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A Beginner’s Guide to Food Photography

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Food & Product Photography, Photography Tips


Food photography isn’t simply a matter of taking a picture; it requires attention to several significant behind the scenes aspects to creating an enticing image. In order to get great results, a good photographer must take the lighting, any props or backdrops used, the speed of the shooting session and the way the food is set, into account. Great food photography creates an image that is good enough to take in with all of your senses.

1. Lighting the Food

When photographing food, it’s important to treat the food like a still life subject and light it accordingly. Good lighting can really make the difference between a good and a poor food photograph. An ideal place to photograph food is in front of a window that allows the food to be bathed with natural light. Alternatively, you can also bounce the light of a flash off a wall or ceiling to reduce shadows. Natural light like the sun provides the most natural looking end result in a food photo.

food photography apple cider

Photo by VadimDaniel via Flickr

2. Using Props

When photographing food, pay attention to the way you arrange it and also what kinds of plates, bowls and silverware you use. Keep the image clear of unnecessary items that can cause cluttering but remember to add small touches like a glass, a flower or nicely folded napkin. These items can easily be added to the back of the main subject, complementing it but not overwhelming the shot.

3. Shoot Quickly

Unlike human subjects, food doesn’t get better with time, especially if it’s butter, meat, ice cream etc. Have your studio and settings prepared in advance and have everything ready for each set change so that all you have to do is add the food and shoot. If you have to adjust your lighting, use a substitute plate instead of the real food, so you don’t cause the food to degrade in the light.

4. Use Style

Don’t simply throw great looking food on a plate and expect a perfect shot. Instead, place food strategically and carefully. Add garnishes and other accompaniments with style and taste to enhance the look of the main subject. Make sure your colors are balanced in the shot, adjusting and changing out accessories to create an appealing image. If you’re a relative novice to food photography, checking cookbooks and cooking magazines can help you learn how to set up a great shot that looks like it tastes delicious.

food photography chocolate

Photo by VadimDaniel via Flickr

5. Presentation

The way you present your food is very important. Without setting up the shot properly, you cannot get superior food photographs. Consider the color, shape and size of your food items. Position the food on the plate or mat in front of your photo background, in a way that balances your shot. Try looking through food magazines to get a feel for the industry standards.

6. Add Some Shine

Many professionals rely on food grade oil to make their foods more appealing. Brushing the tops of buns or cooked meats with some vegetable oil makes the food look just off the grill. An experienced photographer can get a unique shot from directly above the food, but until you learn your way around that technique, aim for close up shots. Shooting nearer the presentation will provide a more detailed, appealing result. You can also highlight one part of your dish. Focus on the corn cob in the soup, instead of the entire bowl for a unique angle.

food photography burger

Photo by LeandroF via Flickr

7. Using Steam for Visuals Effects

Nothing says yummy like a steaming cup of chowder. Capturing the rising steam will make hot foods more appetizing to viewers. Heat dampened cotton to lie around the frame. You can do this in a microwave. This takes some practice and you have to shoot quickly to get the steam in your photo.

What are some of your favorite props to use in your food photography?


-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about food photography? Check out Food & Drink Photography Tricks!

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