Food photography is on an all-time rise today. From bloggers to vloggers to chefs, everyone is in it to make the best food pictures they can. However, food photography is not all that easy to do. It needs careful planning and placements of all the food items, lighting, and shadows to balance tones and angles to fully curate a good picture of your food.
Whenever you look at a food blogger’s Instagram or website, you’ll notice a pattern being followed, which is another significant factor in food photography. You must keep your pictures consistent in terms of editing, placements, quality, and locations.
Food photography is not just done for aesthetic reasons. Instead, it gives people a vague sense of what the food would look like and taste like. The human senses are not isolated. For example, your taste, visual, and nasal receptors all work together in creating an optimal experience for you.
Similarly, good food pictures also cater to these senses to give your body and mind a reasonable estimation of what the food would smell, taste, and look like. So, a lot goes into capturing visually appealing images of everyday food.
To learn more about food photography, we have to look at several elements that work together to create a wholesome image. This amalgamation of tips and tricks is what will bring your pictures to life, and your viewers will be mesmerized.
So, here are 15 tips and tricks for food photography.
Experiment With Natural Light
Making use of natural light can be an efficient way to capture the most tempting food photos, no matter where you are. Many photographers use a well-balanced combination of natural and artificial light to make the food items in their pictures look natural and colorful. Natural light has the power to well-balance your picture’s colors and contrasts.
Using natural light, you can also avoid issues of over-exposure and can combat the food colors being ruined. However, unless you don’t experiment with the available light, it can’t contribute to your photo’s excellence on its own.
Try to think of creative angles to capture the food when it’s under the natural light. Try to choose an angle that intensifies the shadows to add a dramatic look to your picture. You can also make better use of the natural light by covering the window’s glass with a transparently colored sheet. This can give a warmer and diffused effect to the picture, making it look vintage and ethnic.
Making use of the golden hours is another useful food photography trick. As a beginner, working with natural daylight is usually considered to be the best way. As you learn more, you can easily combine lights from multiple sources to create beautiful effects in your shoots.
Try Taking Pictures From Different Heights
Not all food comes in the same height. Some foods are tall, like smoothies and cones, while some foods are shorter, like tarts and dips, and some foods are spread out in varying measurements.
So, you have to look at what camera angles and heights will be best for the kind of foods you’re capturing. These heights and angles not only give your food dimension but also show what they would look like in real life.
One thing you must always remember is to keep the integrity of the food alive. Don’t distort the image by taking pictures from awkward angles and heights. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a burger, don’t take it from too high up because a burger would be considered a taller food item. So, in order to fully show the height and depth of a burger, try to take it from a lower height and with a side angle so that all the components of a burger can be fully shown.
On the other hand, if you’re taking a picture of a shorter food item like a small tart, then you can perhaps take a picture from high up. Since a tart is round and has its main ingredient as the filling, which can be seen from the top, taking a shot from higher up would be a good idea.
You have to play around with the heights and figure out which works best for what kinds of foods. Many elements go hand in hand with height, such as angles, so let’s look into that in the next section.
Make Portable Backgrounds
Many photographers don’t know that capturing the food when it’s served hot results in the best pictures. The time you waste taking the food from the restaurant to your home usually makes the food lose its crispiness. Therefore, your priority should be shooting the food right there at the café when it’s piping hot and fresh.
Many of our modern restaurants are now aesthetically and nicely decorated. Such an ambiance makes it easier for the photographer to find a good background for food pictures. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you may need a specific background to make the food look good in the photo. Other times, even an aesthetic background may not go great with your picture’s vibe.
This explains why you should always carry your pictures’ background with you. You can get print-outs of different colors in the form of sheets that you can spread anywhere. Additionally, you can carry some light-weight props with you when you’re heading out specifically for a food photography session.
If you run a food blog, you might have a particular cutlery set that differentiates your pictures from others. If possible, you can take a specific bowl or fork set along to place it around the food to create a signature style.
Using clothes and sheets as your food photos’ background makes it easier for you to develop similar backgrounds anywhere. All you need is to pack such portable sets smartly, and you can take them with you to any shoot you want.
Shoot From Every Angle
Shooting from different angles is essential to good food photography. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you can never go wrong with experimentation, and you should always experiment with different angles for food photography. Angles are also crucial because you never know which one would make your picture look outstanding and make it look dull. So, keep turning around and looking for different angles.
