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The Beginners Guide to Macro Food Photography

The Beginners Guide to Macro Food Photography

Everyone loves food and food photography. In fact, if you check out any social media site, you’ll find that most people regularly post photos of food there.

What can you do to make your food photos stand out among the millions of photos that are being posted every day? The answer is to get closer and take macro photographs. Macro food photography shows the tiny details of the food that make your photo special.

Today we will talk about the dos and don’ts of macro food photography. You will need a DSLR camera and Macro lens for this and we have already talked about the equipment for macro photography in our previous article, so we are not going to repeat it. Here we go…

1- Use a tripod:

Always try to use a tripod when you are doing macro food photography. When we are taking macro photos of flowers or insects, it’s tough to use a tripod because our subject moves very fast and sometimes we have to take shots from an unusual angle.

However, this problem is not with food photography as our food always stays still. Using a tripod will help you to get sharper pictures and your hands will be free to style your food.

2- Switch off Image Stabilizer (IS) and use a self-timer to avoid camera shake:

When you are taking pictures using a tripod, it’s always advisable to switch off the image stabilizer or vibration reduction feature of your lens. This feature doesn’t require when your camera is on a tripod as it’s already still and if you keep it on, it may add some unwanted blur to the photo. Further, you can use a two seconds timer of your camera to prevent a camera shake caused by your hands.

3- Try manual focus in live view:

When you are doing macro food photography, you may try manual focus instead of autofocus. Because your subject is still and your camera is on a tripod, it would be easy to use manual focus.

When you are focusing manually, use the live view mode of your camera instead of the viewfinder. Many cameras give you the option to zoom the image up to 5x or 10x in live view mode. By using this feature, you can focus on the exact spot, where you want. If you still want to use autofocus, use it with single-point focus mode.

4- Use a large light source:

Use a large window or large softbox as the light source for food photography. A larger light source gives soft shadows and enhances the colors and texture of the food. If you are using a window for the light source, use a white translucent shower curtain or butter paper to soften the light.

And don’ forget to use a fill light. When we take a picture with just one light source, sometimes the light doesn’t reach some parts of the subject and it creates dark shadows there. To reduce these shadows, we need to use a fill light. You don’t need a second light source, you can use plain white paper as a reflector and fill the shadows.

If you are using a second light source, make sure that the intensity of fill light is around half of the main light. If both lights have the same intensity, your picture will come out flat and boring. 

5- Use good quality products:

For food photography, always choose high-quality products. If you are shooting fruits or vegetables, they should be fresh because fresh fruits have amazing colors and texture. You can wash it with cold water or spray some water to enhance the freshness. After the photoshoot, you can eat the fruits so there is no harm to buy high-quality products.

6- Take backlit pictures:

Backlit fruits look amazing in macro photography. For that, you need to slice the fruits and take photos while the light is behind the subject. Kiwi, lemon, orange, grapefruit, and onion are the best subjects for backlit pictures. You don’t need any special equipment for it, use a glass top table and place a lamp or LED light or even a torch at the bottom.

You can fill the entire frame with the subject. If a subject is very small and not filling the frame and light is leaking outside the subject, get a black paper sheet and cut out the shape of fruit from the center. Now the light will come only through the subject and the rest of the frame will be dark. Just make sure to use very thin slices of the fruit so that the light passes through easily.

7- Subjects for macro food photography:

We have lots of subjects for macro food photography and many of them are already available in our house or we bring those in our home regularly like:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dry Fruits
  • Coffee Beans
  • Grains and Pulses
  • Spices
  • Carbonated Drinks
  • Ice Cubes
  • Cakes and Biscuits
  • Sweet and Desserts
  • Pasta
  • Cooked Food

Here are some points that will improve your food photography and help you to get better pictures. So, go to your kitchen, bring out some subjects, click some extraordinary pictures and amaze the world. 

If you are looking for different macro photography ideas, you can also read this article. Good luck.

Blog and Image Credits: Ramakant Sharda

Ramakant is an Award-Winning Photographer, Author, Mobile Apps Publisher based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. Many of his works have been published in magazines, newspapers, and international blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. He has published three (so far) coffee table books. Get his latest book Mastering High-Speed Photography.