One of the best ways to hone your camera skills is to practice food photography. Whether you want to beef up your Instagram profile with mouthwatering food images or become a professional food photographer, use these tips to help you take better pictures of food.
As an added bonus, these food photography tips apply no matter what kind of camera you’re using, even if it’s a cell phone!
1. Make Use of Natural Light
Despite popular opinion, you don’t need expensive photography accessories to take quality pictures of food. Instead, the best thing you can do is use natural light.
This is found closest to the windows during the daytime when the sun is out. Simply position your plate of food next to a window and start snapping away!
2. Use a Reflector to Fill in Shadows
The challenge with using natural lighting is that it often creates harsh shadows on one side of your image. This is best solved by using a reflector to bounce the natural lighting and fill in the shadows.
You can use a professional photography reflector, which is pretty cheap and compact. These reflectors typically come with one side coated with a metallic gold to give off a warm light, and a silver side for a more muted tone.
But if you’re in a pinch, just use a white napkin or white paper (i.e. menu), which can produce a similar light bouncing effect.
3. Create Your Own Natural Lighting
It’s not unusual for some restaurant spaces to be devoid of natural lighting, making it hard to take food photos. If you have access to professional lighting gear, this is a good excuse to make use of it. But if you don’t have gear, not to worry.
You can add a soft, natural lighting glow to your food photos using just two things: a dimmable flashlight and a white napkin. Alternatively, you can substitute the flashlight for a smartphone’s built-in light, and the napkin for a shoot-through reflector.
The whole point is to use an artificial lighting source and then soften that light using a diffuser such as a napkin. It might look odd, but the result is worth the effort!
4. Pick a Good Food Photography Background
When taking pictures of food, it’s important to select a background that will not draw your viewer’s attention away from the food. Neutral backgrounds of solid colours are typically best, but textured backgrounds such as wooden tables or marble counter tops can also work well.
Generally speaking, it’s best to photograph a dark dish on a dark background, and a light dish on a light background.
5. Style Your Photo with Food Photography Props
Photos of food by themselves can look boring. Add some life to your food photos with props!
These will vary according to where you are taking your food photos, but some ideas include adding utensils, napkins, and other dishes and beverages that complement your main photography subject.
Consider all of the elements that would typically go along with the food photo you’re trying to take, and add those food photography props to the scene!
6. Add These Photography Accessories to Your Gear Bag
If you’re taking food photos on location at a restaurant, it always helps to have these food photography accessories in your gear bag. First, consider a lens cloth or keep your camera clean and free of dust.
Along those lines, keep some baby wipes and Q-tips on hand for cleaning up little spills and crumbs that might be on the plates of food you’re trying to photograph. Toothpicks and cotton balls are also handy for propping up food and holding them in place.
Finally, don’t forget a reflector (more on that above).
7. Plan Your Photos in Advance
For most food photography subjects, you have a very short window of time to capture your images before the food starts to look very different. This is most obviously demonstrated with ice cream, which starts to melt after mere seconds.
But if you take a look at just about any cooked food, you’ll see that it also changes shape, color, and texture very quickly.
As a result, it’s a good idea to set up your photography scene in advance and get ready to shoot as quickly as possible once the food arrives.
8. Shoot From a Variety of Angles
As you plan your food photography shoot, consider capturing photos from a variety of angles. Overhead shots are trendy at the moment, but also try shooting from a seat at the table, to give off the perspective of a seated diner.
Also consider getting up close and personal with your food subject, shooting from eye-level to show a different perspective.
9. Add a Human Touch
Food isn’t just for looking at; it’s for human consumption! Thus, consider adding a human element to tell a story with your food photography. The easiest human element is a hand to create a sense of presence.
Have your hand model pose with a piece of cutlery to add a sense of action, or grab several hands to hold plates of food to add a sense of camaraderie and fun.
10. Spend Some Time Editing Your Photo
Very few photos look perfect straight out of the camera. It’s always a good idea to select your best image and edit it in a post-processing program. Adobe Lightroom for desktop and mobile phones is a popular, intuitive photo editing program that is used by both amateurs and professionals.
Typically, the main things that need enhancing in food photos are contrast, brightness, vividness, and saturation. Tweaking these elements will give you bright, crisp food photos.
11. Turn to Social Media for Food Photography Inspiration
Given the popularity of food photography, there are many examples on social media sites to give you inspiration. In particular, Pinterest and Instagram are great places to browse and bookmark your favourite food photos.
Once you find food photos that you admire, study their lighting and composition. Figure out what draws your eye to them, and use it as inspiration for your next food photography shoot.
This list of food photography tips can go on and on, but these 11 tips should be enough to help you get started.
In summary, you can easily improve your pictures of food by using simple food photography props and backgrounds, considering the angles and compositions of your photos, doing light photo editing, and looking for food photography inspiration on social media.
Do you have any food photography tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!