Our days are spent either eating, preparing food, or thinking about what to eat. We have recently added a new ritual to this centuries-old cycle: photographing what we eat.
Although food photos are among the most shared photos on social networking sites, it is unfortunate that the majority of the photos are not as appetizing as the originals. Food photography appears to be simple, but it is a branch of photography that requires care and experience.
Light, light, light…
When it comes to photography, every word should begin with light. Natural light is preferable. Natural light produces better results, particularly in food photography. Most of the time, a strong light from one direction, either next to or behind the food, will suffice. You can easily and cheaply create the necessary light conditions for a good food photograph by placing your object in front of a large window with good light and using a tripod.
No matter how wide your window or how fast your lens is, it may not always be possible to get sharp photos indoors. In this case, one of the first solutions that comes to mind is to increase the ISO, but the noise problem will reduce the quality of your photo. You can use software to correct noise after shooting, but shooting with a tripod is the best option. After all, you have an object in front of you that is not in a hurry. If you’re photographing a food that doesn’t melt, deform, or smoke, your food will model for you for hours, without any complaints. All you need is a simple tripod. In fact, by connecting your camera to the computer, you can carefully examine the photos on a larger screen and achieve more successful results.
Food photographers generally prefer natural light, but sometimes you may find it difficult to transfer this light to your photograph. It may not be possible to shoot or complete the shooting during bright hours, especially in winter periods when the light is limited. Your home or studio may not be getting enough light. Or you might enjoy the freedom and speed of handheld shooting instead of a tripod. In these cases, you need to use flash in order not to compromise the quality of the photos.
The goal of flash photography is to create the appearance of natural light. A soft light with no harsh shadows is generally desired in food photography. To accomplish this, a single flash with a large softbox can be used. You can light the food from the side or at 10, 11, and 12 p.m. Because the light shining in this direction reveals the texture of the food, the dishes appear more delicious and beautiful. If you’re drinking something, the 12 o’clock position is very effective. To avoid harsh shadows from the main light, place reflectors (reflectors) in the opposite direction of the light.
If you want to make the background stand out, you need to illuminate that area with another light source. It’s a decision about the dramatic effect you want to create, but I personally prefer to focus the light on the food only. After all, the main element in our frame is food, and everything else in the image should be there to enhance the power of our food. In some cases, the background should be darker than the food. In this case, you must place blockers in areas where you do not want the flash light to shine. You can do this with black cardboard. Remember that you can make reflectors and blockers out of simple and inexpensive household materials.
Depth of Field
Depth of field is one of the most important tools for revealing the main element in photography, as well as increasing aesthetics and interest, but it is rarely used effectively and appropriately in food photographs.
The most common mistake when deciding on the depth of field is to reduce the depth of field well below the required value. Especially in low light situations, the diaphragm is opened as much as possible and the correct exposure is tried to be made, but at values such as f1.4, f1.8, the focused area is so small that sometimes we can see only one point of the food clearly. When we look at the food from above, we can clearly see a large surface of the food, but in depth shots, only a small area is clear, and all the valuable details that give the food its flavor, and thus the photograph, are lost.
Another mistake is frequently encountered in flash photography. Flashes can provide a lot of light even at the lowest power. In this case, your exposure meter will show a high aperture value, which means that the depth of field is well above the value it should be. Such an exposure value will result in an unsuccessful photograph where every element of the composition is focused. The solution, on the other hand, is quite simple. Even if the power of the flash cannot be reduced, extra fabrics thrown on the softener or a white curtain drawn between the flash and the food will soften the light and reduce the amount of light reaching the food. As a result, the depth of field can be easily reduced.
You don’t have to be constrained by space!
If there is insufficient light at home, in your studio, or in the restaurant you visit, or if you do not have access to a flash, you can shoot outside. You should look for areas with homogeneous light spots or shadows. The reflectors you bring will also assist you in creating your own shadow. As a result, you can take stunning food photos wherever you want.
Every dish has an angle created by its shape and content that makes it look much better. As a result, when taking food photos, don’t be afraid to experiment with different distances and angles. You should strive for the best image by moving closer and further away from the food or by using lenses with different focal lengths.
The lenses you select will also assist you in this regard. 50mm f1.8 or f1.4 prime lenses, which can be used not only for food photography but also for all other types of photography, are extremely useful. You might also want to add macro lenses to your equipment list for more details and thus more delicious and appealing food photos. A 100mm f2.8 macro lens can be used for this.
Working with a stylist/unable to work with a stylist
For appetizing food photos that you can’t get enough of, you need a good stylist who will collaborate with the photographer. Even if you are a professional food photographer, you may not often have the opportunity to collaborate with a stylist. As a result, if you’re taking food photos, you must be the stylist of your own meals.
Freshness / appearance of the food
You must ensure that our dishes, the main attraction of our photograph, look good when they first appear in front of us. You must pick the best. Food that is rotten, burned, or otherwise unappealing cannot be easily repaired after a photograph is taken. If the shape of the food changes during the shooting process, such as melting or drying out, it must be renewed frequently or fake foods must be used. In most cases, mashed potatoes are used to make ice cream. Plastic ice and ice cream mock-ups are sometimes sold as well. Glycerin can be sprayed on the fruits to simulate water droplets. Oil can be applied with a brush to make the dishes look more vibrant.
The feeling of abundance is very important in food photographs. If your food is scarce and disappears on the plate, you may need to make fillings so that they are not visible on the bottom. You can throw small fruits into the soup. Sometimes you may need to adjust the height of the food in the plate with small pieces of bread.
Utensils used in the kitchen
Not only the food itself, but also the tools used for the presentation of the food are very important. Plates, forks, knives, handkerchiefs, table, texture under the dish… All of them should be chosen and arranged in such a way that they highlight the food.
Assume you’re going to photograph yogurt soup. You can arrange the soup’s raw ingredients around the plate. Yogurt, rice on the floor or in a small bowl, and eggs… Thus, there will be no empty space around and we will give information about the content of the dish, which at first glance we may not know what soup it is.
The kitchen tools you use should not be heavily patterned and should not draw more attention than the food. White or light-colored dishes are frequently more useful, but contrasting colored kitchen utensils with the food can also be preferred because creating contrast will enrich the photograph. It’s the equivalent of placing a black tray beneath a white cake or serving spinach in a red bowl.
Remember the general rules of photography!
In general, all of the techniques we use to enhance our photography are also applicable to food. A good white balance, for example, is critical. First and foremost, you must take a technically correct photograph in order to obtain an aesthetically pleasing photograph. Following that, you can take your food photography to the next level by focusing on the golden ratio, shapes, and lines, as seen in other types of photography.
Have a good time!