In a world where we are constantly flooded with images, it’s no wonder that food photography has become one of the most popular genres. As a food photographer, you are constantly competing to grab the viewer’s attention, and while anyone with a smartphone can snap a photo of their dinner, there are more than simple steps to improve your photos. I will help you take your food photography skills to the next level. With a little practice, you can be taking mouth-watering photos that will make your audience drool.
Composition is key
I could sound cliche but composition is the base of not only food photography but any photography genre. There are a lot of composition rules to follow but you can check those out here, I will be more practical showing you some cool ideas that you could apply to your food shots.
- Look for a balance in the frame, never center the food right in the middle of the frame unless it has a purpose, for example, a menu dish.
- When using props, try to place elements entering or exiting the frame without distracting the main dish or element. Once again, to balance the composition.
- If there is any geometrical shape in the food, like straight lines, try to lead the eye to the important element. The idea is always to grab the attention of the hero.
- If using some sort of geometric shape background, use it in your advantage to lead the eye. Usually “straight” lines always work well as a diagonal.
Perspective in food photography is no exception and you can use it to your advantage. Some purist photographers will say that you need to use one type of lens in particular to get the most accurate representation of the food, but in reality, it depends on what you want to portray. I’ll give you some examples: Imagine you want to photograph a burger and you want to highlight how juicy the patty is. In this case, I would use a 50mm lens or even a 35mm shooting from a little low angle and close to it to make the patty look like a superhero and bigger than normal. Remember that perspective is very subjective. Play with it.
If you want more basic info about perspective here are some “standards”
- Flat lay shots are always popular on Instagram and restaurant menus because it shows the whole dish.
- 45-degree angle shot is usually the all-around shot for many uses, it shows details of the dish and you can play with more depth.
- Straight-on angle is often used to show details of the food, it is perfect for a hero shot where you want to highlight some ingredients or part of the dish. Sometimes these kinds of shots are close-up ones.
Props to enhance the scene
There are many props that can be used in food photography to make the subject more interesting. Some common props include plates, silverware, napkins, tablecloths, cutting boards, and knives. These items can help set the scene and make the food look more appetizing. Textured backgrounds such as walls, countertops or DIY backdrops can also be used to add depth and interest to the photo.
If you think out of the box, anything could be a prop. Imagine the dish is a delicious bolognese spaghetti dish with tomato sauce just out of the stove, think about the ingredients of that dish and there you have the props, some fresh garlic, some sliced tomatoes to show texture, and a piece of parmesan cheese.
Another great prop that always works great is hands holding utensils or some of the food.
One thing to keep in mind is that less is often more. Too many props can make a photo look cluttered and busy. It is also important to use props that complement the food, rather than compete with it for attention.
Editing your photos
My editing process for food photography is pretty simple because I always try to get the best shot on camera and not leave it for post-production. But there are always ways to improve your food photos in the editing process. Here are some good tips that will help when you get to the editing part.
- Always shoot different photos from the same angle, on a tripod without moving the camera or focal length, trying to move the props and main element. This will help you choose the best frame or even mask some elements in the frame to get the perfect composition.
- Same as mentioned before, shoot different frames where you can play with bounce cards so then you can mask the part of the frame you like better in photoshop.
- Less is better, try to use fewer color profiles. I personally use a flat profile that gives you more flexibility and a natural look.
- When developing the photos, in lightroom, or any other software of your preference, change the parameter one by one and check on every step before and after to avoid overdoing any value. My starting point is 30% – 40% up the highlights and blacks, open 15% – 30% the shadows, add around 10% vibrance and saturation, and 30%-40% sharpening. Be aware that all these parameters depend on the resolution of your photo and the exposure you shot at.
These tips should help you to improve your food photography skills. With practice, you should be able to start producing great food photos. One of the best valuable tips I can give you is, to experiment with different exposures, angles, lenses, light, and composition. Mess it up so you understand what is wrong and what you should avoid. Making mistakes is the best way to learn something because it creates that memory.