How To Photograph Food - Top 10 Food Photography Tips

photography tutorials Jun 02, 2020

Summer is approaching, with its joyful, crisp and fresh dishes. Let's be honest, we all love taking photos of food... Food that we make, food that we order, food that we share. Taking good quality food pictures can be so tricky! 😨😭👿☠️ Food makes an excellent subject for still life photography, and you can achieve some incredibly dramatic results. But excellent food photography means more than just snapping what's on your dinner plate. So follow our 10 food photography tips and get the most out of it! Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy! 🍋


1. Choose the right gear

The best camera for food photography is the one you have with you! The beauty of food photography is that you don't need expensive gear to take incredible food photos. For those who enjoy shooting with a DSLR, know that entry-level DSLRs are quite reasonably priced nowadays and the quality of your shots will be good. 

Don't forget that a smartphone is also a powerful tool when it comes to food photography. Learn how to set up your mobile camera to improve your photos and step up your efficiency. You will then even be able to edit your pictures directly from your mobile phone with your native apps, or a free photo editing app like Lightroom Mobile. Find out more on how to master food photography on a mobile phone with our new Food Photography At Home Masterclass!


2. Find the best light

We'll never say it enough, light is the key to creating beautiful still life photos. Always shoot your food pictures in natural daylight rather than under artificial lighting. Colour is extremely important in food photography as you want the colours of the food, plates and background elements to appear accurate. Natural daylight will help you to keep the colours correct.

The best kind of light for food photography is soft, diffused, natural daylight. In most cases, you should avoid shooting in bright sun as it can cause exposure problems and cast harsh shadows on your subject. The best kind of light for food photography is soft, diffused, natural daylight.

When you're shooting indoors, use the natural light from windows to illuminate your subject. Having a table positioned near a window allows you to easily set up your composition to make use of natural window light.

If you want to try to shoot outdoor, bear in mind that overcast days are perfect for food photography because the clouds act like a giant diffuser, creating a soft light with more subtle shadows.



3. Refrain from using your flash

Direct flash is pretty rare in food photography and is the most unappealing light for food. Pouring in light front-on will flatten your dish and dispel any delicate natural shadows that were present beforehand. It's way too harsh, and it gives tons of specular light spots on anything that has moisture, which makes the food look greasy. You also get strange shadows on your food and on your plate. So follow my advice: turn the flash off on your camera and look for natural light instead.


4. Find the perfect composition

Play with composition. The best is to start with the product you want to focus on, your hero, and work around it. We generally build our compositions by adding the items one by one around our hero, and making sure they all look good together. 

Also, hands always make food photos feel more realistic. If you want to avoid having a food photo look too staged, get some hands in there.

Think about textures and colours of the food, plating, background and linens.


5. Choose the right colours

The great thing about food photography is that it gives you the chance to play around with colours. Colours have a big impact on your composition and they can affect the overall feel of the image. For example, warm earthy tones create a harmonious composition, evoking feelings of comfort and tranquillity. However, using contrasting colours in your composition tends to have the opposite effect as it creates a vibrant, dynamic and exciting image. It all depends on how you want your viewers to feel.

Working with a limited colour palette is one of the simplest ways to make the food really pop. Experiment with colour palettes and consider complementary colours: reds with greens, blues with oranges, and yellows with purples.


6. Don't overuse props

The choice of tablecloth, surface, plate and cutlery all subtly contribute to the mood and success of your shot. The prop selection must contain a variety of sizes, shapes, and variation of colours to add diversity to your shot. Don't be afraid to try different kinds of props. Surround your main dish with ingredients and props that relate to the food. Ingredients, sauces, oils, and cooking utensils could indicate how the dish was made.

Tins, jars, herbs, glasses, fabrics and linens could speak about the origin of the dish or the season in which it is served. Placing a few of these in the foreground and background will definitely elevate your story and give it depth. Antique shops and thrift stores have great food props that tend to be affordable. 



7. Find the best angle

There are three angles mainly used in food photography: diner's angle (also known as the 3/4 angle or the 45° angle), the top-down (overhead, from above, flat lay or 90° angle), and the straight on (head on zen, eye level, 0° angle).

Flat food, like pizza, look better photographed using the top-down angle. When shooting higher food like burgers or tiered cakes, use the straight on angle to reflect the height and volume on the food. The diner's angle brings a certain sense of immediacy to the food and invites the viewer to "dive in." Try moving around the plate and taking photos at various angles so you can pick your favorite later. 


8. Be fast

Many herbs and salad leaves whither at the mere sight of a camera; the longer your dish hangs around, the more it starts to look tired and un-appetizing. Food like meat begins to dry out quickly on set and will benefit from a light brush of oil, but be careful not to overdo it otherwise it'll start to look greasy.


9. Seek inspiration from others

Seek inspiration beyond Instagram. Paintings, cookbooks, photographer portfolios and magazines are great for inspiration. Also, some of the best food photos are on food blogs. Don't forget Pinterest as it is the best image search engine out there. Don't stick to only one style. Experiment, try and make mistakes. That's the best way to learn! Here is a little exercise for you: Pick 10 food photos you totally love and write out what it is that you love about each image. Writing about photography will help you to think about your work and about what you want to achieve. You will progress in completely new ways, get inspired and find your style.


10. Don't forget the post-editing process

Many photographers will tell you that it's best to "get the exposure, colour, and composition right at the time of taking the picture", but trust us most images still require (or at least can be improved with) a little post-processing.


If you want to learn more about food photography, make sure to check out our Food Photography At Home Masterclass!


Sources: Food Photography by Lara Ferroni / Sandy Noto / BBC Good Food / iPhone Photography School 

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