Few things look better than a well prepared dish crafted to perfection. And as a food photographer, you’re fortunate enough to be involved in the important step of showcasing this delight. However, considering there are countless blogs and magazines out there dedicated to the topic, and even the same dish, you’re not short on competition. As such, it takes perfect execution to really separate yourself and your dish from the crowd. Follow these tips to get the fundamentals right.
Maintain the Focal Point
It goes without saying that the dish is the star of the photo. Therefore, if you’re starting to incorporate other items like cutlery, porcelain or other, remain mindful that these have the potential to decrease the viewer’s engagement with the food. They can, and still should be used effectively, but balance and positioning are vital points when you create the composition of the shot.
Presentation of the dish is another obvious point. Irrespective of whoever prepares the food, it’s important that fresh ingredients are used, plates are clean, styling and placement is meticulous, portion sizes are controlled, and that the food is slightly undercooked. This is to maintain a firm appearance while the food continues to cook off the heat.
If shooting towards a backdrop, you may choose to either keep it simple and blur the background, or experiment with different textures, plates and the like. Alternatively, frame the photo just enough so that the dish fits the screen without becoming ambiguous. It might seem tempting to use a zoom lens, but a prime lens will be beneficial due to its improved capabilities with respect to depth of field and a wider aperture. When it comes to depth of field, consider the arrangement of the food and whether it is best applied side to side, or front to back.
Natural Lighting is Key
Wherever the setting may be, try to find the best source of natural lighting available. Of course the setting also needs to be functional, but this is more to say that the photo doesn’t need to be taken in the kitchen. Instead, consider laying out the dish on a dining room table that basks in indirect sunlight, or a bedside table which offers just the right amount of sunlight and shadows in the morning.
Ideally, placement is best where natural lighting shines on the dish from modest angles to each side. If necessary, use reflectors to help achieve this. Backlighting will help illustrate steam from a dish, adding to the appeal of the meal. Avoid artificial lighting or flashes which can result in glare and different colour tones. Similarly, direct sunlight has the potential to blow out your colours and should be avoided. It’s easier to increase brightness by way of editing at a later stage, so proceed conservatively.
Work Those Angles
There’s a reason why pizza photos tend to be taken from above, and that’s because it’s the most suitable angle. Similarly, other foods will have their own flattering angle. Therefore, consider experimenting a little with various foods to understand which angles work to their favour, and those which are detrimental in showcasing the qualities of the meal.
If you’re having difficulties with blurriness, use a tripod. Alternatively you could adjust the aperture and ISO, but with lighting being rather variable in these indoor settings, this could be tricky to manage.