If you enjoy taking still-life images, then food is one of the best subjects that you can use. It is easy to achieve professional food photography results when you take some time to stage the scene. Instead of taking a quick picture of the plate you made for dinner, these food photography tips and ideas will help you to uncover the textures, colors, and shapes that will draw people into the images you create.
These tips apply to any camera that you may wish to use for your food photography as well. Whether you create the image on the latest iPhone or your favorite DSLR, these ideas will help to take your work to the next level.
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Food Photography Lighting Should Be Natural
All still life photographs benefit from the presence of natural daylight. The harshness of fluorescents, incandescent lights, or LED bulbs can adversely impact the image in numerous ways. Artificial additions often cast shades of yellow, orange, or white that can make your food look less than appealing.
If you must shoot indoors, then position your subject material near a window whenever possible. Then compose the image using various elements, such as silverware, placemats, or even a book to create the atmosphere you want.
Try to diffuse the natural daylight whenever possible because this will lead toward a softer look in the final image. Avoid direct sunlight when taking advantage of this idea because it could cast shadows that take attention away from your food.
Remove Shadows from the Image
You don’t need to be a Photoshop genius to take distracting shadows out of your food photography. If you shoot images under specific light conditions, then you can place emphasis on the still life in your photograph instead of the dark patches that surround each item.
If you are taking your food photography techniques outside, then wait for an overcast day to limit the influence of shadows. You might also find some success by moving into an area that offers some light shade.
Indoor photographs benefit from the inclusion of curtains or blinds that can diffuse the light for your setting.
If you must take the shot in direct sunlight, then position a reflector near your food items to brighten the shadows. Then keep track of your shadow when taking the photograph to prevent your body’s shadow from interfering with the final take.
Use Neutral Backgrounds
The goal of food photography is to highlight the natural elegance of each ingredient that you use. Even if you are taking an image of something dark, like a cup of coffee, a neutral background allows the colors of the still life to stand in sharp contrast to their environment.
Imagine taking a picture where you have white rice sitting on a white tablecloth next to a white wall. How would you be able to distinguish where one element ends, and the next one begins?
Darker foods typically look better when you can choose more of a shadowy tone in the neutral spectrum. Go lighter for your foods like cauliflower or white asparagus. If you have a wooden background, then it will look great with almost any type of food that you wish to photograph.
A simple wooden background can be a cutting board from your kitchen. You could also arrange the food items on your deck, porch, or picnic table to create a positive result.
One of the best food photography tips for beginners to consider is the impact of color in your composition. There are several different approaches that you can take when focusing on this element of your image.
- Use colors which complement each other to create harmonious tones that can produce feelings of peacefulness and comfort when viewed.
- Sharp, contrasting colors create a dynamic impact on the image, offering vibrancy and curiosity while studying the unique mix.
- Seasonal colors can create a theme for your work as well. Reds and greens are fun to use at Christmas, whereas orange and black (or white) are a fantastic combination around Halloween.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the different color combinations that are available with your food items to see what might work. Although there are some classic contrast combinations like black and white together, you will find that exciting blends of yellow and purple could make the image stand out as well.
Know Your Angle
If you want to improve your food photography techniques, then you will want to start considering the precision of the angle in which you take the shot. Many people like to compose an image by looking straight down on the ingredients that are in the picture. This classic angle offers several advantages because you can include the shapes of each dish, the color of the background, and the color of the food without causing the photograph to seem staged.
That overhead look can also become repetitive if that is the only angle that you use for your photographs.
Consider taking a side image of food items by placing them in a clear glass or bowl. This option will help you to show more close-up details about the texture of the ingredients in your image while still providing the advantage of a neutral background to make the colors pop.
You can also choose to shoot from a diagonal with foods where you want to capture the three-dimensional shapes they offer.
If you are unsure of which option to choose, then try all three of them to see which looks the best. You might be surprised at how a slight change in the angle of your shot can change the perspective of your food art photography.
Think About Arrangements
Composition is arguably the most essential element of any photograph in any subject or genre. When looking at the aspects of food photography, the way that you arrange your items can either define your image or cause people to turn away from it.
Each component in your photograph should have an apparent purpose. Throwing strawberries onto a table to add a splash of red isn’t good enough. You must develop a specific message for the viewer with the optics you create.
There are several ways that you can work on creating a unique take on specific products when your focus is to create professional food photography results.
- Try cutting fruits or vegetables in similar ways to create patterns for the camera.
- Arrange food slices in ways that seem natural for the dish that you are photographing.
- Incorporate whole food items with slices of the same product to create a before-and-after transition for the viewer.
Then there is the element of cleanliness. Taking a picture of a messy plate will create an unnecessary distraction for your food photography. Make sure that you review your setup to remove any spills that may have occurred before you start snapping some shots.
Create Visual Stories
If your blueberries could tell a story, what would it be? When you think about the kind of foods that you have for your image, then consider what the message is that they will convey after you take the shot.
One of the best skills that creative food photographers bring to their work is an ability to tell stories through their images. That means trying to do something original with each photo that you take.
You must be willing to throw out all of the rules sometimes to create visual stories with your images. Ignore all of the advice, and then focus on your instincts instead. Try different angles that seem unusual. Get low to the ground to change your point of view if you wish. You could even try zooming in extra tight with the frame to pick out specific textures that you feel are unusual with your food.
If you want to include additional feelings with your photograph, then consider having a model in the image engaging with the items as well. “If you want emotions in your photos,” writes photojournalist Felipe Passolas, “you need people around.”
Offer the Impression of Movement
You can also create moments of movement by including hands using the flatware to reduce the static nature of a scene. If you are taking a shot of sushi, then using chopsticks in the image might be a useful addition to add some flow.
When you have multiple dishes in a shot, then consider having numerous hands to complement the scene. Not only can this help you to tell a story, but it can provide an essential frame for the ingredients that you want to capture.
Are You Ready to Work on Your Food Photography?
Although there are many tips and tricks that you can use to improve your food photography skills, one piece of advice stands out above all of the others: keep things simple.
If your image is too busy, then it will be challenging to pick out what the central theme of your photograph happens to be. Sometimes the most robust visual impacts come from bold colors that are perfectly centered in the frame of your shot.
Then try to create an image that you won’t need to edit afterward for the best results. Think about changing the exposure level on your camera to reduce the risk of over- or under-exposure in your image. Lighter colors tend to appear too bright, while darker tones tend to blend into the background.
Try to expose for the highlights. This setting will help you to focus on the details of the food in your image without making the photograph seem like it was artificially manipulated.
It can take some practice to create the perfect food photograph. If you start working with tips like these, then your skills will begin to improve immediately.
Check out our article on the best food photographers in Singapore