3 Simple Food Photography Tips That Don't Cost Anything
Have you ever been out at a restaurant, received an amazing meal and instantly been told off for almost starting without taking a photo of the dish? You crazy person! As if the food was intended to be a model rather than be eaten? Yeah, same.
In this world of social media a whopping 69% of millennials admit to taking a photo of their meal before eating it. That's right, it's become normal to spend the first 5 minutes of your entrée snapping that shot for the 'gram. Gone are the days of nipping down to your local café for a cuppa, you better put on your 2XU active wear, it's time for a latté art photoshoot!
If by chance you are one of the 69% or are proud of your home creations, some basic food photography tips go a long way in best representing the meal you're eating.
My other half considers herself a whiz in the kitchen and I wouldn't argue with that one bit, she's a gun. But why spend all this time whipping up amazing creations for just us? Surely the world needs these recipes! Enter @honeybeeharvey. For the past few months, I have been tasked with not only photographing these creations but teaching a novice photographer the basics. It's been a great learning curve for the both of us and I know that with these 3 tips your smashed avocado and salmon will look as good as the $22 version down the road.
1. Find yourself some lighting
You'll notice that when you're in a dark moody restaurant trying to take a photo of your sticky pork ribs with your phone that it comes out horribly. This is because light is the number one contributing factor to a great photo. Natural light is usually best, so if you can, shoot in the daytime and close to a window. If your food is in direct sunlight, try to move it to a shady area as the direct light really blows out highlights and also casts super harsh shadows on your food! Overcast days offer diffused light through the clouds, which softens the shadows making the light spread more evenly on the food.
If possible try to avoid shooting under downlights at night time. Unless you match the white balance they can come out very yellow and unappealing. If you have no option, try to shoot on an angle that doesn't cast your shadow in the photo. It can be done but you need to get creative with your angles and a tripod will make it 10x easier.
If you're at a restaurant, the meal that is presented to you will look amazing on the plate, that's why you're taking a picture of it right? If it's home cooked make sure you take some effort into plating the meal to make it look as nice as possible.
Photography works well when context is provided in the image. Photos tell stories. In the image try to describe where you are, what you have accompanying the meal or how will you eat it. In other words, bring things into the image that aren't just the meal. For example, the cutlery may be unique, the sauces you're about to put on it or the amazing cocktail you're drinking! People viewing your image want to be able to relate to it, they want to know exactly what it'd be like sitting down to the same meal.
Also, any complimentary colours to the meal or crockery can lift your image to another level. If you're having an amazing lemon tart, perhaps find something yellow to include in the image like a napkin or the menu.
3. Take the time
I know I know, at the start of this I was banging on how annoying it was when people didn't let you eat your meal before they snapped a shot. However, if you're going to take the photo, you might as well spend that extra 30 secs - 1 minute getting a great shot. Make sure the lighting casts well over the food and that the composition features some props to provide context to the shot.
If you're shooting at home, even better, you've got more time. Place your meal into a nice bowl or plate, garnish it with appropriate herbs or sauce and find a suitable well-lit spot to snap away. Think about what you want the image to convey. Is this a formal meal with cutlery or a messy taco meal? Throw some of the hero ingredients into the shot so viewers can join the dots. Try different angles, play around with the composition with your props and get shooting!
The beauty of digital photography is that you can take as many shots as you like really. Half the fun is arranging everything until you get that perfect shot. Once you've taken the shot, put your camera away and enjoy the meal. This is particularly poignant at restaurants. You're out for dinner to spend time with your friends or loved ones. No one will mind if the photo isn't on the 'gram until after dinner... Put your phone away, enjoy the food and the company.
Then when you get home, whack on a filter if you like, hashtag it and you'll be Insta-famous in no time.