Every good chef knows that food presentation is important to every good meal. A well-presented food is a sure way of showcasing your culinary skills and getting the attention of your customers.
As a chef, if you sell your home-cooked meals on platforms like Local Chow or you post on social media, you know that taking good photographs of your food gives you a good advantage for increased customer engagement.
I am sure you have tried taking shots of foods yourself, and you will agree with me that it is not often an easy task. But have you ever wondered how professional food photographers achieve those beautiful shots of perfectly plated entrees and desserts? I know you are thinking it is because of the sophistication of their cameras, but it is far from this.
In this article, I will share some tips on food photography that will demystify the art for you and help you grow your business.
What Makes a Good Food Photograph?
Whether you are using a professional camera or maybe the camera on your mobile phone, the principles and process of creating a good food photo can be divided into six steps:
- The first step is to think about your story.
- The second step is the concept of plating.
- The third step is to understand the element of light and its utilization.
- The fourth step is choosing an interesting angle that tells your story without being too distracting or dramatic.
- The fifth step is your creative use of colors.
- The sixth step is just as important as the others, it is photo editing.
1. Your Story
The first step is to think about your story. What do you want to say with this image? How will it help people understand how to make the dish or what ingredients are used?
Your Story can be as simple as a close-up shot of food that tells a clear story of what’s being cooked, or it can be something more complex like showing off the colors and textures of a beautifully plated dish. Whatever it is, try to keep it simple so that your viewers don’t get confused by too many elements in one shot.
Once you’ve got your story, it’s time to style it. Plating which is the professional term for styling your food is often an overlooked or ignored step by beginning food photographers, but this is essential to getting the best possible results in your food photo.
Styling a dish means making sure that the food looks good before you take the picture of it. If you’re taking a photograph of food you just prepared for a client, then this can be as simple as setting up your plate so that everything looks appetizing before taking a photo. If you’re planning on shooting food shooting to post, this step will require some extra effort from yourself.
There are lots of things to consider when styling a dish: what colors go well together? What props can I use? How do I position everything? All these questions should be answered beforehand so that when it comes time to shoot they’ll already have been addressed beforehand!
While you can use any type of plate in your photos, you should always make sure that it complements the dish being photographed and doesn’t distract from it.
3. Great lighting
Great lighting is crucial to any type of photography and food photography is no exemption. Ideally, you’d want to be shooting under natural light; however, if this isn’t possible for any reason, there are a few different options that you can consider.
If you have access to natural light (i.e., daylight), then this is ideal because it’s soft and flattering. Try to avoid using artificial lights at all costs when shooting food photographs if you are not a professional photographer. Poor use of these lights tends to make the final product look much less appetizing than if it were shot outside with the sun kissing your food just right!
4. The proper use of angle
Symmetry is one of the most important principles in food photography, and it can be used to make your photos look more appealing. To achieve symmetry in a photo, you need to be aware of all the objects in your frame and try to arrange them so that they’re equally balanced on both sides or above/below each other. This will give your food an organized appearance that’s pleasing to the eye, which makes it much more likely that people will want to eat what’s on their screens (or paper).
Your main subject should always be placed toward the center of a food photograph, as people instinctively perceive anything in the middle to be more important than other objects. When plating great food, it’s best to start in the middle with the main dish and work your way out, adding sides or garnish, to ensure symmetrical food plating.
5. Appropriate use of color
Color can make or break your food photography. When you’re shooting, think about how you want to use color to tell the story of what’s being eaten. You can use colors to make your dish look appetizing (blueberries and red wine), cooked (the browning over chicken), cut (carrots), or marinated (green olives).
You can use the color of your plate to make your food pop. For example, if you’re shooting a dish that has green beans on it, you could put them on top of a white plate so that those green beans stand out. This works especially well if you’re using contrasting colors for your main ingredient and background; it draws focus to whatever is placed in front of their respective colors.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some foods may not work well with certain background colors. For example, while blueberries are naturally red (and therefore contrast nicely against a white or light-colored backdrop), they’ll look a little strange when placed against black or dark grey backgrounds because all attention would be drawn towards the blueberry’s color rather than its shape or texture!
6. Photo editing
Editing is an important step in making your food look good. If you take a photo of raw chicken and then cook it, it will look different when you photograph the cooked chicken. You may need to edit out some of these changes:
- Remove blemishes and splashes of sauce
- Correct the color temperature (if it’s too yellow or too blue)
- Add blur to the background so that it doesn’t distract from the focus of your image
There are different online tools that you can use for editing your photographs. Tools like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom are great for professional photographers, but they can be a bit complicated if you’re just starting. There are also simpler tools like PicMonkey and Canva that give you more flexibility without being too overwhelming.
What Makes for a Poor Food Photograph?
Just like certain factors make for great food photographs, some factors make for poor food photographs. This includes;
- Lack of vision
- Blurry images
- Poor lighting
- Unrealistic colors
1. No vision
The first pro tip is to have a vision. Before you start taking pictures of your food, know what you want to achieve. Don’t just take pictures of dishes or ingredients in front of you—make sure they tell a story. Think about the story behind the dish and how it’s made, what they’re made from and who they are made for (if applicable). Use props and styling to help tell this story!
2. Blurry images
One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is to take blurry photos, especially when they are hand-holding their cameras. This can be avoided by using a tripod or monopod and keeping your camera steady while shooting.
- Use a tripod.
- Use a remote trigger or shutter release.
- Have your camera on Image Stabilization (IS) mode.
- If you are using a professional camera, you might also consider changing the ISO on your camera to 800 or higher, and setting it to Aperture Priority Mode (A). You can also use Shutter Priority Mode if you want more control over how long the shutter stays open for (S). Set your aperture as wide as possible: f/4 or wider for daylight shots.
3. Poor lighting
Poor lighting can make your food look dull and unappetizing, it can also ruin a food image. The best way to avoid this is to use natural light, which is free and available whenever you need it. If you don’t have access to natural light, then you need to use artificial light.
You need to ensure that you have good light in your shot—not too much but not too little either. When you are shooting outdoors, it’s best to shoot early in the day as sunlight becomes harsher as the day progresses. If you’re indoors, use natural light from windows or lamps instead of artificial lighting provided by incandescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes (both have a greenish cast).
4. Unrealistic colors
While editing, the harsh use of colors can affect the image of your food. This is not only true for food photography but also other types of photography. You should avoid using colors that are too unnatural or exaggerated as this will make your images look unrealistic. You can still use bold colors, as long as they’re used sparingly and in harmony with one another.
Other Tips on Food Photography
- Be creative in your approach to shooting food. Don’t just see yourself as a chef, also see yourself as an artist.
- Explore the use of simple photography equipment like a tripod or monopod for your phone or camera, a remote trigger, etc.
- Visit Pinterest or the pages of other chefs and professional photographers to draw inspiration.
- Take the picture from above. The best angle is from above and slightly to one side of the plate. This will allow you to show off the color and texture of whatever you’re photographing, as well as how it looks on a plate.
- Use props if necessary and keep them simple but fun! Props are great tools for helping display foods at their best; however, there’s no need for anything too elaborate unless it’s really necessary for showing off certain qualities about what’s being photographed (like using an ice cream cone wrapper when taking pictures of ice cream). Instead focus on using things like napkins folded into shapes like flowers or hearts to add interest without distracting from what matters most: deliciousness!
Food photography can be a bit challenging, but with a little practice using some of the simple tips for food photography we have provided, you can also take gorgeous photos of your favorite recipes and increase your conversion rate. Let’s get started!
Happy food photographing!