Food photography is arguably one of the most challenging types of photography out there. Like painting, you start with a blank canvas and build. Layer upon layer, you construct the photo until you reach the perfect balance of reality and art. Everything in the picture is a decision.
The photographer perfectly places every piece. Starting is frustrating, I know. You’re the chef, stylist, and photographer. Once you reach technical proficiency with the camera, what’s next? I have been, and in a lot of ways still am, in that position. So, how do you improve your food photography beyond the basics? You work on the story.
Whether it is an after-party from the perfect cocktail or the homemade roasted chicken recipe on the farm, you’re telling stories like all photography. Some shoots are more complicated stories than others, and it may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not. Here are five quick tips you can use to improve your food photography and tell better stories seriously.
Over the last two and a half years, I’ve taken over 25,000 food photos. It’s mind-boggling. I’ve put together some of the things I’ve learned along the way and a few of the things I wish I knew when I started. There are also tips throughout from other food photographers and bloggers.
Tips are organized by food photography basics, food photography for Instagram & social media, the best equipment for food photography, lighting, restaurant photography, inspiration, composition, editing, commercial food photography tips, collaborating and staying healthy as a food photographer.
There’s a famous saying among chefs claiming that “you eat with your eyes first.” Since our site is the first sensory criteria we use when making decisions about the foods we eat, the dish’s visual appeal plays a huge role in eating it. This is why we tend to unconsciously gravitate towards colourful, carefully plated meals and why food photography is one of the most popular genres across social media.
Contrary to what it may seem, taking enticing food shots is far from an easy feat. Not only do you need a delicious-looking meal in front of you, but also the necessary skills to make said meal look as delicious as it does in real life, in an odourless, two-dimensional format. Food photography is much more demanding than you may think, from getting the food ready and plating up to choosing the proper lighting and editing your work. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Whether you’re a seasoned photographer or a budding newcomer looking to expand the horizons of your photography website, these food photography tips will make mastering this genre a piece of cake.
15 Food Photography Tips for Capturing Mouth-Watering Images
Consume Beautiful Imagery
Feed your inspiration by dedicating a few minutes each day to looking at other food photographers’ work. One of the easiest ways to do so is simply following Instagram photography accounts that feature these types of pictures. If you’re unsure where to find these profiles, check out the most popular photography hashtags on social media.
Write a Brief
If your goal is to become a professional photographer, you’ll need to get familiar with writing detailed briefs. While they’re most commonly used when working with clients, you can highly benefit from integrating them into your personal projects’ workflow. This document should include key details such as your target audience, the project’s goal, tone of voice, and publishing platforms.
It’s also recommended to sketch out a few image ideas that capture your goals for the photoshoot. This will help you bring to life the images you envisioned and make the most of your shooting time.
If you’re planning to reach out to brands for potential partnerships or sell stock photos, spend some time researching common traits in images used for this purpose, and write down some notes to base your sketches and on-set decisions on.
Choose the Right Gear.
The first question that might come to mind when getting started on a new photography discipline is the type of camera you will need. If that’s something you were worrying about, you’ll be happy to hear that pretty much any device will do.
This is because you’ll be working with a still subject that you can easily manage at will and most likely will be shooting in an environment with controlled lighting. All you need is to ensure that you master all camera settings to capture precisely what you had in mind.
If your device of choice allows for interchangeable lenses, get your hands on an excellent prime lens. This is one of the most valued types of camera lenses, as they tend to be much faster and produce higher-quality results. Plus, as mentioned above, you’ll be in complete control of the scene and, therefore, won’t be needing zoom capabilities.
Invest in a Good Tripod
Of all camera accessories out there, a tripod might be the most popular across nearly all photography genres. Not only do they help you avoid unwanted camera shake on your images, but they also help you take a step back and revise your compositions before you press the shutter. Plus, they open the doors to accomplishing creative photography ideas that would be impossible to capture otherwise.
