Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prawns & camera questions

Before I talk about this weeks challenge, I have a question for all of you food bloggers out there.  I am ready for a new camera (see photo above for why!), I really want to up the quality of my photos and the current camera just does not do the job.  I realize I need to spend more time on food styling too but lets face it with screaming kids at my heels half the time I'm lucky I get any photos at all.  So the first question is should I go digital slr or stick with a plain old compact digital.  As well as taking photos of food (yes I do have a life outside of cooking!), I love taking photos of people, my garden & holiday snaps too.  I believe an SLR gives a better photo though it's been 20 years since I have picked one up so dont know how much time I could devote to learning how to use one all over again, might just use the auto setting forever.  Also after a couple of questions it seems that SLR's do not have a macro function & I would need to buy another lens, starting at $500.00 thats more than I want to put out on top of the cost of a new camera.  What does everyone out there use, would love some advice on this one before I take the plunge & buy my next camera, thanks?

Back onto food, this weeks challenge was seafood, I had a hankering for prawns and wanted to find a nice comforting wintery way to cook them, George Calombaris' recipe in Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart seemed to be just what I was after.  The sauce the prawns were cooked in was delicious though I didnt get my pan close enough to the grill for the feta to brown up, I dont think this made much of an difference apart from in appearance.  Loved the sauce & the prawns were nice too yet I didnt really love the dish & didnt think the prawns went that well with the sauce even though the 2 elements on their own were great.  All in all an okay meal but one I wouldnt bother making again, a bit of a disappointment really considering all of the options I could have gone with for such a wonderful theme.

Prawn Saganaki (Baked prawns, tomato and feta) - George Calombaris - Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart.

600g whole green prawns
4 brown onions sliced
250g extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
1/2 bunch shredded parsley
100g feta, crumbled

In a heavy based saucepan, saute prawns in olive oil for 3 minutes.  Add onions and continue to cook for further 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme, cook for 2 minutes, then add crushed tomatoes and 1 cup water and simmer for 5 minutes.  Season to taste.  Stir in shredded parsley, spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with feta.  Grill until golden and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to serve.


Agnes said...

DSLRs are great - but you need to weigh up the weight and size and need for various lenses versus the convenience of a point and shoot.

I have both. I use the DSLR for all the food photos taken at home or when I'm on holidays, and I use my point and shoot for restaurant photos.

You could compromise on a camera that's between a DSLR and a point & shoot - a prosumer digital camera. Good luck deciding! :)

Another Outspoken Female said...

The best advice to come out of the photography panel at the food bloggers conference in Melbourne "read your camera manual". It's so true. If your current digital has a manual setting, learn how to use it before upgrading to a new camera. It's taken me oh...6 or 7 years of having a digital before I began playing with that function and it makes a huge difference.

Lucy (nourish me) takes fab photos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nourish-me/ Sure she has some fancy cameras now but all her early blogspot work was done with a compact digital. So much is about the eye and the light rather than the machine.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ange, much as I'd like to provide some advice re a/your camera and food photography, it is made a bit difficult as you don't tell us which camera you currently use. Often using a digital compact means learning how to use the macro function more effectively, or even just the Auto mode, and being adventurous in trying out ways of seeing and photographing! So, if you reply to this comment, it will get to me via email, and I can come back with a follow-up response.

Anonymous said...

'Though, having looked at some of your early post pix, there's really nothing wrong with the way you photograph. Often, some foods just aren't photographable, no matter how hard we try (esp this post's subject!), and I understand your frustration at wanting to produce something interesting. I love the colour offsets in your Soup and Spanish Potato Week post which really hits your eye, if you know what I mean...get back to me via FriendConnect, and let's talk a little more about it. Cheers!

Gemma said...

I think before you go out and buy a digital slr you should try using a lightbox. There are quite a few tutorials online, for cheap and easy there is this one: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html

Or if you wish for something a little more long term there is this one: http://www.studiolighting.net/homemade-light-box-for-product-photography/

I bought 2 clip lamps from Bunnings and use 60w lights. All up I spent $20 making the first lightbox and $70 on the second lightbox (foarm board is not cheap, unfortunately)

I don't own a compact digital, so I'm unsure how much it would help but I guess it's better to see before you spend a few hundred on a new SLR.

If you do get an Digital SLR you don't have to use the auto setting forever. There's quite a few tricks which are incredibly simple to use and really make pictures pop. It will take far too long to type it out here, but if you're ever interested I'm more than happy to send you an email with more details.

Also, I'm unsure if you're referring to SLR's or Digital SLR's not having a macro (it's been a long time since I've played with an SLR). Digital SLR's do have macro options, but you'll find the zoom of your lens impacts the quality. You can find cheap macro lenses on ebay, they're not the best quality but if you don't rely on a macro lens too much they're better than paying for the real thing.

Ange said...

Thanks for all of the camera advice, I still haven't decided on which way to go, maybe i Need one of each. I really want a digital slr for my people pics as I believe you get a better photo, however I am not convinced this will do for food without spending a lot on fancy lenses. My current camera is ancient and a bit banged up so I definitely want a replacement, will just have to ponder and make a decision one of these days

Nicole said...

The Olympus PEN series is a good compromise. Not as massive as a DSLR, but still lets you change lenses.

Getting the lighting right, using a tripod and remote shutter release will give you great results even without a super fancy lens.

Sadly food photographs best when it's cold, which is why I never get great shots. Food just doesn't last long enough to get cold at my place.

Still, you've got me motivated to get my DSLR out and put the compact away now :)