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Food is a strong element of one’s cultural identity and it will continue to gather interest. Make your food photos stand out with these simple food photography tips.

Many consider food photography to be cliché. But that doesn’t deter us from photographing our food. Or posting the snaps on social media at any opportunity.

Delicious food photography shot of steaming dumplings in a bowl, on a wooden chopping board

10. Photograph Food While It’s Fresh

Be prepared. Photographing food that is hot has a time limit. Adjust your camera settings. And ensure that your props or surrounding elements are set up.

Imagine you are going to be photographing a bowl of hot soup. Consider your setup. Think of how best to incorporate the rising steam. Or the feeling of comfort a bowl of hearty stew brings out.

A white background or bright window may cause the steam to blend in. If a dark background is unavailable, use an extra light source. Or use a reflector to illuminate the steam.

One of the best food photography techniques is considering your scene’s background. This is something that is a little more difficult to change in photo editing software, such as Photoshop.

The background can be just as important as the foreground and subject to the food look you want. Adding the human element can also be interesting.

A bowl of delicious hot soup in a traditional cooking bowl - food photography tips

9. Try Up Close Food Photos for Unique Angles

Visualising perspective can be one of the more challenging aspects of photography. Luckily, digital photography allows us to snap away with little consequence.

In certain situations, the food itself may be the only compelling thing in sight. An ugly tablecloth, scratched silverware and conflicting colours risk to ruin your photograph.

This is your chance to get in close and avoid including superfluous components. Use this foresight in how to photograph food better.

This is also a great way to make the food the real subject of the image. And it’s an opportunity to capture the delicate textures. Get in close and capture stunning culinary photography.

By showing close-ups of the food from different angles adds interest and something different. Whether you use artificial light or window light – as long as you have the best light, your food photography will be strong.

Why not try your iPhone to get in close. Your Canon or Nikon DSLRs might have a larger minimum focal distance.

A coloful close up of beautifully presented food - food photography tips

8. Use Composition to Set the Atmosphere

Your audience won’t be able to taste the food or experience the ambience that surrounds it. To compensate for this, you need to capture elements in the photo that set the scene and express a feeling.

Conveying that mood or feeling is one of the best tips for food photography. You aren’t only showing a visual image, but one that hits past experiences.

Set the tone with the use of a dark and romantic background or foreground. Or you can choose a scene that is light and airy.

Use your surroundings to tie the photo together. Include art, creative lighting and interesting furniture.

Using a backdrop that fits the mood of your food is a great food photography tip. Cutting boards show that food look, lights show something a little more romantic.

A food photo of pasta with atmospheric background

7. Look for Colour Contrast in Your Food Photos

Wild colours can make for a striking photograph. This does not mean that there isn’t a place for a black and white shot.

Consider your composition and lighting. Use these to make up for any missing elements that may normally carry the image.

Colour combinations are able to enhance your shot. Consider the contrast between the different components in the dish. Or between accompanying garnishes or even serving dishes and silverware.

Use coloured artificial lighting and artwork to add a splash of colour. I would recommend using a shallow depth of field to leave them out of focus.

Food photography is very dependant on colours. Textures, shapes and forms come after. Use this knowledge in how to photograph food perfectly.

A delicious close up of buffalo mozzarella salad - food photography tips

6. Try New Angles for Out of the Ordinary Photos

Many food photos are taken from the same “diner’s view”. Sometimes this angle can work, but creative perspectives are almost always more attractive and memorable.

A classic angle is the birds-eye-view, looking straight down from above. Though appealing, try not to use this as a default view.

This angle compresses the scene into two dimensions and you might miss out on highlighting notable elements of the dish.

Getting down low at plate level is kind of the opposite of the bird’s-eye view – let’s call it ‘fork view’. Fork view is good for highlighting the dimensional aspects of the dish.

This angle usually works best if you are able to get the lens close up to the food or if the background isn’t too busy.

Even changing your perspective is one of the best tips for food photography that we can offer. Great when used in combination with cutting boards.

A delicious close up of stuffed crab salad - food photography tips

5. Experiment With More Creative Plating

Food photography often affords you the luxury of time. Compared to some other genres of photography, food isn’t running by, nor needs to be coerced into making pleasing expressions.

