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10 Tips for Food Photography

10 Tips for Food Photography

10 Tips for Food Photography

Great food photography, like any type of photography comes down to great light, composition, editing and of course a beautiful subject. In this blog, we cover the top ten tips for photographing food to ensure you get great results every time. You can use either a phone or a professional level camera, these rules apply to both!

1. Use natural lighting whenever possible

When it comes to food photography, lighting is everything. Knowing how to use the light is what separates the amateurs from the pros. Now, most food photos are taken in restaurants, and they don't often look great because of one big reason: Restaurants generally use fluorescent lighting, which is hard and unflattering. It’s also often tinged with a green or yellow colour cast.

Instead of relying on artificial light, position your food near a window. Natural lighting can offer soft, flattering light. It's important to think of how your lighting is positioned as well. Ensure the sun isn’t too bright; you don’t want it to cast harsh shadows that are unflattering to your dish. If you are sitting near a too-bright window, you can place a small screen between the window and the food, or you can simply move the food until it’s out of the direct sunlight.

Once you’re positioned near a window, notice the precise direction of the light. The best lighting generally comes from the side or behind the food, so reposition your camera until you get the perfect angle.

2. Food styling

There are all sorts of tricks the food stylists use to make food look better in photos, and you can use some of those ideas to make your dinner look amazing on social media.

  1. Make sure you take the photo before you eat the food.
  2. Take some time to arrange the food on the plate so it looks appetising.
  3. Make sure there’s no drips or splashes of sauce on the edges of the plate.
  4. If you’re using props like cutlery or tablecloths, make sure they’re clean and look harmonious together.
  5. Move any dirty forks, dirty napkins, or ugly salt shakers out of the frame before shooting.

3. Choose the right angle

Try instead shooting your scene at 90 degrees. This will create a beautiful image with lots of depth and minimal visible distortion. Alternatively, you can shoot from directly over the food, looking down. A 90-degree approach also lets you show more food in the frame, which is great for shooting full table spreads. Note, however, that 90 degrees is not a great angle for tall food, like burgers or stacks of pancakes. Shoot those subjects from low down over the table so you can show of the layers.

4. Use minimalistic compositions

Complex tablescapes are fun and look appealing, but they’re often difficult to photograph. It can take a lot of careful arrangement to make a pleasing composition, and by the time you get it right, the food may no longer look appetising. So instead of relying on wide, sophisticated compositions, go minimalist. Keep it simple and feature a couple of food items and a prop or two (like a utensil or a piece of linen). Spread them out across the table so the eye is drawn around the frame. This minimalist approach usually works well, especially if you’re a beginner. It’ll keep the focus on specific items of food.

5. Pay attention to your food composition

The best food photos boast carefully ordered backgrounds, carefully positioned food items, and carefully positioned props. They use good composition. Food photography composition is a complex topic, one that can take weeks, months, or years to master. There are a few simple compositional guidelines that you can use to arrange your food for great results. Remember that everyone has their own style, so it may take a while for you to find what really works for you.

First, try to include an empty area or two where the eye can rest for a brief moment as it moves through the image. If every part of the image is covered with ingredients or props, it’ll confuse the viewer and create claustrophobia. Negative space will provide a bit of breathing room and will help the viewer focus on the main subject.

6. Leading lines

Another compositional tool to use is leading lines and diagonals. Leading lines are subtle or not-so-subtle straight or diagonal lines in an image that draw our eye to the main subject, in this case, food.

Think of good food images you are drawn to look at. Do they have a serving spoon or cutlery placed in the image that draws your eye from the edge to the food? You can use serviettes, cutlery, tableware or other props to create leading lines in to your food. Diagonal shapes in photos are also pleasing to the eye. That is why the serving spoon or cutlery etc. is often placed at a slight diagonal in the image. The diagonals often come out of one of the bottom corners of the image and lead towards the main subject.

Sometimes tableware or props are placed to make a loose triangular shape or shapes in the image. Square plates are often turned so that a corner is facing the camera. Look at your favorite food photos and try to deconstruct them. What makes them good? Why is the composition visually appealing? Can you use some of these ideas in your food photos?

7. Don't zoom in, get closer

You can definitely zoom in on your camera, but if you're using zoom function on your phone to get in close and fill the frame, you’ll end up with very poor image quality when you look at it closely. Try to get in closer to your subject if you can instead. You can crop later in post-processing to keep your image quality and resolution high

8. Edit your images

Most images will always look better for a little adjustment after they have been taken, even if it’s just to correct exposure, colour and contrast. Your phone will have a built-in editing suite that you can use to quickly adjust the exposure, contrast, shadows and saturation of your photo. If you're using your camera, there are a lot of free photo editing softwares online that you can use.

9. Controlling the focus

You need to put the main focus of the image on the food, as our eyes are drawn to look at what is in focus. If you have a bowl of soup and a slice of bread, for example, you would focus on the soup instead of the bread – unless the bread is your main subject. Place the focus point of your  camera on the spot that you want to showcase.

10. Tell a story

Everyone loves a good story. If you can give your viewer a story – one that takes place in the frame or just outside of it – your shots will be far more compelling. For example, you can tell the story of the food’s creation by including various ingredients throughout the composition, or by including the chef’s hands in the shot. This can be particularly great for baking - a picture of dough being rolled or of cookie cutters placed next to a floured surface and show how the finished dish is made.

Alternatively, you might include a partially eaten element (such as a cookie with a missing bite) to tell the story of the food’s consumption, or you might include the hands of the server to show how the food actually made it to your table.

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