When chefs claim that we eat with our eyes first, they are correct. Colors, textures, and forms all play an important role in your culinary experience. Is it possible to criticize individuals for taking a quick snapshot before diving in?
There are a few easy principles to follow whether you’re working for a client or posting on Instagram to capture that ideal mouth-watering photo. A hazy, dark photograph of the masterpiece in front of you is the last thing you want.
Your food photography portfolio will be worthy of a Michelin star if you pay attention to light, composition, style, and your camera’s settings.
1. Make Use of Natural Light
A few rays of sunshine will change your food shot more effectively than any Photoshop treatment, but not all-natural light is made equal.
Don’t be enticed by a dazzling spot of unprotected sunshine. The bright direct illumination might cast black shadows on your meal. Exposing a naturally light-colored food, such as oats or mashed potatoes, to direct sunshine may cause the texture to become shapeless, and the overall image to become overexposed.
On a bright day, a patch of shadow is ideal for natural lighting. Finding a shaded window sill, a tree canopy, or simply putting up an umbrella over your food can give you that uniformly illuminated, textured, and defined style that sets one food image out from the next.
2. In A Flash
Flash should never be used in food photography unless it’s an artistic decision. Flash may cause glare, giving an otherwise perfectly seared fillet mignon an oily shine or an animated, glossy aspect to a slice of birthday cake.
The effect of “floating food” may also be created with flash. When light bounces off a white dish, the platter becomes indistinguishable from the table, giving the impression that your meal is floating in mid-air.
As a general guideline, you want your food photography to entice the spectator to pick up the item off the dish and bite into it. This won’t happen if the flash makes your meal seem too oily or cramped.
When you look at a fantastic food shot, you’ll notice that the main course is rarely the only thing in the frame. Background plates, utensils, napkins, and other components are used by food photographers to bring attention to the primary subject and add interest to a photograph.
It’s vital to understand that when we look at images, our gaze is drawn to specific junction spots inside the frame. The Rule of Thirds is a technique used by photographers to take advantage of this information.
The Rule of Thirds is sometimes misunderstood to imply that including three separate elements in a shot helps create attention, however, the strategy has nothing to do with grouping objects into threes.
Imagine your frame is divided into an even nine-part grid, similar to a Sudoku puzzle, to obey the Rule of Thirds. A photograph’s main subject should be placed either at the intersections of these lines or along with them.
The Rule of Thirds applies to any subject, whether it’s a slice of pizza, a lemon, or a bowl of soup.
When you look at the image above, you’ll notice that your eyes are drawn inwards toward the screen. The image would be flat if it didn’t have something at the intersection.
While the Rule of Thirds is a useful principle to remember, especially when you’re just getting started, it isn’t always necessary to use. You might wish to zoom in on a culinary item, such as a melting and chewy chocolate chip cookie, to show off its delectable texture. In this case, you might not be able to use the rule of thirds.
When it comes to composition, you must also consider the angle from which you will photograph your meal. Many food shots portray their subjects from a birds-eye perspective, but this isn’t the only way for photographers to highlight the greatest aspects of various dishes.
Consider the enticing elements of a topic when deciding which perspective to shoot from: are you capturing a tall milkshake loaded to the brim with whipped cream, sprinkles, and maraschino cherries? How about a large glass of freshly squeezed juice? Or a stack of meatballs heaped on top of each other on a large dish of spaghetti?
If your subject is tall, you might wish to capture it at a 45-degree angle, either straight or slightly inclined, to highlight its distinguishing features.
If you’re photographing a mainly flat topic like a smoothie bowl, doughnut, or open-faced sandwich, on the other hand, a bird’s-eye view perspective will assist highlight all of the greatest elements in a two-dimensional subject.
4. Proper Food Styling
While composition will aid in the addition of attention and emphasis to your photographs, effective food photography also necessitates excellent food styling.
Although you would not often eat breakfast with a sprinkling of coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, and hemp hearts artfully draped beside your morning bread, using these aesthetic choices can assist bring attention to the main topic in the frame.
Here are some tips on how to style your hair:
- Pick your prettiest plate, bowl, or serving dish.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with unusual items like wooden plates, marble cutting boards, and stone bowls to see how they combine with your photos. Don’t worry if you can’t afford the high-end items. Secondhand stores have a lot of unique serving ware for a fourth of the price of more costly retail places.
- Cutlery should not be overlooked.
Cutlery is used in many fantastic food shots to ground the image in reality and give the viewer the feeling of being able to dig right in.
- As background details, use fresh foods.
A few juicy lime slices and fiery chili flakes put beside a humdrum (but tasty) plate of Pad Thai help to liven things up. Don’t be scared to use unusual backdrop elements such as leaves or withered flowers. When done properly, your audience won’t be asking how the leaves got on the table; instead, they’ll be wondering how your photographs look so good.
