Time to Reflect: The Story Behind the Photo

By Terry Barnes

"Time to Reflect' sunset photograph of the National Memorial on the Murrah Federal Building site in Oklahoma City by Terry Barnes.

Time to Reflect by Terry Barnes (1/320, f/10, ISO 100)

This spring I learned the PhotoPills app can calculate the dates and times when the sun will be exactly centered down the east-west streets in New York City. I wondered if it could be done in Oklahoma City, specifically at the National Memorial.

The Memorial is located at the site of the former Murrah Federal Building. There is a block-long reflecting pool with “portals” on each end about 10-feet wide by 25- to 30-feet tall. I wanted to center myself on the east end of the pool and have the setting sun centered through the west portal with a reflection on the water.

PhotoPills gave me two possible evenings in September, so I entered the dates into my calendar and waited four months. On September 16, the clouds obstructed the sun, so I
only got a few planning shots.

I returned the next evening to a perfect sky. I set my camera to take a shot every 15 seconds, starting about 10 minutes prior to the “PhotoPills time” and continuing until the sun had crossed the portal. This picture was time stamped within a minute of the time the PhotoPills app had provided. What a smart app!

Fast Food Photo Tips

Food photo by Brooke Lark on unsplash.com

Food photo by Brooke Lark on unsplash.com

Here’s some sage advice for this month’s photo competition entrants, who in true Procrastinator’s Delight style may be waiting until the last minute to shoot the subject — food.

Composition is king in food photography. Give careful consideration to the angle of the shot, the direction of the light, and the placement of the props. Keep reading for a little more on each.

Pick a Side

Several factors determine the best angle to shoot from. If your subject has a lot of horizontal layers, like a cupcake, you’ll  want to showcase that by shooting from the side. A straight down perspective can emphasize the shapes of plates and cutlery, and also eliminate a distracting background. Shooting more diagonally can give you the best of both worlds.

Consider the Light

Usually, the most dramatic food shots appear to have one light source, often on the side of or slightly behind the subject. There may be other lights involved to reduce or soften unwanted shadows, but this can often be handled by deflecting, diffusing, or blocking the light. Some photographers love the feel of natural light, but others like the control of artificial sources.

Raspberry cake photo by Anna Tuthfatullina on unsplash.com

Raspberry cake photo by Anna Tuthfatullina on unsplash.com

Choose Props Wisely

A successful shot has several ingredients, including added props. These can help draw the eye to the main subject, but can also distract if not done well. Select items that complement the colors of the food, including the background or table. When shooting from the side, try putting props in the foreground and background to help tell a story, but use depth of field to soften the focus while keeping the main subject sharp.

Shake It Up

Much of these guidelines pertain to traditional food photos. Your best results may come from tweaking the recipe.