How to Edit Food Photos

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Computers are one of the things I am most passionate about.  My love for them started many years ago when I started programming and messing around with them more, leading to me deciding I wanted to be a Computer Scientist when I grew up.  Fast forward to now and I basically live on my computer.  Between doing remote programming work as a contractor to running my entire food blog, I do everything on my computer.  Not everything is work related though, I also a lot of video games on my computer too when I’m not scrolling though the internet looking at cute pictures of corgis running through snow as tall as they are or cats playing.  Yup, I’m that person who likes the cute cat videos online.

This year, I finally came to a tough conclusion, that my computer just wasn’t up to snuff anymore.  I really loved it and had been using it for many years but it really was just slow and a brick size-wise, incredibly thick and very heavy.  Although it might be hard to part, it was time to move on to a brand new computer.  When I heard about how there was a 40% performance jump between the 7th and 8th gen Intel processors, I knew this was the right time.  I decided to go all out and get a 2-in-1 with Intel’s new 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor! With my life being so fast paced, I wanted a processor that could keep up with me.

To get my new computer, I popped over to my local Best Buy to see my options and was immediately finding myself leaning towards one of the Lenovo Yoga computers.  After much debate, I finally decided on the Lenovo Yoga 720, it had a 256 gb solid state drive so I can fit loads of photos on it, 8 gb of RAM, a HD screen that is just gorgeous and touch screen, along with the 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 processor that is powerful enough to run my photo editor, video editor, and of course, browse the internet.  I was amazed how light-weight it was and the size was just perfect!

I was so excited to get the computer home and start playing with.  Immediately, all of my favorite video games were installed and ran so smooth compared to my old computer! I was even able to download some other games I couldn’t before with my new, powerful processor.  Next up was to try streaming the show I was watching, the West Wing.  I didn’t even have to plug in my computer for 10 hours while I was watching the show, the battery lasted so long before I had to recharge. 

I think my favorite part of this computer is how fast and responsive it is, which is crucial when I am editing photos for my site.  Editing your food photos really makes all of the difference when it comes to being a food blogger.  The only photo editor I trust and use regularly is Darktable.  It is a free and open source program that was built to give you complete and total control when editing RAW photos but works for other formats too like JPG.  To use Darktable to edit a photo, all you have to do is a few quick and easy edits then you can copy and paste those edits onto your other photos.  Easy, right?

1.  Open up the photo (or photos) in Darktable.  This will pop you into the Lighttable mode which you use to export pictures and copy changes you made to a photo onto other photos.

2.  Click on the photo and it will take you into the Darkroom mode.  This is where you make your edits on the picture.

3.  See how this photo is pretty dark? Click on exposure over on the right.  This will bring up a little menu below it.  Either you can pull the slider on exposure to the right or you can right click on the slider and this curve will come up that gives you even more control on the exposed the photo gets.  So how do I know how far to pull the slider? Check out that mostly white graph in the top right corner of the screen.  You want the right edge of the graph to be right by the edge of screen.  Since this photo is under-exposed, I keep moving the slider right until it its the edge, as you can see below.  If you have a photo that is over exposed, where the white is too bright, you will need to move the slider to the left instead, still aiming to get the graph to line up with the right edge of the screen.

4.  Now that we fixed the exposure, it’s time to move on to the brightness.  This brightens the overall photo, don’t go to overboard with this as can make the photo loose some of it’s depth.  I move the slider just a bit to right to make it pop, to 16, higher than I would normally go, but it makes the picture stand out a lot more!

5.  Next up is saturation, this makes the color pop.  Again, be careful because if you go to far with this, your food will look fake and strange.  Since this is a mostly white food, I want the gingerbread visable where I took a bite to stand out.  I move the saturation slider to the right just a bit until I am happy with it before moving on.

6.  Next up is contrast! This helps create well, contrast between the colors which is especially important in this very white cookie on a very white plate.  I move that slider to the right just a tad.

7.  Last up, is shadows.  This part is totally optional, I usually don’t even mess with it but with this very white photo, I want to create a bit more drama and contrast between the cookie and plate specifically.  This time, I am moving this shadows slider to the left a little bit from 50 to 47.  This step is optional but suggested if you are shooting a very monotone recipe or just want to do a more dramatic edit.

Before and after! Big difference, right? I’d say the edited photo looks a lot more appetizing and inviting.  Go back the Lighttable view and highlight the picture you want to export once you’ve finished up editing and click “export”.

Here I copy and pasted the edits I had made onto a different picture of the same cookies.  To do that, all you have to do is go back to the Lighttable view, click “Select”, click “Copy”, highlight the photo (or photos) you want to paste the changes on to, and then click “Paste”.  Ta da! Go back the Lighttable view and highlight the picture you want to export once you’ve finished up editing and click “export”.  This will create a darktable folder in the folder the pictures were in your file browser.

8.  The last change I want to make is to crop the photo down.  It is very zoomed out and shows the edge of my backdrop board and my coffee table (yes, I shoot all of my pictures on my coffee table in the living room).  I go into the darktable folder with the newly edited photos and click on the photo I want to crop.  This opens up the default photo viewer/editor on Windows.  Click “Edit” and then “Crop”, moving it around until the desired photo is the right size.  Make sure to save the newly cropped photo!

Before and after! Big difference I would say! Darktable is so easy to use once you get the hang of it and feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions! The best part of editing these photos was definitely how well my new computer ran the program, there was no studdering and it was so quick! I just love my new Lenovo Yoga 720 with the Intel’s new 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processor!

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