5 Ways To Improve Your Food Photography – Right Now (no matter what kind of camera you have) 2017-04-22T23:33:36+00:00

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5 Tips To Improve Your Food Photography

Whether you’re a food blogger, a frequent Instagram poster, or simply want to take tasty pictures of your food, spending a few minutes to think about your photography can go a LONG way toward improving your finished results.

While I am by no means a master of the art of food photography, I have learned a few things over the last few years that have improved my own food photos tremendously.

And now I’ve gathered my top tips together to help you improve, as well. Because, hey, I like looking at tasty food photos, too! Speaking of, be sure to tag me when you share your lovely new food photos – I want to see what you’re creating and cheer you on! I’m @TasteOfThePlace on FB and IG. See you there!

Alright, enough chatter. My top 5 tips to improve your food photography – right now, no matter what kind of camera you’re using…


Think about the light

Photography is all about light, and the best photographers know how to utilize light to make an image beautiful.

  • Try to use natural, diffused light whenever possible. That means DON’T use the camera’s built in flash (that flash has been called “food murder” for a reason!), and DO turn OFF the room lights. Ideally you want to shoot your photos in a bright space, that is not in direct sunlight.
  • Bonus – snap your pictures with the light coming from the side. This is called side lighting, and can give your food photos more of a professional feel.
  • If you happen to be somewhere where you can’t control the lighting, like a restaurant – then embrace it! (You can only control so much in life, right?) Sometimes that dark, orangey glow can work, but be sure to see tips 3 and 5 – “Get Stable” and “Edit”
This photo of a Sundae was shot in natural, diffused daylight, with the light coming from the left.

This photo of a Sundae was shot in natural, diffused daylight, with the light coming from the left.

Tasty Food Photography eBook


Think about composition

Just taking a few moments to think about the aesthetics of your overall image can make a huge impact on the finished result.

  • Arrange the food so it looks especially appealing to you. While you are at it, consider creating some height by stacking the food (if appropriate, of course) and creating some contrasting color with garnishes.
  • Make sure that whatever is around the dish is also appealing, and adds to the image. A beverage, colorful napkin, or interesting piece of silverware can add a lot to a photo. Just be sure that the food remains the most prominent item in the image.
  • Speaking of making the food prominent, consider how much of the final image you want the food to occupy. If you are too far away, the food will look tiny, and get lost in the image. If you are too close, the food is overwhelming, and it can be hard to tell what’s going on. Generally, you want the food to roughly occupy between 1/2 and 2/3 of the finished image.
  • Remember that 3 is a good number. While not always appropriate, aiming for 3 of whatever is in your image is a good guideline to start with. Taking a photo of cookies? Try using 3 cookies in the photo, with one as the primary focus, and the other two in the background. Using props? Start with 3. That beverage, napkin and utensil combo is classic!
  • While 3 is in your mind, consider the rule of thirds. For whatever reason, our brains like images that are not quite centered. When you are composing your shot, imagine that the final image is divided into 3 equal parts horizontally, and 3 equal parts vertically. Aim to have the main subject (the food) at the intersection where two of those lines cross.
  • Consider the angle. You will generally shoot from straight above; angled down at about 45 degrees; or eye level with the food. Which angle you choose really depends on what you are shooting, and what you find attractive. Flat foods will generally look best from above, while foods with some height can look very interesting if shot at an angle or straight on. Simply take a moment and look at the food from several different vantages to determine what will work best. I personally like to shoot at an angle, as it allows me to capture the texture and shape of the food, while still seeing most of the dish.
In this image of Guinness stew, I have created a bit of height and color with the green garnish; the photo fills a little more than half the photo, and the food is positioned in the lower right third of the photo.

In this image of Guinness stew, I have created a bit of height and color with the green parsley garnish; the stew fills a little more than half the photo; and the focus (the stew) is positioned in the lower right third of the photo. PS – the grid lines on the image are just for the purpose of demonstrating the rule of thirds – I didn’t actually publish this image with grid lines. 😉


Get stable

A blurry food photo is a bad food photo. Now I’m not talking about that lovely bokeh, where a select portion of the image is in focus and everything else is out of focus. I’m talking about a photo that is all blurry, because your hand was moving around while you were taking the shot. While you don’t have to run out and buy a tripod (although I use one all the time!), considering when you need to and how to stabilize your camera can go along way toward banishing the blurries.

