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Play with Your Food - Tips For Better Food Photography

by Paul Cook | August 14, 2013

Do you love food? Do you feel that the aesthetic appeal is what captures the attention of a prospective eater? Well, you are absolutely right. The bestselling cookbooks are those which have the most beautiful pictures in them. But food photography is not just about cookbooks, it’s also about connecting different cultures and people. Food is that one thing where people come together. You can reach out to different regions of the world with your food pictures.

So if you have been thinking about adding food to your list of photography achievements, now is the time to start playing with your food. Here are some tips to let you get the basic know how of food photos.

What Your Food Photography Communicates to the Viewer

This is perhaps the most important aspect of food photography. You can't take random pictures and expect people to love them. Your photos have to have a theme, they have to tell a story. If there is no interconnectedness in your photo portfolio, then the entire thing is a waste of time, effort and money. Therefore, before you start clicking away, think of how you intend to proceed with your project. Decide a theme in your mind and then follow it through. Do a search on Pinterest for Food Photography to get some inspiration. You can find ideas for what you like and don't like there. If you see something you like break down the elements of the photo to determine what it is you like. Is it the light, the composition, the props? All these things make up great food photos. If you already have some work then show it to some other professional photographers for honest feedback. This can be a good starting point to point out your strengths and weaknesses.

Not Just the Finished Product

Taking food pictures is not just about the finished product on a plate. It's also about all the ingredients and the process that lies behind its composition. So one idea is not only to take photos of the finished photo, but take pictures of all the ingredients that are used in the making of a particular cuisine. The best part about taking pictures of ingredients is that they are visually very attractive and there are millions of ways that you can capture the essence of the ingredients. Get creative in how you present the food and ingredients, whether it is an organic ensemble of ingredients or a neatly aligned photo with perfect symmetry. Sometimes it is the ingredients that can get you a picture that is worth more than the completed food plate.

The People Involved

Food obviously does not get cooked by itself. There are many people involved in the construction of something as simple as a salsa. There are the fruit and vegetable vendors, the butchers you get your meat from, the spice sellers and of course, the cook. Take their pictures too. You can get them to pose or take sudden shots while they are working. Be careful to take in their expressions as they would range from one extreme to the other with every emotion in between.


The Actual Final Plate

This will have to be a stellar shot. Be very careful of lighting, the use of flash, the colors of the food, the plating and more. You have to take a shot in such a way that the food on the plate becomes the highlight of the photo. Take neutral settings that do not compete for attention with the food. Take the shot from a variety of angles and then decide which ones are the best and should be made part of your portfolio or the cookbook you are working on. Experiment with your lighting. Many times professional food photographers will photograph with natural soft window light coming in from behind or just to the side of the plate. You achieve the same effect with an off camera flash with a softbox or umbrella modifier to soften the light. Position the flash at a slight angle behind the plate of food and use a piece of white paper to bounce some light toward the front of the food.


The Food Enthusiasts

Food photography would remain incomplete if your photos don't show people enjoying that food. Close ups of hands cutting the food or sitting back with a hand on their stomach can be a nice finishing touch. Be careful to stay away from any unflattering photos of people putting food in their mouths or chewing photos...those are rarely attractive photos.









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There are so many interesting formats to display your photography and art nowadays. Take some time to experiment with what your photo style looks best on. From different photo papers, canvas printing, metal printing and even wood. That is the short list...there are many other unique display materials out there to choose from. Find what works for you.

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