We all have that friend or family member who can’t resist taking their phone out at the dinner table, spending five minutes taking photos of their meal and then sitting down to post it on Instagram, FB, Twitter etc. And while you may despise them in the moment, maybe throwing a napkin at them in frustration, deep down you secretly envy them because they know how to take a great photo. Well have no fear! Whether you’re snapping pics for your own Instagram or for a food brand, here are some tips to turn your delectable creations into photographic masterpieces.
Tip #1: Lighting is everything
Now this subhead may look familiar from a previous blog on how to take a great photo, but it’s just as important, if not more important, with food photography. The golden rule for lighting in food photography is that you should always have as few light sources as possible, ideally one. This is a little bit tougher to control if you’re in a restaurant but, if you’re in a controlled setting, take the time to ensure that your light is coming from a single place. This could be the natural light from a window (always the best choice) or the artificial light from a desk lamp next to your subject. Wherever your light is coming from, make sure it’s the only source around. This helps avoid discoloration and just generally improves the quality of your photos.
Tip #2: Perspective = priority
Alright, so you have your lighting set. Now it’s time to set your food subject(s) on a surface and determine the best angle to shoot them. Don’t worry about the nitty gritty details of how your food looks at this point (we’ll get there). For now, just take a step back and look at your subject. Get up close then back up. Look at it from above and then from the side. I found the overhead angle particularly intriguing in a recent shoot. Take out your phone or camera and act like you’re about to take a photo but just move around. You’ll soon settle on a desired angle that captures everything you hoped it would. Well not everything. There’s one crucial final step that will turn your good photo into a great photo.
Tip #3: Styling makes or breaks the final product
Your lighting is perfect. Your perspective is set. Now for the finishing touch - styling. This is the part of shoot where you work out the finite details of how your food is actually going to look in camera. If you’re capturing a waffle breakfast, this could mean organizing the strawberries and blueberries in just the right order so that blues and reds are distributed evenly. If you’re shooting a charcuterie and cheese board, you might adjust the various cheeses so they feel like they naturally ended up on the board, as if you were preparing to serve them to your guests. Add some garnishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Look at your phone or through the viewfinder of your camera while you move things around until you find the perfect setup.
You’ll know it when you see it
If you ever get frustrated with how your photos are coming out, just remember that quality food photography takes time. Clients of a teacher of mine often ask him if he can do a shoot in under an hour. His response is always, “yeah, I can take a couple of bad photos in an hour.” Taking photos that belong in Instagram’s Hall Of Fame requires patience and persistence. Master these tips, though, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in even the quick shots you snap at the dinner table while your aunt throws a napkin at you.