I’m often asked food photography questions. Let it be known that my mother, while beginning to blog over at her site A Bountiful Kitchen, was the first in our family to dive head first into this venture. Over the years she’s tried different cameras, backdrops, settings, you name it. After a LOT of work and hundreds of recipes, I think it’s safe to say she has mastered the art of taking gorgeous photos. Being privy to all of her tips and tricks is 100% where I attribute my food photography knowledge. So here is a little post, for anyone hoping to learn how I approach taking pictures of what I eat, day in and day out. Nothing technical, just a short conversation- as if you and I were shooting the breeze over brunch (yummmmm).
Find a camera that works for you. I am blown away with some of the work that people can create with just their iPhones! I use a very basic DSLR (Canon Rebel T1i) that I purchased over 5 years ago, and for the last year and a half I’ve been using the a 50 mm lens for nearly all of my photos (best birthday gift EVER- thank you Corrine and Steve!). It’s the perfect lens to capture those close up and gorgeous details that all great food deserves.
Spice up your photos. Add other items and color to your photo for dimension. Include a person’s hand, use their outfit as a backdrop, fold a cloth napkin and set it beside your plate. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve changed a dull and simple photo to something that pops by simply looking around, grabbing the first thing I see, and throwing it in the photo.
When necessary, edit your photos. Because most of my photos are taken in daylight, they require very little editing. On the rare occasion I make small touchups with the photo editor on my Mac, and like to use apps for editing pictures on my iPhone such as PicTapGo, VSCO, and Rhonna Designs. I like to lighten, sharpen, and reduce temperature if I’ve taken a photo in the evening or indoors.
Take photos from different angles. It’s surprising to see how strikingly different two photos can be with just the change of an angle. Birdseye view food photos are all the rage now, and for good reason! They give you a nice holistic view of your table, however, there are certain dimensions and aspects for different dishes that you simply can’t capture from one routine view. I try 3-5 different angles on average for every plate I photograph. Prop your plate up with something, have a friend take a photo from their side of the table, stand on a chair (gasp). You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how much this will improve the quality of your photos.
Photograph things you are passionate about. Let your personality show through the photos you take. It’s tempting to want to keep things kosher and smooth and stick with the status quo, however, I feel that my connection with others through social media and my blog has been best when I take a photo of what I want (not what I think other people will want) and when I caption it how I want. Jot down your thoughts, inspiration, and frank feelings on your photos so that you can reference your notes once your photo is used.
Don’t be afraid. Taking pictures of food (especially while out to eat) is not normal. Period. Be okay with moving your plate around 15 times before you get just the right picture. Be okay with asking to sit by a window instead of in a dark corner. Be okay with obnoxiously standing on chairs. Be okay with other restaurant diners giving you weird looks while you snap away. Be okay with asking your husband to wait 15 seconds before he eats his picture perfect blue cheese bacon burger.
USE NATURAL LIGHT. If I could give one tip for food photography and one tip only, this would be the one. Using natural light makes a night and day (no pun intended) difference in food photography! I often plan photo shoots and meals around the time of day JUST so I can get the best photo! I take plates outside, I request window seats, I take pictures of things in my car, I choose restaurants that have patio seating. Next time you’re photographing a meal, experiment with this- you will not believe the difference a little bit of natural light does to capture your gorgeous dish.