13 Food Photography Tips For Beginners

food photography tips

What is Food Photography?

Remember, how you go through pages of a magazine and see some meals and salivate? Yes, that meal you salivated to, was a well created and arranged meal used mainly for photography.  Food photography according to Wikipedia is defined as a branch of photography, which involves taking creative still life pictures of food for different purposes.

The purposes of food photography include, for advertising, for restaurant menus, for cookbooks and even magazines. Food photography involves a complete team; the team members, each having their roles to play in the success of the shoot. They include an art director, food photography, and a food and prop stylist, and their various assistants.

13 Awesome Tips or Techniques in Food Photography

Food is something you’d want to photograph, regardless of if you’re a professional food photographer or not, especially if it looks great! Now, food photography is just like a production on its own, it’ll take proper lighting, the styling of the meals, before shooting. So, here are some awesome, tips that will allow you carry out your shoot with ease.

1. Great Lighting

One good thing about food photography is that you don’t need more than one light to carry out the job. Yes, in any other genre of photography, like portrait, it is very important as it’ll be used to ensure that the shape of the object is properly projected.

However, in food photography, you will only require one light, which makes it a lot easier to carry out. For any other genre in photography, this is a bad idea, because the back and side light in a photoshoot will project the image properly.

In such cases, the shadows, and reflection got from the lighting are required to give the object a perfect look. However, in food photography, it is best if the light is not noticed in the resulting photo. This will create softer shadows and fewer effects but will also make the picture look very natural. And with food, that’s the best look to create.

2. Night Time Shoots

Now, in some cases, you can be swamped the whole day and be left with the night to work with. If that’s the case, there’s no natural light to work with; you might have to create your natural looking light. It has to be soft, and create soft shadows as well, and so it’s best that you have a softbox or some diffusion material to reduce the excessive light and then spread it efficiently across the studio.

Also, you can dial or tone down your power in half, or simply, use your camera to determine how you capture your image in an excessive light. If you can use any of these methods to ensure perfect lighting during your night time shots, then your pictures will be just perfect.

3. Variable Camera Angles

Now, when you’re having a photoshoot for a human being, you can take shots from lots of angles, to ensure that the pictures portray the best angles of your model. In food photography, the case is the same; you take shots from different flattering angles as well. As a photographer, you need to know that, the posture or image you created in your mind, which you think is the perfect look, could turn not otherwise.

You can feel free, to take that shot you created, but ensure to take several others, for basic comparison. Another reason why it’s important you shoot from different angles is that you could be shooting for clients. Clients like to be able to make their choices from several options.

Yes, you are the photographer, and you know best, but, giving the client options to pick from, and then having them make their picks, will make you their best too.

As regards the angles, taking pictures of food from above the food and from the side will give different looks. Taking pictures of ingredients, and the foods also allow the viewer determine the depth of the container carrying the food.

So try as many angles as you want, and be creative with it, keep in mind that food doesn’t complain, and never gets tired from the shoot, so you can go as many time as you wish.

4. How to Get It Right

So, with humans, it’s easy to just refresh their makeup and send them back to continue with the shoot. With food, it’s not that simple, especially when it looks better when it’s hot. What you must know is that the look of some foods when they’re hot, don’t remain the same when they get cold.

The solution to this is to prepare for two meals, and have the second one brought in hot when the first gets cold. The first meal is usually referred to as the dummy food, while the second, the hero meal. To do this, you will need to add this to your budget, so you don’t run at a loss.

5. Ice Cream Shoots

ice cream food photography tips

The ice cream shoot is a huge deal when it comes to food photography, so everyone pays attention to whoever might have a little information. The thing is, ice cream melts, it’s almost impossible, getting it to stay still for a still shoot. By the time you’re halfway into the shoots, the ice cream would have completely melted.

And that’s why this information is super vital, for photographers. The secret is to get dry ice, scoop the ice cream you need for the shoot and put it on the dry ice. After this, you can get a straw and blow off the dry ice, to sustain the ice cream throughout the shoot.

6. The Food or its Parts

Some foods may not be so beautiful to the sight, but they certainly will be delicious to the taste buds. For such foods, it might not be normal, but a photographer has to be creative. Here are some ideas, you can try out.

Feel free to use a spoon to stir the food while taking a shot, also; you can take shots of the ingredients used in preparing such a meal. You see that, instead of taking the picture of a complete meal and having it look, not so good, you can take pictures of parts of that particular meal.

With such flattering shots, there’ll be no need for working excessively hard on styling a meal that won’t look so good no matter what.

