These food photography tips can help you snap photos of your meals that you will be proud to share.
Food has a unique role in human life, both as a necessity and an artistic expression of culture, skill, and vision. Taking photos of your meals has become something of a punchline in modern society. As soon as social media debuted photo-sharing apps we found out that people like to take pictures of three things more than anything else: their kids, their pets, and their food. Of course, food has been the subject of art long before Instagram. So much so, that the generic image people think of when they hear the term “still life” is likely a bowl of fruit.
So, don’t let anyone shame you for sharing images of meals you prepared yourself or that food service professionals prepared for you. However, like any artistic medium, there are rules and best practices. We’ve assembled a list of food photography tips that will help your images stand out. These food photography tips are similar to the best practices used by professional photographers but work just as well for the casual photographer looking for an Insta-worthy shot.
Food Photography Tips - Things You’ll Need:
All you really need to take pictures of food is a camera and your subject. However, if you want to dive into the world of food photography, you might need some other items. These are the materials we recommend for best results:
- A camera (This can be either your phone camera or a digital camera capable of taking high-quality images)
- Light diffuser
- Light source(s)
- Special lenses
- Portable studio
- A delicious meal
With these items in hand you are sure to nail every shot with a bit of practice!
Food Photography Tips - Know Your Camera:
All the food photography tips in the universe won't help you take photos if you don’t have a camera capable of taking high resolution pictures. Luckily, most smartphones today come with a camera that can take near-professional quality photos. Photo editing apps allow you to quickly tweak or correct the picture if the lighting is not ideal.
Of course, these food photography tips still apply if you are using a regular camera, but you will also have to pay attention to the lenses you use. Compact lenses are best for food photography, whereas wide-angle or zoom lenses are almost impossible to use for these sort of pictures. Either way you go, you'll want to familiarize yourself with your camera's settings before getting to work.
The above video briefly explains how to adjust your camera’s settings in order to adapt to different environments. Many cameras and phone cameras have presets you can use to take these photos, but if helps to understand how to manually tweak them in case your photos are still not on par. As long as you understand how all of these elements fit together, trial and error will be the best teacher.
Food Photography Tips - Know What Makes a Pretty Picture:
Food Photography Tips - What’s Your Angle?
In order to take a great picture, you need to figure out the best angle for the shot. For example, a hamburger is best shot from the side rather than looking straight down. A bowl of soup or a pizza is best seen from straight above. It’s also best if the food is neatly arranged, especially if you’re photographing a dish that has garnishes.
The other thing to consider when picking your angle is lighting. It’s here that you might consider using photographer’s tools to really get the best image. If you have a direct light source, you might want to use a diffuser. You can purchase these, but a thin piece of cloth often does the trick. Similarly, if the light is low, you can bring in a separate light source. Otherwise you can play with photo filters to adjust these things in editing, but the image quality will suffer.
Food Photography Tips - Stage a Scene:
If you were taking a picture of your friend, you’d likely tell her to pose in some way that will make the photo interesting. Taking pictures of your food is no different, but you have to do all the posing. Once you know your angle, pose the food and anything else you want in the scene to create a more dynamic image.
If you want the food to stand out, choose a neutral background and limit what else is in the picture. It’s best to have something else visible, even if it’s just utensils or a beverage. This makes it feel more real. With careful staging, the scene you present can look effortless.
You can also use your food photography to tell a story. A photo of a cup of coffee, a bagel, and an open book suggests something much different than just the bagel and the drink. A picture of pie with a cutting board doused in flour and a measuring cup behind it tells a different story than the same pie on a picnic table with a piece cut out of it.
Food Photography Tips - Don’t Forget Color!
Now that you’ve staged your scene, there is one last thing to consider. Unless you are shooting in greyscale, you will need to look at the color palette. For example, if your subject features earth tones, you might not want to take the picture against a neon green tablecloth. Similarly, if your subject is colorful you might want to find accessories or backgrounds that match with them, creating a consistent feel.
