Whether you run a food blog or have a side hustle taking menu photos for local restaurants, food photography is a field all its own. To improve your food photography skills, you’ll do well to get plenty of practice and experiment with different camera equipment to achieve unique shots.
Effective food photographs tell their own story by showing the details of the dish and placing it in the context of a table setting or scene. The goal is to entice viewers and help them feel like they’re tasting the food with their eyes! These tips from Glide Gear will get help you improve in the appetizing and colorful world of food photography.
Find Bountiful, Natural Light
The most effective food photographs don’t really look like photographs; instead, they capture the dish or beverage in a natural setting. Avoid taking amateurish food pics by turning off the built-in flash on your camera—seek out natural light sources instead!
Windows are convenient sources of natural light. Next time you have a sunny day, turn off the overhead lights in your kitchen and sweep your curtains open. Keep in mind that many food photographers prefer to light their shots from a single direction: left, right, or behind.
Alter Your Angles
By far the most common angle for food photography is the overhead shot. There’s good reason for that—it shows the dish in its entirety and looks sleek—but it’s not the only option at your disposal. Get creative with your overhead camera mount and experiment with slight variations on the classic flat-lay shot.
Also, remember that different angles have different purposes. That rigid overhead shot is perfect for showing off the ingredients in a dish, so it’s great for things like salads and tacos that have a variety of components. Meanwhile, a low-angle shot from closer up will show the finer details more prominently, like melty cheese or perfectly rare steak.
Add Context to Your Focal Point
Which dish or beverage is the star of your photograph? Some food photographers call their focus the “hero object.” Place your hero prominently in the shot—but don’t stop there!
A simple photograph of one dish with no props or context clues in sight is—in a word—boring. Add to the story you’re telling with these food items by choosing props that are relevant to the dish! For example, if you’re shooting a sumptuous pasta dish, place a sprig of parsley and a bottle of olive oil nearby, incorporating them into the background.
Compose With Layers and Lines
Now you know how important props can be to the story of your food photograph. Just take care not to go overboard; your hero object should still be the hero of the photo’s story. You can gently guide the viewer’s eyes toward your intended focal point by strategically arranging your props.
For example, if you’re shooting a slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream on top, add a spoon to the dish that points directly toward the slice. Any props you add to your shot should enhance the hero object, not distract from it!
Limit Your Color Palette
Composing the perfect food photograph can be remarkably fun once you get into it. Choosing colorful props and ingredients that enhance focus on the dish you’re shooting is a rewarding creative process. However, be wary of incorporating every color under the sun into your photograph.
Too many different colors in a photo can overwhelm your viewer, as they won’t be sure where they’re supposed to look. Keep your color palette limited to hues that enhance your hero object, like shades of red and purple for a berry cobbler. Or if the dish you’re shooting is highly colorful in its own right, like a salad with lots of ingredients, keep your backdrop and props neutral.
Set Up Shots Ahead of Time
Well before the food in question is prepared, you should have an idea of which shots you want to compose. Some dishes, especially those that incorporate ice cream, are highly time sensitive—you’ve only got a few minutes to shoot the dish before it starts to look far less appetizing. Set up your shots while (or before) the dish is being prepared so you’re ready to shoot once the food is done.
Even if the dish you’re shooting isn’t time sensitive, setting up ahead of time is a good practice to start as a photographer. If you plan to do freelance food photography going forward, get into the habit of respecting your clients’ time and sticking to your own schedule.
Plate the Dish Thoughtfully
Depending on the angles at which you want to photograph the food, put some thought into how you compose the food itself. In your own culinary adventures, you’ve probably noticed a difference between buffet plates (big scoops of food, little artistry) and fancy restaurant dishes (artful plating, plenty of space). All the photography tricks in the world won’t do you much good if the dish itself looks thrown together.
If you plan to take mostly overhead shots, plate the dish so it looks appetizing from above. Don’t pile different items on top of each other; make use of the empty space on the plate to accentuate the different elements. Meanwhile, if you plan to shoot at table level, crouch down and plate the dish at that level so you can see what it’ll look like in the photo.
Use Creative Styling Tricks
As you adjust the food, the plate, and the props around it to compose the perfect shot, have a few tricks up your sleeve to combat food photography pitfalls. Try these on for size:
- Use fancy toothpicks to keep sandwiches looking tight and prevent ingredients from spilling out.
- If melted cheese starts to congeal, heat it up with a kitchen torch.
- Spritz fresh fruits and veggies with a little water to make them glisten.
- Use a pair of clean chopsticks to move and style delicate ingredients.
Are you looking to improve your food photography skills, whether for a side hustle or for your own blog? These tips from Glide Gear will nudge you in the right direction. Experiment with camera equipment, props, and lighting to achieve shots that will make your audience want to chow down!