Food photography isn’t as easy as you might think. A big white bowl of fettuccine alfredo might look pretty tasty while steaming in front of you – but it would make a very boring flat photo, unless there were extra color elements added.
TV commercials use all kinds of tricks to make food look extra mouth-wateringly appealing. Tricks ranging from using glue as milk or shoe polish on uncooked steak (they don’t usually cook steak or large beef cuts used in commercials because they look shrunken and dried out on camera – so they use blowtorches and shoe polish for a “grilled” look!).
While you don’t necessarily have to use motor oil on your pancakes instead of syrup (syrup soaks in too quickly), there are techniques in food photography that make the difference between a flat, dull uninteresting photo, and a photo that immediately evokes a snap decision to eat what’s in the photo ASAP. Keep reading for five essential food photography tips.
1. Keep a Water Spritzer or an Atomizer Handy
Veggies and cut fruits – especially any kind of greens or herbs – start to wilt as soon as they’re exposed to air. Add hot bulbs to the mix, and you can have very sad spinach leaves pretty fast. Not only does spritzing water or an atomizer on your produce help them look shiny and fresh as though just plucked from a garden after a spring rain, but it helps reduce the wilt while you snap away for twenty minutes.
2. Play with Angles, Perspectives and Surfaces to Create Interesting Shots
Shooting straight down on a plate of food all the time is the most common angle for a food shot. So why use that angle? Experiment with different angles and perspectives – keep the rule of thirds in mind. You can also play with focus to bring the foreground into focus while blurring the background or even vice versa. Use props and unique surfaces to create an artistically appealing photograph as well as an appetizing one.
3. Use Bright, Contrasting Colors and be Aware of White Balance
The photo below demonstrates color contrast a little bit – but typically, the brighter and bolder the colors and contrasts in a food photo, the more appetizing it will be. Be sure to pick the reddest tomatoes, the fullest, fluffiest muffin and the pinkest, thickest cut of salmon for photos – in other words, always select cuts, produce, bunches, filets, stalks etc. that are as close to flawless as possible, and have great color. Use editing tools if necessary to adjust white balance if your colors are dulled, look too blue, yellow or green, because proper white balance is what makes colors pop and food look appetizing.
4. Pay Attention to Light Type and Source, and Avoid Using Flash
These aspects of food photography are the accents that set the photo off. Sometimes natural light is best, particularly for photos of summer and picnic foods. Backlighting is best for showing hot steam, while bright indoor light from above is great for reflecting liquids – it’s up to you to determine what’s best.
5. Explore and Learn from Other Creative Food Photographers
If you get frustrated trying to get a particular food photo, don’t be reluctant to get ideas from other photographers. Instagram is filled with some awesome food photography, and many Instagrammers focus on food photography alone. Artists borrow material from the world around them and even other artists, so don’t be afraid to draw upon the creative inspiration that some of the best food photographers can offer you.
It helps to approach your composition like any artist: that is, create a story and depict it with compositional elements. Don’t be afraid to go beyond a single still shot and explore food landscapes. Conflict, tension, emotion, movement background – these elements can be illustrated in a food landscape photo containing multiple elements. A tipped wine glass, strategically placed crumbs, a single rose or a stack of books –these can all add depth to the story behind your photograph. The more depth you add, the more you’ll develop your own artistic touch and storytelling in your food photography.Buffer