Kitchenography: The Art of Kitchen Photography

Picking up from last time (Deck Check) where we learned about how you don’t have to travel too far afield to encounter worthy subject matter, it now occurs to me you don’t even have to leave your home!

Take your kitchen (or mine) for example: here we can find fruits and vegetables, glassware, cutlery, pots and pans, things in bottles, etc., all kinds of good stuff. If you really get into this, you could take your (handheld) camera to the farmer’s market or grocery store and take external shots (as I did with several of these). Certain fruits and vegetables seem to lend themselves to this sort of thing. You can’t go wrong with red cabbage or the lettuce equivalent: radicchio, for example — good color contrast and patterns galore.

Red Cabbage
red cabbage

Radicchio
radicchio

Savoy Cabbage Leaf
savoy cabbage leaf

Kitchen Photography

Consider this as a challenge or assignment: open your refrigerator and see how many items could work as subject matter (do enough of this and you’ll never look at certain fruits and / or vegetables the same way!). Additionally, some vegetables, if they’ve been around for awhile (or not stored properly), can develop roots or new sprouts. Pattern possibilities abound.

Sprouting Onion
Sprouting Onion

Garlic Rootlets
Garlic Rootlets

Potato Growth

A number of my subjects were first sliced thin enough (sharp serrated knife recommended) so that back-lighting would illuminate them, placed in a small (pyrex) glass bowl (try to get one that doesn’t have printing on the bottom), and then lit by positioning a small LED flashlight underneath in a cup or small glass; quite a balancing act while operating the camera with my other hand. On at least one occasion, I held it from the side to provide relief lighting (“Blue Sponge”).

Larger pieces were placed on a 8 x 10″ sheet of glass which in turn were positioned over an up-turned adjustable lamp. The beginning-to-rust interior of this lampshade providing a simpatico out-of-focus background for the “Red Bell Pepper.” As you can see, I made good use of my black velveteen cloth (simplify, simplify!). Don’t be afraid to move in close, sometimes you’ll discover amazing details you’ve never seen before. Take some time to examine your subject closely, as if encountering it for the very first time. Experiment with how you slice your subject, it doesn’t always have to be perpendicular to the growth axis.

Lime Slice
Lime Slice

Red Bell Pepper
Red Bell Pepper

Green Pepper Slice
green pepper slice

Red Onion
red onion

Kiwi Fruit
kiwi fruit

Pomegranate
Pomegranate

Celery
Celery

Strawberry
strawberry

Okra
Okra

Honeydew Melon Balls
Honeydew Melon Balls

Green Pepper Tree
Green Pepper Tree

Blue Sponge
blue sponge

Bananas
bananas

Green Pepper
Green Pepper

Tomatoes
tomatoes

Watermelon
watermelon

Red Grape
red grape

Horned Melon
horned melon

In the case of cutlery or glassware, it’s not difficult to discover photogenic patterns or compositions; if working outdoors, be aware of the difference (in terms of reflections) between shooting on a sunny day vs. overcast. With pots and pans, crop your subject in such a way as to create a strong abstraction. When photographing something in motion (like water), you don’t really know how your camera will render it until you give it a try.

Forks and Spoons
Forks & Spoons

Forks and Spoons
Forks & Spoons

Napkin Rings
Napkin Rings

Cordial Glasses
Cordial Glasses

Ceramic Mugs
Ceramic Mugs

2 Pots
2 Pots

Water
Water

Boiling Water
Boiling Water

Detergent Bubbles
Detergent Bubbles

Oil and Vinegar Salad Dressing
oil vinegar salad dressing

Be open to the picture possibilities of discovered objects: “Kettle Reflections,” “Copper Bowl,” “Toothpicks,” and “Uncooked Spaghetti” are examples of this.

Kettle Reflections
Kettle Reflections

Toothpicks
Toothpicks

Uncooked Spaghetti
Uncooked Spaghetti

Of course prepared foods can be a whole different game, so I’ve only provided a couple of examples, concentrating rather on the components and ingredients that make up various dishes.

Meringue Dunes
Meringue Dunes

Lobster Mornay
Lobster Mornay

Beef Jerky
Beef Jerky

Copper Bowl Kitchenographer
Copper Bowl Kitchenographer

While “Kitchenography” can provide a great workout for your macro lens, you really don’t need a special camera setup to get decent results; with the exception of “Green Pepper Slice,” all of these were done with a point and shoot (albeit a damn good one: Canon PowerShot G-12). Your results should improve if you think of it as a “Compose & Shoot.” In most cases, no tripod was used.

Today’s Takeaway:

1) If you can see it, you can photograph it.
2) It ain’t the camera, it’s the eyeball / brain (imagination) behind it.

Take Care and Stay Aware (starting in your kitchen!), Warren