Do you take awesome Instagram food shots and want to do it professionally and get money for it? I’m going to tell you 12 easy steps to become a food photographer in a short period of time and achieve success!
Food photographers take pictures of food in a way that makes it tempting to buy and eat it. Such shots are necessary for restaurants, cafes and shops – everyone who serves food or uses it in advertising.
In this article, I will try to tell you, in as much detail as possible, how you can begin working in this field, how to find clients and give you a few food photography tips.
Food photography must attract and there are many ways to do that as well as rules you can follow. Many food photographers share this info for free and in the form os paid courses.
Overall, there are three ways you can learn food photography:
1. Low budget approach, when you study your camera settings, how to frame a shot correctly, and which lighting to use on your own.
2. Recommended option, with which you take an online and offline food photography course, participate in master-classes and communicate with other food photographers.
3. Expensive approach means you get a degree or any sort of formal education in the art (graphic design or photography would be a great advantage) with a great deal of passion for this sphere.
Food Photography Class Online
Andrew Scrivani, who is a professional freelance photographer, has developed this course. Some of the topics that the class covers are about promoting your photography business, food styling, pricing policy and copyrights. Having completed the course, you will be able to take amazing shots even when your budget is very low and your equipment is as basic as a smartphone.
Food Photography Course Online: Shooting at Restaurants
You can see Daniel Krieger’s photography in Ivan Ramen’s cookbook and The Old-Fashioned Cocktail book just to name a few. The course he offers will teach you how to get into food photography, explain the skills you need to take professional shots, and how to work with lighting. He also covers different types of equipment and media for your photography.
We Eat Together Tutorials
We Eat Together give 6 awesome tricks anyone can use to make his/her food photography stand out and be more interesting for the viewer.
In general, if you want to take photos of food you eat from time to time and post them on social media, a smartphone is all you need. However, if you are dreaming of becoming a food photographer that earns money, you need to take care of professional photo equipment. That means choosing a good camera with a suitable lens and a few additional accessories.
You need a camera with manual settings
This can be either a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. What is important is that you can find a quality macro lens with high megapixel matrix because food photography projects are normally printed with high resolution.
I have also noticed that a camera with an articulating screen is more convenient concerning usability as it will make shooting more comfortable without neck or backache.
I recommend Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II as a mirrorless option as it allows you to take 40-megapixel shots and is relatively cheap. If you prefer DSLR, then Canon EOS 6D Mark II with a full-frame matrix and an articulating screen will be the perfect choice.
Choose a macro lens
For taking photos at a relatively close distance, without distortions and having the texture of the dishes clearly visible, professional food photographers use only macro lenses. Such lenses usually give high sharpness and accurate color rendering.
Their price, however, is higher than that of the regular lenses. For close-up photos of small objects I recommend using 60mm f/2.8 Macro, while for wider shots you will definitely need 35mm f/2.8 Macro lens, or more universal 12-40mm f2.8 zoom.
Don’t forget about the reflectors
You need reflectors to remove harsh shadows, highlight an object or make the light softer. They can be of different sizes, shapes, and coverage. For food photography, you can use simple white reflectors.
Tripod is a must
When you take food photos, you don’t need to capture emotions or follow an object, so camera is usually mounted onto a tripod. It will help you arrange the objects more carefully and without unnecessary haste; you can move things around, select colors, remove things you don’t need and change the lighting.
Even when you have the best equipment, beautiful light and a delicious-looking dish, the source photo won’t have the effect you or your clients want to get. To fix that, you will need image retouching and color correction.
When the photoshoot is over you can make your tomatoes look juicier, remove ugly sauce drops off the plate or even change the light and shade effect. Some professional food photographers do photo retouching and color correction themselves, but I know from my own experience that it takes a lot of time, because if you’ve never used Photoshop, you will need hours to learn how to mask, etc.
If, however, you have several photo shootings planned, you will have no time for photo retouching. Professional food shooters commonly use a photo retouching service, where they simply send their RAW images and get the final result in a couple of days.
If you have a big bright window that lets in a lot of light, you are lucky. If not, try creating artificial light. Two sources of light are usually enough to take a beautiful shot of a dish.
