A picture is worth a thousands words, and food photography is no exception! Use these tips to turn your recipe photos into works of art (or at the very least, somewhat appetizing depictions of your surely beautiful culinary creations)!
1. Lighting is key. Whenever possible, use natural light when snapping food photos. Set up your shoot outside in a cloudy area for a nice even light. If you’re stuck indoors, shoot next to a window for the best possible lighting. If you really want to get fancy, you can set up a white sheet of poster board opposite the window to bounce light on the shadowed side of the food and achieve a brighter, more evenly lit staging area. Try and shoot your photo so that your food is lower than your source of light—this will ensure any shadows are behind or beside the dish. Always avoid shooting in direct light—this will flatten your photo. Also, if at all possible, avoid using the flash on your phone, or any flash for that matter, as your photos will have an unattractive yellow tint to them and you will end up with harsh shadows.
2. Experiment with angles. You may have noticed many great food photographs are taken looking directly down at the dish. This “top down” technique often yields pretty awesome photos, and is a great go-to angle. However, not all dishes are well suited to a birds-eye-view photo (think tiered cakes or sandwiches). Experiment! Get closer to your subject, take a step back, and try shooting from all different angles! You want to showcase the parts of the food that make it incredible, so take your time and experiment until you find that perfect shot.
3. Don’t forget to garnish! Garnishes can transform a food photo from boring to brilliant. Monochromatic dishes (think fettuccine alfredo or pancakes) almost always benefit from a pop of color, while dishes with one textural note (like a bowl of soup) will look 100x better with a textural element like a handful of crispy croutons. A sprig of fresh herbs, an edible flower, a bright piece of fruit, or a toasty piece of bread can do wonders to your photograph, and can also provide hints for dishes that may otherwise be hard to identity (baba ganoush, anyone?).
4. Choose the right props. Similar in a sense to garnishes, including the right props in your photo can make all the difference. Everything from the surface your dish is sitting on, to the items barely visible in the background, can enhance the photograph, even if only on a subconscious level. Select dishes in a color that will enhance the food, and choose textures and surfaces that help convey the “mood” of the photo. For example, if you’re photographing a vibrant summer salad, a crisp white plate on a rustic wood surface would likely capture the beauty and essence of the dish. Try including some of the cooking tools, ingredients, or suggested pairings in the photo to compliment the dish: a wooden spoon, a few fresh lemons, a glass of wine, etc. Finally, think beyond the kitchen–scarves, ribbons, plants, and household ornaments can make wonderful props, too!
5. Consider process photos. Some of the most compelling photos of your dish may actually be from when you were cooking, assembling, or enjoying it! Try to remember to snap photos right from the start: when the ingredients are laid out, when you first combine everything in a bowl, when you’re dropping spoonfuls of batter onto a sheet pan…you get the idea. Similarly, capture the moments just before you dive in: the first bite on your fork, the cake with a slice missing, etc. These “action” photos are often more dynamic than pictures of the finished product.
There you have it! Next thing you know, you’ll be snapping food photos like a pro! Check in next Tuesday for our next post, and until then, happy cooking!