Simple Ways to Improve Your Food Photography

Simple Ways to Improve Your Food Photography 

Here are four things to consider before you start taking pictures the next you make a delicious meal on your Blackstone! Whether you have an expensive camera like a DSLR or just the camera on your iPhone – these tips will instantly help you become a better photographer!  

1. Food Styling

Before you start snapping pictures of your food, the first choice you need to make is whether you want it loose or geometrically styled. Loose means that food is placed to look random on the plate, even though you are still being very careful about the position – think spaghetti or a rack of rips piled high and doused with BBQ sauce. Geometric styling has very intentional placement – every bit of food from the sandwich to the blueberry is placed very deliberately. Determine what kind of style best fits your dish and personality. Other things to consider when building a dish are color and space. If you make potatoes and steak, it will taste delicious, but look very brown. Adding various garnishing and sides, like cilantro, rosemary, asparagus, and tomatoes adds a lot of color. For space, it is important to fill the plate to the point where it looks like a good full meal, but not so full that it looks like it would be hard to eat. If your food looks too squished, you might need to take some things off to free up some space.

2. Lighting

After you have your food plated the way you want it – it’s time to consider the lighting conditions. You don’t need massive expensive bright lights to make your food look good. Natural light can make any food look just as good as artificial light. A large window without direct sunlight is an excellent option. Good questions to ask yourself are, what direction do you want the light to come from, and how much shadow do you want in your image!

Lighting your food from the same side as you are taking the photo is not ideal. It will make the color of your food disappear and make it look flat and less appealing. If your light is coming from behind the food, you will get deep shadows on the front of the food and give a dark and moody feel to it.

The most common way to light your food is from the sides. Have your main light source to one side or the other. Placing a white reflector on the opposite side of your light will reflect the light back on the shadow side. By doing this, you will get appealing shadow on one side while preserving the color on the other. There is even more you can explore if you use light cards (see equipment below) but deliberately selecting the right light angle should instantly make your food photography better.

3. Image Composition

Now it’s time to start taking photos! A good rule to keep in mind when determining where you need to stand is “What angle can I show that most people don’t normally see?” For example, most people just take a picture from the first-person point of view. This is the angle everyone would see the food if they were standing next to it, and it isn’t remarkably interesting. Try taking the photo right above the food (aerial), super close, or from lower down (eye level just above the plate). You don’t even have to include the entire dish in the photo! Just make sure you show a view of the food that people don’t normally see so it will catch their eye.

Quick tip on props (utensils, backdrops, napkin/cloth etc.)  – less is more. Just keep the focus on the food.

4. Equipment

There are a few simple tools that can help you take better photos.

Bounce Cards: These are exactly what they sound like – just paper to help reflect the light. You can have a white and a black bounce card. A white card can just be a blank sheet of paper, or a flat piece of tin foil. You can place the bounce card opposite the light source to light up the other side of the food to get rid of any shadows that are too black and restore some color.

Black bounce cards do the opposite. If you want heavier shadows on the dark side of the image, place a matte Black piece of paper or foam core near that side. It absorbs light on that side and deepens shadows.

Tripod: A simple phone tripod will help eliminate any chance of a blur or shaking while taking photos. For phone photos, placing both elbows on the table or a stack of books accomplishes the same thing!

LED Lights: Again, these aren’t necessary, but if you find yourself indoors on a rainy day they might come in handy. Consider getting 2-3 lights so you can light your food from various angles at the same time.