- Color and texture are added to an image by using a cloth napkin.
A blue linen napkin behind a roast chicken will help the image shine, while a detailed or embroidered napkin over a bowl of soup can add texture.
- Don’t forget the finishing touches.
A sprinkling of parsley may liven up a brown-hued plate of Bolognese, just as a sprinkling of cilantro and olive oil can elevate a plain bowl of guacamole.
5. Decide on a look
Many excellent food photographers have a distinctive cuisine style that they keep to—rustic, simple, and modern—and they stick to it. To set themselves apart from the competition, they’ve developed a distinct style.
Without realizing it, you’ve probably already started simplifying your food photography approach. Congratulations! When you actively choose which plate to use, where to place your shot, and which accessories to include in the frame, you establish your unique cuisine style.
Work hard to make each image consistent with the next one once you’ve decided how you want them to look. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to producing one-of-a-kind food photos that reflect your preferences.
6. Take Into Account Additional Equipment
While more equipment isn’t required to obtain the ideal food photograph—especially if you intend to shoot at the proper time of day—investing in more gear may help ensure you get a nice shot without having to rely on the time of day or the weather.
Even if you don’t intend to buy professional gear, understanding what each piece does can help you obtain a better shot by allowing you to see how experienced photographers manage their environment to create a fantastic shot.
If your major audience is on Instagram, a tripod may not be at the top of your “must-have” list, but professional food photographers will always have one on hand when shooting for high-profile recipe books and food magazines. In huge, high-quality images, even the tiniest tremor can be detected, and in food photography, the more in-focus your subject is, the better.
- Card that bounces
A bounce card is a wide white surface that may be propped up to assist minimize undesirable shadows by reflecting light onto a subject. A bounce card may be quite useful in producing an evenly illuminated photo, even if your lighting conditions are near ideal.
The good news is that you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to have the professional look of a bounce card: you can create your own for less than $5.00 using a piece of white poster board from an office supply store or a dollar store.
- The Blackboard
You’ll need a blackboard to absorb extra light if you want to reduce light from a picture, either to produce a darker look or to ensure that a shot doesn’t wind up overexposed if you’re shooting in strong light settings.
Black boards are similar to bounce cards, except that instead of being white, they are black. For less than the cost of a burger and fries, they may easily be made using a black poster board.
- Lighting that is created artificially
Many pros utilize artificial light since they can’t ensure that a large window with sunshine flowing in will be available every time they want to film.
Studio lights with softbox attachments are a frequent option since they assist to simulate the natural light we all enjoy. Many lighting solutions and softbox additions, however, may be costly and large.
You may use two desk lights on either side of a subject and a bounce card to reflect light onto the frame if you don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on light fixtures just yet.
7. Be Familiar With Your Camera’s Settings
The amount of light entering a camera lens is determined by the aperture (F-Stop). The larger the aperture, the more light will enter your camera, and your image will be brighter. It will be darker the narrower it is.
Av mode, which automatically changes shutter speeds to get the best light for your subject, is the most used aperture setting for food photography.
The shutter speed determines how quickly or slowly your shutter opens and shuts. Faster shutter rates allow less light to enter the camera, resulting in a darker image. Slow shutter speeds, on the other hand, have the opposite effect.
The digital sensor of a camera is involved in ISO. It’s especially handy in low-light situations, where a wide aperture alone might not be enough to provide a clean image. When photographing food, aim for an ISO of 400 or lower, and stay away from ISOs greater than 1600 on most commercial cameras.
8. Editing and Filtering
Many of us are already familiar with basic photo editing techniques thanks to Instagram, and we know that software like Photoshop isn’t required to create a drool-worthy image.
Basic color and exposure fixing software, on the other hand, may assist turn an excellent food photograph into a terrific one. The good news is that it’s never been easier to utilize this equipment. On iOS and Android smartphones, there are a plethora of simple photo-editing apps to choose from.
VSCO Cam, Photo Editor by Aviary, and Snapseed are all popular applications. Preset filters and built-in correction tools are included in these programs.
When applying a preset filter to a food photograph, the goal should always be to make the image seem as natural as possible. Heavy filters may make food seem phony or even detract from the genuine texture of a topic.
If you like the way a filter appears but believe it’s a touch too harsh for your subject, try dimming it until you reach the ideal degree of subtlety.
9. Have Faith in Your Instincts
At the end of the day, taking a decent food shot boils down to having faith in yourself. If you’ve followed all of the steps for capturing drool-worthy food shots and still feel something isn’t quite right, trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm. Even if you’re not sure about the photos, there are plenty of additional excellent tools and food photography techniques available to help you improve your food photography.
Every image is unique, and there will never be a universal rule that applies to them all. As a result, a photographer’s most valuable instrument is their eye. Learn to trust it, and your photos will have people licking their screens.