Whether you’re looking for food photography tips to improve the look of your social feed, or you’re shooting professionally for a restaurant – there are some basics for taking the perfect shot. Food photography is more than snapping a quick photo of a plate and calling it a day. We’ve compiled 19 food photography tips you can use to capture a mouth-watering shot, every time.
What is the Best Camera for Food Photography?
Just like a chef uses a great set of knives, you’re going to need the right camera for capturing great food shots. Essentially, food photography is still photography, so it’s good to keep that in mind when selecting a camera. The most important camera specs when it comes to photographing food are resolution, depth of field and color. Great options range from DSLR to mirrorless.
You’ll have no problem finding a camera that fits within your budget and meets your needs while giving you full control over your photos.
- An entry level crop-sensor DSLR, like the Nikon D3300, is a good starter camera for food photography.
- If budget is less of a concern, opt for a full frame DSLR like Canon’s feature-rich 5D Mark IV.
- Mirrorless cameras, like the Sony a7 III, are pretty popular due to their combination of small size and big power.
As important as the camera is what lens you use. Ditch your camera’s kit zoom lens and opt for a prime lens instead. Prime lenses are those that have a fixed focal length. They are generally smaller, often less expensive (though not always), and have wider maximum apertures than zooms. Look for a prime lens that has a wide aperture – an f-stop of 2.8 or wider – and consider a macro lens if you plan to shoot close-ups. The Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro, and Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lenses are all great options.
Food Photography Tips
Presentation is Paramount
We all know food that looks better, tastes better. Think about the presentation of the food and how it’s arranged on the plate. Everything in the shot – even the dish it’s served on – should look clean and enticing.
Use Only the Freshest Ingredients
If the lettuce looks wilted, a piece of fruit is bruised, or if a steak is overcooked – it’s going to be even more obvious in a food photograph. Previsualize or plan the shots you want and take into account timing, as food loses its freshness the longer you take to get the shot.
Use Simple Props
Wooden cutting boards, natural placemats, and even the raw ingredients that compose the dish you’re photographing are all great food props. Stick to simple elements that don’t distract too much, so your food remains the hero of the shot.
Play With Angles
Think about what food you’re photographing and shoot from the angle that best highlights the shape, height, or ingredients. Generally, a 45 degree or overhead angle will compliment the shot well.
Be Aware of Your Background
When shooting food, always be aware of what’s showing in your background. Be sure it’s not distracting, particularly if you’re in a restaurant or busy market. Use a shallow depth of field or switch up your angle if the background is too busy. Remember, the food is the focus. Consider these do’s and don’ts if you’re photographing in a restaurant.
Consider the Point of View
Opt for a point of view that displays depth, gives visual interest, and perspective. This will depend on the food you’re shooting, so determine what you want to be the focus of the shot. It helps to vary your shots, so you have options to choose from in the end.
Use Leading Lines for a Better Composition
Just like a portrait or a landscape photo, leading lines are incredibly useful in food photography, too. Think about arranging your props and composing your shot in such a way that you create leading lines, directing the viewer to the most important element of your photo.
Give Your Dish Some Space
When you’re composing your shot, leave some negative space around the dish. Experiment with the position of your subject within the frame. It may look best centered, or maybe your photo is better composed with the dish off to one side.
Tell a Story
Photography is all about telling a story, and food photography is no different. What feeling do you want to invoke with your photo? Style the shot with props, colors, and backgrounds that help create a mood.
Add a Human Element
Give the audience a sense of presence and scale by shooting hands holding the plate or stirring a pot of food. Consider including people enjoying the dinner. It will depend on the story you want to tell with your photos.
Show the Process
Similar to telling a story with your food photography, shooting food during prep or while it’s being cooked can sometimes be more interesting than the finished product.
Use Natural Light
Lighting is extremely important with food photography. The best kind of light for food photos is natural daylight. Avoid using your camera’s built-in flash, to help avoid unwanted orange or yellow tones. Many of the lighting techniques for food photography matches those for product photography.
Modify Your Light
Overcast days are often ideal for food photography, providing soft light and subtle shadows. On those brighter days, use a diffuser between the light source and your food to soften the light and avoid harsh shadows. Use a reflector to fill in dark shadows or a black card to block distracting light that hits your background. The natural light will bounce from the reflector back onto the food and brighten up unwanted shadows. Learn more about this in Easy Lighting Laws to Boost Shooting Performance.
Use a Tripod
Food photographs should be tack sharp. Using a tripod is an easy way to achieve overhead food shots. It helps you keep your camera at one angle, so all you need to focus on is adjusting the food, props or lighting.
Depth of Field and Aperture
Use a shallow depth of field and a large aperture to place emphasis on the subject. Sharp focus on the food with a soft, buttery background with draw the viewer’s eye directly where you want them to look.
Expose for the Highlights
A common issue with food photography is that white plates or props can be overexposed or too bright and distract from the subject. Before you click the shutter, adjust your camera’s exposure so that you don’t lose detail in the highlights.
Extreme highlights can’t be easily recovered in post production. It can be difficult to tell if your exposure is correct when looking at your little LCD. The histogram assures you that your exposure is good.
It’s typically easier to bring up shadows in a file than it is to take down highlights when editing. Slightly underexposing might be preferred to slightly over-exposing when shooting in RAW. You can always intentionally overexpose to personal taste in post production.
Warm it Up
Be aware of your white balance and adjust it accordingly. White balance refers to the tint of the white parts of your photograph. When it comes to pictures of food, a warmer white balance is much more enticing than those cool tones. If you shoot in RAW format, you will be able to adjust your white balance very easily in programs like Lightroom and Photoshop.
Consider the theme or purpose behind the food pictures you’re taking. Use an upcoming holiday, theme, or the brand to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your photos.
Just like any other type of photography, your photos will benefit from you experimenting creatively. Consider these tips, but remember, they are just guidelines. Don’t be afraid to try new things that will make your photos uniquely yours.
By using these tips and carefully choosing the appropriate camera and lens, you’re guaranteed to take pictures of food that with catch people’s attention and taste buds!
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