- Search for natural light
When it comes to illuminating a food photography scene, natural light is generally the preferred choice. This doesn’t mean you should do all your photoshoots outdoors, but rather that you should always strive to get genuine, soft lighting. For best results, it’s recommended to place your composition near a large window and shoot during the photography golden hour or an overcast day to avoid harsh shadows.
Of course, with the right equipment and skills, you can recreate this atmosphere in a studio using artificial light. If you choose to take this path, start with one leading morning and use reflectors to soften the shadows and illuminate the frame, mimicking the effect of the sun shining through a window.
Keep it Fresh
The meals you photograph should appear as if they were prepared just moments before you pressed the shutter. Therefore, always avoid wet food or dishes that have been spoiled in any way. Even the slightest imperfection can put off your viewers.
To avoid this, pay attention to the shelf life of your ingredients (mainly produce) and buy them as close to the photoshoot as possible. When shooting fruits and vegetables, a standard food photography tip is to store them in the fridge covered by a wet napkin and wash them right before plating up. This way, they’ll be coated in water drops and will appear fresh.
As for cooked dishes or those with sauces, refrain from plating them until you’re ready to start taking pictures. It’s recommended to use props to create a composition that only needs to be minimally adjusted once the food is prepared. Otherwise, your images might end up looking like that salad you ordered for lunch for which the restaurant ignored your “dressing on the side” request.
Work With a Food Stylist.
They say that to be the best; you must surround yourself with the best. When it comes to building a photography career, this means you should collaborate with talented professionals from other fields that will help you take each image to the next level. For example, if you were a fashion photographer, you’d try to find a professional stylist and make-up artist to work with instead of attempting to juggle all roles at once.
The equivalent of that in food photography is having a photographer who cooks, serves, and takes the pictures. While that might work to some extent, it will make the job much harder and rarely meet collaborative efforts’ standards.
Partnering with a food stylist will help you ensure that the dish’s composition is the absolute best to transmit your creative idea. This includes anything from textures and colours to props and tableware. Furthermore, stylists have the knowledge and skills necessary to make any meal (yes, even spinach) look delicious.
Props are friends and not necessarily always food. Including accessories in your compositions can help you add a personal touch to the image, as well as strengthening its visual appeal.
The props used in food photography tend to be related to each dish’s ingredients, origin, or cooking. However, integrating other accessories such as flowers, books, or fabrics can also strengthen the image’s overall look.
Regardless of the type of elements that you choose to add to the composition, make sure that they serve only to support the main subject. That is, they should not be more eye-catching than the dish you’re photographing, nor clutter the frame excessively.
Create an Appealing Composition
Your grandma might have told you a million times not to play with food, but this food photography tip asks for the complete opposite. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the pieces of food on your plate or mix in non-edible elements. Think of each meal as a canvas ready to be arranged, and use the different photography composition rules to guide the viewer’s eyes across both the frame and the plate.
Ideally, it would help if you took some time before the shoot to experiment with how the food you’ll be shooting reacts to different environments. For example, certain foods change colour, expand or enlarge when in contact with heat or cold. Knowing this in advance will help you avoid mistakes and give you the chance to come up with ideas to utilize the circumstances.
Experiment With Angles
Unlike in portrait photography, where there are certain camera angles that you should always stick to to make your subject look their best, the perspective you photograph food will depend entirely on each dish. Some meals look amazing when shot from the front, while others benefit from a higher angle or even a bird’s eye. And just like people, they all have a good and a wrong side.
Once the food is plated and you’ve got the composition ready, try out a few different angles to see what works best. The most common ones are table level (right in front of the food), 45° (standing eyesight), and 90° (bird’s eye). This will allow you to find what’s known as the “hero angle,” aka the most appealing position.
Pay Attention to Colour.
Colour goes hand in hand with light in terms of importance in food photography. This might be the only type of photography where black and white images are unheard of. After all, can you imagine any dish looking delicious once you strip it of its colour?