Whittle flowers out of a carrot, put that ahi tuna into a martini glass and arrange the food into a spiral or geometric pattern.

Shooting a delicious salad? Capture it in the garden or somewhere outside with some foliage. Make sure you have the white balance correct, even though you can change it in Photoshop.

Photographing a seafood dish? Shoot it in front of a fish tank, or, better yet, float it on top! Being consistent is a great way to utilise food photography tricks out there.

A creatively plated food photography shot

4. Focus on the Subject for an Uncluttered Look

While being creative can step your food photography up a notch, going overboard can have the opposite effect.

In many genres of photography, images with simple compositions and delineated elements stand out. Too many components can distract from the main subject and confuse the viewer.

Allow these tips to enhance your photograph, rather than over-complicate it. Simplicity means that your image is focused on the subject and lends to a feeling of elegance and organisation.

Sometimes what makes or breaks a photo is not what you include in the frame, but what you leave out. Knowing when to stop stylising your plate is a challenge.

As one of the food photography techniques, knowing when to stop is an important element.

A delicious close up of seafood selection - food photography tips

3. Incorporate Props to Highlight Your Hero Dish

If used tastefully, including props in food images can work wonders. They add a backstory, show evidence of what the dish began as, or explain the ethnicity or region of the food.

Raw ingredients are always a favourite and good option in knowing how to photograph food. Also consider elements that help tell the story – pots, pans, knives and other items used to prepare the food.

Props don’t have to be front and centre. Hot coals left in the barbecue? Position them out of focus and glowing in the background.

Shooting sushi? Consider finding a compelling arrangement of chopsticks, soy sauce and wasabi. Maybe sneak a sake carafe or glass in there too!

A delicious food photography shot of pizza

2. Use a Tripod in Low Light Conditions

It’s fairly common to find yourself shooting food photography in dimly lit areas, so you need to do your best to steady your camera while shooting at the lowest ISO possible.

Needless to say, the first and best plan of attack is to use a tripod. Not only does a tripod allow you to get the sharpest shots, but it helps dial in your composition.

It allows you to arrange elements in your scene without having to recompose the shot. Perfect for photographing food.

If you are without a tripod, stabilise the camera by setting it on a firm surface and use the self-timer. Alternatively, hold it firmly against a wall.

Avoid using the camera’s built-in flash if possible. It yields unflattering, flat lighting. Instead, use a remote speedlight off-camera (behind and to the side of your subject is best) or an existing light source.

If your only option is on-camera flash, one of the best food photography tips to diffuse it is with a cocktail napkin.

If the lighting is still bright and harsh, keep folding the napkin, making it thicker to block out more light. This can make a bigger difference than you might think.

Here, a shutter speed is not important. Aperture and ISO should be your main focal points. Using a tripod makes sure your Canon or Nikon camera is kept in the same place, stopping accidental knocks minimal.

1. Try These Tricks to Keep Food Fresh Longer

I hate to break it to you but time slips by rather quickly when you get into the photographic zone.

During this time, your hot food is going to cool off, the ice in the drinks is going to melt, condensation is going to form on the glass and your crisp greens are going to wilt.

If capturing the steam coming off that soup is critical, be prepared to reheat it several times. This extra effort is what seperates the food photographers from professional photographers who capture food..

If you are shooting a salad or have greens as a complementary colour garnish, have a bowl of ice water ready to dip them in. This will reverse wilting, crisp them back up and make the colours more vibrant.

If shooting meat or fish, after just a few minutes it will start to dry out and the glistening juices turn into a dull glaze which becomes apparent in photos.

Use a thin cooking oil in a spray bottle to glisten everything back up. This will make your culinary food photography pop.

Conclusion

Shooting food is an exercise in edible still life. Luckily, we eat several times a day and if you are dedicated, you have lots of opportunity to practice.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Jeremie Schatz

Jeremie Schatz is a freelance photographer, photojournalist, journalist and videographer for a wide range of clients and companies in the United States and Thailand. Find his portfolio of colorful images and more of his writing at Exposed World Photography and on Facebook.

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