Food blogs and foodie Instagram pages have blown up in recent years. It’s easy to see why.
Good food photography stimulates the emotions and is universally appealing. Not to mention drool-worthy.
So here are 20 delicious examples of food photography to inspire your next photo shoot.
A great image is one that conveys mood and pulls the viewer into the scene.
Mood is one of the most powerful ways to evoke emotion in a photo.
Lighting is one of the most important ways to create mood. But subject and exposure also have an influence.
Photographers use the the word key to describe mood. Low-key lighting is characterized by large areas of darkness. And high-key lighting is bright, with a lot of white.
Each style gives a different feeling.
In food photography, it’s important that the food be bright to have the most impact on the viewer. Images that are dark throughout just look underexposed.
The above image has a lot of shadows and blacks. Some of the subject is cloaked in darkness. But the main area of the subject is bright and vivid and draws the eye.
Repeating elements–or repeating subjects, in the case of the cupcakes above–create interest in a photograph.
Repetition can occur within the subject itself. Or it can be created with the focal subjects, or added ingredients and props.
This is a fun compositional principle to apply to your photography.
But sometimes it can create monotony. Be sure to find an interesting way to break the pattern, using colour, shape, size, or texture.
Not that the in the image above, the cupcakes at the top have been cropped to add tension to the composition.
Line is the most basic element in visual composition.
Lines lead the eye through the photograph to key focal points. And they keep the viewer’s eye focused on the image.
They can occur naturally in your food subject and through placement, such as in this image of the frosted cupcakes.
Pattern is created by the repetition of elements such as shape. It creates a rhythm that is pleasing to the eye.
Using the same or similar shapes achieves that rhythm and enhance the focus of an image.
The pattern of the plums in this image is appealing because they are scattered. But there is an inherent pattern that follows compositional guidelines, thus it is pleasing to the eye.
You may not even realize it, but pattern is found everywhere in the world around us.
Balance is created when various compositional principles are applied harmoniously.
Each element in a composition carries weight visually. The positioning of each of these elements can leave an image feeling balanced or unbalanced.
A viewer might not necessarily know why an image is unbalanced. But they will feel that something is “off”.
Typically, heavier visual weight on one part of the image can be balanced by a lighter visual weight in another. This is considered an asymmetrical composition.
Symmetrical compositions have elements are evenly placed. Or the two sides of the composition might mirror each other.
Like a painting, an image is revealed to the viewer all at once. There needs to be a focal point–an area of emphasis in the image which will lead the viewer through the frame.
Compositional movement guides the eye through the image to the area of greatest interest. Movement can be directed by color, line, or shape.
Even in an image where all of the elements look the same, as in this image of currants, there will be one that stands out to the eye.
The focal point should fall where the lines would intersect using the rule-of-thirds.
Motion is literal movement captured in a food photo.
It carries the idea that there is action taking place. Examples of motion in food photography are pouring a beverage, someone biting into a burger, or stirring batter.
Motion can add an element of excitement to a food photograph.
In the image above, it adds something special to what is a very minimalist food composition.
A pour shot is a perfect way to highlight the sauce in a dish.
Scale is one of the most important compositional elements in a captivating food photo.
It refers to the overall size of an object within the frame.
Improper scale occurs when the relative size of an object doesn’t match harmoniously with other objects in the image.
For example, when you see food plated on a huge white plate, the food subject gets lost. The eye gravitates to the plate, not the food itself.
For an image to appear balanced and harmonious, objects placed relative to one another need to do so harmoniously.
Dishes and props can appear much larger than they are. It’s best to stick to fairly small pieces when styling your food photos.
Texture is considered a compositional element and is crucial in food photography.
It adds contrast and detail that enhance your food subjects.
Texture naturally occurs in food–think of crispy fried chicken or a rustic salad. For extra compositional depth, think about texture in your linens, background, and even dishes.
In the above image, there is a lot of texture in not only the food but the table, and background as well.
This is balanced by the plate and the glass, which do not have texture. The goal is to not overdo it.
11. Negative Space
Every image should have some negative space.
Positive space is the area of your frame taken up by the subject and complementary elements. Negative space is the area where your eye can rest. It’s important for creating balance and a bit of breathing room.
Images without negative space can feel too busy and claustrophobic.
Negative space also emphasizes your subject and brings attention to the details in the food.
In food photography, there is a tendency to shoot with a lot of negative space due to text placement required in magazine or ad work.
10. Odd Numbers
The rule-of-odds states that when photographing a group of objects, having an odd number of elements in the frame is much more visually interesting than an even number of elements.
Odd numbers create a sense of balance and harmony. Even numbers can divide our attention and compete with each other.
In food photography, three or five elements are best for a most powerful compositional punch. Any more than that and the mind has a hard time processing the number.
