Do you ever wonder how all those Instagrammers make such beautiful images of their food? These ten tips will give your food photography skills a jumpstart.
1. Keep it simple
Start with one item in your image and build up from there. This is especially a good tip for people just starting out with food styling. Knowing how to design a food still life scene can be overwhelming. Simplify your process by starting with one main object and add items one at a time to complete the scene.
2. Use Natural light
Soft, diffused light, streaming through a window is ideal. Avoid times of day when the sun is shining straight through because it will create harsh shadows that won’t look good. You could try finding a different window or using a sheer curtain or sheet to help diffuse the light.
3. Turn off your flash
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I just wanted to really, for real, make sure you know…Turn OFF the built in flash. Using the built in flash makes food look awful. It’s really harsh light that creates unattractive shadows that will either make your food look weird, the plate look weird or both look weird. You will also get super bright white highlights on any area of the food that has moisture and that will make your food look greasy instead of moist. Food usually looks best with soft, diffused light.
4. Plan ahead
Think about what mood you are going for before you start shooting. Is it a fun dessert? Is it a romantic Italian dinner? Is it a dark moody chocolate? Plan out the concept and design of how you want the image to turn out. Gather your props and think about the plating you want. If the food is better photographed hot or will be melting away as you shoot then set up the design and use balls of crumpled paper as stand ins for the real food so you can get your framing, exposure and focus right before you shoot the real thing.
5. Use two hands
After you spend time arranging up your image and making sure all of the plates and garnishes and napkins and glasses are positioned exactly in the shot just how you want them you don’t want to miss that by holding it with one hand and trying to hit the shutter button with the same hand. Keep your iPhone steady by holding it with two hands.
6. Avoid using the digital zoom
Digital zoom basically just crops the image to get closer instead of using the lens to get closer to the subject. It reduces the quality of your final image and in general doesn’t look good. Instead of using the digital zoom you should try to get closer to what you want to photograph.
7. Shoot from the best angle
Some food looks great shot from above, some food needs to be shot from the side or at an angle to get the right shot. If it’s an entire plate of food shooting from above might be best because you can see all of the food. This also eliminates a busy or cluttered background that might be distracting in your image. If your food item is something like a layer cake then shooting from the side is probably best because you can showcase the interesting features that make it appealing.
8. Show the ingredients
Sometimes foods, brown soups for example don’t look all that great when photographed. To make a good image of these less than pretty subjects use the ingredients as props. You are able to show the delicious food that goes into making the dish and remind your viewer of the tasty goodness that makes up the food.
9. Clean plate club
Before you snap your image wipe up all the stray drips and smears that happen from food being placed on the plate and carried across the room. It looks much more professional when the plate is pristine and free from the random sauce and oil smudges that get spread around when the dish is jostled a bit before it makes its way in front of your camera.
10. However…That’s the way the cookie crumbles
Not all drips and smears are a bad thing. A cookie crumb can be a great prop that evokes nostalgia of eating cookies as a kid. If your food has a messy element that triggers an emotion (like cookie crumbs or an ice cream cone dripping down the side) then by all means incorporate it into your image.