As a marketer, I am constantly reviewing photographs to sell various products. I see some people post photos to social media and wonder, “what the heck were they thinking?” On the other hand, when someone posts a great photo of tacos, my first impression is that I need those tacos immediately!
One of the hardest products to photograph well is food. Your food can taste heavenly but consumers need to “see it to believe it” if you are trying to entice them to your restaurant. A professional photographer is necessary to take photos for your menu but they cannot be at your restaurant everyday. What happens when you want to take a snapshot for Instagram? It is important to learn the techniques of taking fabulous photos that will keep new customers walking through your door.
1. Shoot in Natural Light
Your food photography should always use natural light. Artificial light, such as a lamp, is likely to create an ugly yellow or orange tint.
To achieve natural light, photograph near a window to capture the daylight. Bright sun can often be too harsh and cause exposure problems or cast shadows. Food photography is best on cloudy days. The clouds act like a diffuser, creating a soft light and gentle shadows.
2. Take Control of Shadows
Shadows can enhance or dominate your photos. A great shadow adds depth and visual interest.
The light that you are shooting in usually determines the strength of your shadows. Strong sunlight produces harsh, dark shadows, whereas an overcast day makes the shadows softer.
A common photography obstacles is shadows created by your serving dish or camera. You can avoid this challenge by placing the dish near a window.
3. Use a Neutral Background
It’s important that the food is your viewers center of focus. Messy backgrounds can draw the viewer away from the food. A neutral background will create maximum emphasis on the food in the scene.
Tips to Remember
Dark backgrounds usually look good with dark foods.
Light backgrounds usually look good with light foods.
Wooden backgrounds usually look good with almost any type of food.
White fabric usually works better than brighter fabric.
4. Shoot from the Best Angle
There is many different angles that you can photograph food but there is usually an angle that works best for every dish.
Benefits of Shooting from Above
Shooting above allows you to include all of the details of the food and background. It also emphasizes the bold shapes of the food.
When to Shoot from the Side
Shoot from the side when you have a food that is in layers and you want to show details of a slice.
When to Shoot Diagonally
Shoot diagonally when you want to capture the top view and side view to capture three-dimensional shape of the subject.
5. Arrange Your Food Neatly
Composition is key to great food photography, and the way you position your food should be well thought out. Arrange your food in a neat or unique way to create visual interest or balance.
6. Leave Empty Space
Just because you are shooting an object does not mean your photograph has to be a close-up. Leave some empty negative space to create a more pleasing composition. Negative or empty space is the empty, neutral, or white space in a photograph.
Why Include Negative Space:
Emphasizes the main subject
Creates harmonious and interesting compositions
Adds context, shape, and scales to object
7. Decorate the Scene
Consider decorating the scene with smaller items to make the photo more interesting. The items could be an ingredient, serving utensil, or decorative cloth.
Items found in nature are often beautiful decorations for food photos. For example, flowers, leaves, or a precious stone. You can use the nature technique to depict different seasons. This is a great method to promote holiday dishes.
8. Add a Human Element
Tell a story with a human element. You can add a human element by simply including your hands. You could also create a scene.
For example, if the dish is for breakfast, include a book with one outstretched hand. The dish should be at the center of the photo.
Adding multiple hand will create a sense of movement. Multiple hands could be a good option for a drink or snack.
Photography is not easy and food photography is among the hardest to master. If you are a restaurant owner or food blogger, it is vital that you produce great photos of your dishes.
According to Brain Rules, only 10% of people remember information three days later. If the information is paired with a visual than it is increased to 65%.
I highly recommend improving your food photographs to make your business more memorable. Good luck and have fun!