Food Photography Tips: Images Good Enough to Eat
August 26, 2014
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Just like following a recipe to create a great meal, photographing that perfect dish requires following a few standard steps. You need to have the right ingredients of soft light, good composition and subtle props — and you can't cook it for too long. Of course, there's always a little room for improvisation, with hundreds of variations to the same dish. Here are four food photography tips that will have your pictures looking good enough to eat.
Soft light and low contrast are the keys to making food look beautiful and appetizing. Unless you're skilled with a flash, turn it off. Use natural, indirect light, ideally from a north-facing window. If needed, use a reflector — white posterboard works just fine — to fill in shadows and even out your lighting.
If you must use a flash, however, use a light modifier such as the LumiQuest Pocket Bouncer for speedlights, or some other diffusion device that softens the effects of a strobe head. In a pinch, you can even tape a white index card to your flash and bounce the light off a wall or ceiling. Just keep that direct light from overpowering the subject.
There's no one perfect angle for every food item you capture. Shooting at an oblique angle and focusing toward the front third of the food is a great composition device to draw the viewer's eye into the rest of the photograph. This works especially well with pizza, soups and other foods with little depth to them. But if you can't make that work for you, or the background is unattractive, shooting from directly overhead almost always works. This is a great way to highlight props as well, such as garnishes and place settings that can't be seen from a front-facing view.
Props and Staging
Speaking of props, don't go crazy. You don't need to use an entire complement of fancy silverware in your shot. A single spoon, folded napkin or a glass filled with an appropriate drink will go a long way to enhance the food. Remember: The food is the star, not the stuff it's sitting on or surrounded by.
You'll want to have all of these aspects figured out before your subject ever hits the plate. Food is perishable, and the clock is ticking from the moment it goes on set. Greens wilt, meat dries out and sauces coagulate into unappetizing messes. Work quickly and cover all your bases. Sure, a light brush of oil can bring back that now-leathery steak, and a quick spritz of water can add life to veggies, but it's better to get it done right on the first try.
Just like cooking, good food photos take practice. Try these tips out regularly as you continue to learn the craft of photography, and you'll soon be presenting amazing food images to potential clients.
Photo source: Andy Warycka