Food photography is everywhere – restaurants, bars, advertisements, shop windows, billboards, blogs, menus, books – the list is endless. Interestingly enough, when done right these images not only catch your attention but may have an impact long after you’ve seen them.
The work that goes into food photography is no small feat and usually starts with a story. Is it something you are trying to sell? Is it food you created and want to convey that it is your best recipe yet? Does your food story have a cultural side or is it a moody, artistic piece? Food photography is a vast intricate topic, but if you are just starting out, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Light to accent the food’s character
Controlling light can elevate your food photography easily as it helps you take charge of your end result. A good starting place to set up is near a window with lots of natural light – a look that is often simulated when shooting food in a studio – with light skimming across at an angle.
This scene evokes feelings of food just made and laid out, waiting to be consumed. No matter what light source you use, keep the subject in mind and modify the light if needed. Modifications can be as simple as changing color temperatures to be more flattering or diffusing your light.
Back or side lighting usually works well for food, so try them both and see what works best for your subject.
2) Textures and Layers
While textures and layers are two different aspects of food photography, they sometimes have a symbiotic relationship.
Textures are an easy way to add personality and character to your image and layering helps you tell the story. Textures range from using your work surfaces, contrasts in the food itself or even by bringing in a prop or two.
Your composition can benefit from layering elements in the photo that portrays your food – props and ingredients for example. Further, introduce textures and layers by using contrasting backgrounds on your work surfaces, e.g., a metal baking tray on a tiled counter top or wooden table.
By building up layers you give the final image interest and depth. You want the food to look delicious and interesting, not lifeless or unappetizing.
A nice rule is to keep layering and styling your subject until you want to eat it.
3) The power of neutral backgrounds
Keeping the previous tips in mind, a good starting place is a neutral background to build on. It can be plain or even textured, but when you start neutral you can create many different looks with a few simple changes.
Use the food and layers to introduce color, shapes, lines and more texture. The background is not intended to be the main focus but is used to add interest and enhance your final image.
If you are creating food image for stock photography, you will see many images done on solid white or black backgrounds. This is done intentionally so that the food is the focus and not the storytelling element.
4) All about the angles
The most recommended angles for food photography are directly above, straight on, or at a forty-five degree/three-quarter angle (can vary slightly). Determine how close you want to get to the food. Do you want to show something specific or an entire scene?
Keep the subject in mind – some food looks very good close-up, while others benefit from the environment and story.
When you start doing food photography, it will not take you long to realize that it is not as easy as it looks. Many food photographers use a food stylist to help them materialize their vision, as styling is a skill in its own right.
If you are just starting out, by all means, experiment. But if you can use a food stylist, there is a great deal you can learn from the way they work and develop your own style and technique.
Food photography is an extremely satisfying genre because of all the attention to detail it requires. It is an expansive topic with many tips and tricks needed to create that perfect delectable shot. These are just a few to consider as you start your journey. Feel free to share any tips you have come across or used in this delicious genre in the comments below.
Check out some of our food photography video tutorials tips as well.