Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Take Photos of Food

For today's Tips Tuesday I am going to have a bit of a look at Food Photography.  Now Food Photography is not my area of expertise at all, and certainly not the Food Styling part of it, that's a whole career in itself.  But, I have, in my travels as a photographer, had to take photos of food for the magazine I work for, as well as my blog.  I also, like a lot of people, take shots of food to upload to my Instagram account (when I've encountered a particularly delicious bit of cake at a café or a 'too-good-too-be-true hot chocolate).  So today I thought I would discuss taking food shots for your blog or for sharing on social media.
Taking shots of your meal that you order in a restaurant or café so that you can share it with friends (and perhaps make them jealous!) is such a common thing nowadays that you probably don't even get a single sideways glance when you whip out your camera and make your partner wait for ten minutes while you get the perfect shot of his steak sandwich.  With the use of the Smartphone camera this has become a lot easier, and a lot less obvious, and straight away you can send that piece of cake into cyberspace and have your friends drooling over it in no time.  Usually you are trying to get the shot done as quickly as possible, (I know I am...so as not to draw too much attention to myself in a crowded café) but try to remember a few things.  Go for some different angles; so not always just front on.  Stand up and quickly get a shot from above, or to make it a little more interesting...eat a spoonful of the cake, or have a few crumbs on the plate, or even the fork resting on the side.  Get a little inventive.
These nut butters looked better when taken from above...you get the lovely textures of the different types and it really makes you want to stick your finger in and have a taste!  This is what food photography is all about.  You want people to look at your photo and almost taste the food.
Sometimes you might get all 'clever in the kitchen' and feel the urge to do some baking.  Why not share your creations on social media?!  These cupcakes I made for my boys...it was someone's birthday, can't remember which one now (!).... but I felt they were worthy of a photo.  They probably would have looked nicer resting on a different surface, instead of the cooling rack...even the bench would have looked fine, but I am happy with the background in this shot.  There is just a bit of kitchen flotsam and jetsam floating around in the back there, but as I have taken the shot with a shallow depth of field, the background is sufficiently out of focus to look quite good.  So to get this blurry background, remember to set your aperture to a lower number.  (Tip.  Lower the number..Less in focus!)
Sometimes you might want to take a really set up shot, kind of like a product photo.  You don't always have to have a white background, by any means, but sometimes you might want to have a nice clean background so that your food really 'pops'.  This photo is just some random bits I threw together...as you can see...I'm no food stylist...but I have put it together to highlight the white background.  Make sure you can either shoot near a window or set up a light box, with your artificial light sources coming from both sides.  You may have to adjust the white balance, but you can do this later during your editing.  I have taken this shot from above, so just using a white piece of paper, and set it up next to a large window, but you can also use something white (either paper or material for example) and create a seamless backdrop, (ie. where the white covers the back 'wall' and then curves around to cover the 'floor' as well.  For smaller items you can use a piece of paper.  For larger items I have the back of a window blind that does the job.)
Sometimes food photography can be a bit like a work of art, or even be quite abstract, like the photo above.  Three guesses as to what it is!  Is it the centre of a flower?  Is a spinning vortex of death?  No!  It's what I found when I took the lid off the chocolate flavoured gelato!  This was how it looked before I put a spoon in and ate probably the entire contents in one hit!  The pattern was too fantastic to not take a photo!  Don't be scared to get out the macro lens on your food!  You can come up with some unusual abstract, yet fantastic photos.
Occasionally, with my magazine work, I need to showcase food as part of the article.  This will occur if I am doing a story on a cafe or a food producer, for example I have done a number of stories on farms that make their own cheese.
For these two photos above I have been conscious that the food displayed was fairly bland in colour.  In both cases they really needed the 'pop' of colour with the flowers (I could have used something else to create the same effect) to help lift the photo.  This was particularly the case in the second photo because it was a lot of 'white on white'.
Taking photos of food on display is something else I do a bit of.  It does tend to look better if it's not too cluttered.  This photo above is not the greatest as it has a little bit too much going on.  It's not bad but I find myself getting a tad distracted.  The photo below is better.
It's not as 'busy', and the bench top, despite having a pattern on it, works in really well.  It gives it a lift.  Think about what your food is resting on and what is in the background when you take the shot.
Markets are great places to practice taking photos of food.  These meringues were delicious by the way.
You can get a real sense of a 'story' when you take photos at a market.  Here it obviously was a beautiful day, there is farm fresh produce available, it was a country market, which is hinted at by the wicker baskets and chalk written sign...it was an all round lovely morning.  This photo has made the food seem fresh and natural...which is what it should be.

