Taking photos of your food and posting #foodporn pics on social media has become a modern social norm. So in order to up your ‘gram game’ and to induce ‘brunch envy’ across all of your social media platforms – here is a food photographer’s guide to taking mouth-watering, magazine-worthy photos.
Being a travel blogger requires one to take beautiful photos and capture unique experiences along the way. Sampling different cuisines and eating amazing food all over the world is one of the highlights of a globetrotting lifestyle.
From discovering the best pastries in Paris, tasting the craziest food trends in NYC, ordering tapas with locals in Barcelona’s bodegas, fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen, indulging in afternoon tea at London’s swish establishments to exploring the flavour sensations of the street food in Asia – I’m going to share with you the photography tricks and tips that I’ve learned along the way.
Even if you’re at home doing little more than spoiling yourself with a weekend brunch, taking photos of your food and posting #foodporn pics on social media has become a modern social norm. So in order to up your ‘gram game’ and to induce ‘brunch envy’ across all of your social media platforms – here is a food photographer’s guide to taking mouth-watering, magazine-worthy photos.
1. Lighting is the most important element
No, I’m not talking about your iPhone light and don’t even think about using your camera’s flash. Good old natural light is the food blogger’s best friend. Before you take a seat at the cafe; carefully survey your surrounds and then request a table close to a window with a soft, diffused light source.
Don’t be fooled, sitting outdoors in direct sunlight is not actually great lighting as it will produce harsh shadows. If you wish to sit outside try nabbing a spot under a balcony or awning that will produce the heavenly, dispersed light that you’re looking for.
2. Choose the right time of day
There is a reason why breakfast, brunch and lunch dominate the foodie pictures on Instagram. Yep, you’ve guessed it – natural lighting!
Also, plan to visit during off-peak hours so that you increase the likelihood of getting the coveted table and it’ll be easier to avoid getting in the way during the service rush.
3. Order wisely
Ask the wait staff what they think are the most striking looking dishes, glance around at surrounding tables or have a sneak peak on the venue’s Instagram account.
A pop of colour, attractive presentation and nicely designed crockery are some key elements for an eye-catching image. Sorry folks; that might mean ordering the fruit muesli over the tempting but totally un-photogenic bacon and egg roll!
4. Aim for angles
You might have noticed when you take a selfie that some angles are more flattering than others? Well it’s exactly the same with food! Some dishes work nicely as flat lays, whilst others need a sense of depth and height to show off their true beauty (i.e. a stack of pancakes or a hamburger).
Finding the right angle requires practice. Try taking photos of the subject at a variety of angles and then decide which works best visually.
5. Be equipped
iPhones are actually a fantastic photographic tool for capturing a perfect flat lay. Getting the correct angle for the shot is much easier with the fixed focal length, grid feature and live screen display.
Meanwhile, using a DSLR camera (Digital Single Lens) will be ideal for that professional blurred background which is known to shutterbugs as ‘bokeh’. Adjusting to a wide aperture on your DSLR and setting the focus point on your food will create the effect of blurring out distracting background and drawing all the attention to your utterly delicious meal.
6. Consider your background
For a flat lay; cast your eyes around the venue and see if there is an ideal surface to shoot on. Opt for plain surfaces that will make your food stand out such as white, marble, light coloured timber, polished concrete and solid blocks of bright colour.
If the restaurant setting is particularly interesting it could work best to include that atmosphere in your photograph. In that case, choose a background that will convey a sense of place for a nice backdrop for your food.
7. Style it
It’s unlikely that the waiter will place dishes in the optimal position on the table, so it’s time to get a little creative and move the plates around to balance the shot. I can guarantee that most casual brunch snaps that you see on Instagram are somewhat styled.
Firstly, remove unnecessary clutter (i.e. remove stray iPhones, lens caps etc. laying on the table) and glance around the room for props (e.g. cutlery, flowers, and condiments) that might add a little something extra to the scene.
8. It’s all about timing
Prioritise taking photos of the warm food whilst the soup is still steaming hot, likewise you better snap the ice cream before it starts to melt. In food photography you need to work quickly before the food spoils. Get organised before the food arrives and request for certain items to be brought to the table separately. Unfortunately, once you start taking photos of your food you will never be able to drink hot coffee again!
9. Keep your distance
As a general rule people like to view food at a normal eye distance. The sweet spot is as if the viewer were sitting down to enjoy the meal for themselves. Shooting an extreme close-up can be too abstract or taking a picture far away from the food can be less appealing.
If you’re using a DSLR a 50mm lens (known affectionately as the ‘nifty-fifty’) is a useful inclusion in your kit for capturing the world as the human eye views it.
10. Lights, camera, action!
Food doesn’t have to look like a contrived, still life painting. Take photos that make people feel like they’re about to eat it themselves or highlight the key components of the meal.
Twist a fork into that spaghetti, dig those chopsticks into the noodle soup, crack the crème brûlée, cut open to see the gooey yolk of the soft-boiled egg and pour maple syrup onto the pancakes.
Some strategically placed crumbs also give that ‘dig in’ vibe, but do try to be subtle as no one finds mangled food appetising.
So there you have it, some insider tricks of the trade that will improve your food photography in no time. If you’re a keen food photographer and have any tips, share them in the comments below!