5 top tips to improve your food photography

Oct 24, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

5 top tips to improve your food photography

Oct 24, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Food photography is something we’ve pretty much all tried. Even if our gastronomical efforts are only limited to Instagram, it helps to be able to get a nice shot. In this video from Adobe, photographer Andrew Scrivani shares his top five tips to improving your own food photography.

You might look a little odd bringing chopping boards and cooling racks into your local Starbucks, but the suggestions are still beneficial. Whether you’re in the studio with a DSLR or the local coffee shop with your phone, there’s always things you can do to help take your food photography up a notch or two.

YouTube video

Define your light source and shoot against it to create shimmer and shadow

This is a common tip for many genres of photography. With subjects like food with all kinds of interesting shapes, textures and forms, this becomes especially important. Shooting from the front creates flat boring light across your whole subject. It gives you little idea of surface texture or shape, and can often make the food appear somewhat less than appetising.

Shooting against the light, or with the light off to the side creates drama and contrast. The highlights and shadows instantly tell the viewer exactly how the food would feel if you could reach out and touch (or taste) it.

Soften light with a diffuser for a softer look

food_photography_diffusion

In the studio, this is quite easy. You just pull out a diffuser and put it between your light to create a nice large light source with soft highlights and shadows. In a restaurant or coffee shop, this could be somewhat tricky (and look a little strange). So, for the Instagram foodies, if you know you’re going to be photographing your meal, find a spot away from direct sunlight that gets more diffused directional light.

Cut and shape light to create more contrast

food_photography_cut_and_shape_light

Again, easy in the studio. Using flags and small reflectors, you can bounce light back exactly where you need it. Or, you can block it from hitting certain parts of your subject altogether. This can be done at mealtime, too, though, using napkins and menus to block or reflect light.

Know your camera

This is another big one that’s important regardless of what you’re shooting. Knowing your camera is the difference between consistently getting the shot and simply hoping you get something usable. Even if it is your phone’s camera.

The principles of photography don’t change from camera to camera, or even between film and digital. But, every camera and lens combination will have its own little quirks and way of working that make them unique. It may be the inherent contrast and dynamic range of the sensor, or the colour rendition of a particular lens, or how it renders out of focus areas.

Understanding those potential advantages and disadvantages of your gear will allow you to you to get more consistency.

Use food and props to create a world

food_photography_props

Bringing your own props into restaurants and coffee shops is generally frowned upon. Fortunately, most of them already come with props you may be able to use to enhance your shot. Cutlery, napkins, the rest of your order, for example.

In the studio, it’s a lot easier to set things up exactly how you want. You’ll probably want to become familiar with your local dollar store and eBay for inexpensive kitchen props.

Are you a photographer of food in the studio or on Instagram? What do you think of Andrew’s suggestions? Can you offer any other tips? Let us know what you think, and show off some of your own food photography in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “5 top tips to improve your food photography”

  1. Chris 'Sharky' Wright Avatar
    Chris ‘Sharky’ Wright

    Wow these articles are getting quite poor, long gone are the days of the DIY Hacks!