Some experts say that a 45 to 60-degree angle is an excellent range to do food photography from. However, it is still recommended that you experiment with a 90-degree angle and a 180-degree angle because you never know what you may find on the other side. Angles are like unexplored territories.
You wouldn’t know how amazing some angles can be until to reach them. So, in order to do that, spend some time with your food and try looking at it in multiple ways, turn it around, shift your placement, and search for angles.
For example, suppose you’re taking a picture of a fruit bowl. In that case, you may want to take a picture from a 90-degree angle since you may have seen many images of the sort, but you wouldn’t know if there is a better way to look at the bowl from a sideways angle. This little piece of curious information makes it essential for you to explore new territories in food photography.
Say No To The Built-In Flash
Using the camera’s in-built flash is another mistake many novice food photographers commit. Since food photos are usually taken up close, using the camera’s flash to capture them will ruin the shot’s colors. If you shoot the food at a café, often, there’s already a lot of light coming directly on the food from all sides. This is another condition that demands the photographer not to use the camera’s in-built flash.
If you use the camera’s in-built flash to shoot any food item, you’ll see how it’d come out in weird colors and a ruined composition. This rule doesn’t apply to a specific camera type. Instead, you shouldn’t rely on your camera’s flash, no matter whether you use a DSLR or a P;S camera.
You can rely on external sources of light to take a better picture of food no matter where you are. Many professional food photographers rely on the golden hours’ natural light to capture stunning food images. Others use a combination of some warm and yellow lights, bouncing back from a silver screen and falling on the food item.
You can also set up some artificial light source that keeps on shedding steady light on the food as you capture it. In any case, the camera’s built-in flashlight should be a BIG NO for every food photographer.
Use Ingredients As Props
To aestheticize your image, you can use the ingredients as props. This would do a lot of benefits to your picture. Since a food photograph is not just visual, it also appeals to taste, smell, and memory.
By using ingredients, you can potentially appeal to the viewer’s own nostalgia. This is also a way to make the viewers more curious about the food itself. By using ingredients as props, you are essentially visualizing the process of that food instantly. And this is what makes people eager to follow your blog or your photography.
Ingredients can be used as props in many different ways. For example, suppose you’re taking a picture of a strawberry smoothie. In that case, you can perhaps take some full strawberries attached to their stems and randomly assort them around the glass.
Additionally, you can also take little bowls of sugar, milk, and cream to place on the side. You could also place some aesthetically pleasing containers of cream as if to show how you might have poured it in the smoothie.
While using the ingredients, you always have to remember that you cannot place ingredients that might have a negative association with memory or taste. For example, if you’re taking a steak picture, you can’t place raw meat as a prop.
Since people are mostly averse to raw meat, you should reconsider and maybe put some leaves and a bottle of barbeque sauce as a prop. You have to carefully think about what most people’s associations are with the ingredients you’re choosing to place as props.
Use White Balance Smartly
White balance refers to setting up the photo’s colors in the best possible depth. It usually depends upon the light available and the item being photographed. Maintaining an accurate white balance is an essential step to take great pictures of anything.
However, the importance of white balance set up is increased in food photography. The colors and their depth are everything. Unless you learn to set up your camera’s white balance, you can’t expect your food’s photo to come out with the best possible color intensity. Such a picture looks un-natural and substandard even if the angle and light used to capture are perfectly fine. This is why working with a well-balanced color intensity is essential.
For starters, you must effort towards understanding your camera’s white balance and settings. For this purpose, you’d have to take random food shots at different times of the day and under different light intensity. Try to set up the white balance every time in such a way that the whites in your picture are actually and purely white.
However, once you’re familiarized with the white balancing feature well enough, you can sometimes work to experiment with it a bit. You can set up the color temperature a little warmer or colder than needed, making the most out of the available colors in the platter. You can also take the temperature to extremes only if it’s not making the food look weird.
Stimulate Different Senses
As mentioned above, food photography is a lot more about the senses than mere visuals. However, the visuals become the doors through which different sensory experiences are expelled. So, you can choose to photograph food in a way that stimulates different senses. This means the image should be mouth-watering. It is mostly done through an appeal to memory or association. Let’s look at an example of how you might be able to do this.
