Skilfully photographing foodstuffs and other dishes can present a bit of a challenge. Regardless if you’re using a smartphone to take a picture to upload on Instagram, using a digital SLR camera to shoot nice photos for your blog, or if you’re taking pictures to create your own photo cook book, we’ll give you five practical tips to help you perfectly capture your food on camera.
The best-looking photos are usually taken in natural daylight. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to try to take your pictures during the day if possible. Taking photos in front of a window, on the balcony, or even in the garden will give your pictures a natural and appealing look. Ensure that the sun is not shining directly on your motif and that there are no disruptive shadows in the photo. If it’s not possible to photograph in daylight, make sure that you have enough lighting. A lamp or light bulb that puts off cool light will serve this purpose nicely. This will provide a good natural light without too much yellowness. In order to avoid strong shadows, it’s ideal to make use of two lamps. You can use one lamp to light the motif from the left side and the other from the right. If you don’t happen to have two lamps at hand, you can alternatively use a white sheet of paper as a reflector to avoid having shadows appear in your photo.
Arrangement and colour selection
The basic requirement for a good picture of your dish is the arrangement of the food. Make sure that the plate doesn’t appear to be overcrowded and try to photograph smaller portions when possible. Try not to put too many side dishes on the plate or a piece of meat that is much too large. Cut larger pieces in half and place them on top of other pieces. Even if you’re a sauce-lover, use them and other fluid / creamy consistencies sparingly. You can purposefully decorate the plate with little dabs of sauce in free spaces or drizzle it on the side dishes. Not only the arrangement, but also the colour selection of the dish is crucial when photographing food. It’s a good idea to photograph dishes with contrasting colours. Red pomegranates or onions produce a nice contrast against a green salad. The food in the photo will then appear to be much more delectable and appetising. Even foods that are unappealing to the eye and dishes with a single colour can be “spiced up” by adding fresh herbs, berries, or grated chocolate.
Vantage point and image detail
With various dishes come various possibilities of photographing them. Just by altering the vantage point and image detail, you can photograph the same motif in a multitude of ways. There’s no such thing as an optimal camera angle in this case. Every photo is different and while using a bird’s eye view might be the right choice for photographing a certain dish, this perspective could make other foods appear boring and less dynamic. There are, of course, several things you should keep in mind when selecting the right angle from which to photograph your food. You should always photograph fluids (like a filled wine glass or bottle) straight on. Orient yourself along a horizontal or vertical line. The same holds true when photographing foods with liquids. This will make your photo appear more natural. Try out several different vantage points; even just a few degrees difference in the angle can be enough to lend that special something to your photo. Besides the angle, the image detail is also very important to take into consideration. You should keep the rule of thirds in mind. When adhering to this rule, you shouldn’t place the main motif in the middle of the photo, but instead slightly offset from the centre. Divide the photo up into three equal parts and place the motif on one of the lines. This will make the photo appear more well-balanced.
Dinnerware, background, and decoration
To enhance the character of you food, you should think about suitable dinnerware, decoration, as well as an appealing background. Generally, foods displayed on simple dinnerware are better accentuated. Depending on the desired mood of the image, however, you could also use dinnerware that is more colourful and eye-catching. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the colour(s) of the dinnerware don’t take too much attention from the food.
Besides using suitable dinnerware, the selection of the background is also important. Natural materials like a large wooden cutting board or a wooden table top are especially well suited for photographing hearty dishes. For finer dishes, a slate slab could do the trick. Asian dishes, on the other hand, can be accentuated with something like a bamboo mat. For those of you who don’t have a suitable table to photograph on, you can pick up some things from your local home improvement store to create your own background. In the blink of an eye, you can transform cardboard, plywood, or tiles into wonderful backgrounds to fit the desired mood of your photo for different dishes. You can also use leftover wallpaper, tablecloths, or single-colour construction paper.
To successfully photograph your dish, you should also keep suitable decorations in mind. When choosing fitting decorations, you should make sure that they not only visually, but also thematically, fit the food. Raw ingredients like fresh tomatoes, herbs, spices, or used kitchen utensils work best in order to accentuate the mood of the photo. Make sure that your photo doesn’t become overburdened, however. The focus should always be on the dish.
Pay attention to details
After you’ve arranged your food, ensured good lightening, and accentuated your dish with suitable decoration, it’s time to pay attention to the details. Look at the image preview and make sure that the background, dinnerware, and cutlery are clean. Also pay attention to what’s happening in the background away from the table. Are there dirty clothes lying in the corner or toys that need to be put away?