If there’s one thing people love almost as much as eating food, it’s looking at it. Great food photos will make people hungry; it will make them want to travel or get more experimental in the kitchen, and it can spur them to book a table at a new restaurant for Friday night.
Whether you’re taking photos of your dinner to share on Instagram or taking photos for a new restaurant, you want the end product to look just as good as the food (if not better). Fortunately, there are certain rules can follow to get a great image every time.
Lighting and Shadows
Whenever possible, shoot your food photos in natural daylight. This will prevent your lighting from casting artificial orange, yellow or blue hues onto the food that you’ll have to correct later. Additionally, you should try to find a location where the natural light isn’t harsh, if the sun is glaring find a different location or wait until later in the day, if possible. The bright sun often causes overexposure and harsh shadows.
Pay attention to the shadows your lighting produces. Shadows can make or break a photo – you want your shadows to add depth and dimension, but if they are too contrasting you may find that they take too much attention away from the subject. Try to shoot on a bright but overcast day, use a translucent curtain, or go outside to a shaded spot. If necessary, use a reflector to brighten the shadows.
You should do everything in your power to make sure the colour of the food, plates, and background are as accurate as possible. Aim for the whites in the image to be as pure as possible, and the colours of the food to be vibrant and true to life. If you can get your lighting right, as advised above, it will go a long way to helping you get the colours you are looking for.
Have you ever seen a professional food photo that didn’t have an interesting background? Take a flick through a magazine at the supermarket or on an acclaimed food blog online and you’ll likely find a range of interesting backgrounds that enhance the image of the food. Try to avoid patterned tablecloths and instead use neutral surfaces like wooden tables, kitchen worktops, and chopping boards. If you want to add to your image use simple towels, cloths, cutlery, whole food, cut flowers, and anything that complements the dish without distracting from it.
Your composition is the way you combine all of the above to produce your image. When you think about your composition, consider how you can enhance the colours of the dish with the plate or bowl it’s served on, the background you choose, and anything else you use to add dimension to the image. Consider what kind of feeling you want to evoke; if you are taking a photo of a shepherd's pie you might want to use neutral, earthy tones throughout the image to evoke that warm, homey feel. If you are taking photos for a dynamic new modern restaurant, you may want to use more contrasting and vibrant colours to create excitement.
If you use all of the above to thoughtfully take your food images, you’ll have photos that wow every time.