If you’re taking a picture of lasagna, then you should keep some information in the background as you prepare to shoot it. First of all, it is preferably eaten hot. Secondly, it has a particular visual pull factor, especially when you pull away from a slice, and the mozzarella forms strings.
And lastly, that it has a specific smell of the freshly baked cheese and beef. So, you can incorporate the pulling of the cheese, the steam from it being pulled out fresh out of the oven, and a close shot of the juiciness of a slice. All these elements will give you a viewer a live experience of looking at fresh lasagna in front of them.
You can apply these tricks to many other foods, especially baked foods. Since baked foods have a particular history that appeals to childhood memories, it may be wise to use those elements in your photography. Perhaps capture the vapors coming off from the freshly baked alfredo or the crispiness from a freshly baked cookie. You can use all kinds of methods to stimulate the human senses.
Consider Working With A Food Stylist
A food stylist is a perfect person to get your food photography training from. Food stylists usually aren’t photographers themselves. Interestingly, some of the best food stylists out there even aren’t cooks or chefs too. Instead, these are some geniuses with an aesthetic understanding of both the food and its photography.
A food stylist can tell you the best tricks to make the food look good and fresh and is also a great director when it comes to photographing the food items. Working under or with a food stylist might not be an affordable idea for everyone. However, if you’re serious about taking up food photography passionately, investing in a food stylist can easily make you a successful photographer.
A food stylist can make you learn the tips to make the food look swell and crisper than it is. Such professionals usually have an essential role in creating restaurants’ Ads and other videos that involve food visuals. In case you cannot afford to hire a food stylist or cannot find one, you can use the internet to your benefit.
Many food stylist vloggers are uploading their videos on food styling tips on YouTube and elsewhere. Watching these videos and following the tricks and tips can turn you into an ace food photographer within days. Other than this, reading the articles with tips on food styling can also be of great help to anyone learning food photography.
Invest In One Good Background
Since the primary aim for food photography is the aesthetics, you have to invest in good backgrounds. This is essential because, just like all other elements, the set also tells a story and appeals to the viewer’s senses.
Looking at a carefully constructed image and where the background is perfectly aligned with the food presented creates a sense of calmness and pleasure that your audience would appreciate. So, you should always invest in a good background.
Backgrounds can be anything. They can come in the form of a wooden table, a good quality cloth, or an opaque matte sheet. Similarly, these backgrounds perform various functions. For example, if you take the above-mentioned strawberry smoothie and place it on a pink polka dot cloth for background, it would significantly pull the entire image together and create the perfect combination of foreground-background balance.
Another example is if you are taking a picture of a banana. A simple picture of a banana shouldn’t be hard to take, but you will have to carefully plan the aesthetics. You could use a matte yellow sheet and place the banana in front of it.
This way, you will be able to not only create color coordination but also make the image look funky. Similarly, you could use a wooden chopping board for steaks, a plaid tablecloth for sandwiches, and matte sheets for any other food item.
Include Hands To Add A Human Touch
Undoubtedly, food photos with a cute and colorful bowl on a perfectly set table look tempting. However, there’s no way one can capture all of the food items just by placing them on a cute table.
Many foods are supposed to be filled in a spoon or rolled between chopsticks for the picture to come out more tempting and realistic. In such cases, adding hands to your food photos might be a good idea. This gives more of a warmer feel to the shoot and gives the images a human-feel.
Psychologically speaking, pictures with human hands or mouth in a subtle contact with the food make the viewer crave the item more. Adding human hands may also become a necessity when you’re trying our unique angles for your food shoot.
However, including human hands in a photo is quite a responsible task. You can’t expect a hand with untidy nails in a food photo to be a pleasant thing for your viewers. Many food photographers usually don’t pay attention to the cleanliness and smoothness of the model’s hands. They think that such effects can be easily achieved by editing.
Although editing does impact how the hand would look in a picture, it’s not as perfect as a real clean hand being captured would look. You must add in a humanly touch to your food shoots, but make sure that whatever you add is pleasing enough for the audience, and it keeps on enjoying your shoot.
Take Care Of Reflections On Cutlery
If you’re choosing to incorporate cutlery into your image, you must take good care of reflections. Due to silverware being reflective, it is essential for you to make sure that there are no light flashes that come out of the spoon or the fork.
