Bento photography – Part One

Like a lot of other bloggers, I do occasionally get asked how I take good food photos. In fact, more than being asked about what a bento box is and why I bother bentoing at all, more people ask me what kind of camera I use and how I take such great shots. I’m very flattered that my photography is good enough to prompt this question – and the answer is sort of good and bad at the same time. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t need any special skill (that’s the good part), but you do need a good camera (that’s the bad part). I know there are some amazing photos taken on Flickr with even very basic point and shoot cameras, but to do a really amazing job, you need a digital SLR camera. Basically, an SLR allows you to see through the viewfinder exactly what you will be taking the photo of, so there are no surprises. It sounds simple enough, but usually digital SLRs are packed with a load of other features you’re going to find useful in taking good food pictures.

The camera I use is a Nikon D50, which is now discontinued. It’s actually my dad’s camera, so I’m currently in the process of whining at various people to try and get myself one so I don’t have to keep borrowing his (sorry dad!). The D50 has now been replaced with the D40 and D60, the former of which is cheaper and doesn’t have as many features and the latter of which is more expensive – so I have been told. But other food bloggers have their own favourite cameras, so it’s really down to finding one you can afford, explaining to whoever you’re buying it from what you want it for, and doing research.

If you can’t find yourself a fancy-schmanzy camera, but you do already have a digital camera, you can do a search on Flickr (I really recommend this website for photo sharing, it’s a total blast! You can find me here.) to find out what kinds of photos are being taken with a camera like yours.

 Locate your camera

As you can see, you can the camera type by clicking to the right hand side of the screen. Flickr registers your camera automatically, so you don’t have to add this information by hand. If you click on it, you’re taken to another screen which shows you more about the camera, its popularity, and it will show you some fantastic recent photos taken using that camera.

 Find out what other images are being taken

Even if you don’t have a fancy camera, you’ll still find some amazing work being uploaded that should give you hope – yes, it is possible to take good photos with anything! It’s just easier to take good photos with no skill when the camera is super-expensive… or so it seems to me. Anyway, I recommend that if you see a superuberawesome photo you want to replicate – get in touch with the person who took the photo and see if they can give you any help. You never know!

Another good tip is to use a variety of backgrounds to compliment your bento boxes. You can get cool backgrounds from so many different sources. I’ve used pillowcases, tea towels, bedsheets, bento bags, furoshki, placemats, fabric scraps and scrapbooking paper before. Bamboo sushi roll mats are good, and so are wooden tables (or floors!).

 Saffy and bento

Don’t shy away from bold, bright colours and patterns. As most bentos are naturally colourful, contrasting colours can work a treat. As you can see from the image above, I gather a variety of different backgrounds together when I’m taking photos, to see which one looks best.

 Kitty Bento

As you can see, different backgrounds can change the look of the image, so it’s definitely worth investing in some to bring your images to life. White board is of course the classic, but I’ve used the back side of plastic mats before to replicate this without having to go all the way out to a stationery or hobby shop to get big pieces of card.

Soon, I’ll write another bento photography post about lighting and Photoshop!

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