As the technology inside point and shoot cameras catches up to DSLRs, it’s easier to make just for fun food photography look great. Sharing pictures of food and drinks is easier now, too, with uploads to social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook possible in just a few clicks. This connectedness allows us to bond over one thing we all share in common: The love of a good meal! Here are five tips on how to take amazing food photos to share with your friends and family or make your very own cookbook.
Tip #1: It’s All About the Lighting
In any kind of photography, appropriate lighting is essential. When taking pictures of food, the main aim is to show how good the food is, and in weak light or light that looks yellow this can be difficult. It’s tempting to use the flash on your point and shoot or DSLR to overcome dim lighting conditions, but this is actually a bad idea because flash will make the food look flat and untextured. Instead, try to use natural light wherever possible. At a restaurant, ask for a window seat or sit so that as much natural light as possible reaches the food. The photos of all the delicious food you see in magazines is usually photographed with light coming in from the sides or from behind the food. You can practice this at home by opening up the blinds and setting your dish next to that window to get a great shot.
If you have an external flash and you absolutely want to use it then try bouncing the light from the flash by aiming it at the ceiling or a wall that is next to the food. That way you aren't blasting your entree with direct light.
Tip #2: Use a Low ISO
ISO settings help control how much light is entering your point and shoot or DSLR. Since the goal is to get as much natural light as possible, using a low ISO might seem counterintuitive, but using a low ISO ensures that the natural textures of the food being photographed are captured. Low ISO also reduces the risk of grainy or noisy photos, since high ISO ranges reduce photo quality even on the best DSLR. However, if the light you’re using for your food photography is not strong, a low ISO may increase blurriness in your photo due to the motion of your hand when taking the picture. Try improvising a tripod using a napkin holder or coffee cup to keep your camera hand steady.
Tip #3: Photograph At an Angle and Get in Close
This is a 2 for 1 tip. Practice your food photography by shooting at an angle, not from directly above or from the level of the table. This will bring out more of the food’s texture by showing how the ingredients on the plate touch one another and areas of light and shadow make the main ingredients shine. Try holding the camera at a 45 degree angle to the plate, and hold the camera slightly off-center when taking the picture for interesting digital photography. And get in close to the dish. Don't leave too much empty space around the dish that might distract the viewer. It's ok to add utensils from time to time to add a little bit of interest.
Tip #4: Make It Look Appetizing
If you’re shooting at a restaurant, the food will usually be presented that is, arranged in the most appetizing way. If you’re cooking at home, this won’t be the case without extra effort. Arrange a plate so that the signature ingredients are the focal point. For example, with spaghetti and meatballs, the meatballs are the strongest part of the dish, so generally they should be placed in the center of the plate, not off to the side. Consider garnishes like shaved parmesan, sprigs of parsley, and other small details that show care and thought went into the dish and think of these things beforehand, because the longer food sits, the less appetizing it will look!
Tip #5: Focus on the Food
With digital photography for food, the food being photographed should fill almost the entire frame as a general rule. This usually means using zoom or macro mode. However, a little of the background will still show in the photo. If you can control this detail, remember that plain backgrounds are best. If you’re at a restaurant where the background can’t be changed, use selective focus or edit your picture afterwards to slightly blur out distracting details like patterned countertops to keep the food front and center.