Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beginner Photography Tips and My FAVORITE Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've had a few people ask about what kind of camera/lenses I use and my set-up. I decided now would be a good time to share my equipment and techniques. I will also share my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies! Hooray!

Disclaimer: I don't know anything about photography.

Here is the camera I use:
It's a Canon A85 Powershot. I received it as a Christmas gift when I was a freshman in college. I don't think they make this model anymore... So, no lenses involved.

Here's my "studio":
See all the sunshine? It's bright!

And, I know nothing about photography, but here's what I do:

1. Use natural light (no flash!).
2. Use minimalistic plates/backgrounds (I have two colors of plates and two colors of tag board: white and blue).
2. Use the macro setting.
3. Keep the camera still (easy if you have a tripod).
4. Adjust the photo. I use Picasa, which is very easy to use and free. I use it to crop, adjust the light and color balance, sharpen, and sometime slightly blur the background.

I usually shoot on the Aperture setting, but with this camera, the f-stop value doesn't seem to make a huge difference.

Here's a before picture that I took later in the day when it was a bit dark:

...And after a few Picasa adjustments:
This picture also features today's recipe! They are a bit flat in the above photo due to the extreme heat of my apartment, but they are simply the best in my book. They can range from gooey on the inside and chewy around the edges to chewy in the middle with crisp edges depending on how long you cook them.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
aka my Grandma Mildred's Chocolate Chip Cowboy Cookies

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (or a second stick butter)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 generous teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups chocolate chips (I really love Guittard milk chocolate chips, as they are delicious but not outrageously expensive)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together and set aside. Beat butter, shortening, and sugars until very fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well incorporated. Add half dry ingredients, mix until incorporated, then repeat. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips.

Drop cookies onto cookie sheet using two spoons or a scoop and bake 9-12 minutes, depending on how done you like them. I prefer to take the cookies out around the 9 minute mark (they will look underdone) and let them finish cooking on the cookie sheet out of the oven.


Anja said...

Your explanations are really good, from a beginner for beginner. For adjust my fotos (not only food fotography) I use the program photoscape. Its free and a really extensive programm. I was dropping in from foodgawker...

Cookie said...

Thanks for the beginner's pointers! I've always been told to use natural lighting as well. The flash just makes everything look too unnaturally bright. These cookies look yummy!

Miranda said...

i hear someone's got a new camera...:D

Q. said...

I have the exact same camera and manage to get some pretty good shots out of it, too. I've even had people offer to buy mine - which is utterly INSANE b/c I have no idea what I'm doing! I just spend a lot of time on Tastespotting trying to soak it all in:)
Will have to check out Picasa...I've been using iPhoto.

Jane said...

I have a very similar Canon camera and, absolute beginner that I am as well, I do pretty much all the same things you mentioned. I've not had much luck trying to decipher the info, in the handbook that came with the camera, on adjusting detailed settings manually. When I see exquisite food photos in some of the most highly regarded blogs, I am so envious! (Blogs, for eg., like "Tartelette," and "Canelle et Vanille," etc.--outstanding photos in those.) I like your blog very much and am glad I happened upon it today!


(wife.) said...

SO inspiring that you create such incredible shots with a non-DSLR and Picasa! I'm so excited! :-D

P.S. You asked a while ago where I play and I never responded because I'm lame. I play in a group called International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE - but different from the MN one!) and the Syracuse Symphony. :)

kar said...

Anja: Thanks! I'll have to check out Photoscape.

Cookie: You're welcome-- basic, but I hope it's helpful. Let me know if you try the cookies-- they are truly yummy!

Miranda: How did you know?

Q: That's so cool! I've never used iPhoto, because I have a PC, but I'd be interested to try it.

Jane: Thanks so much for the kind words and stopping by! I, too, love admiring fine food photographs.

(wife.): I'm inspiring? Wow! What a great compliment.

Robert said...

I like the picture of the space needle.

sheena said...

i just baked these cookies, and i knew right when i tasted the dough it was going to be amazing. thank you soo much, they were perfect! love em!