7. Shooting Location

This is food photography, where you will be taking pictures of foods. What better place to take such pictures, if not the kitchen. Well, it doesn’t have to be if you have a setup kitchen in your studio for such shoots. That could stand in the gap, but if you don’t, you will have to move out the studio into a better location.

The genre of photography you practice goes a long way to determining the location of your shots. In food photography, the kitchen is just that place.

8. Do not stain the plate

food photography tips

If you’ve ever been to a food shoot, you’d understand my explanation. Food stylists, when arranging the meal on a plate, don’t even use their hands. That is how cautious they try to be, to ensure they don’t stain the plate.

So they use tweezers, instead of taking a chance with their hands and possibly ruining the shoot. Please do not talk about Photoshop; it’s a tool, nothing else. Ensure that your set is as camera perfect as can be, and then if any other mistakes happen, we can then include Photoshop.

First, make that food neat, off the plate, and camera perfect.

9. Let’s Talk About Eating

Another creative aspect of food photography is the half eaten food. Yes, that half cookie with its crumbs around it, that half steak, that slice of sandwich in someone’s hand. All these are half-eaten meals, and they help to portray to you clients that, someone else has enjoyed this meal before, and he can too. It’s a very easy tool to get new customers and buyers.

10. Variable Backgrounds

Using, one kitchen table for a food shoot all the time is a very boring move as firstly you won’t get the best of the photo, and secondly, it shows signs of no creativity. The background of the picture have a long way to tell how organized, clean, or creative you are. You can change the background of the picture, use table cloths in some cases, and any other creative stuff you can think about.

Do not overthink this and overcrowd the set with unnecessary things. Keep it as simple as it can be, sometimes, a plain table is all that’s needed.

11. Use of the Photo

It is important that you ask your client, what the food shoot is for. The reason is this, if you are shooting for a cookbook, you’ll need to know which one will come first, second or last. Or it could be for a magazine, which is going to be for the cover of the magazine and so on.

It’s better to know the purpose first because, even if you shoot from very good angles, you’ll never treat the third page like the cover page. That’s a fact. Know your audience and work with the knowledge you gathered.

12. Less Is More

You might think that getting a lot of food on the plate looks beautiful – no it doesn’t. Not in food photography. The word here is detail, in this genre; we are concerned about every single member of the plate.

It will be unfair to overcrowd the plate and have some parts of the food be invisible, and that’s the reason behind this tip. Sometimes, less gives more details and explains what needs to in the photo.

13. Do Not Touch the Food

Touching the stylist’s food is against the rules. Once the stylist puts the food on the plate, feel free to move the plate, but if it requires the food itself to be touched, don’t. Instead ask him to replace, add, or remove whatever it is that’s causing the issues.

If he’s doing his job right, then do not tamper with it, these stylists are talented and know what they’re doing. Do not rain on their parade by trying to interfere. While they’re not holding your camera, you reserve no right to touch their food.

Final Tip

Shooting food can be an awesome experience. However, it can also get frustrating if you don’t apply the right principles and methods. Most of the tips discussed here are methods applied in life photography, and their application gives great results even on food.

Further Reading:

15 Awesome Food Photography Tips

Choosing the Best Food Photography Equipment 

food photography tips

1. Best Camera For Food Photography

The camera in any photoshoot, be it for a live shoot or food shoot, is the most important and most needed equipment for the job. So it is important that we have a guide on how to pick the best one for this purpose.

Brand: There are a couple of single lens reflex cameras put there, so you might want to narrow it down to the brand. What is your favorite brand? We have the canon, Nikon, and Olympus. With even more of these brands in the market today, it’s best if you select about two of them, and then check the options in them before purchase.

Budget: Now, you should also consider this factor. To get a camera with a good lens which is equally above average capacity is tantamount to spending over $800. If you planned to buy something with awesome efficiency, and quality at a low cost, then you might need to buy a fairly used SLRS. This way, you have the quality of an expensive camera at a very affordable cost.

Features: In a search for a camera for food photography, you need to consider two most important features; the megapixels and image sensor size. These two features, contribute greatly to the quality of the picture.

The weight of the camera is still something to consider. If you don’t like tripods, then you should think about a camera with a light profile. One you can easily move about.

Megapixels: Just because a camera has high megapixels, doesn’t mean that it would bring great quality pictures. It’s the combination of the megapixels and the image sensors that produce great quality pictures. So if you’re getting a camera, ensure it has a larger image sensor than the megapixels, although cameras like these are usually very expensive.

