The purpose of food photography is to make people want to eat your food.
Obvious, right? Well, you might be thinking we’re about to teach you how to suck eggs (this can be a dangerous activity which we strongly advise against), but hold off that thought for just a second. Although it might sound simple, it’s scary how often it gets overlooked. When this basic principle is forgotten, all too often the end result is a poorly lit, badly composed photograph that totally fails to compliment the dish in any way.
So, how do you achieve professional quality food photography that perfectly showcases the dish’s star ingredients? How do you capture the colours and textures that make the viewer want to take a bite?
It’s no secret that people are very visually-led creatures. We like things that look good, intrigue us, excite us, inspire us, and that make us gasp in admiration. With this in mind, every single photograph that you link to your brand and associated products has to be sharp, engaging and of a professional quality.
Image-led content is an excellent way to build traffic to your website. Not only will your potential customers appreciate it, but other professionals are more likely to link to a good-quality image, which, by extension, will help to increase visits to your website.
Ready to learn how to become a master of professional quality food photography? Yes? Read on!
1. Use natural light, always
For a soft, organic and beautiful image, natural light is the perfect choice for food photography. Unless you’re being asked to photograph the latest offering from McDonald’s, you can abandon the studio lighting for now and instead, throw open the curtains and embrace an overcast day! (That’s right, light that has been filtered through a cloud is ideal as it casts a bright, even and well-balanced light across your dish.)
On days when the sky is clear and the sunlight unfiltered, there are a few techniques you can use that will create a similar effect to overcast light. Try hanging a piece of silk (or alternative photography diffusion tool) on the window to cut the severity of the light, or use white drapery to create a similarly soft light.
2. Consider colour
Colour plays an integral role when it comes to professional food photography. Often simply adding a garnish that contrasts with the colour of the dish is very effective in adding a greater depth of colour in your photographs. It is certainly worth familiarising yourself with the colour wheel so that you have an understanding of which colours contrast and complement well. This will make a really noticable difference to the overall impact of your photograph.
3. Think about your table setting
Although your food is the main event, the surroundings that your food appears in are almost as important.
Taking the time to consider the design of your setting can have a significant effect on the overall finish of your photograph. It’s the setting that will create the context and mood of your shot, so make sure you don’t overlook it.
Perhaps consider these points:
- What will be in the background and foreground of the food?
- Do your dishes match the colour of the food?
- Are the surroundings conducive to providing a balanced composition?
- Do you simply want to exclude setting altogether and get an extreme close-up of the food alone?
Elements that you would usually find within the context of a meal (condiment holders, cutlery, napkins etc) can be arranged to help the composition. Additionally, adding a little flourish of style in the form of decorative flowers, spices, or fabrics can really make the difference between a good photograph and a fabulous one! Just be aware that as a general rule of thumb, these elements must compliment rather than dominate the main subject – the food!
4. Decide on an angle
Generally speaking, there are two main angles employed when photographing food. The first involves an arieal shot (directly above) of the food. This could be in the form of a closeup or perhaps a broader view of the whole placement setting.
The second angle often used in food photography is from the side. This allows you to include a foreground, background, both or even the entire surrounding area of the dish. There are of course a multitude of different angles you can adopt, and it is always worth experimenting a little to find what works best for you and your food. Don’t be shy! Be bold, be creative and have fun.
Now you’ve got 4 great techniques to try, here are a few helpful styling tips that will help you secure the professional quality food photography that you’re trying to achieve.
- Fresh is best!
- Be sparing when it comes to dressing on salad, too much can make it look limp.
- Undercook the food. (It looks fresher and brighter.)
- Green food (such as lettuce leaves or kale) will look greener and fresher by soaking it in ice-water for a few minutes before the photograph is shot. (Be sure to shake them dry beforehand!)
- If hot food has been sitting around for a little while, it may not look very fresh. You can get around this by brushing it with oil.
- Thoroughly clean the plates and settings you will be using. Random specks of food or smudgy fingerprints are not a good look!
Could your brand benefit from some professional quality food photography? Is it something that you’ve often considered but just haven’t had the time to pursue?
If so, we have professional photographers with considerable food photography experience in our team. Feel free to get in touch and find out how we can help you!