30 best food photography tips for taking mouth-watering photos

13 Mins read

Food photography is one of the most admired skills. It might seem simple, but it’s one of the most challenging types of photography. Everything you take in a photo is usually a decision. Sometimes the journey can get frustrating when you don’t capture the shots you aspire to.

Most times, you are forced to be the chef, the stylist, and the photographer, which can be hectic.

Once you have technical proficiency with the camera, so what’s next? How do you want to go about this photography business while ensuring that you stand out?  Remember, food photography is all about telling a unique story. It could be about a perfect cocktail or even wasted chicken. Some stories are, however, more complicated than others.

 The following are some tips you can use to take your food photography skills a notch higher.

1. Choose your angles right

 There are a few camera angles in food photography that you see again and again. Nevertheless, you need to make a conscious decision when it comes to taking your photo.  How and where you place the camera matters.

You are the one telling the story and the one who decides the direction to take. First, you need to consider factors like size, shape, height, and uniqueness.

Choose an angle before you start styling. You might set up the food and style it, only to find out that the angle isn’t right, making you repeat the styling all over again.

Put your camera in a place where things have changed to highlight its uniqueness. Consider factors like, would the food look great when you take a front shot, or will it look better when you take the picture directly above the table.

You can also try other angles like shooting at the edge of the food or table and so on. You need to be creative to give shoots that other photographers aren’t likely to take.

When it comes to angles, each food is different. For example, pizza looks better when you take the above photo. A  burger usually looks fabulous from the sides, and drinks look excellent at 45-degree angles. You can also place the plate at various angles and choose your best shot.

2. Use a prop

Some of the best photos come about when you use a prop. Surround the food like the hero it is.  Ensure you keep a great foreground and background. You need to use empty spaces to tell more stories. You can surround your main dishes with raw and fresh ingredients. You can also use other things like sauces, utensils, and oil to indicate how you prepared the dish.

Other props include tins, jars, glasses, herbs, fabrics, and linens. The props help you to talk about the origin of the dish. Placing a few of these items certainly elevates the story giving it depth. However, you don’t have to spend way too much on food props if you can’t afford them; the one you have at your disposal would do you justice.

 Non-patterned plates and bowls make the foods stand out more.

3. Use natural light

The key to perfect food photography is light. Usually, light helps you bring your photos to life. Poor lighting can quickly turn off your audience. You have to regulate the light you are using, so it isn’t too much. When working with direct sunlight, place a diffuser between the window and your table.

You can also use a thin white bed sheet to improve the quality of light and soften the hard shadow. A white and black card helps you control the shadow area. You can buy the cards from any craft store.

Choose a size that fits your needs. White cards bounce light into shadow areas, helping reveal essential details. Black cards make shadows stronger and bring contrast. Don’t let the light come from the same direction as the camera.  Always side, back, or top the light.

Additionally, you don’t always have to take photos in your kitchen. Explore different places in your house, and take shots where lighting is at its best.  Your living room could be having the best lighting in the morning, while the bedroom in the afternoon.

If possible, avoid using overhead lightmaps or built-in flash.

4. Artificial light isn’t bad after all

Natural light is excellent when it’s available. But what happens when it isn’t? Whether natural or artificial light, the differences are barely noticeable as long as you do them right. Using artificial light can bring out an adorable food photo at any time of the day. It’s reliable and consistent even if it’s pitch dark outside.

 A combination of quality light and softbox can change everything.

5. Using lines and layers

You may use props or ingredients to create lines and layer effects for your image. It’s a compositional technique used in food photography to let the audience eye the main subject. Props like spoons and knives are fantastic when it comes to forming lines.

 You can also use something abstract like pomegranate seeds to frame your subject. The lines and layers create a profound effect sending your audience’s eyes straight to the subject.

6. Throw in a pop of color

Colour is essential when it comes to food photography. Adding garnishes that contrast the colour of the dish is effective in bringing life into your photographs. Knowing which colours contrast or colours complement each other is exemplary when it comes to taking these photos.

