It seems so normal nowadays to be at a restaurant while folks whip out their smart phones to snap pics of their dish as its presented. I can’t knock it as I’m one of these people. Of course, I’ve been doing this for a long time since I’ve reported on food and restaurants for 15+ years in Chicago and now around the world, but it used to be with a crew and a video camera. We’ve been shooting “food porn” long before it was a hashtag. Now everyone is a “food photographer.”
Here are some simple tips to improve your food photos whether you are using a smart phone or a DSLR.
Food Photography Tips
Probably the most important as I always cringe when I see someone using their flash. Don’t drown out lovely ambient lighting with a big, flat burst of light. If possible, sit by diffused light or a window. Restaurants do tend to be dark so you can also bring your own dimmable, tiny light and bounce it instead of hitting the food directly to add a nice soft light.
Don’t show us the whole plate. Get in tight and just show a corner of the dish to add interest and an asymmetrical shape. This is also a way to keep it simple. Dishes can have a lot going on. We don’t have to see it all. Less is more.
Get in there! Food is sexy. Show us the texture and the glistening surface of your oozy burger with melty gouda and truffled mushrooms or mouth-watering, beautifully crafted sashimi. Get closer than we do in real life for a new perspective.
Bird’s Eye View
If you are using natural light, be mindful of shadows especially of your own hands and camera over the food caused by track and spot lighting. Often times, you may have to get up and move if the setting allows. Or fill in with that little pocket light you got because of tip #1. Be discreet if you can.
Watch your background
When shooting across the food and more at food level, be aware of what’s behind your subject. Are your friend’s arms in the shot? Have them slide over and arrange a beer mug or hot sauce bottle if it suits and doesn’t clutter. You can also purposely use the background in your image like in showing the Brooklyn Bridge below to establish a very iconic New York food – the hot dog.
Add some action
Dig in! Food is best enjoyed with friends, so shoot that! Have your dinner companions grab slices of pizza or dip their chips into the guac for some movement and life in the scene.
8. Use a short depth of field
If you are using an adjustable camera like a DSLR, try a low aperture setting like 1.4 or 2.8. This creates a large opening in the lens, which causes a short depth of field. What does this mean? That only the small part of the image that you focus on will be sharp, the rest will be blurred out which can really make our focal point pop.
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