  • If you are in a bright space, your food is well lit, and you have a decent camera, you can probably get away without stabilizing. Go ahead and go for that handheld shot!
  • If you frequently take photos for your blog or social media, and find you are getting a lot of blurriness, then yeah, you should probably invest in a tripod. Just do it!
  • If you are snapping a quick photo in a dimly lit restaurant, rest the camera on top of something to stabilize it. I like to set the bottom of the camera on the table, and shoot directly toward the food. For a little more height, try carefully resting the camera on the edge of an empty glass or cup for extra stability.
This photo was taken in a moody restaurant at night. Rather than try and make it look like I was shooting in daylight, I chose to embrace the warm glow. I stabilized the image by resting my camera on the edge of the table, and shooting directly at the food from table level.

This photo was taken in a moody restaurant at night. Rather than try and make it look like I was shooting in daylight, I chose to embrace the warm glow. I stabilized the image by resting my camera on the edge of the table, and shooting directly at the food from table level.


Change things up

Professional photographers will often take 50, 100, or ever several hundred shots of a single recipe. They’ll change the camera settings, change what angle they are shooting, change the direction of the light, and change the arrangement of the food and props. This gives them lots of options to choose from when it comes to editing and producing the finished image. While you don’t necessarily need to give your photos this much effort, it’s still a good idea to change things up and shoot several different shots. If for no other reason, you’ll diversify your own personal style and shooting techniques.

  • Shoot a few initial shots, then take a peek to see how they look. Is there anything you would like to change? Start there, then shoot again. Even if you are happy with the first few shots, try shooting from a different angle, or removing or adding a prop, adjusting the garnish, etc.. You might be surprised at how much a simple change can impact an image!
While I was shooting this Kenyan beef stew, I changed things up by placing the spoon, and a wedge of the side dish in the bowl. I ended up using the image on the right, because it felt more inviting and complete to me.

While I was shooting this Kenyan beef stew, I changed things up by placing the spoon and a wedge of the ugali (Kenyan corn meal) in the bowl. I ended up using the image on the right, because it felt more inviting and complete to me.


Edit

Did you know that many of the luscious, gorgeous photos you see on Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite food magazines probably looked pretty bland and boring before they went through editing? Editing really makes a big difference. Cameras don’t really see things the way the human eye does, so we need to do a little post processing to make our finished images look as appealing as that original dish of food.

  • If you are using a point and shoot or a DSLR, take a few minutes to edit on your computer. I use and absolutely adore Adobe Lightroom, while other photographers are in love with Photoshop, but even iPhoto or something along those lines will do the job. If you are using a smartphone, either use the phone’s photo editing software, or one of the bazillion apps available for editing.
  • There are many options when it comes to editing, from adjusting the exposure, to adding vignettes, to using a filter, and soooo much more. The best thing to do is just start playing around with your images in your chosen editing software. Try an adjustment, see what you think, try something else, and so on.
  • While you are at it, don’t be afraid to try the auto-adjust options. More often than not, I find that this does NOT give me the results I want, but sometimes it works like a charm. So you might as well click that auto-adjust button, and see what you think. You can always click undo.
  • If you really want to dive into editing, I suggest you check out the amazing food photography ebook from A Pinch Of Yumm. It’s called Tasty Food Photography, and not only does it cover ALL aspects of food photography, but the editing section is loaded with tips, examples, and even corresponding videos to help you master the process. Highly recommended by me – and you can get it HERE. (By the way, I am an affiliate – meaning if you click the link, then purchase, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured, I only recommend stuff that I love.)
Behold the power of editing! The image of the simple pasta dish on the left is completely un-edited (other than cropping). While it is attractive, the image is rather bland and boring. The exact same image on the right went through my editing process, resulting in a vibrant and inviting image.

Behold the power of editing! The image of the simple pasta dish on the left is completely un-edited (other than cropping). While it is attractive, the image is rather bland and boring. The exact same image on the right went through my editing process, resulting in a vibrant and inviting photo.


Bonus

Practice and study! The best ways to improve your food photography are to practice taking pictures, and to study from folks who have mastered the craft. So get out there and start taking pictures, and while you are at it, check out Tasty Food Photography to learn all about everything from camera basics, to lighting, to composition, to editing, to workflow, and more. Good stuff!

Tasty Food Photography eBook

Cheers! I can’t wait to see those tasty food photos!