If you find that your food photography is not quite getting the attention it deserves, this Food photography 101 will help you improve the quality of your shots.
The guide covers all the important aspects of food photography and some great tips to improve your photos that you can also apply to other photography genres. If you are just getting into food photography, this guide can also serve as a great beginner’s guide.
Almost everyone with access to a social media account would have shared pictures of their food, and the sheer volume of food photos online is an indicator of how crowded the food photography market is. But it also tells you how accessible is this photography genre.
Breaking into food photography and make a difference will require persistence and a desire to constantly learn and enhance your skills. Let’s dive into this food photography 101.
Related: Dark Food Photography Guide
Food Photography 101: The Basics
First of all, I want you to know that to take amazing food photography can be done by everyone with the right knowledge and equipment.
Here are some tips you should know before you get started:
- As with almost all types of photography, you should identify the subject of your image and aim to keep it in your camera’s focus.
- It is important to use a wide aperture to highlight a specific item.
- You should always shoot in RAW to get the most out of your pictures during post-processing.
- Use a macro lens to get the best close-up shots.
- Shooting tablescapes allows you to cover multiple subjects and shoot them in a higher aperture to keep them all in focus.
- Composition and light are pretty much the most important aspects of your shot.
And before we jump right into each aspect of this photography genre, know that if you want to get paid to take food photos, networking is a skill you should hone. Once you start taking food photography seriously, you need to make it a point to meet people who can introduce you to a restaurant owner and start from there.
If you apply the rules I’m going to show you, in no time, not only you’ll get amazing photos, but you might also start making some money with it.
Related: How to Become a Food Photographer
Food Photography 101: Equipment
You will need:
- a camera,
- a tripod,
- a reflector or bounce card,
- and a light source.
Having a capable camera and a good tripod can give you a noticeable increase in the quality of your pictures. For starters, smartphone cameras are quite capable these days. Once you have mastered it, you should consider investing in a DSLR and a couple of lenses to help you get shots of varying degrees.
I have a full article with some of the best cameras for food photography, but here I want to give you my thoughts and two options, for different budgets.
|Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full Frame High Resolution Interchangeable Lens Digital...||$2,298.00||Find it on Amazon|
|Canon Digital SLR Camera Body [EOS 80D] with 24.2 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS Sensor and Dual Pixel CMOS...||$674.99||Find it on Amazon|
Related: Best Camera For Food Photography
Lenses for Food Photography
You can take a look at my list of the best lenses for product photography, which include two of my absolute favorite lenses for food photography.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, Lens Only||$1,299.00||Find it on Amazon|
|Sony SEL90M28G FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for Mirrorless Cameras,Black||$1,048.00||Find it on Amazon|
Food Photography 101: Lighting
Now that you have an idea of what are some of the best cameras and lenses for food photography it’s time to take a look at lighting.
Lighting can be the difference between an average shot and an outstanding photo. You will often find yourself taking pictures in varying lighting conditions. There will also be situations where you will be taking photos in both artificial and natural light.
It’s important that you are always aware of where the light is coming from, what the background looks like, and what you can do to get the best out of your shots.
The best light for food photography is indirect natural light. So if you are at home you can set up your photo close to a window. Choose the early morning light or mid-late afternoon for soft and smooth light. Your choice will depend on the orientation of your room, but just remember to position your subject so that the light is not direct or you’ll obtain weird and distracting shadows.
You might be tempted to use a flash, make sure you don’t. A flesh will only ruin your food photos, because it will create unnatural reflections.
Food Photography in a Restaurant
If you find yourself taking pictures at a restaurant and it’s a formal shooting for a client, keep in mind that there will be other guests. You must ensure that you are not intrusive. Try to be as subtle as possible.
Always ensure that the restaurant staff (if you are eating at a restaurant) are aware of the shoot prior to your arrival. Be courteous to the staff and ensure that you spend very little time setting up your equipment once you arrive. Always complete your scouting a few days before the shoot to make sure your table is going to be close to a window so for this reason prefer lunch time for your shoot.
Food Styling and Composition
When taking food pictures, the goal is to make the viewer crave the dish. To do that, you will need to arrange your shots in the most inviting manner. This part of the shoot is called styling, and in most cases, you will have to independently style your shots.
You can use Instagram to get some inspiration, but in general composition in food photography usually involves setting up props, using the right background, and placing the subject in the most appropriate angles.
Styling can heighten the quality of almost every picture.
When it comes to composition in food photography, you have to pay attention to highlight the main subject. It is very likely that you’ll have several items in your frame and the last thing you want is to have a confusing image.
Start simple and use the rule of thirds. This simple concept allows you to provide the viewer with a precise area in your photo where to look. Activate your camera grid and position the main elements of your composition in the proximity of one of the grid intersections. Is that simple and you can read the article Understanding the Rule of Thirds in Photography to master this technique.
For each scenario, you will have to adapt and use different settings to get the best shots. Here is an overview of some tips to help you:
- Use a wider aperture and higher ISO in low-light scenarios.
- In well-lit areas, your aperture should vary based on the depth of field you want to obtain
- Always check for white balance adjustment when shooting in artificial light. If you fail to do this, your images will have an odd color cast.
- Always remember that post-processing can get the best out of shots.
Food photography is fun and enjoyable. You are taking pictures of some of the finest delicacies and it should reflect in every shot you take. Remember to experiment and take as many photos as you can. There are always ways to step up your photography game by using props and creative angles, and aiming to incorporate something new with every shoot can help you grow as a photographer.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.