Excellent food photography composition transforms an average dish that you might want to eat into a beautiful, mouth-watering spread that you wish you had in front of you right now.
Learning the best food photography composition techniques will help you do justice to the amazing recipes you create, producing stunning, magazine-worthy images.
Select an Odd Number of Subjects
One of the most popular rules in food photography is to choose an odd number of subjects for your composition. An even number of subjects creates an illusion of symmetry and makes the composition more dull. An odd number of subjects is more visually appealing.
For example, if you’re photographing a bowl of soup with a spoon, add a glass of water or a linen napkin as the third subject. As you grow comfortable shooting with three subjects, build your compositions to include five or even seven subjects. When you’re setting up food shots where there are natural multiples, such as cupcakes or deviled eggs, always choose an odd number of food items.
It’s easier to tell a more complex food story in a vertical composition than a horizontal composition. A vertical composition allows you to draw the viewer in more naturally. Learning to shoot vertically is also critical in today’s digital world.
The vast majority of people searching for recipes on Pinterest, blogs, and major online recipe resources, are searching on their phones. Modern smartphone screens display images vertically. The more vertical images you include in a blog post or website feature, the more effectively you’ll capture your mobile viewers.
Learn to Shoot at Different Angles
If you’ve spent any time looking at food photography on popular food blogs or Instagram accounts lately, you know that overhead food shots are extremely popular. Whether or not overhead photos make for the best food compositions, they will get you noticed online and get you featured with popular bloggers and among major online food sites.
As such, it’s worth learning how to get a solid overhead shot. After overhead shots, focus on nailing the straight-on shot. The straight-on shot is key for food because it allows you to emphasize height and structure, such as a layer cake or loaded cheeseburger.
When you’re creating a recipe post or other online feature, it’s important to have at least three or four strong, distinctly different images. Getting comfortable shooting at multiple angles will help you create multiple unique images of a single recipe with ease. Don’t fill up a post with essentially the same but ever so slightly different images. It’s better to have three strong, unique images than six images that all look alike.
Fill up the Negative Space
There are two key ways to fill up the negative space for food photos. The first way is to give the main food subject center stage. Get up close to the beautiful cake you’ve just decorated and fill up the entire frame with it. The second way is to use the space around the main food subject to add to the narrative.
For example, if you’re sharing a burger recipe, arrange your shoot on a picnic blanket. Include utensils, napkins, and a few condiments in the shot. As you’re styling a recipe, look for spaces in the composition that lend themselves naturally to a few extra items. For example, if the plated salads and silverware look a little plain, add a few extra lemon wedges or a small pitcher of the homemade salad dressing.
Tell a Story
A strong food composition tells a story. You don’t just want viewers to think “oh, those sandwiches looks good.” You want them to think, “that casserole looks so amazing that I’m going to make it for my friends coming over this weekend.” It’s up to you to create the narrative that best fits the dish as well as your personal photography style.
Choose your props and other accessories with care to further the narrative and define your style. Bright images with colorful food props will work better for a birthday cake or picnic spread while darker images with soft or dramatic lighting are more appropriate for a holiday wine punch. Include images of the process behind the food as well, such as kneading the dough or pouring the salad dressing.
Storytelling is so important in photography. If you want to learn more, Pixinfocus as the article for you, you can find it here How to Tell a Story Through Your Photos
Professional, polished food photography takes a lot of time and practice. A dish may taste great, but it’s an art form creating photos that do it justice and convince other people to make the recipe themselves or visit a restaurant. Study the best food photos you can find, and strive to create a signature photography style, so people recognize your work instantly.
Food photographers, share your best tips and tricks!
How do you create stunning images of your recipes?
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.