31 Oct How to take the best food pictures
I bet you love to look at pictures of food on Instagram. Some of them just look amazing! They definitely make you feel like you are starving even if you just ate a whole pizza by yourself.
The bright red of a warm tomato sauce on top of those spaghetti al dente, the yummy hill of snowy whipped cream right beside an astonishingly big piece of chocolate cake, the delicious appearance of that perfectly cooked hamburger.
You also want to be able to take those fabulous photos and post them on your Instagram and Facebook feed.
But then, why when it is our turn to take a picture of that beautifully decorated dish of foie gras and mashed sweet potatoes does it end up looking like somebody has been sick on our plate? 😥
Yet it doesn’t seem to be so difficult…
Elena comes to the rescue. Having researched the web and talked to some of the food photographers at Sharman Media I’m able to share with you the best tips which will turn your Instagram feed in the new food porn reference. Or at least look just so yummy!
Tips to take the best food portraits
1. Light, it’s always about lighting!
Natural light always works better than artificial light so if you can take your food pictures close to a window just do it.
If you are in a place with poor lighting, use the blank screen of a different phone (assuming that you are using your phone to shoot), this works surprisingly well in dark spaces.
Make sure there aren’t any weird shadows and that all objects are well illuminated. Then if you prefer to focus in the centre and blur the background, you can also use filters.
However, I prefer photos of food without filters. I think they always look better and more tangible, more alluring.
2. Make sure the plate is clean
Wipe using your napkin (like you have seen the participants of Master Chef do hundreds of times) the borders of the plate so you erase any stains that might have been dropped.
This might sound really basic but still many people forget to do it and it always, without exception, ruins a good picture.
Let’s see more tips to avoid pukey looking pictures.
3. Use birds-eye view
Especially when there are several dishes on the table and you want to display the ensemble. Try several angles to compare and decide which one is the best and of course make sure other objects that could ruin the picture are not on display. For example, a dirty napkin.
As mentioned before, it’s wise to try several angles. Same as with you, dishes also have their best angle. You won’t imagine how much a picture can change by switching angles. I mean, it’s not that you have to spend half an hour trying to shoot from every inch of the table but definitely try to check two or three different angles.
Make the most of the colours, if your dish is very colourful, your picture will shine as a ray of joy.
And if the dish is plain and a bit boring, you can, for instance, display a napkin since it happens to be of a bright red colour which contracts with the white of the asparagus soup or add some freshly cut parsley. It’s fun to include accessorises in the photo too, like a navy-blue cup.
Colours are always welcome.
If you can’t benefit from natural light you can adjust the white of your phone or camera so it becomes brighter and erase the yellowish shades of indoor lamps.
You can use a fork to take a piece of that delicious cake and let it lay graciously on a side of the plate. Or you can dip a spoon in that creamy potato soup to reveal his thick texture.
Or even cut a piece of that amazing steak to prove how perfectly medium raw cooked it is.
Use common objects to reveal the size of your hamburger. Show hands, forks, knives. You can blur the arms and the hands of the person if you wish in order to focus all of the attention on the dish.
9. Tell a story
A great picture is always accompanied by a great text. Think about what you want to express with that photo. It is a new dish for the autumn season? Is it an exotic recipe from a faraway country? Is it your star dish but revisited?
Play up the elements in your composition that illustrate the story you want to tell with the photo. Go with an overall mood for the dish and then select the accessorises and a surface to support that mood. Darker surfaces tend to feel more dramatic while lighter surfaces and colourful accessorises feel more playful.
10. Show the how
I love pictures of dishes being finished by the chef. I’m talking about those pictures where you can see the parsley being seasoned on top of some mussels, the fine sliced almonds being placed on top of a lemon cake, the black pepper falling like thin dark rain on a pasta fungi and cream dish. This is heaven for the senses!
12. Take your time (as recommended by Dave Sharman)
It takes time to take a great food photo. First, you need to make sure the food is looking at its best; it doesn’t have to be perfectly cooked. It just needs to look great for a photo. Then, take your time to find the best lighting. Normally the more daylight the better.
Then you need to spend some time thinking about the composition of the photo. What are you trying to show with the photo. Lastly, as mentioned above try lots of different angles to find the best way to show off the dish.
Not happy with the results? Keep trying, different places, different composition, different backgrounds and different angles. You will get there in the end, but you will need some time 😊
Now it’s your turn. Take your camera (a professional one is always preferred, otherwise you can always use your phone) and start shooting real arty food pictures!