Personally, in about 40% of cases I use one large source that gives diffused lighting to imitate a window. Food photography lighting must be evenly scattered, so you need reflectors for that.
They are not difficult to work with - just catch some light from the window or lamp and direct it at the object you are shooting. Set up one reflector, take a shot, look at the result. Set up the second one, the third one and compare the results.
Direct light at the object you are shooting
To substitute a reflector with something else, attach aluminum foil, white fabric or a sheet of white paper to a sheet of plywood, cardboard or plastic. In order to add shine to your objects and to get bright highlights that will bring out the colors of the food, use mirrors.
I often use a sheet of white foam-plastic as a reflector because of its low price and size.
Everything we can call beautiful simply uses geometric rules of composition. Use and combine just the basic ones: The Golden Ratio rule, Diagonal method, and the Golden Triangle rule.
Remember the numbers 1 1 2 3 5 8. They represent the Fibonacci numbers, the numerical harmony, which professional food photographers actively use in their work. Some people call it the Fibonacci Spiral rule. The point is to 8 “incorporate” a viewer into the photo starting from the bottom or the side and get him/her step-by-step towards the main object in the picture.
When doing food styling, arrange objects into the groups that correspond to these numbers: 1 1 2 3 5 8. One plate, one spoon, two berries that have accidentally fallen off the plate next to it, a set of two glasses with a bottle of cold drink arranged in a triangle separately, etc.
No one will argue that a meal is the key element in an image. Don’t be afraid to be creative, though. Use some props. You can arrange them to add interest to the image. These can be flowers, napkins, and other accessories. What you want is to find a balance between the props and the dish. Food must be noticeable.
Add bright colors to a photograph. Any professional food photographer is confident in decorating their dishes using some creative food photography ideas. A bowl of soup can be sad to look at, but if you garnish it with some herbs, it instantly becomes more attractive.
However, don’t go over the top. Fresh inedible flowers don’t suit a pasta dish, it shows lack of taste and no understanding of culinary principles.
A professionally looking food photography portfolio is a must for any photographer. You will use it to advertise your skills as a professional food photographer. One way to do it is to use social media and share your works on your personal page, but a website is a more professional option.
It will show that you are determined and responsible. Below, you can find several outstanding personal websites of professional food photographers, looking at them you will know exactly how your portfolio should look like.
Fulvio Bonavia is an award-winning editorial and advertising photographer. His unique style was inspired by Prada and Alexander McQueen products. Every food shot he takes is a true masterpiece.
A renowned food photographer and a famous food stylist, Gabriel Cabrera, can show us a thing or two. His special vision makes him stand out among other professionals. His pictures boast bright colors and a variety of textures.
Specializing in food and travel photography, Nic Gossage is making his portfolio more personal by choosing a brave logo. His food shots are shown in a full-screen format, which allows you to notice even the smallest details of his outstanding works.
With a food photography portfolio showcasing your best works, you will get an opportunity to start offering you services to a food stylist. Novice food stylists like you are, will happily work with you because they also need to create a portfolio.
However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer your services to famous food stylists too, I’m sure some of them will be happy to have a photo session, which means you’ll get additional publicity in their portfolios.
Look out for the opening of new food places where you live, visit several of them and offer your services as a food photographer. This will give you additional food photography experience, pictures you can add to your portfolio, and, if you do an excellent job, you will receive payment and additional reputation among other business owners.
In this case, it will be reasonable to invest in making hard copies of your photos from the portfolio so that you can give them directly to the owner.
If you are still learning how to become a food photographer, photo retouchers from FixThePhoto have selected several free presets and actions for you.
Dodge & Burn effect gives your photographs deeper shades and contrast details.
Correct white balance is responsible for half of the success and appealing look when you are doing image retouching. This action will automatically make white objects look the way they are supposed to, removing unnecessary yellow or blue tint.
“Mouth-watering” is probably the first word that comes to your mind when you look at pro food photography. This action will make your shots look absolutely “delicious”.
Matte effect is very popular now, even in food photography. This preset will remove very deep shadows and bring out saturation of colors in your image.
Warm contrast will work well with the shots that are meant to evoke the feelings of warmth and coziness in your pictures. I’m talking about holiday dishes, meat dishes or anything cooked on open fire.
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. read more