Food photography is more than just taking a quick snapshot of your dinner. It’s about using colors and textures, balancing negative and positive space, and finding the right light source and camera angle to create an artistic image and tell a story. Every element of the photo should serve a purpose and highlight the main subject — the food.
This may sound like a tall order, but with a little practice (and the help of our top food photography tips), you can start serving up mouth-watering food photos in no time!
Food Photography vs Normal Photography
Great food photographers can make snapping the perfect shot look like a piece of cake, but they didn’t get there overnight. Food photography is a unique type of still-life photography. It comes with its own unique set of rules and challenges – that’s why we’re sharing some food photography tips for beginners and professional food photography tips.
Unlike most still-life subjects, food often needs to be shot within a specific time frame. Ice melts. Meat dries out. Herbs wilt. A seasoned food photographer knows how to keep their subject looking fresh (and delicious) while they frame and shoot their images.
There are a few different kinds of food photography. As a food stylist and photographer, you may need to shoot some or all of them.
- Product photos are typically used in menus, online shops, and packaging. Product photography focuses on producing high-quality images of a single food item or meal with minimal to no background.
- Ad photos, like product photos, focus on showcasing a specific subject. However, there’s a little more room to get creative in an advertisement. These photos should tell a story that inspires people to buy or make the food in the picture.
- Recipe photos show off a meal or drink that has been made according to a specific recipe. These photos give viewers the information and inspiration they need to commit to buying every ingredient and trying out a new dish. Great recipe photos are an important part of every successful food blog.
- Lifestyle or documentary food photos show the food in action. Unlike many food photos, these show people cooking, serving, or enjoying their food or drink. These pictures should tell an emotional story while still highlighting the food as the star of the image.
10 Professional Food Photography Tips
When you start styling and photographing food, it may take some time for your photos to look like the ones you see on Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite food blog. Just remember, everybody was a beginner at one point. These photography tips for beginners can help you out no matter where you are on your creative journey:
1. Sketch Your Vision Before You Shoot
Think of this quick sketch as the blueprint for your photoshoot. Before you get started, decide which details you want to show off in your photo. What’s special about the food you’re photographing — its shape, color, texture, aroma, or something else? Then, decide how you’re going to capture that in a photo.
In your sketch, you can plan for your props, light source, and camera angle. That way, it’ll take you less time to set up the photo, and you’ll be more likely to capture the image that you saw in your mind’s eye.
2. Invest in a Tripod
A tripod can help you go from amateur to professional photographer. Yes, it can help reduce camera shake and enhance the detail in your food photos, but it’s also a great tool for framing your shots. By keeping your camera still, you have more control over how your food looks from a specific angle. Plus, a tripod keeps the image frame and angle constant as you make small adjustments to your subjects. This makes it easier to create the exact scene you’re picturing in your mind.
3. Experiment with Different Angles
There are three main camera angles you’ll use when you photograph food: overhead, straight-on, and diagonal. Overhead shots are best for subjects like soup, smoothie bowls, fruit tarts, or any food with interesting details that are seen best by looking directly down at it. You’ll often see this style on big social media food accounts, as it’s a popular Instagram food photography tip.
Straight-on photos are great for foods that are taller or have multiple distinct layers that you want to showcase. This can include tiered cakes, ice cream cones, sandwiches, and hamburgers.
When you don’t want to choose between straight-on and overhead views, diagonal angles can help you show off both the top and the sides of your food.
4. Be Mindful About Your Light Source
Lighting can affect the mood, colors, and details of your food shots. Many photographers prefer to use natural light (aka sunlight) to avoid the yellow or orange hues that artificial light can add to a photo.
To take advantage of natural light, you’ll want to pay attention to where the sunlight shines into your home during different parts of the day. If the direct sunlight is too harsh, try using a reflector, diffuser, or even a sheer white sheet to soften your window light.
Great photos can be made with artificial lighting too, especially if you invest in creating artificial light that mimics natural sunlight. However, you should always avoid using your camera’s flash because it can alter the colors of your image and wash out the details of the meal that you’re trying to capture.
5. Embrace the Shadows
Sometimes, harsh shadows can draw attention away from the main subject of your photos. Other times, they can elevate the photo by adding unique shapes that make the image more interesting. Soft shadows can also add depth to and give your photographs a moody feel.
You can play around with different types of shadows to see what works best for the mood you’re trying to convey. Consider the difference between a photo of a pasta dish in a candlelit romantic setting vs on a bright summery outdoor patio. If you’re having trouble capturing shadows with your camera, try placing your subject closer to the light source.
6. Learn About White Balance and Color Saturation
It’s rare for white plates and tablecloths to photograph perfectly. Fortunately, in editing, you have the power to adjust the colors of your photo. In food pictures, you’ll typically want to cool down the temperature of the image and increase exposure to make your table whites pop. Then, you can increase color saturation and contrast to help your colors and shadows stand out.
While editing, try to avoid altering your original image too much. As you get more experienced, you’ll learn how to edit food photography without making the image look forced or artificial.
