Have you ever ordered food in a restaurant having been lured in by a poster, only to find the real thing is less visually appealing than first thought? That’s successful food photography at play!
However, food photography is a much trickier business than you might think. It goes beyond simply uploading your breakfast to Instagram and applying the latest filter – it’s a real composition, a work of art even.
Here are six simple steps for improving your food photography.
Discover: The Exposure Triangle Explained
Use Natural Light
Natural light is great at bringing out the best colour and really showcasing your food. Why? Because it’s so readily available! Just stick a bowl of strawberries and cream in direct sunlight and you’ll see the colours burst with life, allowing you to take a photograph that shows off your tasty meal.
Shooting with artificial light such as a lamp often gives your subject an orange or yellowish glow, whereas daylight gives you a neutral light that enhances the colours of your food. Overcast days are best for shooting food, as you get great dispersed light without the worry of dark shadows ruining your latest culinary creation.
Avoid Ruinous Shadows
Food photography can look the bee’s knees with a perfectly aligned shadow. However, more often than not, having a section of the photograph unintentionally darkened can leave the result feeling drab and dreary. Avoid using a flash or harsh direct sunlight to ensure a sly shadow doesn't scupper your photos.
Start by placing your food on the best-lit window sill available, use a thin semi-transparent white curtain to diffuse the light, and you’re onto a winner (top trick: if a curtain isn’t available, have a friend hold up a white sheet, this will diffuse the light and achieve the same effect). Once you build your confidence with the overall composition, you can afford to experiment with different settings, lighting and props.
Favour Neutral Backgrounds
A hugely colourful background when taking photos of food can detract from the main subject: the food itself. Instead, choose neutral backgrounds than don’t clash with the colour of the food.
However, don’t reach for that brown tablecloth just yet, consider instead what undertones you can use to enhance the food. A beige background, for instance, could have pink undertones, which makes it perfect for setting behind raspberries. White, on the other hand, can contain peach undertones, perfect for photographing (you guessed it) a peach and other similarly coloured foods.
Take the time to research this clever little phenomenon; it’ll give you a natural Instagram filter. If you want to read more about backgrounds and props, check out this great guide from Two Loves Studio.
Find The Right Angle
Everyone is familiar with the 45-degree angle shoot, as that’s the view of food we all have when sitting at the table. While there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures of food at this angle, it can come across as a bit dull.
Instead, try the bird’s eye view shot. It might be tricky without a wide-angle lens and balancing yourself over the table, but it’ll be worth it. There’s no hard and fast rule though; it’s best to test and experiment and to bear the next tip in mind.
Apply The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the fundamentals of photography, and food photography is no different. Imagine three columns and three rows dividing your images into nine equal parts. All the parts need to come together and flow into each other while telling their own stories.
The four points where the lines meet (also known as ‘power points’) are where the eye naturally gravitates. For more information on this rule, check out this guide by Shoot the Cook.
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