The real trick is to remember that the food itself is supposed to the be the star of the image. Every other choice should work in service of the main subject, and you have to be aware that your colors don’t clash or otherwise muddle the image.
Food Photography Tips - With All This In Mind, Remember to Express Yourself:
Photography is a form of expression, so don’t let these food photography tips stifle your creativity. As any artist will tell you, rules are made to be broken. However, you have to know why the rules exist before you can break them in your own work. The food photography tips we’ve shared are meant to help you understand the basics. Once you do, you can feel free to let your creativity fly.
Sure, what you end up with may not work the way you envisioned. But taking chances is how you end up learning important lessons that improve your overall work. Think of these food photography tips as guidelines, and if you have a good reason to go against them, give it a shot.
Food Photography Tips - Photography Equipment to Kick It Up a Notch:
As we noted above, if you want to expand your food photography beyond your phone/camera and the food, there are certain things you need. We've searched the market for the best tools of the trade to get you started.
Food Photography Books
Photography is a complex and well studied art form. Therefore, if you want to learn more about it, then there are countless books you can find. You’ll definitely want to find a book that dives into these topics in much more detail than our list of food photography tips.
Luckily, these books are not boring texts. In fact, you can find plenty of books that feature stunning images that make them works of art all their own. One such book is Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography. Bright details the history of food photography from today’s selfies back to the dawn of photography. The book also features vibrant images to help inspire your own food photography.
A Tripod or Photo Rig
The tripod and other devices built to hold cameras serve as a crucial tool for any photographer. With one of these, you no longer have to worry about shaky hands making for a blurry image. You can stage your scene, knowing exactly what your photo will look like in the frame. This device will also allow you to get angles and shots you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
If you use your phone, there are even more options out there for stabilization when you take pictures. For example, the iShot Pro Secure Grip Mount can be used to set up your phone to take amazing pictures almost anywhere. It’s fully adjustable, and your phone is safe in it at any angle.
When it comes to food photography, natural lighting is almost always best. However, that’s not always possible.Thereby, if you find yourself in need of extra lighting, you can get any number of spotlights and light diffusers to ensure that your pictures always look perfect.
These simple lights are perfect for smaller-scale photography, and you can trade out the bulbs as needed. If the light is too warm and yellow, you can wash it out a bit with the fluorescent bulbs or vice versa. You can also purchase a diffuser, which will help scatter light and soften shadows. But you can often get the same effect just by drawing the curtains or place a sheer piece of fabric between your subject and your light source.
The Proper Lens for Your Camera
If you are using a regular camera rather than the camera found in your phone, you will need to ensure that you have the right lens for the job. The ideal sort of lens for food photography are compact lenses that allow for soft backgrounds and close-up shots. While many lenses are standardized, you have to make sure that the lens you choose is optimized for your camera.
For example, this Canon EF-M 22mm Compact System Fixed Lens is a good example of the kind of lens you need. However, this particular lens is designed to be used with Canon EOS M cameras. While this may seem limiting, it’s preferable to get a lens designed for use with your specific camera. This way you can be certain that the pictures you end up taking will look wonderful.
A Portable Photo Studio
The Amazon Basics Portable Photo Studio is a versatile accessory for the photographer who wants to truly highlight their subject. Set-up is as easy as unzipping and expanding the portable studio from a flat folio to a large space for shooting. The studio comes equipped with very bright LED lights, so lighting will never be a problem. There are three “doors” which allow for a variety of shooting angles while blocking reflections.
With this in tow, you'll have everything you need at your disposal to take the best shots. Since it's so portable and sets up in less than a minute, you will be ready to snap a picture of your food at a moment's notice. Additionally, this product comes complete with an AmazonBasics 1-year warranty.
With these food photography tips, you'll be a pro in no time!
The multitude of products designed to help photographer capture stunning shots of their meals, in addition to these tips can turn your pictures from boring to Instagram-worthy art. A bit of practice and some attention to detail will have you snapping pictures you never thought possible!
Do you have any favorite food photography tips? Let us know your best tricks and your favorite products in the comments below!
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