Food photography is one of the most challenging photography genres. You have to produce quality images of food, while ensuring that your depiction strikes the right balance between art and reality. You should strive to produce photos that make food look appetizing without straying away from reality.
Now, this can be extremely hard even for the most experienced photographers. The challenge gets tougher if you happen to be the chef, stylist and photographer, all at the same time. Considering that no one was born a jack-of-all-trades, you’ll have your work cut out as far as practicing your food photography skills are concerned.
Thankfully, I have a few tips that you can use to improve your photo-taking techniques. It doesn’t really matter if you are new in this game. The following food photography tricks will make you shoot stunning images just like a pro.
1. Design Your Composition
Let’s face it. Food photography is not as simple as taking a snap of your meal on a plate. You have to compose your shots appropriately to pass the message accordingly.
As with any other form of photography, designing your composition involves several guidelines, including the rule of thirds, framing and leading lines. Using these guidelines, you will be able to find the right balance for your composition.
For instance, you may shoot directly overhead to capture other elements while ensuring that the food remains the key subject within the frame. Alternatively, you may include reflective objects such as knives and forks pop and shine in your images.
2. Backdrops Matter
Some photographers may not mull about it, but investing in a few backdrops is another food photography tip worth considering. Essentially, you should try out different backgrounds such as foam boards, scrapbook paper, tabletops and cutting boards to produce a creative expression of your food.
Other backdrops worth mentioning include rustic-looking tables, pastry boards and poster boards. The good news is that most of these items are readily available in your kitchen, hence you do not have to go out and buy them. You could also improvise by using what you already have.
3. Shoot in Natural Light
The difference between food photography and other types of photography revolves around the use of lighting. Ostensibly, food photography does not require you to shoot your images during the golden hour or magic hour. Ideally, you should take your photos during the day (in natural light) to make the most of your images. The beams from artificial light may distort the true colors of your images, consequently rendering all your hard work a waste of precious time.
4. Try Multiple Angles
Food photography only allows for very few camera angles. However, regardless of this fact, the angle that you choose ought to be a conscious decision, considering that it will determine the texture, tone and appeal of your photos. Essentially, the position of the camera will eventually affect the message you are trying to convey.
With that said, you should think about the food in terms of size, shape and height, in order to choose the ideal angle that best depicts these qualities. The good news is that you may try out the different angles that come to mind before settling on one.
5. Use a Shallow Depth of Field
In photography, the depth of field refers to the focus distance between the farthest and closest objects within a photo. In other words, the DOF is the zone of acceptable sharpness in an image that appears in focus. Using a shallower depth of field in your images gives you more influence to direct your viewer’s attention where you want it.
In food photography, it is prudent to use a shallow depth of field so as not to distract the viewer. In effect, the viewer should only focus on the food, which is the main subject rather than other items such as knives and spoons that may cause unnecessary distractions.
6. Keep it Simple
Whoever said simplicity is the greatest sophistication was probably right. In food photography, you should try to keep it as simple as possible. Apparently, it is very easy to lose your focus on the main subject, especially if you have so much on your plate. This might distract the viewer away from your photos.
Notably, most beginners fail even before getting started simply because of trying to overdo everything. Yes, it might be a struggle learning to stick to the basics, but you are better of keeping it simple to take your food photography skills to the next level.
7. Invest in the Right Camera Equipment
Investing in the right equipment is a necessity rather than a luxury. With the emergence of contemporary smartphone cameras, anyone can become a food photographer. However, using your smartphone as a camera is best suited for your social media posts.
Professional food photography requires powerful equipment that captures the true colors of the subject without distorting the image. Unlike phones, you can control and adjust settings such as aperture, the DOF, shutter speed, and ISO for better, sharper images. You may also decide on the type of lens you want to use for your photos.
You also need to invest in a tripod to help shoot your photos in various angles, minimize shake and eliminate unwanted shadows.
8. Think Outside the Box
Food photography demands that you come up with new ideas that will set you apart from the rest. You can bring in a different perspective like taking shots mid-meal or having a bite before taking those shots. In any case, food photography does not have to be staged.
Food photography can be a fun and fulfilling activity, as long as you can get the basics right. The best part is that this genre of photography does not have very many requirements. Once you get a grip of things, you will be able to shoot those bites like a pro!
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.