Going for a colourful prop is excellent. However, you need to be careful of your prop not to upstage the photos grabbing all the attention. Remember, the food needs to steal the show, and anything that wouldn’t add to its glory,  get rid of it.

You need to select neutral props that would make the food pop against it.  A neutral background, like a black metal tray, makes a pic look incredible.

7. Go for the freshest of ingredients

If your ingredient has wrinkles and scars, it would be best to avoid them. Since you are always photographing things closely, it’s easy for your audience to notice any flaws. In case you have such ingredients, and it’s a must to use them, you can place them at an angle that the audience wouldn’t notice the unimpressive side.

For fresh ingredients like salad, veggies, lettuce, and green ends, always store them in a wet napkin in the fridge and take them out right before the shoot. You can also wash them with cold water, so there is some cold water on the surface.

8. Simplicity steals the show

You don’t want to complicate things. Simplicity is vital when it comes to taking these photos.  Before taking any pictures, eliminate everything that you don’t need. Your setup shouldn’t be busy. Narrow down to one plate of food.

If the food you are cooking is unattractive, only show a portion of it. It’s about getting creative. Remember, more is less. The simpler you are in your styling, the more relatable and real your photos become. Start with the hero item, and objectively add other things that you may find appropriate.

9. Show before and after shots

You can show the steps in the cooking process.  It could be when showing the chopping process and every other action involved in the cooking.  You need to let people understand the final image. You can show a pic of the before cooking the food, and the final result. This process is suitable for foods that don’t look after the food is exceptionally cooked.

Showing half-cooked food is sometimes more fantastic than showing the finished product.

10. Add a human element

Adding a human element to your photo makes it look desirable. It’s an excellent way of practicing photography at home. Examples of these instances include; a hand stirring a pot or holding a  plate. Showing a hand pouring coffee while having a breakfast set up is also appealing to the eye. This helps you establish the scale and add a part that will offer an amazing review to your consumers’ eyes.

11.  Don’t cook the food completely.

Another tip is to help keep the food looking plump and also juicy. You can take photos once the food is half cooked, and return it to cook before eating. Doing this helps in keeping the food looking shriveled.

12. The plates need to be clean

Since the plates are props for holding food, you need to ensure that they are 100 percent clean and flawless. A little flaw would make your picture look unattractive.  Perfect food photography requires perfection. Any imperfection that crops up may cause the food dish to look messy or incomplete.

13. Add a bit of oil to your vegetables.

Oil makes vegetable glisters, making them perfect for the shot. You can brush the salad with a little bit of olive oil or mix the salad with water to make them look, fresher.

14. Minimize the clutter

Get rid of extra spoons, napkins, or any other form of a busy background. Being busy may make the photo look unattractive. You shouldn’t also zoom the image closely as it may make it difficult to tell what kind of food it is. Even if you have many props, don’t overdress. You won’t regret the results.

15. Experiment with different heights

To create different heights, you need to experiment with varying levels of height. You can use a cutting board to raise some of your scenes. Additionally, you can use glasses of different heights or put something on the cake stand for a higher effect.

At times you just need to place things on a wrinkled kitchen towel. This will help you create a natural frame, which is if you are shooting straight or you are shooting from different angles.

16. Think outside the box

Garnishing your food makes it pop and also stand out.  Don’t just think of green herbs like parsley, cilantro, or chives. Try something different that plays up different dimensions and textures of other foods and also drinks.

These options may include grated cheese, ground paper, coconut flakes chips, cranberries, and ground pepper, among others.

17. Try stimulating as many senses as possible

What do you want to communicate to your audience in the long run? Your audience should be like, ‘that looks amazing,’ ‘I want to taste that,’ ‘I want to eat that,’ ‘wow! that must taste sweet.’

