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13 Creative Food Photography Ideas (For Unique Results!)

13 creative food photography ideas

If you’re looking for creative food photography ideas, then you’ve come to the right place.

Because in this article, I’m going to give you 13 fun ideas to take your food photography to the next level.

So if you’re ready to move beyond basic food photos, and if you want to start creating compelling artistic images with your food…

…then let’s dive right in!

creative food photography ideas food as a map of the world
Food photos can have a message and a concept.

1. Try different points of view

Here’s a simple yet effective food photography idea:

Change your perspective.

You see, most people view their food from a sitting position. And that’s how many casual food photographers approach their food.

But if you adjust your angle, you’ll capture food in a very different way.

Here are some perspectives you could try:

  • Bird’s-eye view: Aim your camera directly down at the food from above.
  • Plate level: Get down on the same level as your plate and photograph across it.
  • Wider scene: It’s tempting to focus only on the food. Instead, use a wider lens to show the scene around the food (plus the food itself, of course!).
shooting a plate from above
The bird’s-eye view angle is an effective one! Here, some food styling adds to the overall look.

2. Experiment with the white balance

Food is often photographed with an off-camera flash, which opens up a lot of creative possibilities.

One trick:

Put a gel on your flash (such as a blue gel or an orange gel). Then adjust the white balance of your camera to compensate for this color shift. Finally, fire your flash at the subject (while aiming to keep the background untouched by artificial light).

If you’ve done your work carefully, you’ll end up with a colorful background (a color opposite that of the flash gel), but neutral food!

3. Use a food artist

Getting someone to professionally style your food before shooting will give your photos a more creative feel.

As a photographer, you’ll be leaning on the creativity of your stylist here; your job will be to compose and light your image in a professional way.

close-ups are an artistic creative food photography idea
Detail photos can create an unusual narrative. This is a close-up of a Korean kimbap slice.

4. Try out some light painting

Food photography is, in essence, a form of still life (though one that needs to be carried out while the food still looks fresh!).

As with most still life photography, you can use light painting to give your images a more dynamic look.

Here’s how it works:

First, set up your food and determine your composition.

Set your exposure, making sure the shutter speed lasts 10 seconds or more.

Then fire off a shot and use some form of light to “paint” your food.

(Anything that emits light could be used, from a smartphone to a programmable LED light stick.)

If all goes well, you’ll end up with a very pro-looking image!

light painted pastry
Light painting with food photography is fun! I used a smartphone to create an artistic background.

5. Think about the background

If your photograph includes a background, you’ll need to use it in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Because the background matters – almost as much as the foreground, in fact!

Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies you can use to create a stunning backdrop:

  • Bokeh: Use a large aperture, focus on your main subject, and blur the background. Add some lights in the background for beautiful bokeh light balls.
  • Plain: Stick colorful paper or a painting behind your subject for a more standard, plain look.
  • Show a scene: Include the wider scene to give your food some context. (This could even include the restaurant where the food has been served!)
bowls with background bokeh
A large aperture blurs the background into beautiful bokeh.

6. Reflect your food

Here’s a creative food photography idea that makes for very modern, sleek images:

Reflect your food in glass for a double image.

Simply set up your food on a glass panel. Then lower your camera angle until you get a nice reflection in the glass.

You’ll want to make sure your food is well-lit – but be sure to avoid obvious balls of light bouncing off the surface of your glass.

cake reflection with bokeh in background
Here, a cake is reflected on a sheet of glass.

7. Tell the story

Cooking and preparing food is a process.

So every dish goes through a journey before it gets plated and put on a table.

Try to document that journey! Look to take photos of food at various points along the way to the table, so you can create a complete picture of the food.

Here are a few times when you might want to photograph food:

  • When it’s growing. Food needs to be produced, and photographing it during this phase can help you tell a story, especially if you’re creating a series of images.
  • When it’s sold. A visit to the market is a fantastic opportunity for food photography because vendors often display their food in an interesting way.
  • When it’s cooked. If possible, photograph the chef as they prepare the food. Pro tip: If you can capture the chef adding the finishing touches to a dish, you’ll get an especially satisfying shot.
  • On the table. The majority of food photos are of the plated meal. There’s nothing wrong with photographing food at this point; just aim to use some of these ideas to capture more creatively plated food photos.
a chef framed by rice paper
A chef creates a fresh spring roll with rice paper (and he’s framed by rice paper, too!).

8. Create some detail photos

Get out that macro lens, and get in close to your food!

First, this will offer some interesting, never-before-seen perspectives.

Plus, focusing on the detail or shape of food just makes for some very cool photography!

Try focusing on a single item of food. Then switch it up, and capture lots of the same food repeating throughout your photo.

food framed with key objects is one example of a creative food photography idea
An off-camera flash captures the steam coming off the noodles.

9. Frame your food

Food photographers rarely frame food with important contextual elements.

But if you can find ways to create an interesting frame, you’ll end up with a much stronger composition.

For instance, you might try surrounding the main food item with items that relate to it, as I did in the photo below:

strawberries framing the food in the center
Here, the strawberries frame the main subject and add narrative to the photo.

Or you can use plates or cutlery to frame the food.

Really, the sky is the limit!

10. Try lensball food photography

Lensball photography is a fun technique that uses a crystal ball to create unique photos. Like this:

sushi in a lensball
A lensball can provide a different perspective for food photos.

And they’re easy to use, too!

Just place your lensball close to the food…

…and you’ll get a very cool result.

11. Shoot food floating in midair

If you want to get a bit wild with your food photography, then try some midair shots!

For instance, you might show a banana floating off the ground, or a carrot suspended against a dark backdrop.

And if you want to take this a step further, you can try cutting up the food – so you get a set of suspended food slices smack-dab in the middle of your photo.

Of course, you’ll need to build some type of stand for your food (or use a technique like this one here), and you’ll need Photoshop to complete the effect.

But if you’re willing to put in the work, the results will be worth it!

12. Create a splash!

You can use water (or other liquids) to give your food a fresh feel – especially if you’re willing to get the food wet.

Now, there are a couple of different approaches to this. Both use flash to get that moment of capture.

  • Splash: Drop liquid-like milk, water, or juice onto food to create a splash.
  • Food into water: Drop food into a tank of water. Then photograph the food as it creates bubbles and splashes. Of course, this works best with fruit and vegetables; cake will likely be a bit messy!

13. Freeze your food

Here’s your final creative food photography idea:

Put your food in a tub of water, then stick it in the freezer.

Check back in a bit, and you’ll have a block of ice – with the food encased inside it!

Take out the block and photograph through the ice. You’ll end up with some unique images, like this one:

frozen fish in ice
I froze these fish in a block of ice.

While you can try this technique on many different types of food, I like to use it for fish photography. It can even look like the fish are swimming in the water!

Creative food photography ideas: final words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you know plenty of creative food photography ideas.

And you’re well on your way to capturing some unique photos.

So take your camera, find some food, and have fun!

Now over to you:

What food do you plan to photograph? Which of these creative ideas do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

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Simon Bond
Simon Bond

is a specialist in creative photography techniques and is well known for his work with a crystal ball. His work has featured magazines including National Geographic Traveler. With over 8 years of experience in lensball photography, Simon is an expert in this field. Get some great tips by downloading his free e-book!
Do you want to learn about crystal ball photography? He has a course just for you! Get 20% off: DPS20.

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