Are you a professional chef, a big fan of cooking or a beginner in food photography? If, yes, then why not to share your big passion and start your own food blog, Instagram page or write the whole book about this magic world of recipes?
In this article I`d like to tell you my food photography techniques about taking great pictures that look YUMMY. In case, you are already an experienced food photographer, get some professional food photography tips working with color, lighting and style.
There are many challenges while working with real food. That’s why so photographers use many unusual food photography tricks. People use motor oil instead of a sauce and mashed potatoes instead of a creamy dessert. The food should look perfect as in a restaurant, but the expiration date of some ingredients is too short to take photos.
It’s necessary for browning the edges of hamburgers or poultry. Remember that you should cook hot dogs before torching, if you don’t want to provoke an ugly effect.
Any deodorant gives fruit or ice cream the frosty veneer.
I prefer to use hairspray when I need to make a cake look tasty and baked today.
Do you want to prevent the oil from soaking into the pancakes? Add a spray and the breakfast will look perfect.
Toothpicks can be used in various ways. For instance, to hold sandwiches together, as on the picture below.
If you dream to take an image of the world’s perfect hamburger, bay the sturdy cardboard squares to keep all the ingredients together.
You will receive the look of really fresh seafood or just-picked salads.
A big syringe is used to squirt mashed potatoes under the skin of poultry to make it look delicious and crisp.
A brown polish can be used with raw or dried-out meat instead of a roasted stake.
Use a fan with incense sticks and smoke pellets to take a photo of a hot dish with steam.
The glue is one of the most helpful items in food photography. You can take a photo of it instead of yogurt or milk, as on the picture below. It also helps fix sham cake or another dish.
Microwaved soaked cotton balls create the illusion of steaming-hot dishes.
Tweezers are an important tool for shooting noodles. You can also take them to rearrange crumbs.
The stylist makes perfect food photography compositions thanks to a real kitchen experience and aesthetic taste. The specialist knows how to chop and combine products of different colors and textures, create an excellent view, find good angles and backgrounds. The professional can make ordinary or homely food look delicious.
It’s obvious that fresh products look more appetizing than stale ones. So, it’s a bad idea to buy ingredients in advance. One of the main principles of professional food photography is to use new, clean, and fresh products.
Realization of crazy ideas helps take outstanding photos. Do you remember that playing with food is a bad manner? Now forget about this! Let yourself do experiments with various types of products, cutting, food photography lighting, tableware and ingredients’ temperature. What about changing the milk to yogurt while shooting cornflakes?
I usually use food photography props to create an individual style and unique atmosphere of my images. You can add plants and flowers, kitchen supplies, clothing elements, dried herbs, baskets, and handmade decorations. Whatever you choose, make sure it does not take the spotlight away from the dish.
Many food photography blogs say that sometimes imperfect is perfect. That means you can take a break and try some of the food. So, your photos will look more realistic and give rise to a wish to grab a bite too.
Most of the food photography works are standard. The photographer takes a dish, puts it on the table and starts shooting. But the best photos are taken when you start to think and work outside the box. For example, it’s a good idea to take images of busy chefs. Pictures of loving couples, kids, friends and families with sweets, ice cream or other tasty food are very popular too.
Monochromatic food pictures aren’t very common. Try to experiment with them, if you need to underline shapes and textures rather than colors.
Minimalism is a current trend and food photography isn’t an exception. Using lots of objects looks colorful and creative, but worsen the shape of your composition. I usually answer the question: “What is the main subject here?”. That helps me to find the balance. Then I check all 4 corners of the frame and remove all extra things.
In any case, it looks fun, evokes positive emotions and reminds childhood. You are welcome to use macarons, licorice, cakes, and sweets.
I believe that perfect atmosphere is one of the most important food photography hacks. Think about the food before the shot. Where is it usually consumed?
The first thing you definitely must have for food photography is obviously a camera! If you are a beginner, you might use your phone or a simple point-and-shoot camera which is not that expensive and won`t require much skills. But, for becoming a real food photography pro, it`s worth having a basic mirrorless or DSLR.
If your photos look too dark, because the day is gloomy or there is no enough light, slow down the speed of shutter opening, so that the sensor gets more light. In such cases photos might be more blurry because the shutter is open longer than normally. The best decision is to use a tripod. Normally, I take pictures handheld, but if the shutter speed at 1/100 and lower, the tripod is of a big help.
Aperture is responsible for how wide the lens will be opened. If the aperture is widely opened light goes into the lens and it results in shallow depth and a blurred background. If the number of aperture low, then the aperture is widely opened. So, by choosing an aperture of f/3.2 or 3.5, the focus will be sharp and background blurred. An aperture of f/11 or 14 allow to make scene objects in focus and wider depth.
If ISO fir food photography is too high, it`ll affect the quality of your photos and darker spaces will have “noise”. I prefer 500 ISO, but don`t be afraid to go higher, if it`s gloomy.
When I started taking food pictures, I used a 35mm fl.8 lens. The photos turned out to be sharper then made with the help of 50mm lens. This became the best lens for my food photography, as it allowed to take gorgeous pictures on the table.