So when you’re shooting several elements, compose them in groups of odd numbers whenever possible.
Colour evokes emotion and creates a sense of mood.
In colour theory, cool and dark colours recede, while light or warm colours like yellow bring objects forward.
Food is usually warm in tone. It looks best when it’s paired with cool or neutral backgrounds and props.
Colour combinations can be monochromatic, using tonal variations in a single hue. But utilising complementary colours is a wonderful technique in food photography.
These are colours that appear directly across from one another on the colour wheel. Blue and orange is an example. This is a colour scheme you see a lot used in delicious food photography.
Think of a warm bundt cake offset on a pale or deep blue background. The cake just pops.
8. Human Touch
Human touch can give a lifestyle feel to a food image. It immediately creates a connection with the viewer.
A human element in a food photo makes it more lively.
It also shifts the narrative. It’s less about the subject and more about the role the subject plays in relation to the human being.
Food is fundamentally about sharing with others. It can tell the story of traditions, of culture and heritage.
You need not have the whole person in the shot. In fact, a pair of hands, even out of focus, can add a lot to a food story.
Different foods react differently to light. This is an important thing to think about when getting ready to light your food.
Items like soups, syrups, and even meats give off a reflection. Capturing this correctly will ensure that these foods look their best.
Think of a burger patty or a pork chop without the brushing of olive oil that is in the arsenal of every food stylist.
Without a bit of shine, it would look dull and dry – the opposite of the juicy meat you’re trying to sell.
Close up or macro shots are one of the best ways to show the intricate and natural details of food.
Your food is the only star, and you should focus on showing its best side.
Subjects can range from the inside of a kiwi fruit to the veins on a stalk of kale or a cabbage leaf. But don’t shoot so close to your subject that the viewer can’t tell exactly what they are looking at.
Don’t forget that the closer you get to your subject, the shallower the depth of field will be. This means that your whole subject will not be in focus.
This issue can be solved easily by taking two or three images and focus stacking them in Photoshop.
5. Food Portraiture
Food Portraiture has emerged as a genre in the world of food photography in recent years.
In fact UK-based Pink Lady–the biggest food photography contest in the world–has Food Portraiture as its own entry category.
When you shoot a portrait of a person, you seek to bring out their best features. Your choice of lighting is crucial and goes a long way in setting the mood of your image.
The same goes for food portraits.
Although not shot as close up as a macro shot, your food subject takes up a lot of the frame and any props serve as supporting elements rather than important pieces in a narrative.
Food portraiture seeks to bring all the attention to the food and evoke the senses.
As with a living subject, the aim is to capture the essence of the dish.
Composing with layers helps single out your subject in a dramatic way.
It is the one tool that will help you improve your photography immediately.
Layers can simply mean the arrangement of objects–and that is important, too. Think of how much better a plate looks on a piece of linen rather than a bare table.
But in this case, I mean layers in terms of the foreground, middle, and background of an image.
Placing your hero dish in the middle of your frame will make it stand out. The supporting elements should be placed around it, preferably with a shallower depth of field.
Keep in mind that this is a technique mostly relevant to shooting at a 3/4 angle.
3. Selective Focus
Selective focus is used to draw the viewer’s eye to a specific part of the image. It is accomplished by using a shallow depth of field.
The technique is often used in photography to heavily blur out a background that would be too distracting.
It’s a great approach in shooting food because it helps you completely control where you want your viewer to look. This works well for a busy scene–for example, a table with a variety of dishes or elements that support the hero subject.
When there is a lot going on in an image, you don’t know where to look first.
Props can enhance your story, but they should not cause distractions. One prop that is too much in focus can end up taking away from your story.
Backlighting is a universally flattering approach to shoot food. It enhances shine and texture and brings out the liquid properties of food.
In this image of a chocolate cake, lighting the scene from the back really enhances the texture of the icing and gives it a beautiful glow.
When utilising backlighting, be sure to bounce some of the light from the front to make sure it’s not underexposed. Check for overexposure in the back, too.
You may have to move a bit further away from your light source if the back looks blown out.
Also known as the overhead or ninety-degree shot, the flatlay has become wildly popular due to Instagram.
Because camera phones have a wide angle lens, food looks best when it is shot from overhead or straight on.
Shooting from above decreases depth, so it gives images a graphic pop.
You can also fit more into the frame shooting at this angle than any other.
Flatlays often have a narrative quality. This gives the viewer the idea that there is a story happening in the shot, which makes it interesting.
Hopefully, these examples of delicious-looking food photography have inspired you.
When creating your own images, ask yourself how things look?
Can you use line, shape, colour and texture to match up with what you have envisioned?
What are the best compositional elements that will bring out the best in your food?
Take the time to answer these questions, look over the images in this article fro inspiration and your own work will improve.