18. Utilize the negative space

 You need to give your viewers room to breathe. It’s one of the elements to consider for a good photo. You don’t have to zoom all the way. Leave some negative spaces in the picture. Such shots are soothing for both the eyes and the mind. Negative spaces are great when it comes to telling stories.

19. Use the dishes’ biggest strength to your advantage

Before shooting, ask yourself the question: what is the biggest strength of the dishes? Foods usually differ in different sectors, for instance, texture, colour, or shape. You can also look at aspects like the feeling the food brings, for example, coziness, health, and freshness. Combining these two aspects will contribute to the effects of the final picture, throwing in light, angle, and composition.

20. Think texture, think layers!

The texture is essential for food photography. Foods on a dish look awesome when layered. You should aim to have at least three layers. The layers take photography to the next level. You can achieve this by the use of napkins, cutlery, ingredients or spices, and herbs.

Brown paper is excellent when it comes to adding texture. Using crumpled brown craft paper as a surface to add texture is interesting.

21. Study images and recreate them using the sources you have

When you notice or identify a photo you love, study it, and create that picture. Look at factors like lightning, texture, and camera angle. You can try to get the same results using the existing resources that you have. Pinterest is an excellent place to look into this. Alternatively, you can watch youtube clips.

Look at good food photography for 10 – 15 minutes a day. This will help you absorb the beautiful images in your mind and refresh your creativity. It helps you in creating photos through your lens. You need to saturate your subconscious mind with great photos. Once you start shooting, you know what will move you emotionally.

22. Capture your vision on paper

You can plan out your photoshoot ideas by drawing sketches. At this moment, don’t worry about the details. During sketching, focus on the story you want to tell.  It would help to think of the props that you want to use and choose the colour palate.

You can make notes about the lighting direction and all other aspects that are related to the composition. This will save you the hustle of shooting right away, hoping to get a good image in the process. It also helps you bring the mental image to life.

 Once you understand the method, make it work using your own recipe.

23. Experiment!

Food photography is sometimes about trying out new tactics, and methods, and experimenting.  You can try shooting on your floor as long as it’s a clean wooden floor or any other surface floor, as a great background, or as a backdrop to some magnificent pictures.

You can also experiment with bouncing light off tin foils, polystyrene boards, good foil, and copper foil- these are great for the lighting to reflect into the shots’ shadows.

24. Invest in your backgrounds

Investing in one quality background is excellent for transforming your food. It ensures that it’s the star of the show. It would be best to start with something that you can use for everything and is excellent for giving you a signature look. You can use recycled wood planks, sand them, and stain them to give a non-glossy colour.

The surrounding of the food is essential as the food itself.  A well-designed setting gives the picture context and mood. Details like matching your plate to the colour of the food are crucial. However, you can exclude the surroundings and take a close shot of only the food.

Do the surroundings give you a balanced composition? The elements need to complement rather than dominate the food.

In case you aren’t sure of the background to go for, you can look for inspiration from items like cookbooks and magazines. Avoid vinyl backgrounds as much as possible as they usually appealingly reflect light. When you shoot up close, it may make your food look fake.

25. Practice and practice more!

It’s no doubt that practice makes it perfect. You need to visualize the shot and get creative along the way. Pay attention to details and the light. There is no shortcut if you want to become the best in food photography. It’s a great tip if you are an absolute beginner in the photography industry. 

26. Editing makes all things stand out

You need to edit your images to make them stand out. It helps with the final look of your image, stamping it with your style.  You can make your image pop when you know how to edit appropriately. You can use lightroom to edit your photos. Lastly,  you should always try editing everything to perfection.

27. Write a brief

 If your goal is to become a professional photographer, you have no other choice but to get familiar with writing detailed briefs. However, you will integrate most of them while working with clients. Nevertheless, you can incorporate it when working on your projects.

The document should include necessary details like the target audience, tone of voice, your project’s goal, and publishing platforms.