7. Research the Tricks of the Trade
Did you know that mashed potatoes are a good stand-in for ice cream? Or that glycerin mixed with water can create a spray that leaves lasting condensation drops on glasses and fresh fruit? There are all sorts of helpful photography tips for food on the internet. Professional food photographers aren’t afraid to share their techniques for capturing eye-catching food pictures. By doing a little research, you can learn how to photograph food like the pros.
8. Perfect Your Use of Props
Most of the time, your food won’t be the only thing in your image. You’ll need to use props to add interest to your photo and help tell a compelling story. Props can be anything — from the obvious cutting board and cutlery to table decor and human elements — as long as they relate to the food that you’re shooting.
A good prop will create interest in your photo without stealing attention from the main subject. Try choosing props in neutral tones or with colors that compliment the colors in your food. And remember, when it comes to props in food photography, less is more.
9. Play With Your Camera Settings
You don’t need a specific type of camera to photograph food. Any DSLR, or even newer mobile phones with an advanced camera, should be able to do the job. Some basics to look for in a camera include high ISO, multiple focal points, and the ability to shoot in raw. It can also help to have a crop sensor that can help you control the focal length of your lens.
It may take a little experimenting to learn which settings you prefer for your food photography. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, try starting out with a mobile phone to learn prop placement practices, play with shadows and lighting, and post-production editing in PicsArt. Then you can expand your food photography work with a camera, focusing on one setting at a time during a photoshoot. After you learn your preferences for that setting, move on to the next one.
10. Have a Consistent Portfolio
You can really make your food photography stand out — whether it’s for a food blog, Instagram feed, or online shop — by having a consistent portfolio. A collection of images is just more aesthetically appealing when all of the photographs look like they go together.
There are a few different ways to achieve consistency in your portfolio. For example, you can use similar editing styles on every photo (this is easy when you save your editing presets). You can also shoot all of your pictures with the same camera angles or reuse the same backgrounds and props.
10 Fun Food Photography Ideas
When you’re just getting started in food styling and photography, you may need a little inspiration to decide which types of pictures you want to take. To help spur your natural creativity, so we put together our top 10 food photography ideas for you to try out on your next shoot:
- Play around with different heights in your photograph. If you have a plate of food, try placing it next to a glass or on top of a cutting board.
- See how many different layers and textures you can include in your photo. How can you make your image more interesting without taking attention away from the main subject?
- Embrace negative space and let your food shine. An overcrowded image can be difficult to read. By leaving negative space around your food, you make sure that it shines as the star of your photo.
- Try using your (freshly cleaned) floor as an inexpensive background for your food. Tile, hardwood, and carpet can all be interesting backgrounds for your food photos that add texture without being too distracting. Alternatively, you can easily add in any background in post-production editing in PicsArt.
- Use ingredients as a prop. After you’ve made your dish, you can use leftover ingredients to help spice up your photo. Things like chocolate chips, blueberries, colorful spices, and even flour can help add interest to your image and tell your cooking story while visually emphasizing any unique flavors in the dish.
- Use symmetry to add balance and visual interest to your photo. Symmetrical images are pleasing to the eye, and they can make your portfolio look more professional.
- Let your props create lines that point to your main subject. The human eye likes to follow lines. Try using utensils, sprigs of herbs, or other items to subtly draw attention to your food.
- Play around with depth of field and shutter speed. Food photography gives you a lot of leeway to play with the focus of your image. As long as the main subject is clear and detailed, you can experiment with different ways of blurring the background.
- Experiment with contrasting colors. Try putting a cupcake with pastel icing on a darker plate. Or adding a sprig of rosemary next to a red or orange dish. Photos with contrast tend to be more exciting and eye-catching.
- Recreate a non-food photo that inspires you. Try looking at the portfolio of someone that you admire and imitating some of the images with objects that you have around the house. This can help you experiment with different shooting styles, camera angles, and subjects.
How to Edit Food Photography
Now that you’re armed with our best food photography tips, it’s time to start creating! Follow these steps to perfect your food shots with PicsArt photo editing software on your phone or web browser.
Step 1) Open the Picsart mobile app and click the + on the bottom of the screen to begin a new project.
Step 2) Choose a photo from your camera roll to edit.
Step 3) Tap on Tools on the bottom toolbar. Tap Crop to select your image size. Then, tap Apply in the top right corner of the screen.
Step 4) Click Tools again. Then, tap Adjust. Use the toolbar on the bottom of the screen to adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, highlights, and temperature of your image. You can play around with these settings until your food looks exactly how you want it. Click Apply to save your changes.
Step 5) Use the other options on the bottom toolbar to add filters, stickers, text, or any other elements to your image. Text is a great addition to a food image if you’re planning to share these photos to a blog or your Pinterest account.
Step 6) Tap Next at the top right of the screen to save and share your food photo!
Step 1) Go to the Picsart desktop editor. Under Start a new design, select the size you’d like your image to be. You can always change the size later while editing.
Step 2) Select Photos on the left side of the screen. Then, click My Photos and Upload. Select which image you’d like to edit.
Step 3) Click on the photo. Then, click Adjust in the pop-up menu. On the left side of your screen you’ll be able to edit the light, colors, and details of your image.
Step 4) When you’re done editing the photo, use the other options on the toolbar to add filters, stickers, text, or any other elements to your image.
Step 5) Click Export on the top right of the screen to save and share your food photo!
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