

Photo produced for Ceviche restaurant in St. Petersburg, FL. Copyright 2012 Steven Winkler

Looking back I was headstrong and let my confidence get ahead of my skill and talent. Though I suppose the work I had produced wasn’t bad, it certainly wasn’t great. Fortunately, I made some smart moves in the way I captured information so now I have the opportunity to go back and redo my work.

I always shoot in camera RAW and archive all of my files. To the best of my knowledge most DSLR cameras allow one to save in RAW, .jpg or a combination of the two formats. Saving in RAW offers huge advantages over .jpg. RAW is essentially the pure data that comes off of your camera sensor. Little to no in-camera processing is added to the file. The only disadvantage to RAW is the enormous size of the files. At first I scoffed at people’s complaints about file size, but my D800 kicks out images so big that I’m eating up hard drives like they’re going out of style. Also, processing times are longer, so if I’m processing hundreds of photos, I’m putting lots of extra hours in.

Despite the extra investments in time and space, RAW is the only way to go.

Though much of my editing work is still very manual, I do now rely on a number of Photoshop actions (.atn) to ease processing. Many are freely available, others can be purchased and of course you can make your own. I’ve used some of my modern techniques for editing on my old work and I’m amazed that clients didn’t ask for their money back. Perhaps I’m being hard on myself, but I really believe that it makes sense for any photographer to go back and review their older work.

Looking back, perhaps I was a good photographer from a technical standpoint, but I lacked the creativity and insight that takes time, practice and an interest in the work of others to learn. As time allows I plan on reediting old images and presenting them again to former clients.

Any feedback? Comments? Questions?

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