 You can also sketch a few image ideas that will capture the goals of your photoshoot. It would help bring the images that you envisioned and make the most out of your shooting time.  In case you are planning to reach out to brands for partnerships or sell stock photos, spend time researching common traits in an image, particularly for this purpose.

 You can write down some notes to base your sketches on and set decisions on them.

28. Work with a food stylist

 For you to be the best, surround yourself with the best people in the industry. This would do you justice to your photos. You should collaborate with professionals from other fields to take the images to the next level.

You don’t want to be a jack of all trades, cooking, serving, then taking pictures. Working with a professional saves you a lot of hustle. A food stylist would help in making sure the composition of food matches your creative idea.

 It includes everything from textures to colours and props. Stylists have a way to make everything look good and also delicious, even if it’s spinach.

29. Choose the right gear.

 The type of camera you choose would make the difference between a perfect photo and an amateur photo. You need to ensure that you master the camera setting precisely what you had in mind.

In case your device allows interchangeable lenses, get your hands on an excellent prime lens. It’s one of the valued lenses as they produce, and have higher quality results. The right gear would enable you to stay in control of the scene, and it won’t need any zoom capabilities.

A great lens makes a lot of difference when it comes to food photography. A longer focal length usually compresses the background, creating a stunning look.

30. Full-bodied food looks better as compared to big

When you take something out of the oven, it usually loses its body in the cold air. To ensure that the pic is fully bodied, here are some of the tips you can use.

  •    Take the shoot of food while it’s still hot and fresh from being cooked.
  •  Build the dish to look full-bodied; for instance, put things on the plate under the food. This would make it look fuller, or pile food on other food.

Food photographing Problems and How to Fix Them?

Sometimes even after using the best shots and applying the best methods, your photos may not come up the way you expect. So what solutions can you try?

 Your Colors Don’t Just Add up.

When editing your photos and your food plate looks very pink, yellow, blue, or green, use your software white balance to fix the problem. The colours will come alive when you set the white balance correctly. Shooting in a RAW format will give you an easier time when it comes to adjusting the colour balance later.

 Your photos are blurry.

Usually, this issue occurs when there is a camera shake. To solve the problem, you need to hold your camera steadily. However, this is easier said than done. You can use a tripod with a remote to let the camera stay completely still while you are shooting.

You also need to use a faster shutter speed; this will require opening up your aperture and moving to an area with more light. You can raise your ISO to decrease the light needed. However, you have to note that this will reduce the quality of your image.

Your Photos Don’t Look Professional.

Usually, experienced photographers use lenses to narrow down their depth and highlight the photo’s subject. They use photography software to tweak the sharpness and contrast level of their shots.

 A little editing here and there certainly makes the photos pop up.

Where Can You Buy Food Photo Props?

Props are essential in food photography. When it comes to purchasing food pros, you need to be intentional. What is your style when it comes to food photography? Once you understand this, you can proceed to the stores. If you aren’t sure about what you exactly want, you can draw inspiration from Pinterest boards and your wardrobe.

Are you drawn to the colourful and bright patterns, or probably to muted tones? You don’t need to shop for a lot of items. Just look into your home, and you are certainly going to get some inspiration there. You can use your vintage handkerchiefs and make fun napkins; the well-worn baking sheets make great backgrounds.

 You can thrift these items or purchase them from shops like Esty and eBay and also Amazon.

 Easy Tips for Excellent Food Photography When in A Hurry

As much as you may want to take the best of shoots, running some errands are something that might be difficult to ignore. Follow these tips to ensure you get the best shot.

  •    Take advantage of the natural window lighting.
  •    Zoom in right into the food.
  •     Arrange background to give your photos context.
  •     Keeps your portions smallish to have a definite center of interest in the photography
  •     Look for contrasting colour garnish. For example, bright colours like red (chilli), green (chives), and white (parmesan) tend to work well.

Wrap up

When it comes to food photography, there are many alternatives to help make your food stand out. All you have to do is master the basics and practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even professional food photographers started like that before becoming gurus.

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