Since this blog is focused on photography, I thought I’d end the year with a look back at some of my favorite images along with some insider notes on how I created the image.

Most times, though, I do just point my Canon Rebel digital SLR with a fixed 50-mm lens and snap. But through trial and error, I’ve found what I consider the best conditions to create the shot I want. And it doesn’t hurt that this year I started using Adobe Lightroom as a post-processing software. (I used to use Photoshop.) Lightroom has helped a lot in lightening shots with shadows.

So here are some images from 2014 and why they’re my favorites. See you all in 2015!

I love this picture for the composition of the place setting. I was dining in the patio of Dirty Habit and I typically zoom into the food, but I love the plate and how it matched the entire table setting so I stepped back a little to capture bits of the other items, giving the food perspective. Sometimes it helps to pull back to capture the whole experience.

I love this picture for the composition of the plate setting. I was dining in the patio of Dirty Habit and I typically zoom into the food, but I love the plate and how it matched the entire table setting so I stepped back a little to capture bits of the other items, giving the food some perspective. Sometimes it helps to pull back to show where the food was found, and in this case it was a very elegant and silver-tinted table.

Bartenders really put on a show, so they always make the best models for food photos. This bartender at Mortar & Pestle had a cool eclectic look, which I thought really matched the colorful background of the liquor and bar.

Bartenders really put on a show, so they always make the best models for food photos. This bartender at Mortar & Pestle in San Mateo had a cool eclectic look, which I thought really matched the colorful background of the liquor bottles and bar.

I get a lot of help from the chefs who make incredible food, like the pastry chef who made this amazing strawberry-watermelon cake in Sydney, Australia. I liked the wooden crate boxes used as tables while sitting outside. It created a nice contrast to the elegant piece of cake.

I get a lot of help from the chefs who make incredible food, like the pastry chef who made this amazing strawberry-watermelon cake in Sydney, Australia. I liked the wooden crate boxes used as tables while sitting outside. It created a nice contrast to the elegant piece of cake.

This is the beer station at Lost & Found, a popular beer garden in Oakland. I loved the brown color of the background. This is one of the rare times I used my wide-angle lens.

This is the beer station at Lost & Found, a popular beer garden in Oakland. I loved the brown color of the background. This is one of the rare times I used my wide-angle lens.

Identifying complementary colors help in composing photos. This pretty tomato salad at the St. Francis Winery looked so refreshing, especially when I caught a bit of the yellow from the white wine served with the salad.

Identifying complementary colors help in composing photos. This pretty tomato salad at the St. Francis Winery looked so refreshing, especially when I caught a bit of the yellow from the white wine served with the salad.

This shot of a bowl of passion fruit is one of the rare times I used a filter from  Adobe Lightroom. I thought the filter provided a moody feel to accentuate the simple over-the-head shot.

This shot of a bowl of passion fruit is one of the rare times I used a filter from Adobe Lightroom. I thought the filter provided a moody feel to accentuate the simple over-the-head shot.

Getting a heads up helps. When people sauce a dish at the table, it's a popular action shot. But oftentimes it happens before you're ready. This time when I saw the plate come out followed by a pan of sauce, I knew the next step would be saucing at the table. I also took a shot of him saucing the plate next to me instead of the one in front of me because sometimes in front of me is too close.

Getting a heads up helps. When people sauce a dish at the table, it’s a popular action shot. But oftentimes it happens before you’re ready. This time when I saw the plate come out followed by a pan of sauce, I knew the next step would be saucing at the table. I also took a shot of him saucing the plate next to me instead of the one in front of me because sometimes in front of me is too close.

I love photographing liquor. There's something about the color of the alcohol in the right light. This is a Bloody Mary from Bar Agricole, and I liked the big cube of ice. (I also used a filter in Lightroom.)

I love photographing liquor. There’s something about the color of the alcohol in the right light. This is a Bloody Mary from Bar Agricole, and I liked the big cube of ice. (I also used a filter in Lightroom.)

While most of my photos focus on the food, I sometimes like to throw in some people shot. It really gives a slice of life feel, like this shot at The Mill in San Francisco, which has an interesting wall of objects. This was also taken with my wide-angle lens.

While most of my photos focus on the food, I sometimes like to throw in some people shot. It really gives a slice of life feel, like this shot at The Mill in San Francisco, which has an interesting wall of objects. This was also taken with my wide-angle lens.

This is a picture of a pig at the Rockridge street festival. Nothing really spectacular about the photography, simply pointing and shooting. But I had never seen a pig with such a nice grey coat against that pinkish belly. They really are so cute, huh?

This is a picture of a pig at the Rockridge street festival. Nothing really spectacular about the photography, simply pointing and shooting. But I had never seen a pig with such a nice grey coat against that pinkish belly. They really are so cute, huh?

I like taking shots of big tables to give a sense of the dining experience. Here it helped that the backlight from the window created a nice glisten to the glassware. Then I cropped into close to focus on the activity and not the people.

I like taking shots of big tables to give a sense of the dining experience. Here it helped that the backlight from the window created a nice glisten to the glassware. Then I cropped into close to focus on the activity and not the people.

Here's another example of the use of backlighting and of photographing alcohol. At the beer garden Hog's Apothecary in Oakland, I noticed this pretty beer with a reddish hue with the backlight. I liked how everything else looked dark and black and the beer is the pop of color.

Here’s another example of the use of backlighting and of photographing alcohol. At the beer garden Hog’s Apothecary in Oakland, I noticed this pretty beer with a reddish hue with the backlight. I liked how everything else looked dark and black and the beer is the pop of color.

Sitting at a table next to light  instead of direct light can create a nice soft light for the right dish, like this roe and sea urchin deviled egg dish at Urchin Bistrot in the Mission.

Sitting at a table next to light instead of direct light can create a nice soft lighting for the right dish, like this roe and sea urchin deviled egg dish at Urchin Bistrot in the Mission.

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5 Responses to The Year in Pictures: Food Photos + Tips

  1. Your photos are awesome! I really need Lightroom – maybe a goal for 2015 is to buckle down and get it! Also happy to see the Mill on your favorite shots – I live just a few blocks away!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks Shikha! And you should definitely get Lightroom since right now it’s one of the few Adobe products that’s not on that stupid subscription formula. PhotoShop you now have to pay a monthly fee to keep the software working while Lightroom you can still buy one version at a time.

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    Gorgeous pics. But I admit I am partial to the strawberry-watermelon cake. Not only does it look beautiful, but I so want to eat it! Now, that’s the best compliment ever for a photo, right? 😉

  3. Row says:

    Gorgeous photos as always, Ben! Love the explanation behind each one… feels like a bunch of mini stories. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! 🙂