A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.



How I do it

Posted date:  February 25, 2007
8 Comments


10-01-2004_BKK_Thailand26 copy.jpg

I often receive emails asking about what kind of photo equipment I use or how I edit my photos. I’m flattered by this, as although I do earn my bread by taking photos, I’ve only been shooting professionally for a couple years now. Go back to the early days of this blog, and you’ll see some pretty horrible pics and even worse editing. Regardless, I’m learning and improving all the time, and for those of you who care, the following outlines what I shoot with, and how I edit my pictures.

I shoot with a Nikon D200. I really, really like this camera; it feels strong and durable like my F100 (a Nikon film camera), and the controls are easy to use and intuitive. The only downside is that, at least in my experience, the images require some basic post-processing, as you will see below.

In terms of lenses, the vast majority of the shots on this page are taken with my Nikon 35mm f/2. When put on the D200, the 1.5 factor makes it very close to a 50mm “normal” lens, i.e., similar to what the human eye sees. It’s a light, compact lens that because of the fast aperture, is great in low-light situations. Sometimes I’ll also use my Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Macro, probably the best lens I own, although obviously it requires a bit more light (and distance). After having used a few off-brands, I’ve decided I’m only going to use Nikon lenses from now on. And of course I always use Nikon UV filters to protect the glass.

I always shoot in RAW (with accompanying jpegs), because I don’t like to worry too much about getting the exposure just right, and with RAW you can “push” or “pull” the image up to a stop or more with no real repercussions. I import my images using Nikon Transfer and use Nikon View 6 to weed through the jpegs and organize my images. I use Photoshop CS2’s RAW converter (not the useless Nikon one) to adjust white balance (another advantage of shooting in RAW), exposure and boost the saturation. I also use this screen to adjust the colour space, using sRGB if the image is going on the web. In Photoshop I improve the contrast using Levels, resize and sharpen. Sometimes I’ll crop, but rarely, if ever, do I do more than this.

As an example, here’s a shot as it looks directly from my D200, with no editing or changes whatsoever:

uneditedbike.jpg

And here’s the same image after adjusting white balance, giving it an exposure increase of 1/2 a stop, a saturation boost of 15, and some adjusting of Levels and a Sharpen:

editedbike.jpg

That’s it, and really, that’s about the extent of my Photoshop knowledge. I have no idea how to cut ugly people out of an image or change the color of a bowl from red to green (or whatever), so everything you see here is real.

One invaluable tool in doing this blog has been Flickr. In the beginning I posted my pics directly with Blogger, with horrible results. At Flickr, I can fully control the quality of my images and they appear on my blog exactly as I’ve edited them.

I’m self-taught, and my greatest resource has been, not surprisingly, the Internet. My latest and greatest find is Strobist, a blog that teaches great off-camera lighting techniques using very simple gear. I recently bought a light stand and an umbrella, and am having lots of fun using my simple SB-800 to make studio-quality shots. Ken Rockwell is a great site to learn about gear and/or technique, and for pure photographic inspiration, go to the Magnum Photos site, or browse David Alan Harvey’s blog.

But really, all this technical stuff is pretty boring; if you want to improve, get out and shoot!


8 Comments for How I do it


Thanks for taking the time to give us some background information on how you illustrate your blogs. Your work continues to inspire many of us amateur photographers.

I agree with Richard. I love your stuff.

I put this post in my blog’s asides. I hope you don’t mind.

Thanks for sharing.

I don’t remember how I stumbled across your blog, but it was definately the photos that caught my eye and one of the many reasons why I keep coming back.

You definately make the dishes look very appetizing with your bright, vibrant images.

Being a techie, I appreciate the insight to your photo editing methods.

Keep up the great work!

I’ve never really gotten into the digital picture thing, so it’s pretty amazing to see what you can do in photoshop! I guess I should get with the latest technology…

By the way, thanks for the reminder a while back about Soi Polo. On my layover in Bangkok last week I went there with a colleague and ordered entirely too much food, but enjoyed every single bite!

I like food and photography as well. I try to combine the two as much as possible, but the photos are a bit hit and miss. Your photos are very good, much better than my fairly bland shots. I agree with you that Photoshop is a great tool. You can do so much with it, but it is very complicated to learn how to use fully.

Austin,

I am planning to buy a new camera…my Canon SD450 can only take me this far. I do not really want to get into the complicated digital SLR so my buddy told me to get Fuji FinePix (those that look like DSLR, but without the need to change lenses). Do you recommend it for food and travel photography?

Your pics are fab! Thanks for the photo tips 🙂

Hey RealThai- I’m glad I’m not the only one who only knows a few Photoshop functions! I’m learning bit by bit, but really all the settings on my Rebel XT are so complicated. I’d rather tinker with the brightness/contrast, hue and color settings in photoshop.



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