Its biggest advantages are easy to achieve and extremely suitable for food photography. Put the object of your photo in such a position that window light would be behind it. Stand at the opposite side of the object and find the proper level to see the light on the back of the object. Start shooting at the same level as your object. You can use a reflector to balance the light onto the front of the object so then the front side won`t be shadowed.
If you are taking pictures on dark days in backlit lighting, some light should be also bounced back at the object. In a result there`ll be less shadows. Use reflectors.
It helps to reduce the number of shaky images you may get. Besides, the food photos that are taken from above have more airiness. A tripod is also a safety caution that keeps a camera stable and ensures that it doesn’t fall off while you’re setting up a composition with food photography props. It also guarantees that a perspective isn’t changed.
Have you heard about the rule of thirds? The secret is to draw a couple of the vertical and horizontal lines and place a target object at one of their intersections. This nice technique for food photography helps focus viewers’ attention on the necessary part of the photo. I often try to achieve this, locating the main item in the center or near it and softening the other ones. Both options are worthy and work for different situations. The vertical photos are very popular among Instagram users, while horizontal pictures are preferable for the food blogs, Facebook profiles, and banners.
The traditional food photography tips offer a few popular shooting angles that would make almost any image look attractive. A straightforward angle is good to photograph the objects that have to impress with their height. The cake, burger or a tall drink will look their best.
The food photographed from a 45-degree angle resembles the situation when you are just going to take a bite. It’s one of my favorite kinds of food photography.
If you want to shoot from above, be ready to lose out on the texture of the food. However, it guarantees a smooth focus.
The successful photographer knows the value of food photography backdrops. Without them, a photo would look plain and vapid. The food looks more interesting when it’s surrounded by the complementing details. I personally prefer to use fresh fruit and vegetables to create a harmonious scene. The secret to the photogenic greens is to bathe them in cold water for about half an hour. Another hack that I’ve learned is to add a dish ingredient to the final composition. For example, a guacamole will be perfectly accompanied by the avocado and hummus.
The bright, fancy patterns distract from the food and somehow confuse people. In most cases, I choose the classic combination of black, grey and white hues and keep it monochromatic. The wooden board is one of the most universal food photography backdrops. It may be also interesting to show the dish being cooked and photographed at different stages. Find some non-standard and colorful utensils to enrich the composition. Check second-hand stores as there may be lots of vintage things. Use the wood cutting boards of different sizes
Vintage tableware (don’t forget about the thrift shops, you can stumble upon a real treasure).
The color consistent bowls or plates.
The nice and interesting towels or napkins.
The stemware or jar for the smoothies.
The rule “the older, the better” works perfectly for this prop. You really want to have a sheet pan that seems to be worn off and embodies the vestiges of the generations. The scratches and imperfections add a necessary texture especially if the pastry looks too flat.
It’s a specific sort of paper that is usually thicker and more original than the conventional one. The craft paper is a cheap and easy way to add a vintage touch to the photos. It’s lightweight and easy to carry around as well as to store it.
The kitchen linens are my personal favorite background for the food photography that I use regularly. The cloths that are made out of the pure linen are the best option, as they don’t wrinkle and are easy to arrange. There are two basic ways to use them; either they are laid out as the one piece or complement the main background.
The parchment paper is a go-to for the situations when I want to cast a glimpse of true warmth and hospitality to the image. They can be crumpled or left to form a flat level.
The porcelain floor tiles can be found in any store for home improvement. They are cheap and easy to clean.
The successful food stylist and recipe developer lives in Vancouver, Canada. The list of his clients includes Air Canada, Coca-Cola, Tourism Australia. His professional view opens a new potential of different brands, inspires designers and authors. He also works with video, writes for the personal blog and travels worldwide.
Popular photographer from the biggest Canadian city, Toronto. He takes bright, nice photos of raw and prepared food. The most famous of his clients are Egg Farmers of Canada, Food Network, Upper Canada College and Humber College.
She is a food enthusiast, photographer and a creator of new food lifestyle ideas. The online portfolio on her website is minimalistic and illustrates her believes.
The experienced food photographer lives in London and makes excellent images of food, as well as of interiors, streets, and countryside. He was hired by famous companies, like Tesco and Waitrose. His works were published in The Sunday Times Magazine and The Guardian. The examples of his food photography are simple but professional.
A lifestyle photographer from Lisbon shows perfect knowledge of food photography lighting and uses real ingredients for shooting. She takes stylish photos of people, food, and places. The compositions are very professional. Among her clients, there are many successful magazines as Elle Decor and Monocle Travel Guides.
A young and creative photographer takes images of food and interiors in New England and Boston. She is open to interesting projects and collaborations, both commercial and uncommercial. Her style is simple and classic.
He has a cool website with beautiful and mouthwatering photographs. You can find the photos of different categories “NEW’, “Food”, “Life” or “Stop motion”. All of them are quite bright, with excellent color palette and combination of the textures.
The experienced photographer divides her portfolio into food photos on light and dark backgrounds. Although she has a career in the Financial Software industry, she loves esthetic photos and tasty vegetarian recopies. Living in Bengaluru, India, she works as a food stylist and photographer.
“Perception is, indeed, reality”. You need patience and practice to develop brilliant food photography skills.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.