Since you’re trying to curate an image in an image, which entails the viewers imagining themselves in the photo, you can’t give away any markers suggesting that picture is an image that is captured. Because if you do so, then the whole illusion of it being a live experience fades away.
You may have noticed this in movies too. Whenever the actor is in front of a mirror, and the shot is taken from the back, it is never shown that there is a camera behind the actor, so as to give the viewers an experience where they can envision themselves in the movie. Similarly, you must take good care of angles and your camera settings when you take pictures with cutlery in them.
You could choose to not do flash photography or to reduce the white balance of the image. Most cameras also have a setting for reflections through which they can minimize external reflective elements of an image. Additionally, since reflections happen at an angle, you can always choose to direct the lighting of the image in a way that the silverware is not directly reflecting on the camera lens.
Get Inspiration From Others
Not considering what others in the field are doing is one of the biggest mistakes novice food photographers usually commit. Food photography has now developed to a great extent, with so many taking it up professionally. There are now fixed aesthetics and many unsaid rules for capturing different kinds of food. You can’t capture an ice cream bowl like you’d capture a steak platter.
Similarly, the rules of capturing a coffee mug don’t apply to capture shakes and other drinks. This means you have to know all the widely accepted customs of food photography to become a known food photographer. You can learn such things by getting yourself updated with what others like you are doing. To do so, you’ve to be active on platforms where experts and other food photographers share their works.
Thanks to social media, accessing ace food photographers’ blog isn’t a big deal. All you’ve to do is to enter a few words and press the search button, and you’ll be taken inside a new world. Once you’ve access to the best food photos, your task is simply to observe and learn from those pictures.
Taking ideas and inspiration from the works of someone else isn’t a sin as long as you add your personal touch to it when adopting it in your shoots. Look at how different food photographers place different food items and observe the props’ relevance to the food in the pictures. Make sure to learn something new out of every food photo you come across. This way, your chances of becoming an ace food photographer will increase quickly.
Use Contrasting Colors
Colors are extremely important in the composition of an image. Whether it is food photography, portraits, or any other kind of photography, contrasting colors add a whole other dimension to images. Contrasting colors are opposing colors on the color wheel.
So, black contrasts with white, yellow contrast with blue and green contrasts with red. There are many other examples of contrasting colors, but this is the basic idea. These contrasts add depth and prominence to your images.
For example, if you’re taking a picture of an apple, you should likely contrast it with a free background. This way, the image will make the red color of the apple pop more brightly, and the focus of the audience will directly go toward the apple. This is an excellent way to reduce distractions and generate a focal point for the image.
Another way to use contrasting colors is to add differently colored props. This way, each element of the image will have its own identity and will be looked at separately. For example, a green apple, a yellow banana, and a red strawberry, all thrown into a bowl. This will allow the viewer to place each one of the fruits in a different focal position, which is what will make the image all the more impressive.
If you add all green fruits and it’s just that, the image will be dull, and everything would just blend, and no fruit will hold a distinctive position in anyone’s eye. However, if you put greet fruits in a red basket, the image would become something entirely different and interesting.
Practice As Much As Possible
Just like taking inspiration from the works of others, practicing your food photography skills is also an essential step to making it big in the field. You cannot just learn a few basics of food photography and head out to shoot with a powerful camera in your hands. Doing so, you’d simply waste a lot of your time capturing imperfect food shots and learning nothing.
Our advice to someone looking forward to learning food photography is usually to start with random food shoots, merely practicing the tricks and tips they know. While practicing, you might want to try our different modes of your camera and use multiple light sources, setting your camera’s exposure and shutter speed accordingly.
This means that practicing food photography at home on your own will not only make you aware of the best possible angles to shoot from but will also make you adept at working with the camera you own. These two benefits of practicing and many other such make it essential for every new photographer to invest considerable time in practicing before they take up professional food shooting.
If you can afford, get yourself enrolled in an institute or join some online forums related to food photographers. You can also get a lot of photography tips and ideas to practice on your own. Regardless of the time you spend capturing food, you can’t achieve perfection unless you’ve stepped in the field after practicing for months. Such importance of practicing explains why every food photographer must practice for a few months before they start expecting great shots from themselves.