These days, one of the biggest trends in social media is taking and posting photographs of food. And it is easy to understand why. As chefs, bakers, and cooks, both amateur and professional, continue to elevate their game and turn food presentation into an art form, it only makes sense that excited diners, foodies, and Insta celebs would want to immortalize this edible artwork.
Taking incredible food pictures is not difficult but, like other forms of photography, there are a few things you should keep in mind when setting up your shot. Here are some tips for taking beautiful food pictures each and every time.
1) Use The Best Angles
Choose the angle that works best for your subject. Generally speaking, overhead shots are best for food photography. This is especially true if you are shooting food that is arranged in a bowl or on a plate. An overhead angle allows you to really control your composition by giving you the chance to arrange and rearrange the elements to best display the subject. It also eliminates distractions by cutting out busy rooms and backdrops.
But, if you are shooting something in a glass or with interesting detail, you might consider a side shot. Smoothies and sundaes that are served in glasses, can benefit from this angle. When shooting cakes, pies, or bread, a side angle can provide a better look at the layers and detail. When shooting from the side, be sure to use a neutral backdrop like a wall. Again, you don’t want the eye to be drawn away from your subject.
When looking to highlight both the side and the top of the food, try a diagonal angle. Again, this is perfect for foods like cupcakes, cakes, or muffins that may look better when shot with more dimension.
To decide what will work best for your picture, shoot multiple images from multiple angles and sort it out when you are done. You’ll be amazed by what you can capture.
The easiest way to get the best angles for your shots is by using a tripod like the TriFlex Pro Flexible Tripod. In my opinion it's the best because it is small enough to fit on the table and the flexible legs allow you to maneuver it to any angle you want. It also comes with a phone mount.
2) Own the Shadows
Sometimes, shadows are an important part of a photo’s composition. They can add interesting depth and dimension to an image. It is important, however, that the shadows do not dominate and become the focal point of your image. The food is the subject, not the shadows.
The brighter the light you are shooting in, the more intense the shadows will be. Sometimes strong shadows create interesting shapes and can make a photo better but most of the time, soft, muted shadows are the way to go.
How you use shadows is up to you. If you like the way they look in the image, keep them. Food photography is subjective and you are the boss. But if you want to reduce the shadows in the shot, move the subject around. Try moving further away from your light source or using a reflector to shine more light back at the subject and diminish the impact of the shadows. If you don’t have a professional reflector, try using a white sheet of paper. Position the reflector, or paper, on the same side as the shadows, directly facing your light source. This will, as the name suggests, reflect the light and brighten the shadows.
3) Keep It Clean
By keeping the background clean, you can keep the food as your focal point. This does not mean that your background has to be boring, but it does need to remain the background. Try to keep it neutral so it will compliment your subject.
General points to keep in mind, dark backgrounds make dark foods look best, light backgrounds suit light foods, and wooden backgrounds, like wooden tabletops and cutting boards, make all foods look incredible.
Tablecloths and napkins also make great backgrounds, especially if they are white or neutral. Even subtle patterns work. Set up the shot and take a look. You may have to add and subtract a few things to get it perfect but there is no harm in taking your time. The payoff is worth the extra effort.
Make sure you give the food enough space in the photo. You don’t want to zoom in so close that viewers can’t tell what they are looking at. Let the food breathe. Make it the focal point, but don’t make it the only thing visible in the photograph.
4) Use Natural Light
When it comes to shooting food, natural light is your best friend. Using an artificial light source is likely to change the colors in your image and bathe them in a strange glow. When using natural light, you let the colors of the food, the dishes, and the background take center stage.
Diffused natural daylight is the best option. When shooting indoors, set up your composition near a window. This will allow for natural light while giving you the opportunity to use blinds or shades to increase or decrease the brightness.
And don’t be afraid to move around to find the best light. This may be difficult when shooting in public but if you are photographing your own food creations, move around your house. If your bedroom gets the best light in the morning, set up in there. You are trying to get the best light, no one will actually know what room you are in.
5) Add Some Humanity
Sometimes a food photo can be enhanced with a little human touch. By including a hand in the image, for example, you create a sense of perspective for the viewer. It gives them a more personalized experience of the image because helps them orient themselves inside the photo. Holding a spoon or a cup can create a sense of movement creating dynamics in what might otherwise be a rather static scene.
To do this, you will have to hold your camera with one hand. If you are having a difficult time keeping it steady and not blurring your images, try using a tripod and a remote like mentioned above. You can set the camera in the proper position and snap the shot with the remote reducing any movement that might harm the picture.
6) Tell A Story
To create a more endearing image, use the food and the background to tell a story. This could be simple, like adding small decorations to the backdrop or it could be mean more complex composition. For example, adding leaves to the backdrop of fall themed foods helps to create a mood and a feeling.
Think of the food you are shooting and then think about how to create a vibe around it. If you are shooting a magnificent looking cappuccino, including a book can help the viewer feel their way into the image. Food is an important element of many experiences in life and if you can tell those stories, and create those emotions, you will have a successful food photo.
7) Edit, Edit, Edit
One of the greatest elements of food photography is the colors it presents. Food can showcase amazing color play but unfortunately, your camera may not capture it the way you had hoped. Do not be afraid to edit your images. Using built-in filters may be enough to enhance or mute things the way you want but sometimes it takes a little more. Editing software can give you the freedom to adjust brightness, contrast, color saturation, and temperature to create the mood you want. For an upbeat, exciting mood, consider sharp contrasts and bright, bold colors. For a more mellow, and relaxed image, go with muted tones and subdued colors.
To take incredible food pictures all you have to do is arrange the food and any complimentary items in a clean and balanced way, and follow these tips. Experiment and see what works for you. Take as many shots as it takes to get it right. Remember, people only see your final product so you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by taking your time and trying new things.