Photography touches upon the most primal emotions desires
and senses in people. Without a doubt, it can be one of the most difficult
types of photography to get right as a beginner, but if you keep a few
good tips in mind, food photography can be quite easy to do well and
satisfying to complete. In this article, we'll introduce the elements
critical to good food photography.
Key ingredients for great food photography:
- A solid understanding of your camera.
You'll need a good grounding in the operation of the features of
your camera, especially those concerning basic operation, focus, exposure
compenstation, white balance, image resolution and size, and macro and
flash modes operation.
Pick the highest resolution image format on your camera along with the
lowest image compression setting. Often, images are enlarged and cropped
for publication and the extra pixels produce better pictures.
Because food deteriorates quickly, you want to be ready to take pictures
quickly without much delay after the food has been setup and arranged.
- Freshly prepared, cleanly presented foods.
Just the same as attending a wedding, everything in food photography
should be made fresh, and presented cleanly and promptly.
Food oxidizes and changes color and texture quickly, especially fruits.
Ice cream melts at a rapid rate, so the shorter the time between scooping
and picture taking, the better. (Unless melted ice cream is the point
of the photo shoot.)
At the same time, you can't rush so fast that you leave bits of food
here and there.
Keep the scene as pristine as possible. You'll find that a moment spent
wiping the edge of a bowl clean, removing a stray bit of food, etc.
will be time worth spending now vs. many more minutes in a photo editing
program doing retouching work. Wipe up any stray gravies and sauces,
remove any stray debris.
- Balanced color choices.
A quick beginner's art class or book will have a basic color circle
and complementary color chart for reference. In most cases, having a
good selection of colors will enhance the presentation of the food.
For example, if you're taking pictures of red apples, a red background
of almost the same color probably won't add as much spark to the apples
as would another color such as yellow, green or even plain black.
Naturally, you can play around with the variations in color until you
find a combination that suits your taste, or, if you've been a studious
beginner, you can refer to your clippings folder (where you've collected
numerous examples of photographs, advertisements, and other graphic
images for just this purpose) to quickly find and come up with ideas
when you can't do so right away.
- Carefully placed focus & depth of field.
You'll find that with careful use of focus and depth of field adjustments,
you can bring snap into an otherwise dull photograph.
On cameras lacking manual focus, you can usually depress the shutter
button halfway down when you have the autofocus marks centered upon
the area of interest to lock focus at that distance. You can recompose
later by moving the camera about while keeping the shutter button depressed
halfway. Depth of field or aperature settings on automatic cameras are
usually missing, so you'll have to take whatever you get.
On cameras with manual focus, you will adjust the focus to the point
you want, then simply let the focus distance remain fixed while you
move the camera about. Most cameras with manual focus will have manual
depth of field or aperature control, and again, you can simply set them
at whatever is most appropriate for your picture. Wider or more open
for a shallow depth of field, smaller or more closed for a deeper one.
When you look at a scene, take a look to see if any part of it grabs
your attention right away. It may be the yellow color of a lemon, or
the succulent look of a burger, or even the shape and texture of a fruit.
Whatever it is, look again at the entire scene and think about whether
blurring them out of focus and out of attention would make them less
distracting. Sometimes, you'll find that by doing so, you'll have a
much stronger image - one that almost pulls the viewer's eyes directly
to the point of sharp focus and attention. On the other hand, if the
entire subject needs to be in sharp focus, you may find that you'll
need to set the aperature as small as possible to get a wide depth of
field, with sharp focus from near to far.
You'll soon learn that for many foods, you can blur most of the scene,
crop closely, and come out with an even better picture than you'd otherwise
- Brilliant lighting.
is the most important factor in great food shots.
+ Use freshly prepared, cleanly presented foods.
+ Bring a solid understanding of your camera to the shoot.
+ Utilize focus and depth of field to the best advantage.
Use filtered or shaded natural light from the sunlight as a cheap
light source that works well. Set your digital camera on sunlight
white balance when taking pictures.