Food Photography Tips | Simple Recipes
This post is a bit of a twofer. It is a an unashamed plug for my wife’s ebook of really simple recipes along with some general food photography tips. First the tips then the plug:
Food Photography Tips
Simple balanced composition
This is true of most types of photography but is especially true when capturing food. Think of the different elements as basic shapes and compose away. A grape for example is obviously an oval, an edge of a plate can be a sweeping curve and a straight line can be provided by a table edge, a mat or even a knife.
Food needs to be appealing so photographing it is more than a matter of simply recording an exact likeness. One way to make food appealing is to give an impression of lightness. This is not always as easy as it sounds but overexposing by between a third and a full stop can make a huge difference.
Backlit is good
again this can add to the overall airiness of the image. An open door or a window directly behind the food works really well. Expose the shot for the food and not the background to avoid the silhouette effect. Doing this will have the advantage of overexposing the background increasing the overall light feel of the image. Photographed food shouldn’t look stodgy (even if it is).
Get in Close
Point and shoots do this really well. Set the camera on macro (if it doesn’t do this automatically) and get in close – close as in within three or four inches and fire away. Combine the previous tips with this, i.e. backlight and overexpose slightly if needed and you’ll have a professional looking shot. You may need some additional light at the front. I use the edge of the beam from a daylight balanced desklamp for this as the edge is less harsh than the center. Move the lamp as close to the food as you can without it being in shot. White balance is key here and a little trial and error goes a long way. I usually find that the direct sun setting works best even on overcast days.
Know the intended use of the photograph
Up until now I’ve been assuming that the photograph is for the purpose of making the food look as good as possible but that may not be the case. If the purpose is art as opposed to design then a more formal accurate approach may be the way to go. This could require an awareness of tone if the intended output is black and wgite say. Art plays on emotion and the use of food in an image is a really strong way of eliciting a response from the viewer. Ice cream and strawberries lit like June may make the mouth water but it is not difficult to imagine subjects and techniques that would have the power to make the viewer gag. Turn this into metaphor, think, say for example, decomposition and you could be at the start of some very powerful art.
Decide what it is that you are trying to show off
This is more of a general tip than a food specific one but it is hard to get a really good photo of food without giving it some thought. Work out what makes the dish so visually appealing then emphasize it by use of framing and or lighting.
Edit to reinforce the attributes that you want to emphasize
This could be anything from a little cropping to saturating or even desaturating the colors. A small amount of sharpening can also really help.
Really Simple Recipes
Minimalist Cooking 27 Really Simple Recipes by Meg Wolfe
A few months ago my wife Meg launched an ebook consisting of really simple recipes and an essay type introduction about how to take the stress out of cooking.As both of us have been busy we haven’t put nearly as much time into promoting the book as we should have. We both spent a lot of time on this project, Meg with writing and testing recipes and myself with the photography and layout part of the project.
The recipe part of the book is divided up into sections which cover breads, veggie dishes, main courses, pasta, skillet suppers, main course salads and desserts and it assumes no experience in the kitchen. The idea was to present a set dishes that could be used as a basis for future culinary growth.
The ebook costs $4.95 and is available from here, really simple recipes, along with much more information, the full contents and a link for a free sample which includes part of the introduction and a couple of recipes. All the photographs in this post are of meals prepared for the book.