Food Photography – An Introduction

Interested in learning about Food Photography?  Read on for some introductory tips.

 

Visit any bookshop and head for the cook book section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of books filled with delicious recipes accompanied by excellent photography of the dishes.

Colourful stacks of vegetables drizzled with rich sauces on a clean white plate with glistening table settings, Rustic chopping boards with vibrant ingredients – you know the shots. Sometimes the photography is almost the true focus of the book with the recipes taking a secondary role.

 

But how do you photograph food and get such great results?

 

1. Lighting

Treat the food you’re photographing as you would any other still life subject and ensure that it is well lit. Many of the poor examples of food photography could have been drastically improved with more thought to the lighting.  The best light for food – Natural light, don’t be tempted to blast it with flash as this will over illuminate the subject.  One of the best places to photograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – you can if needed perhaps bounce a small amount of flash off a ceiling or wall to fill in any shadows. This daylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural.

 

food photography - Salad image

2. Props

The food and it’s arrangement is only part of the image, pay attention to the context that you put it in including the plate or bowl and any table settings around it. Don’t clutter the photo with a full table setting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. These elements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot.

 

 

3. Be Quick

Food doesn’t keep it’s looks for long so as a photographer you’ll need to be well prepared and able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changes colour. This means being prepared and knowing what you want to achieve before the food arrives. I like to have the shot completely set up before the food is ready and substitute a stand-in plate with stand in food on to get my composition/ exposure. Then when the food is ready I just switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting.

 

4. Style it

The way food is set out on the plate is as important as the way you photograph it. Pay attention to the balance of food in a shot (colour, shapes etc) and leave a way into the shot (using leading lines and the rule of thirds to help guide your viewer’s eye into the dish). One of the best ways to learn is to get some cook books to see how the pros do it.

Food Photography-Soup image

5. Enhance it

One tip that a photographer gave me last week when I said I was writing this was to have some vegetable oil on hand and to brush it over food to make it glisten in your shots.

 

6. Get Down Low

A mistake that many beginner food photographers make is taking shots that look down on a plate from directly above. While this can work in some circumstances – in most cases you’ll get a more better shot by shooting from down close to plate level (or slightly above it).

Food Photography - Chocolate desert

7. Macro

Really focusing in upon just one part of the dish with a shallow depth of field can be an effective way of highlighting the different elements of it.
Food Photography - Foccia bread image