There are two main ways to make the colours of your meals pop: neutral tones and contrasting colours. Using neutral techniques for props and backgrounds will dull your main subject’s surroundings, thus directing less attention to them and more to the dish itself. On the other hand, contrasting colours between the word and its surroundings create vibrant dynamics that stimulate the viewer’s sight and draw them into the scene. The right choice for your images will depend on the characteristics and goals of each photo.
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Tell a Story
Photography storytelling is one of the essential skills to master. While it may not directly impact the outcome of your pictures, it’s a critical factor in how your work is perceived. The message you want to get across should be defined in the early stages of the project, ideally during the brief creation.
Knowing the narrative, you want to tell will also help you compose the image, choose the props, and define the type of lighting. Think of a steaming cup of coffee on an otherwise empty table, over a dark background. Now imagine the same cup, but next to an open window and an open book. While the subject remains the same, the feelings each image conveys are opposites.
Include a Human Element
Speaking of viewers perceiving your images as if they were part of the scene, including people in the shot will give them someone to identify with. This can be anything from a chef cooking, a hand reaching out to the food, a family sitting together at the table, or a kid holding an ice cream cone.
By featuring a person, or at least part of them, you’ll be offering your audience a way to connect with the image in your composition. Including human elements can add a sense of depth, dynamism, and visual appeal to the photo, a practice that is also very common in landscape photography.
Strive for Minimalism
The star of your food photography work should always be the food. While that might sound obvious now, it’s pretty easy to get sidetracked once you’re shooting, trying out new compositions and props. Keep in mind that all these elements are meant to support and elevate your main subject, rather than obscuring it.
Take a look at different fine art photography examples to see how most images use negative space to let the subject breathe and direct the viewers’ attention. Apply the same technique to your compositions.
Edit to Perfection
Just like you wouldn’t eat a raw potato, you shouldn’t publish your RAW photos. And yes, that includes unprocessed JPG files, too. The only two places where these images belong are your photo library, as they wait to be edited, or your Instagram Stories, where you keep in touch with your audience with ephemeral or work-in-process content.
Use premium or free photo editing software to bring your images to life and make them pop, all while keeping them as close to reality as possible. This includes fixing the white balance, adjusting brightness and contrast, increasing saturation, and any other edits your photography style requires.
Benefits Of Food Photography
Photography is becoming enormously popular when it comes to being a hobby or a pastime for individuals. Photography indeed is a fascinating career. People focus on glamour, weddings, fitness and something exciting is the food. Food photography brings with it varied benefits. Certain advantages areas
- Creation of mouthwatering menus-One exceedingly popular benefit of choosing a food photographer by the businesses in the food trading is creating delicious menus appealing to customers belonging to all age groups, all Food Photographer In Jaipur genders and all preferences. Think of yourself going through a menu comprising only the list of the dishes being served with no pictures of the eatables and no description of the words.
- Would you feel incredibly fascinated? The answer for sure is a no. However, if you are going through a menu comprising varied pictures of the restaurant’s signature dishes, having images that are bright and full of colours, you probably would find it mouthwatering. You would surely think of trying the words at least once, only based on the appearance of the words on the menu.
- The creation of appealing websites-The contemporary age is the age of the internet in which sixty per cent of people own either a smartphone or a device allowing us to connect to the internet. Resultantly, many restaurants possess an online website providing the intricacies of the services offered, location and most importantly, the menu.
- Do you think you would ever get interested in a website comprising very general looking pictures? Certainly not!! Rather a website with enormously fascinating and professional-looking photographs with exquisite signature dishes and ingredients would attract you. The responsibility of creating fascinating images that would immediately catch your eye and arouse your taste buds would brighten up your website.
- Making customers, hungry-When restaurants opt for a professional food photographer to create fascinating images for their website or use on the restaurant’s walls or for their stunning menus. The attractive look of the dishes is sure going to attract the customers.