Everyone takes pictures of their food, but few do it well. You know the feeling. It looks great on your plate – fresh, vibrant, and delicious – but so meh on your screen. I love food and I hate to see so many average (or bad!!) pictures of beautiful food, so I compiled a few easy tips that anyone can use to expose the raw (or cooked) beauty of food. The best part: you don’t even need fancy equipment, your phone will do just great.
1. Use natural light as much as possible. Direct fluorescent lights are never your friends.
The most important thing to consider when you are shooting food photography (or any type of photography for that matter), is the light. Without light, there is no photography. As a general rule, overhead lights make food look flat and wilted, and can even distort its real color. Regular kitchen or restaurant lights, for example, tend to make everything look yellowy-orange. Natural light is the key to good food photography. Place your subject near a window where the natural light will enhance the food’s natural beauty. Make sure to choose a spot in the shade out of direct sunlight. Direct light light can produce beautiful results, but it takes some getting used to, so start in the shade.
2. Angles, angles, angles. Just like people, food has its better angles.
An easy one is the top-down: hover directly over your food, and shoot. The result is a flattering photo in the “flat lay” style. This works particularly well for dishes that are relatively 2D and won’t be complemented by the 45-degree angle or straight on approaches (Yes pizza, that would be you...).
Think of 45 degrees as the angle at which you see food when you’re sitting at the table. Why is this perspective so appealing? Because we can imagine digging in! This is also a great angle for adding props to your shot. French fries on the side? Yes please.
Position your lens at the same height as your food to take a picture straight on. This is the best choice for tall items, like drinks, parfaits, or stacked sandwiches, as it accentuates the dimensions of the dish and allows the viewer a mouth-watering look at its textures, layers, and colors.
3. Include fresh ingredients as props. Herbs, I’m looking at you.
Fresh fruits and vegetables give life to a cooked dish. They often add the right pop of color and texture that draw the eye in and make the food look homemade - even if it isn’t. Remember to make sure that your fresh props go with the dish. Placing a slice of lemon next to your fried egg will just leave viewers confused.
4. The power of layers. Not just for your hair.
Layers create depth and interest. I’m talking napkins, stacked plates and trays, a casual leftover newspaper – even some crumbs! The same principle goes for the dish itself. If you’re shooting dessert, layer on the whipped cream, berries, and powdered sugar. If breakfast, stack your pancakes and syrup. It is possible to go overboard with background props and layers though, so try not to include anything with busy patterns, or so much clutter that it detracts from the food itself.
5. Just keep trying
From food styling, to experimenting with angles and new lighting techniques, there is always something new to learn. And as you continue practicing, there are a lot of great resources out there to guide you. Like an awful lot. If you don’t know where to start, check out the round up of my favorite online resources.
About the author: Fanette is a professional food and product photographer who combines her passion for food and product photography with an interest in a healthy lifestyle by creating images of fresh, healthy food and sustainable products. When she is not shooting or eating food (or both), Fanette likes to play with my son, travel the world, curl up on the couch with a good book. You can see more of Fanette’s beautiful images on her Instagram account @frenchlyphotography and website french.ly