food photography

How to photograph tasty food – 10 easy tips

Photographing tasty-looking food is harder than it looks! We give you 10 tips to get your food photographed in their true colors and looking yummy! Oh, and send in your best result for our Photo Contest!

The theme of the month is “Colors of the World”. We can find colors anywhere, of course, but what sets apart different parts of the world more, color-wise … than the local cuisine? Think of the red-white-green of the pizza Margherita, the bright yellow rice in Spanish paella, the black+white+color-combos in Japanese sushi. Does your mouth start watering when you see photos of bright-colored, yummy food? This effect can only happen when the photos are truly well done. Brown, withered bananas, collapsed oven dishes, overcooked broccoli, colors make or break your food photography.

1. Tripod

When photographing food, you’ll need a tripod. Take your time to check all your camera settings and make the best compositions, without worrying about motion blur. Use the self timer on your camera to avoid moving the camera when pressing the shutter button.

2. Soft light

Food looks its best in soft light. Avoid hard shadows caused by direct sunlight. Sunlight through your net curtains is probably ideal. Slightly over exposing your photo makes your food look even better. It makes your background disappear and your food look even better. Experimenting with light gives you the best results.

3. Depth of field

If your depth of field is larger, more of your photo will be sharp. Using a bigger depth of field can be pretty, but could also be boring. Choosing a narrow depth of field makes less of your picture sharp. The viewer’s eyes will automatically be drawn to the sharpest parts of your photo. You are in charge of how people view your photo. Take this into consideration when choosing your depth of field.

4. Dressing your set

Use your best China and matching colors. Avoid busy patterns if you don’t want to lead away attention from your food. A basket of bread with a plaid table cloth might work, because the bread itself doesn’t have much color. A colorful vegetable dish with the same table cloth can quickly oversaturate the image. Your food doesn’t get as much attention anymore.

5. White balance

Set your white balance exactly right to get the correct colors. Too much blue in your mozzarella does not look appetizing. And too much yellow in your yogurt isn’t a great idea either. Make sure that the colors in your photo are realistic. Find it difficult to find the best white balance setting? Shoot in RAW, and you can easily edit the white balance with your photo editing software later. Read on for more tips on white balance.

6. Let it shine! (or not)

Some dishes look way better when you add a little bit of shine. Always polish your apples with a tea towel, for example. Or pour a bit of oil on the food. Something that can do wonders for the food in your photo: spray a little bit of water on the food. This works great with most fruit, lettuce and many other foods.

Be careful though, some types of food are way more appetizing when they lack any kind of shimmer. Bananas, bread, and rice are best to leave matte.

7. Speed

The more time you need for photographing food that looks awesome when freshly prepared, the less attractive it’s going to look when more time passes. Everything sags a little bit and can even change color or texture. That’s why speed – thus good preparation – is very important.

8. Order of things

Set up your tripod first, and make your composition. It’s way easier to move your plates and bowls around than your tripod. As stated before, food looks best when it’s super fresh, and prepared only moments before shooting the photos. Everything is still in its place, nothing is runny and colors are as they should be. Make sure all your photo gear is set up and ready to go when you take your pie out of the oven or your dessert from the fridge.

9. Cut the food

Your cake looks great from the outside, but you’ve worked so hard to make all layers nice and straight. You want to show that off, right? Cut a piece of the cake and show what’s in there. This works for bread and meat as well. It just looks better when already sliced!

10. A little bit of cheating is okay

When photographing a scoop of ice cream, you’ll have to do it in an ice cold environment, or you’d need to have super speed. If you like staying comfortable during the shoot, cheat a little. Many food photographers use tricks. Instead of using real ice cream, you can also use some mashed potatoes. It looks real enough and doesn’t melt!

A few more cheats:

  • Your hamburger keeps falling over? Use small skewers to keep it together.
  • Always have cotton swabs ready to brush away little drops or other imperfections from the scene.
  • Use a piece of plastic, wood, or even better: clay, to make a wedge. Using a wedge underneath a glass or bowl can tilt your food slightly and give the viewer a better look inside it. It can also make skewed lines straight.
  • Ice cubes make your cold drink look good. But, real ice cubes melt quickly. Therefore, I’d recommend using plastic fake ice cubes. They give you a lot more time to take your best photo.

In short

Photographing food means making the food look as delicious as possible, use a tripod and soft, natural light. Choose a not too narrow depth of field, and play with the depth of field settings for a bit until you get it right.

Your food looks even better on matching tableware. Make sure the food’s surroundings aren’t distracting. The focus needs to be on the food. Show your food from multiple angles, don’t forget to show the inside of the food, by slicing bread, for example.
Prepare the set well, to make sure the food looks at its best when you take photos.

Last but not least: be creative in your solutions when coming across difficulties. Try some of the tips in this article and cheat a bit if necessary.