A list of food photography tips for the amateur like me.
I've recently been bugging the blogging community for their food or general photography tips. What are the secrets of the trade? Is it all about the flashy expensive camera? What do you use to edit your photos? And so on. I've been blogging for just over a year now and I'm starting to get the hang of it. I'd never call myself a photographer but I think I've really upped my game recently (if I do say so myself). For me, I think photographing food is so different from fashion or beauty products. With food it's all about the taste, so presentation is really the only way a reader can 'taste' the food whereas with beauty products the reader can instantly see the results and make a judgement.
Here are a few tips of the trade from myself and various food and lifestyle bloggers.
My biggest issue is lighting. In a cramped, dark, grotty university kitchen it can be difficult to stop awkward shadows and glares from fluorescent lights. Natural light is the best source - ask any blogger and they all scream use natural light. Try not to use the flash. I know it can be so tempting, especially if you're trying to snap a shot of food in an oven or somewhere that never sees the light of day. The flash will 'flatten' the image. Amanda from Amanda Bootes suggests using light from behind. This is good if you're trying to show steam from a dish. By casting light, the dish or product will pop and be well illuminated. Check me out sounding all professional and what not.
You 100% do not need a super snazzy, flashy, top of the range camera to take good photos. iPhones and smartphones are perfectly adequate to quickly snap and edit a few shots. But if you fancy experimenting with lenses and depth of field then I suggest purchasing a DSLR of some sort. I mostly use my Canon PowerShot, which is super lightweight and great for popping in my handbag. However I prefer my Dad's Nikon D40 (uh oh Canon vs. Nikon house conflict) which I pinch when he's not looking.
3. Camera Angles
I think this completely depends on what you're photographing. Some dishes I've made just look better shot from a lower angle than from above. Aerial shots appear to be very popular with fashion and beauty bloggers but I'm not so sure these always work for food bloggers - although I've been testing the waters in my recent sushi post and loved the results. Cakes definitely need a lower angled shot, particularly if you're showing layers or detail. Sarah from Wuthering Bites says the trick is to take more photos than you think you'll need. I usually take well into the hundreds and only ever use about five - ten.
I personally don't do much to edit my photos. For quick edits I use iPhoto or Adobe Lightroom as I had a free 30 day trial. I tend to crop into the subject, enhance the contrast and exposure and occasionally tweak the definition. Other than that, I don't do too much, because if I'm being honest I don't really know what else to do. I also think there's a fine line between looking professional and looking a bit fake, so often I'll go with the 'less is more' approach. Georgina from Fox On The Hunt suggests the Rule of Thirds is an important guideline that can be applied to any photography. In simple terms, the Rule of Thirds suggests breaking the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically so you're left with 9 parts. Positioning an object or person at the intersects is meant to be more naturally appealing to the eye than a centred image. I've tried to show this below from my American Candy post. I think the razzles look better in the right picture where I've positioned them at the bottom intersect with a wee bit of editing - do you guys agree?
I'm guilty of being a lazy food blogger. Often, I'll be so overexcited to share a recipe that I'll rush the whole process and skip the planning phase. It's important to plan especially for food photography. It can be awkward trying to arrange a background while your food is rapidly cooling and getting a little grey from sitting around too long. Props and other items can really make an image stand out. Although the reader will most likely take these in subconsciously, the overall effect will be eye-catching. Roz from The Foodie Couple suggests visiting vintage shops or charity shops to pick up different plates or bowls for a more unusual background. Chloe from What Chloe Cooked says you can pick up bits and bobs from car boot sales or flea markets. Table cloths, coloured card, raw ingredients, plates and boards can create contrast to the overall dish. In my recent posts I've been using some plain white card I grabbed from Wilkinson's for a quid.
6. Other minor tips
When photographing fresh food such as salads or fruit, spritz a little water over the food to give it that fresh, glistening vibe. Something as simple as a wedge of lemon or lime can add an extra element to a simple photo. Clean plates are essential as cameras often show up many imperfections. I prefer blogs with large, high quality photos (but that might just be me). Lastly, a couple inexpensive gadgets might help such as a little Gorilla tripod for those odd shots that you need an extra pair of hands for. This cute little remote control from Amazon lets you take the perfect shots from your phone - also great for selfies!
Molly, 23, London.
A tiny food pornographer, with a minor addiction to burgers and sushi. Following a dairy-free diet not by choice, but forever choosing to eat cheese and chocolate.