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Do you love to share meal recipes on your blog or Instagram? Then you know that creating the recipes is just half the battle—you also need to take high-quality photos that will leave people drooling and excited to try them.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take great photos. In this article, we share our top 10 food photo tips that will help you capture amazing photos in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Read on to learn how to use the right tools, lighting, props, and composition to create mouthwatering photos and take your recipes to the next level.
10 Food Photography Tips
Using natural light for your food photography is not only the most cost effective option, but it results in the most natural looking photos, since artificial lighting can often be harsh and create unnatural shadows, highlights, and tints. Using natural light is also very versatile—you can shoot photos of your brunch without having to bring lighting equipment to the restaurant.
To use natural lighting to your advantage, place your setup near a window and play around with where the light comes from in relation to your subject (for example, from the front, back, or side).
If the window is letting in direct sunlight, use a sheer curtain as a diffuser. If you’re shooting outside, try to do it on an overcast day or find a shaded area—direct sunlight can be too harsh and cause the same issues as artificial lighting.
When using natural light, keep in mind that some parts of your subject will be better lit than others. Unless it’s a deliberate effect, you can fix this by placing reflectors in areas where you want more light to bounce onto your subject.
2. Use a Tripod
A tripod is not absolutely necessary, and you can capture beautiful photos without it. However, there are two situations where a tripod can come in handy.
One is when you don’t have a lot of light to work with. In this case, you’ll likely be using a slower shutter speed in order to let as much light in as possible and capture a well-lit photo. Relying on your hands to keep the camera steady while using a slower shutter speed often results in a slightly blurry photo, so a tripod can make a massive difference in how sharp your photo turns out.
The other time when you might want to consider using a tripod is when you want to incorporate yourself in the photo. Many captivating photos of food include hands that either hold the main dish, hold a utensil, or perform an action, such as pouring syrup or salad dressing. This can add a lot of movement and energy to a photo, but you’ll definitely need a tripod to try it out.
If you have access to different camera lenses, they can help take your food photography to the next level. The most common feature photographers look for in a lens is the aperture size, which determines the photo’s depth of field and is responsible for the coveted blurred background you see in many professional photos.
It’s useful to have a lens that can handle a range of aperture sizes, or a few different lenses for different types of photos. You can use an aperture of f/1.8, for example, to create a shallow depth of field and capture photos with a blurry background and foreground, helping the subject stand out. On the other hand, you’d use an aperture of f/5.6 to take a flatlay photo where everything, including the background, is in focus.
The food you’re showcasing should be the main subject of your photo. To avoid distractions that steal attention away from it, use a neutral background, one with a solid color and a simple texture.
You likely already have great background options around your house—a countertop, a table, backsplash tile, cutting boards, tablecloths, placemats, and baking sheets. You can also play around with layering materials. For example, placing a cloth napkin on the table before placing the dish on it can add a little more dimension to the photo.
Food Photography: Prepping a Photo Shoot
High-quality photos of food can convey how it smells, tastes, and what its texture might be like. To achieve this, it’s crucial that you present the food in the best possible light. This means using the freshest ingredients, cutting them neatly, and taking great care with the presentation.
If you’re photographing soup, for example, don’t simply pour the soup into a bowl and reach for the camera. Instead, garnish it with cream, greens, and toppings. Serve it alongside a few pieces of bread. Include utensils to make it look like it’s ready to be enjoyed.
If you’re photographing a loaf of bread, be sure to slice off a few pieces to show what it looks like on the inside. Spread a thin layer of butter or jam to help the viewer imagine how the bread might be served.
Props can take your photo from plain and boring to a mouthwatering piece of art. The key is to use the right props that complement your main subject, as opposed to distract from it.
Props can be items that are typically served with the food you’re photographing, utensils, or other items found in the kitchen. Another common way to use props in your photos is to include ingredients that the main dish consists of, each in their own container or left directly on the working surface.
When choosing props, avoid items that are too large or too colorful—these will steal attention away from the main subject. Be sure to not overdo it, either. It’s important to leave negative space in your photo. If you do feel the need to fill space with more props, add more of the same ingredients, rather than introducing something new.
How you arrange your props also plays an important role in how your photo turns out. Always keep your main dish at the center of attention and arrange props around it in a natural way. Crumbs and spilled powders are welcome—the idea is to make it look like you have just finished preparing the dish.
If you’re using a lens with a shallow depth of field, play around with what you place in the background and foreground of the photo. These props will be blurred out and will help add dimension to your photo.
The way color is used in photography can impact the overall atmosphere of the photo and evoke certain feelings. For example, toned down neutral colors can bring on a sense of calm, while bright colors can offer an energetic boost.
When planning out the colors in your photo, think about what kind of atmosphere you want to create. Choose a background and props that complement the colors of the main subject and help it stand out. Avoid introducing too many colors, especially if they clash with one another.
You can also try to achieve different effects using color. For example, try capturing a monochromatic photo or one where the main subject dramatically stands out from everything else.
Camera angles play a massive role in photography in general, but especially in food photography. The angle you should choose depends on the type of food you’re photographing and what you’re hoping to showcase.
One of the most popular angles in food photography is the overhead, or flat lay, angle. This option is great for photographing things that don’t have a lot of depth, such as pizzas and pies. The angle allows you to focus on the toppings, instead of the dish that the food is in.
Another popular option is the straight on angle. This one shows food directly from the side and is perfect for drinks or parfaits in a clear glass, slices of cake, or stacks of cookies.
You can also use a variety of angles in between the overhead and straight on angles. These are great for displays that have a lot of props and dimension—the slanted angle allows you to capture a bit of everything.
10. Don’t Over Edit
It may be tempting to add a filter or a preset to your photos. However, the best food photos look natural and appetizing—no unrealistic colors or effects.
To enhance your photos a little, make sure to straighten and crop them. Then adjust the exposure, highlights, and shadows, and add a bit more saturation to the colors. Let the food do the rest!
The key to getting better at food photography is to practice as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t have your camera on you all the time. Use your phone when you’re eating out or at a friend’s house. The more you think about things like lighting, composition, and angles, the better you’ll get at setting up professional-looking photoshoots at home.
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