Tips on Food Photography

Hey guys! I get a lot of questions on food photography, and photography in general. So, I decided to put together a quick ‘resource’ post. I’ll go more into depth on some of the subjects later.

I’m assuming for the purposes of this post that you *don’t* have professional lighting kit and most of this could be done on any camera. A good photograph is about controlling light and composition ( as well as myriad other factors). It’s not about the gear. You can take perfectly lovely pictures with your normal point and shoot. So I’m assuming you don’t know much about photography technical, because those are the main people that ask.

For the people who want more technical stuff: Sit tight, it’s coming.

If you take pictures of your dinner with your iPhone and slap a filter on it and call it art, I might have to beat you though.

Lighting

…and plenty of it. Honestly, the best lighting i’ve found for most food pictures is sunlight. Natural light, through a big window. That being said, thin, white linen curtains make excellent diffusers.

Lighting coming from above, and to the side. You want the main light facing the side you’re shooting, and off to the left or right a bit. (so, behind you, but not directly. Got it?)

Now, this isn’t always an option, like in a restaurant. Lighting from directly above is fine too, it”s just gonna restrict what you can do with it, which is fine.  Try to get a table with as much lighting as possible to expand your options (and make it easier on your camera.)

 Texture

Texture is a very big part of food photography. Why? Because it makes us drool.

As a general rule: If the food has interesting texture, focus on that. Crop in close, highlight that detail.

If it’s something creamy, or smooth, like soup, it’s better to draw back a bit. This is the rare stuff that can be shot from directly above, because it’s gonna rely more on the entire scene, than a yummy, drooly texture, because there’s less going on.

Props

This is where we talk about how to plate, and where you’re gonna shoot stuff. If you’re in a restaurant, you don’t have a choice of what plate they use, but it’s nearly always a white one. This is good, it’s like the equivalent of a studio background for a model shoot.

If you’re at home, you have more choices. Again, white plates are awesome. Plating is something where you want to stick to simple: Too much detail/colour can be distracting. The exception to this is certain ethnic foods that are served on specific types of plates/containers – like sushi boats.

Cutlery: This isn’t always necessary, but it’s great in ‘process’ pics. Batter dripping off a wooden spoon, for example.  Protip: Only use metal cutlery if it’s not scratched all to hell. It WILL show in the photo. If it doesn’t add anything to the picture, leave it out. Remember, we’re focusing on the food. Notice you nearly never see a knife in food pictures? That’s because unless you know what you’re doing, it kinda makes people uncomfortable!

Angles

As a general practice, shooting lower and closer works for just about anything. I mentioned above, the times where it’s more appropriate to shoot from above: Stuff that’s a little ‘duller’ in visuals, where you need more props – And of course, with a full table spread (Thanksgiving is coming up!).

Processing

As my good friend Kitty from The Foodies Kitchen says: “Do more when taking the picture and not in Photoshop!”

And she’s so, so right on this. With practice and the tips above, you can get some really awesome pictures. It’s all about controlling the scene to get a good end result.

The better you plan the set in the first place, the better your result will be – and the less editing you’ll need. Mostly, I just increase the saturation slightly and contrast; it really depends on what you’re photographing.

Before I take ANY photos, I meticulously pick over the plate i’m shooting, clean up any spatter, smudges, etc. I’ll often reposition and style things for different angle shots – think of it like doing your hair.

That’s all for this instalment. The next one will be more technical – i’m going to blow your mind!

Part two here

-Dannielle

 


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