Tips and Tricks

Taking Snapshots of Street Scenes with a Standard Prime Lens

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Photos/Text: Yuki Mizota

Making Desserts Look Good with a 35 mm Prime Lens

I visited a café in the district along the Setagaya Line where they serve exquisite desserts made with seasonal fruits. When the dessert was brought out and placed before me I was struck by the beauty of the sliced fruit, so I rotated the plate so that the slices would reflect the light, selected my angle, and took a photograph, choosing a low f/-number to blur the background and draw attention to objects at the focus point. Careful focus and a simple, open composition emphasize the succulent, juicy feel of the fruit so that the viewer can appreciate how delicious it is (Sample Photo 1).

1. Composition: A simple composition; focus position and bokeh

The visual appeal of food is subjective and varies from person to person, and the effect can be altered by varying exposure compensation. Try choosing positive values for a brightness that makes the food look delicious to you (Sample Photos 2 and 3).

2. Exposure: Adjusting exposure compensation to make food look delicious; exposure compensation off
3. Exposure: Adjusting exposure compensation to make food look delicious; exposure compensation +1.3

After photographing the dessert I was in a mood to start eating, but I also wanted to mark the occasion with a photo that communicated the stylish atmosphere of the café. I drew back to get the table in the frame, but something was lacking, so I arranged a cup of coffee and a milk jug around my subject. Placing these objects off to one side rather than directly behind my subject produced a better balance and kept the composition tidy despite the presence of multiple objects. Placing the plate farther away than I would while dining also made it easier to take the photograph (Sample Photo 4).

4. Composition: Styling

Because the background to Sample Photo 4 was mostly brown, I changed to a low angle to get more of the café’s interior space in the frame, using the white walls and bright light to help make the photo feel lighter. The fruit tart was so photogenic that I took the coffee away to simplify the composition. Including distant objects in the background behind the table gives the photo a sense of space and depth. Changing the distance between the subject and the background can make a considerable difference to the feel of a photograph, and choosing a background is an important element of composition (Sample Photos 5, 6, and 7).

5. Composition: Choosing a Background to Suit the Subject 1
6. Composition: Choosing a Background to Suit the Subject 2
7. Composition: Choosing a Background to Suit the Subject 3

On closer examination, I realized that just looking at the tart’s thickness and the shape of the rounded mound of fruit provided a satisfying sense of volume. Choosing a low angle gives viewers a sense not only of the café’s atmosphere but also of the volume and height of the dessert (Sample Photos 5, 6, and 7). On the other hand, shooting directly from above turns the table into a wall and simplifies the composition of the plate. Using bokeh to good effect to lend depth to the mound of fruit adds mystery for an extremely stylish, photogenic shot (Sample Photo 8).

8. Angle: Low angles for volume, a bird’s-eye view to make the subject look photogenic

The key to dessert photos is to work the low angles until you find one that gives viewers a sense of the food’s delicious flavor. Choose your focus point carefully and use low f/-numbers to blur backgrounds and lend depth both to your subject and to the photo as a whole. A 35 mm prime lens like the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35​mm f/1.8G not only blurs backgrounds more effectively than a standard zoom lens, but it also gets you closer to your subject than you might imagine, allowing you to take photos from a sitting position without tying yourself in knots. I recommend that you sometimes try taking photos in your favorite café, although it goes without saying that you should try not to make a nuisance of yourself.

Tips: Taking Snapshots with a Standard Prime Lens

Tips: Taking Snapshots with a Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

Tips: 35 mm/Wide-Angle Zoom Lenses—Flowers and Farmyards

Tips: 35 mm/Wide-Angle Zoom Lenses—Street Scenes

Thanks to: aminchi

Functions Used for Taking Snapshots of Street Scenes with a Standard Prime Lens
View detailed information on the settings and procedures used.

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