Food photography is undoubtedly one of the more advanced genres of photography. It is commonly used commercially for advertisements, menus, and even cookbooks and magazines. With a bit of creativity, technical know-how, and this list of tips and tricks, you can surely have incredibly artistic, tempting, and delicious results.
If you want to take your food photography to the next level, follow the following tips and tricks. These techniques, ranging from anything between slight tweaks and some gear additions, will surely help you take great shots of your next delicious meal.
1. Understand your subject.
Just like still-life photography, food photography requires that you work with subjects that ‘speak to you’. As a photographer, you should be able to tell a story through the final food shot. Learn your dish’s history and recipe and tell it through artistic styling. Decorate the foreground and background of your main dish with dry ingredients used for cooking, and take it a step further by using props that would hint at its origins.
2. Take advantage of natural light.
While it is not always possible, shooting under natural light is the best way to go. A touch of sunlight can dramatically improve the quality of your photos. It gives you the opportunity to shoot under even lighting, helping you get more detail than artificial lights can. However, too much sunlight can cast unwanted shadows and overexpose the subject. To avoid this from happening, take the photo somewhere partially shaded, like a sun-facing window sill or a covered outdoor patio.
If you have no choice but to work in an area with direct natural light, you can use some tools to manipulate how light affects your subject. Use a light diffuser to soften shadows and highlights during your shoot. White and black cards are also useful in adjusting how much light and shadow are received by the subject. White cards bounce light to reveal more features, while black cards create a contrast to make sure nothing competes with the main subject.
3. Shoot while food is ‘fresh’.
Nothing beats fresh ingredients and meals, so it only naturally follows that you should aim to make your food look like it was freshly made in the final photo. As a food photographer, you must be prepared to shoot some dishes under time pressure. Try shooting ice cream, and you will understand how this tip can be very challenging, especially for beginners.
Luckily, established stylists have come up with some hacks to keep food looking fresh throughout the shoot. Some examples:
- Bubbles in fizzy drinks like soda do not last long. Dish soap is used to recreate foam.
- Whipped cream naturally melts, so shaving cream is used in its place.
- Grilled or fried meat is normally brushed with some extra oil to prevent it from looking dry.
- To create perfect ‘ice cream’ that does not melt, a mixture of corn syrup and some food coloring does the trick.
4. Find the right angle.
Your photo’s angle will dictate which of the food’s features you want to highlight. Most photographers prefer the bird’s eye view, but you should never limit yourself to this top-view angle. While it has become popular for Instagram foodies, bird’s eye view shots are only good for flat subjects like pizza, donuts, or smoothie bowls among others. This perspective is also used to emphasize shapes and colors. For subjects with some height and texture on the sides, you will be better off taking the photo from right in front of the subject.
5. Layer your props and decor.
Props and décor should not only help with building your story. It should also help in guiding your audience to the star of the photo. For photos shot from the top, you can use props like utensils, spices, or herbs to create lines leading towards the main dish. However, do so sparingly since it is too easy to overcrowd your set. Too much décor can compete with the subject, resulting in a confusing photo.
On the other hand, if the photo will be taken at the right angle, adjust your aperture settings to blur the background. Also, try to play around with heights by putting food on top of cutting boards or cake stands. This helps create a natural frame, which can help you shoot your subject better. This simple tweak helps draw attention to the subject, while also providing an artistic atmosphere to the final output.
6. Stick to food’s natural color.
It has been said by many chefs and food stylists that we eat with our eyes first. When we see food, our brain immediately tells us what it might taste like based on the colors alone. With that information in mind, it is best to stick to food’s natural colors to make your photos look naturally appealing. To capture as much color as possible, avoid using your camera’s flash. It can cause distortion in color,
7. Shoot with people.
To add a sense of movement, you can experiment by adding hands to the frame. Adding people into the photo is an easy way to liven up your photo and tell a better story. It can be staging something as simple as a hand holding a mug of coffee for a breakfast-themed shoot or slicing steak at a dinner spread.
8. Invest in great camera gear.
Once you’ve mastered the tips from above, you might be ready for advanced food photography. At this point, it is smart to start investing in great camera gear, like macro lenses, a tripod with a lateral arm, and a tethering cable. A great camera trigger, like the MIOPS Smart+, will also help you expand your creative horizons. It allows you to control your camera remotely through a smartphone and has useful modes that could help you shoot high-speed movement. Food splash photography will just be one click away.
9. Take as many shots as you need.
Having too many shots by the end of the day is no problem. In fact, to have one stunning photo, you might have to take over a dozen shots. It might sound daunting, but keep in mind that you have a specific picture in mind that you want to capture in a single shot. So be patient. Take as many shots as you need.
10. Be creative.
Like in many other art forms, creativity in photography is boundless. Learn from the best food photographers around and try to replicate the good. It will take a lot of practice before you discover what works for you, but it will be surely worth your time.
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