Cooking is also a form of art. Like photography, you need to have the right ingredients, use the proper tools, and practice regularly. The combination of your love for food and photography is a recipe for deliciously good-looking photos. Let's dig in.
• The Freshest Ingredients
A great tasting dish is made up of the best ingredients. Clean. Fresh. Meticulously hand-picked. The same goes for food photography. Food is the star. So you're often photographing food at a close range. At that point, even the tiniest flaws will show. A wrinkled vegetable or a bruised fruit is not ideal let alone appetizing. If you do miss to catch those flaws, position them in a way that will hide those unwanted details. Or don't include them at all.
• Lighting is Everything
You've heard it before. Natural is the best. But not just any natural light. Direct light gives high-intensity highlights with sharp unappealing shadows. This would be difficult to manage in any type of photography. What you want is that nice indirect or modified light. This type of light casts soft light and shadows. You can use a diffuser to modify your light source if it's too harsh. A thin white bed sheet or parchment paper will do. If natural light is not available, you can always mimic the effect with artificial light. Light should illuminate the dish from a slight angle or at the back from above. Figuring out where the light hits depends on the angle and frame you're using. Backlighting and side light are your best bets. They bring out the food's shape and texture. Front light tends to make the food look flat. Use black or white cards to control light and shadows. White cards can bounce or reflect light to reduce shadows. Black cards can provide a different mood by adding contrast.
• Design your Composition
Like any other photo session, you have to style the set and amp up your composition. Use simple ingredients and props related to food (i.e. utensils, cutting board, placemats, napkins, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc). Make sure your accessories are clean and simple to ensure that they won't take away from the real star. Elevate depth by placing props in the foreground and background. Use them to create lines that lead the viewers' eyes to the main subject. Start with the main subject then build up. Get rid of any distractions. Think about balance, color, layout, and harmony. Everything should work well together.
• Choose your Angle
Where you place your camera affects the story and visual appeal of the image. Think of the food beforehand. Its size, shape, height, and other traits will be your guide. Your angle should best highlight those qualities. Most common angles are top view, 45 degrees, and front/eye-level. You will also decide whether to emphasize a specific trait by zooming in or celebrate all the details by zooming out. Take multiple shots from different angles to help you decide.
• Tell a Story
Food is a very relevant subject. It's easy to tell a story around it. Use local utensils to show the geographical origin of the food. Add a vase of beautiful flowers for that homey ambiance. Bathe your image with gorgeous light and summer colors for that outdoor feel. Don't also hesitate to show the process of cooking. Add a human element. Have someone pick-up the fork with bits food. Take a bite. Leave some crumbs. Tempt your viewers and make their stomach grumble.