Are you tired of looking back at your pictures, and seeing photos of food that tasted so good but looks disgusting in the photo? I was too, so I decided to start experimenting with improving my food photography. I have learned a lot in the past two years since I really started expanding my food photography skills. Now I would like to share with you 5 key tips that I learned to make food pictures more appealing and appetizing!
Like most photography, lighting plays a big role in the overall look of your photo. Lighting can either be natural (sun), artificial (light bulbs), or a combination of the two. In my experience, I prefer natural light and try to avoid artificial light. The time of day that I receive the best natural lighting is in the afternoon and early evening. Find an area in your house that allows a lot of sunlight to come in and figure out when the best time of day is to photograph.
One thing that I have learned right from the start is that the angle at which a food photo was taken is very important. The angle that you use in a food photo will in some ways be determined by what type of food you are photographing. A few common angles include the 90 degree angle, 45 degree angle, and eye-level shot. The most common angles that I use are the 90 degree angle and eye-level shot. I find that the 90 degree angle can prevent shadowing and give a full perspective to the food item. I like using the eye-level shot when a food item has height or when I want to show the texture of a certain food item. Below are three angles along with the foods that I most commonly use them with:
- 90 degree angle- whole pizzas, soups, salads, eggs, and plates of food
- 45 degree angle- pies, sandwiches, bread, rolls, wraps, and bowls of food
- eve-level- stacked bars and cookies, brownies, hamburger buns, cakes, muffins, and stacked pancakes
One of my favorite parts of food photography is preparing the food to be photographed. Presentation can make an average food item look invitingly delicious. When trying to figure out how to present a food item, don’t always think along the lines of ‘about to be eaten’. Experiment with stacking, organizing into rows, layering, or a combination of those ideas. One presentation strategy that I try to stay away from is the ‘bite on a fork’ appearance. I think that this makes the food less appetizing as it appears that it is already being eaten. I like it when I see a food photo and it makes me want to take a big bite out of the food item. Here are some ideas that I like to use for certain food items:
- cookies- several stacked on top of each other with one leaning against the stack
- bars- three stacked together or squares organized into rows
- pies- one slice on a plate with the rest of the pie in the background
- sandwiches- cut in half on a plate with chips and veggies (e.g. pickles, carrot sticks) surrounding the sandwich
- brownies- single brownie on a plate with ice cream on top, use eve-level angle
- pancakes- stacked with syrup and butter on top with meat product (e.g. sausage, bacon) beside stack
- soups- bowl of soup with napkin beside bowl, bread product on napkin
Although not always necessary, props can create a very appealing atmosphere around the food item. Props can be used under, around, or beside the food. I like using natural props such as, flowers, pine bows, pinecones, and wood. Other common props that I use include, towels, napkins, wooden spoons, and decorative plates. I like to coordinate my props with the season or holiday and type of food I am photographing. Another prop idea that I like to use with baked goods is having some of the ingredients scattered around the food. Some ideas would include chocolate chips for chocolate chips cookies, rice crispies for rice crispy treats, or fruit pieces for baked fruit items. Here are some seasonal prop ideas that I like to use:
- fall- acorns, cinnamon sticks, brown towels and napkins, pine boughs, ribbon
- winter- pine boughs, decorative lights, red towels and napkins, pinecones, poinsettias, bulbs
- spring- blue and white flowers, light colored napkins and towels
- summer- red and blue flowers, checkered towels, light brown wood pieces
You may be thinking, what does timing have to do with food photography? Timing can actually be very important. For one, you will want to make sure you can take a picture of the food item during good lighting. Another thing to consider is if you are taking a picture of a hot food, cold food, or room temperature food. You would want to have all your props ready and a plan for how you are going to photograph the hot food. Also consider if you want to take a picture of the food when it comes directly out of the oven, or wait until it cools.
A more nitty gritty timing issue would be if you want to catch an action being done to the food. For example, if you are pouring maple syrup over a stack of pancakes and you want to catch the syrup dribbling down the pancake stack.
Whether you are a professional or an amateur I hope that you have learned something from my tips and enjoy expanding your food photography!