2. Choosing The Best Lens For Food Photography

This is another question that a lot of photographers ask when it comes to photographing food. Well, here are a few ideas on a lens that could do justice to the job.

Macro: The macro lens is one that will capture every single detail of your food, including the small berries and seeds. It wouldn’t just capture the details; it will bring them closer, and magnify the look that you get.

Wide Angle Lens: This camera lens is simply used to photograph overhead shots. If your studio space or shoot location allows for overhead shots, then you should get this lens.

Mid Range: A mid-range camera lens is a really good idea, for taking food pictures in any environment. This simply means that if you’re always on the road, and you will be taking pictures of your meals along the way, this will work. It allows you get a beautiful and clear image of your meal while blurring out the background. You can use this lens while sitting down. It will cause no problems at all.

Medium Telephoto: The medium telephoto is also a good lens for food photography. Just like the mid range, you can take pictures from a sitting position, and you can also take awesome portraits with it.

Telephoto: This is an awesome lens for a wide space shooting. If you’re going to be carrying out the shoot on a wide space then this is the one for you. However, you might be able to get it close enough to get it in focus, but you can use this with a really large dish.

Further Reading:

Choosing a Lens for Food Photography

3. Food Photography Lighting

Here are some tips on how to go about the lighting for your food photography.

The Natural Source

Maintaining the already stated fact that natural light is best for food photography; I think that all you have to do is ensure that the light isn’t directly coming into the house. This is so that you don’t create heavy shadows behind the image.

The Filter

In a case where you can’t help the light from directly coming in, you can filter it – make it look softer. You can either use a scrim if you’re professional, but if you don’t have one, a white bed sheet or large white cotton material will do the magic.

The Reflectors Bounce

When shooting with light coming in from one direction, you tend to get heavier shadows coming in from the opposite side of the image. So even though it can give great effects, it’s best to bounce it back and let the food have all the light. You can do this with the aid of a reflector or something that could replace it.

Outdoor Tent

If you are going to do an outdoor shoot, then you can’t carry it out in an open space like that. You’ll need a tent; first reason is; pets or pests. Second reason is the lighting effect. However, if you’re not a traveler, you might not need this, but you should never say never.

No Flash

Lastly, do not; take the picture with its flash directly on the food. You won’t like the horrific shadows and highlights you’ll create. The results will be bad. It’s better if you aim it into the reflector and have it bounce onto the food. You’ll also need to be careful, though, but no flash on food.

Further Reading:

5 tips for flawless food photography lighting

4. Basic Food Photography Props

Every genre of photography has the props with which they make beautiful photos with, and so does food photography. Some basic things will be useful in having a food shoot, and they have been listed below.

  • Mini bowls or containers
  • Mugs of different sizes
  • Plain and designed glass jars
  • Large bowls
  • Plates
  • Salad Plate
  • Utensils, cutleries
  • Napkins And towels
  • A clean work surface or background

There are also other things to learn about food photography props

  • No need to fill your studio with kitchen props.
  • It doesn’t have to be very expensive, you can improvise and be creative.
  • Go for small sized plates and bowls, they fit better into the camera.

Further Reading:

9 basic props for food photography

5 Of The Most Famous Food Photographers

Below are 5 of the best food photographers around (in alphabetical order). 

1. Beatrice Peltre

Beatrice Peltre is a food photographer who HAS created a reputation for herself by shooting in natural environments, with natural lighting and sometimes the simplest props. Her simplicity makes her photography unique. You can check out her work on this site Beatrice Peltre Food Styling and Photography.

2. Clarke Barboza

Now, this woman you can’t just refer to as a food photographer because she doesn’t just take pictures of food. She tells the story behind the food. Everything, from where the seeds were planted, who nurtured them, the chef that made the food, the cultures and communities that celebrate this food. Simply put, she does her homework. Feel free to check her up here Clare Barboza Photography.

3. Carl Warner

This photographer is the envy of the world as most people would want to be in his position. His cartoon-like scenes and foodscapes with broccoli forests are widely used in food advertisements up till today. Check out his work here Carl Warner.

4. Keiko Oikawa

While some people have to learn food photography, Keiko learned it herself. She’s an ardent food blogger, and her pictures are very sensual and delicate. You might want to check out her portfolio here Keiko Oikawa.

5. Tim Hill

As number one, you would be wondering what makes him so different or special. Tim is a London-based food photographer who is bold about his choice of backdrop and food combination. Some people would shy away from using a busy backdrop and a busy meal, but Tim has got the magic. And he uses it. Check his work out here Tim Hill Food Photographer.

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