Part 2: How to Make Amazing Food Photos

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As we spoke about in our last post, professional cameras and lenses can help with photography tremendously—provided you know how to use them. These special tools and equipment can make taking a great photo easier, but they’re by no means necessary for the process.This was a key lesson that we learned from our numerous efforts of trial and error. Some of the great food-focused Instagram feeds of the day are done almost entirely with smartphone cameras. What separates those high quality photos from their less impressive counterparts isn’t an expensive camera or sophisticated equipment; It’s knowing what it takes to compose a visually appealing and hunger inducing image.

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1. GREAT NATURAL LIGHT

From our research, we discovered that good lighting is the single most important criteria for good photography! And the very best light is indirect daylight. The natural lighting condition which produces the greatest photography opportunity is a shady spot on a sunny day. It will give your food a bright, even glow, and won’t tint the natural colors in the same way that non-natural indoor lighting will typically do.

2. A STRIKING COMPOSITION

Composition is basically an all-encompassing term for the arrangement of all the extra items in a photograph. In a well-composed photograph, you can immediately tell what the primary subject is; so we had to learn not to go overboard with the items surrounding the main subject.  We also learned that composition is second only to lighting when it comes to taking a good photograph. Especially when first starting, good composition has a lot to do with the proper positioning within the photo frame. Putting the primary subject in ¾ of the frame is a great suggestion for most food photos. But it’s also the best advice to consider the best qualities of the food you’re shooting when deciding how to position the camera.

3. PROPER ANGLES

But obviously framing your food in the right position is just one element of composition. We learned that you also need to decide what angle best suits your subject. A flat, round subject like pizza will usually look best from directly above. Meanwhile, a burger stacked tall will look great directly at eye level. But we learned from countless experiments that you just have to make sure you have something in the background like a nice solid colored wall or a decorative board to block out unwanted items like pots and pans from your kitchen. And remember, just like people, food wants us to capture its good side as well. And the best way to learn what that good side is? Shoot from multiple angles until they become your instincts.

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Once these 3 basic concepts are down, it’s time to get fun. Get creative with props. It’s especially important to be a bit creative for particularly unappetizing dishes like odd looking soups or somewhat misshapen objects like sausages.

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  • Choosing the right plate can be very useful: Square and rectangular plates are typically harder to shoot than round ones from our experience.  It’s also easier to work with smaller sized plates rather than full-size dinner plate. This is mostly due to the fact that you won’t have to worry about any unwanted extra space on the plate and the food will be most prominent. Patterns and bright colors can be a great way to add some character to plain foods, but you don’t want the platter to distract from the subject.
  • Adding personality with accessories is also fun: Napkins, utensils, and other placements can help fill up the composition/empty space and make your images more engaging. It’s very important to make sure color is considered heavily when making choices. A color wheel can give you a good sense of complementary colors.
  • Garnishing the dish: Putting an herb or a condiment on a plate can really help make a photo pop. Adding herbs, condiments, and toppings can be a great way just to dress up a dish. Some of the ugliest (but tastiest) dishes need a little help to become photogenic. Again, color consideration of the garnish is very important in order to properly enhance the dish. But no matter what, it’s most important that the garnishes make sense to each specific dish.
  • Creativity with backgrounds: White or neutral plain backgrounds can get boring. Trying a nice cutting board or platter can really have an incredible effect on photo quality. Tablecloths, placemats, and slabs of stone are all also great alternatives. Anything to freshen-up a boring kitchen table or countertop can make a photo look much more special to it’s viewers.
  • Interacting with food: If an initial photo feels flat, consider having a model lift a fork/spoonful out. We can then focus our camera on that lifting to give the photo more dimension. But even small details like making sure the fingers are clean and relatively well manicured can have a profound effect on a shot of that sort.

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Learning food photography was a necessary step for us to give a better customer experience to our Shuttle Delivery community.  You may not have such lofty ambitions as ours to shoot photos but food photography is still a very fulfilling hobby. We would recommend it to anyone who loves food and enjoys the beauty, just as much as the taste. Food photography can be a cool way to allow friends or family see what you see in the food that you are experiencing. And as we have mentioned in our two part series about the subject; it’s easier than it’s ever been to make some really dazzling food images that many can enjoy. We hope you enjoyed this little 2 segment post about our journey in the world of food photography and continue to read our posts in the future.

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