Sometimes I have to take shots of meals!  They always look delicious!  And that is your aim when taking these types of photos.  To get up close and personal and make them look like you can taste them.  A few of my shots like these have ended up within advertisements in the magazine, so the food really does need to look delicious so readers see it and think..."oooo...that looks sooooo good, let's go to that restaurant".
Think about the angle that you are taking the photo from.  For example this wrap would have looked boring if I had taken the shot from the other end...ie. you wouldn't have seem what was IN the wrap.  Plus the chips are this end.  It's a bit of a no brainer but sometimes in the confusion of doing things in a hurry, which is often the case when I'm out on these types of jobs, it's things you don't think of in your haste.
Sometimes you just have to do the best you can.  This is a dessert and that burgundy blob is sorbet...and it was melting as fast as you can say "wait a minute it's melting."  I had the chef (who put this dessert together) standing behind my shoulder, so this was a pressure shot.  Sometimes you've just got to do the best you can with the time you have.  Needless to say this photo wasn't used, and the other shots I got of this dessert were worse...the sorbet was one big puddle!
This dessert (yes! It is a dessert!) was much easier to photograph.  It just sat there like good 'pretend eggs with little pretend edible bits of twig in them'.  Yes, weird I know.  I played with this one a bit, turning it around until I got the right angle.  Later this shot was cropped a bit to get that edge of the glass in the top right corner out of the photo, which improved the shot too.  Editing can be your best friend, so keep that in mind with your food shots.
When taking photos of someone else's creation keep in mind that you are not the only 'artist' at work.  The chef was hovering over my shoulder here, but this was his dish, with a lot of fore-thought and planning gone into it, plus he was someone that was proud of his craft.  Always try and do food justice when you take a photo of it, particularly when you share it with your friends!
I hope this post was helpful!


  1. Love these tips!! Thanks for sharing :)


  2. Oh my goodness I am STARVING and all of these gorgeous images aren't helping. I'm not much of a cook so when I do take photos of food they're usually as bad as my fare! Thanks for sharing some words of wisdom though!

    1. Thanks for reading Emily! I'm not much of a 'pretty' cook. Things are tasty, but never look this fancy!

  3. Some of these tips are really usefull and I always learn something new when i read posts like this:)
    Would You like to follow eachother via GFC or google+ ?
    Let me know on my blog so I can follow back. ;)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Following along with you on GFC!

  4. Well now I'm starving. (; You made those cupcakes?! They are so cute and look totally professional! (:

    1. The cupcakes were beginners luck I think! These were the best of the bad bunch! I don't have a very steady hand.

  5. I really like your point about getting close up to show the textures of things. I tried doing that with the piping photo on my macaroon blog post (only after noticing that's what you often do, mind) and think it turned out quite well. Thanks for sharing more tips! :)


    1. Ooo...love to see your macaroon photos up close! I do remember that post. I'll go back and have another look.

  6. Very nice!!!


  7. beautiful…Such an inspiration!
    Kisses from Miami,

  8. Thank you for the tips! I'll definitely be trying to spice up my food photos by experimenting with some new angles (and of course, I'm now starving after looking at all this yummy food!)

    1. You are welcome! Actually, I'm hungry too now!