Digital Food Photography – 10 Simple and easy tips to take great pictures of food!
I love cooking and I love photography, so it’s not surprising that I have a little foodie-blog myself: www.razorsharprecipes.com. I also spend quite a bit of time on other peoples recipe blogs looking for new ideas on what to cook for dinner. While there are many fantastic sites out there regarding recipes, a lot of them suffer from terrible pictures that make the dishes a lot less appealing. Here are 10 simple tips that will make your pictures look as mouthwatering as you recipes sound:
Tip #1 – Shoot from a lower angle than you think you should
Get down low! Although we always stare at our food on its plate from above this rarely makes for good pictures. As photographer you need to make things look interesting and good, a different angle from the usual helps achieve this. A low perspective shifts the focus directly onto the food and makes it appear bigger and more majestic.
Tip #2 – Crop in tightly.
Stick to the food! This solves a couple of problems, first of all you don’t need to worry about setting up props and decoration (or cleaning your dirty kitchen), second of all the focus should be on the food and nothing else. Lighting becomes less complicated too. The tighter you move in on a food, the less stuff there is to distract from what you’re trying to show. You should be so close that the viewer can literally smell the food and start drooling.
Tip #3 – Use shallow depth of field.
If you keep the cropping in tight, you’ll have a difficult time getting everything in the frame, in focus, and that’s okay. Making sure that only the key elements of your dish are visible and in focus ensures that the viewer will concentrate on what is important and won’t be distracted by stuff in the background. The key here is to get the right things in focus and to make sure that the viewer knows what he’s seeing. Sometimes it’s very apparent just where the focus should be, but sometimes the decision is more difficult. Experiment and see what point works best for being the center of attention.
Tip #4 – Use natural light
Use natural light whenever you can. The best set-up is next to a large window, with a white curtain to diffuse the light. Never use the on-camera flash, it will make your dishes look terrible. Investing in simple and cheap tabletop studio lighting kit will work wonders in regards to the quality of your pictures.
Tip #5: Make it pop!
Make sure there is a color contrast between the background and the food, don’t have the two be the same color or a similar shade. For example, strawberries served on a red plate isn’t going to stand out. Keep the background simple and uncluttered. If unsure, stick to a plain white background.
Tip #6: Cut it, Slice it, Dice it!
As with anything, you shouldn’t just take something for its face value. With food, sometimes it’s what’s inside that can create a great shot.
Tip #7: Props, Presentation and Details
When composing the shot keep things very simple, plain white plates and brushed steel or plain countertops work very well. If the image needs a bit of additional color, a sprig of a fresh herb or a simple implement such as a spoon or a knife, is more than enough. No details are boring, too many kill the picture. Experiment. Melissa Hartfiel has a great in depth article about Food Photography Props on a Budget if you want to know more.
Tip #8:The Rule of Thirds
There are many, many theories on how to set up a shot and where to place your focal point or points of interest when framing a shot. The “Rule of Thirds” is a standard technique. Basically, the lesson is that a direct face-on, centered shot is not always the most interesting or pleasing to the eye. This is also true for pictures of food, but once again experiment what works best for your picture.
Tip #9: Keep it fresh
Now while I’m no food stylist, there is one thing that is always true: only photograph freshly prepared food! No exceptions! It will always show in your pictures no matter what you do to disguise it. Even cookies look a lot more appealing fresh from the oven rather than a couple of days later.
Tip #10: The Computer
What is true for every fashion magazine you see is also true for every cook book: The pictures have been edited. A lot! It’s a reality you will just have to live with. However, you don’t need to be a professional retoucher to make your images look a lot better using these simple steps:
- Correct any white balance issue using the colour balance
- Lighten the image a little
- Sharpen/soften the image as required
- Increase the saturation
- Crop and re-size the image to the required dimensions. If you “only” have a blog, your pictures will only need to be 72 dpi and tiny compared to what your camera will give you in megapixels. This allows you a huge margin for improvement.
That’s it, get snapping, good luck in the kitchen and let me know how it goes! :)
Got any tips or useful tricks for food photography yourself? Let me know, I’m always looking to learn and improve!