With the surging popularity of mobile photography in recent years, words like “selfie” have entered the vernacular and more and more people are joining social networking sites like Instagram, sharing their photos on Flickr, Facebook, and Tumblr, and the lines between where it’s appropriate to take photos and where it is not are constantly getting blurred where not completely erased. One field where photography is definitely on the uptick is the realm of food photography. Once the domain of professionals and dominated by advertisers and prima donnas, food photography is quickly becoming something of an everyman art form. So, to help you with your food photography, we have a few tips for you to add to your photography “cookbook” of tricks!
1) Lighting is critical — Keep some cheap, small bouncers, diffusers, and shaders with you for food photography — especially if you’re relying on your mobile as your camera of choice. You can make a light bouncer using tin foil stretched over cardboard, diffusers can be made out of dryer sheets, and shaders can be made out of anything that can block light. Pro Tip: You can make colored gels using transparency sheets and coloring them colored permanent markers.
2) Vary the angle
— Don’t take all of your photos from the same angle be it overhead, flat on, cock-eyed, tilted, twisted, or whatever. Mix it up and adjust the lighting accordingly! Pro Tip:
Don’t always try to include every bit of the dish. Consider focusing on a particular portion of it or even just the edge of the plate.
3) Make use of additional materials — Use raw ingredients to thicken any stews, sauces, or soups and give them a textured appearance. Use oil to add a glisten to salads, vegetables, fruits, or other raw foods. Feel free to turn the plates or reposition the dishes but don’t touch the food on the plate unless you’re also the cook (or you’re a customer and doing this on your own meal). If you’re photographing food as a pro photographer, let the professional cook arrange the food on the plate — it’s his artistry you’re trying to capture, after all!
4) Adjust the depth of field as needed
— Don’t be afraid to set the depth of focus a little shallower than normal, especially if you’re zooming in to focus on a well-bracketed subject. However, don’t go too shallow and remember that you will lose focus on details in the background by doing this.
5) Know how the photo will be used — If you have a good idea how the photo is going to be used in the end, composing it will be much easier. If you know you’re shooting for the cover of a cookbook, it’s easier to compose for that. However, if you’re uncertain, it’s better to take a wide variety of shots from different angles and styles in order to present yourself and your client with the best choices you can. If you’re shooting on your phone for your social streams, then just keep in mind that you’re doing this to have fun and that you may want to take the other diners’ feelings into consideration.
Food photography is fun and a field that many people are engaging in these days. With a few tips, it will be easy to improve and refine your food photography skills and catch some eyes!
— da Bird
Demonstration of food photography at the Photokina 2008 exhibition in Cologne, Germany by Elke Wetzig