Food photography is pretty much similar to painting a piece of art on an empty canvas. In this metaphor, the photographer’s canvas is a carefully chosen plate, of course. And paint is nothing more but the foods and spices on a plate.
Maybe this complexity is the reason why we have so few world-famous food photographers. In any case, it is not something unachievable. To help you out, we’ve decided to compile a guide of actionable tips.
Food Photography Is Arguably One Of The Most Challenging Types Of Photography Out There
Mastering genre is a very challenging task, especially for beginners. Why? Because it requires high proficiency with DSLR, culinary skills, and skills in art. See, every food photo is a result of carefully planned layout and a perfect combination of layers. Each photo has to be able to tell a story and turn visual stimuli into smell and taste.
Everything In The Photo Is A Decision
Yes, some shoots will be more complicated than others. With each photograph, you have to start from the beginning – decide the size, color, shape, and the material of the canvas and start building layer upon layer. Every step of the process is a result of a decision.
In essence, despite their complexity, all food photoshoots require a specific mindset and approach. It’s hard because the knowledge and experience transferred from landscape or portrait photography are useless here. Your subject doesn’t exist in advance. You have to create it and capture the essence of it.
While this does sound complicated, there are some shortcuts that you can take to become better at it. Here are four easy steps to help you deliver mouth-watering food photographs.
The 4 Easy Steps for Food Photography
Let’s go through the steps below:
Know Your Food for Food Photography
To make a good quality food photo, you will need more than just a good eye and a fancy camera. You will need to learn how to style your food. And to be able to style it, you first need to know your food. Hey, this is not overly complex.
Study the shape of the food and learn its characteristics. It’s shape, structure, how its processed and the variety of decoration options will help you get ready for the shots. Thanks to this knowledge, you can master the next step in creating stunning food photos.
Plan the Shots
Food shots have to be made in a tidy environment. Dust and random objects on the table will affect your composition and potentially ruin your shots. The lighting is also an issue here. What to do? Decide on which plates to use. Do it in advance to save some time. Make sure that they are sparkling clean and that the table is in an area with proper lighting.
Position the Dish
Did you notice that none of the food shots features only the main dish? There is always something around it that compliments it and completes the story. Positioning the plate is very important for the most optimal photo composition.
Work hand-in-hand with your team members, experiment, and try different combinations. When beautifying the food with side dishes and raw spices, make sure not to overdo it. Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first. Finding that perfect spot between simplicity and complexity does take some time.
When the plate and tables are set up, take your camera and start pressing buttons. Take as many shots as you can. Try different angles. Move to the other side of the table. Always be mindful of the light and what story you want to tell.
If there are people on your team that know how to use the camera, give it to them and let them take some shots. The perspective change can help you capture what you want.
Professional Food Photography Is A Collaborative Effort
Those stunning food photos that you see online and on menus at the world’s most famous restaurants are not the results of one man. Entire teams are often involved in restaurant food photography. The common members of such groups include a food and prop stylist, an art director, and a photographer.
This niche is particular due to the characteristics of the subject. Some foods look most rewarding for photographing the moment they leave the oven while others have to sit down for a while. Great food photos require a team effort.
Food Photography Demands Passion and Deep Understanding of The Products
The genre is a still life photography genre. But unlike other sub-niches of still life photography, its primary goal is to produce attractive photographs because most of them will end up on websites, menus, ads, and cookbooks.
A food photo has to be able to entice viewers and make them wish to try it, buy it, or cook it themselves. This is why this genre demands passion and a deep understanding of the products. Don’t forget that food is a product created by professionals. It is someone’s life work. You have to understand this to be able to make shots that do the food justice.
Tips to Seriously Improve Your Food Photography Techniques
- Choose the Angle The camera angle is a crucial factor when taking shots of food. The angle will determine the flow of the story you want to tell. Before making a shot, think about what you want to achieve here. Do you want people to admire it? Make an instant decision to order it? Learn how to prepare for it? Answering these questions will help you determine which qualities to feature. Once you know what you want to feature, you can try finding the angle that makes these qualities prominent.
- Surround the Hero The hero of your story is the main dish. To make compelling shots, you need to hire some actors for the support roles. You have plenty of options ranging from fabrics, linens, and glasses to sauces, spices, and cooking utensils.
- Natural Light is the Best Light is vital in all photography genres. It is advised to always shoot under the natural light. You should use a diffuser. Place it between the window and the table to improve the quality of the light. Make a few white and black cards to be able to reveal important details and create a stronger contrast.
- Avoid Flash Make sure to avoid using a flash. It can create unwanted reflections and shadows and complicate your life in the post-processing phase.
- Hold the Color Don’t let the supporting actors steal the spotlight from your protagonist. Hold the color of your main dish by adding items of neutral color to your shot composition. Always choose a background color that makes the food pop against it.
- Filters, Editing, and Photoshop Services After you take the shots, you should try a few filters on them. If you find editing overly complex, you can always put your trust in Photoshop services to get your food shots ready for their final use.
The actionable information we’ve shared with you will undoubtedly help you on your way to becoming a professional food photographer. As you can see, it is a demanding photography genre as it requires passion, understanding, and general knowledge in photography.
–Smart PHOTO editors