Food photography is a genre or act meant to make still life photographs of food really attractive. It is a specialized type of product photography, where food placed on plates or trays on a table, whatever the occasion may be, becomes the displayed product and is used as a subject in menus, advertisements, print, online, packages, or cookbooks.
A specialized artistic endeavour, professional food photography is a joint effort between photographer, food stylist, art director, prop stylist and others. The first known use of food photography with food as a subject was in 1845 by William Henry Fox Talbot. He created a daguerreotype (the world’s first commercially viable photography technique) showcasing peaches and pineapple.
It may seem to be the simplest thing to photograph food, but it is a challenging assignment in reality. Besides tastefully decorated food items, a high-quality camera (preferably DSLR or camera smartphone) is needed to enhance food photography quality.
Other technicalities attached to ensure a perfect image are placement, lighting, photo size, angle, and style. Sometimes, occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and special parties also decide how food is photographed, as it helps create a story background for food photography. Mostly a trial-and-error exercise, food photography is all about patience, as it may take long hours to take one perfect photo. The ultimate aim of food photography is to present a delicious-looking food item to look even more mouth-watering.
Tips for Great Food Photography & Processing
1. Choose Angle
For excellent food photography, it is important to choose the appropriate camera angle. Imagine the food item beforehand, including its size, shape, height and uniqueness, then set the camera to highlight them. There are 3 main angles in food photography, namely three-quarters view, overhead, and straight-on. However, the one-size-fits-all approach does not go good here. Some dishes look great when clicked from the front or side, while others look great from the top. So, it’s important to choose the perfect angle.
2. Surround the Main Dish
When shooting pictures from the front, a great foreground and background is a must. You can change the outcome of a food photograph by surrounding the main dish with items that enhance the overall effect. It then depends on whether you want to click a close-up shot or wide-angled shot to ensure everything fits inside one frame.
3. Natural Light Is Best
Just like any other branch of product photography, light that puts the right amount of focus on the food item is essential. Natural light is best for food pictures. If not available, shine optimum artificial light. You can control the light that falls on your food. Poor lighting can ruin your story and put off the viewers. So, perfect lighting for food photos is a must. Some food photographers use natural light only, while others use artificial light. The most significant advantage of artificial light in food photography is that it can be clicked anytime, but you must know when to use artificial lighting.
4. Lines and Layers
In food photography, props and ingredients play an important role. These can be adjusted using lines and layers to ensure they don’t overshadow the main food item. Especially in eCommerce photography, adding props and styling helps to boost the attractiveness of a picture. Props and styling does what little makeup does in a photoshoot. Food photography is not about attractive crockery and tableware. Better remove background from the photo that can divert viewers’ focus away from the food, which Is the main item. In close-up shots, make sure props and styling are clean and in pristine condition, without any stain, unless deliberately done. You can be creative with prop ideas that help the food item look better in the image, like adding a few sprinkles of water on a slice of salad can make them look fresher, helping enhance the photo.
5. Hold the Colour
Colourful backgrounds, props, and tableware help click great pictures, but if not carefully used, they can upstage your food. Make sure props and items used beside the food item are of a neutral tone, as they help amplify the main food image. You can change the colour of the background for food photography based on the location of the photoshoot.
6. Use Fresh Ingredients
Since food photography is all about the appearance of food, every food item used in the photo must be fresh and in perfect condition. None of the food items/ingredients should be out of shape, torn, or scratched. Don’t let the cooked food sit around for too long, and plate it fresh to be clicked. Click it while it’s still hot. Make sure you set up the plating before the food comes to the table. If you want, you can add different ingredients as per your choice.
7. Click Food While Cooking
In food photography, especially eCommerce photography, it is important that whatever is being presented is in fine, finished condition. Semi-cooked or half-cooked food should never be clicked, though sometimes raw or half-cooked ingredients look more delicious than the cooked dish. So better start clicking pictures while the cooking process is in progress. So better start clicking photos when the ingredients are being prepped.
8. Taking Photo with Negative/Blank Space
Food photographers generally stick to taking pictures in 2 ways: either they fill the photo frame to show the whole dish; or click close-up shots of the food with detailed focus. However, there’s one more way to click food pictures: take food pics with negative or blank space. Leaving blank space in a photo background for eCommerce photography is important, as the blank space can be used to put a logo or a message or an advertisement.
9. Do Not Overdo Editing
Sometimes, editing a picture can result in a stunning picture that is lapped up by viewers for its attractiveness. However, editing a photo is a hit-or-miss job. During a food photoshoot, food photographers need to ensure that it doesn’t need editing to look more scrumptious. Remove background, where adding colours with editing to boost the background for food photography is necessary, as it can make the food look unnatural and weird. It is best to keep the real colours on.
10. Don’t Add Too Much Food for Plating
Some food photographers are tempted to put as much food on the plate, but it’s wrong. Food photography is about simplicity; plate an amount that would make it look good and leave scope for props and side ingredients to be in focus. An overflowing plate makes it harder for the audience to focus on the story or other important elements associated with a particular food photograph. Less is more!
11. Keep Food as It Is
It is important that once the food is laid on the table, you have a setup ready to click photographs. Food is as good as the way it is eaten and so, slicing the main item makes it look more appetizing. A photo of a sliced food item will allow the audience to see its inside colour and texture and give them a better idea of the taste and method of eating it. You can also add a human element to the food photograph to add a touch of life to the photo.
12. Add a Story with the Photo
A picture says a thousand words. While a fantastic picture does its job, adding a story to it helps you reach audiences familiar with the story attached. A creatively designed story of the dish, describing its origin, its ingredients, its purpose of the dish or when and how to get the ingredients and how to prepare it or the time best suited to eat the food item, or when to add certain extra elements for a particular season or festival will help you reach out to a greater audience. For example, a cake prepared with ingredients available throughout the year becomes special when Christmas decorations are added to it. It all depends on how good you are at photography. Learn more about how to use a smartphone to take high-quality photos here.
Food photography is all about making food look more attractive as a finished product. Food photography is an important component in eCommerce photography, as it helps promote online food-related business. It also helps promote physical businesses online and in print media, showcasing the talent of a photographer or food stylist/culinary expert.