Food Photography: 5 Simple Ways to Get a Stronger Shot

Food Photography: 5 Simple Ways to Get a Stronger Shot


Images by BananaGranola and SuperDewa.

1. Colour Values

Hinamatsuri sushiPart of the attraction of food is the way it looks, so making sure your images exude the correct colours associated with the product. Before you begin shooting always take a white balance reading from a grey card if you have one or if you’re using a compact set the White Balance to a preset that matches the lighting environment you are shooting in.

2. Look for the Best Light

The best light for shooting food is soft and even, which is why a lot of it is shot in studios with large softboxes. But if don’t have expensive studio equipment to hand, position food in front of a clean window for the same effect, or if it’s a particularly bright day and you are getting shadows on your captures, veil the window with a white sheet or net to diffuse the rays or simply move the food further from the light source to diffuse its brightness. Alternatively if the weather is fair, consider pitching up outside and shooting alfresco to add another element of interest to the frame.

3. Background

If you’re using a plate or work surface as the backdrop for your shoot, make sure it’s clean, tidy and no smudges of food plague the periphery. After shooting your first shot, zoom in during playback to be sure you haven’t missed anything that will result in hours of Photoshop cloning post-shoot. The backdrop and setting you use can ultimately enhance the message you want to achieve, so use this to compliment the food rather than detract from it; for example a wooden chopping board suggests rustic, an outdoor table says al fresco, square plates suggest minimalism, etc. Typically white backdrops carry connotations of image stock sites, so don’t be afraid to inject colour into the background using coloured sheets or card if item is small enough, for an added element of interest. When choosing the backdrop use a colour that compliments that of the food or reflects the vibe you want to portray, as darker colours can often influence thoughts of comfort and warmth, whereas lighter, brighter colours dictate ideas of freshness and frivolity.

Soba fusilli

4. Composition

Consider what makes the food look appealing and find a way to sell that feature. A wide aperture works well on products that are presented in rows or clusters and are easily identifiable such as; cupcakes, biscuits, and sweets etc.  If the product is small and plentiful, such as coffee beans or nuts for instance, consider cropping in close to fill the entire frame. Also consider your angle to add interest and sense of depth, scale and perspective. Make the most of interesting patterns and shapes by highlighting this as the focus. Including props to present the product can work well to convey a sense of scale or action, such as ladles, bowls, scales, pestle and mortar, or for drinks consider decorating the glass or backdrop with the fruit or flavours used in the ingredients.


5. Action

As well as photographing the finished article there is a lot to be said for in-progress recipe shots that show food actually being prepared. Consider shots that feature motion such as chopping, blending, frying, rising in the oven etc and using a longer exposure to convey the sense of motion and speed. But don’t forget the tripod!

336/365: preparations

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Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Kathy Adams Clark December 6, 2012 06:59 am

    Great article. Thanks for all the neat tips and clear, crisp writing.

  • Alex December 4, 2012 04:41 am

    Thank you for explaining that.

  • Kimberlee Lockhart December 1, 2012 04:16 pm

    I'm part of a marketing team for a restaurant and we're looking into food photography. I used the hashtag #foodphotography in a Twitter search and I found your article. It was easy to read, easy to understand and the food shots were beautiful! Thank you.

  • Naftoli November 30, 2012 08:37 am

    check out my most recent food photo

  • Matt Ethan November 30, 2012 04:52 am

    Alex, I think it's always ok to crop things out slight yin it makes the picture work better :) play with composition. With food photography I think, often the plate/utensil/glass isn't the subject... What's contained is the subject, so the plate/glass etc, can be cropped IF it makes the composition better :) hope that makes sense I did a few (they're a bit dark, so please excuse) the other week here

  • Alex November 28, 2012 02:23 am

    Why is it OK in Food Photography to cut items out of the photograph like a part of the plate, or a utensil? or a glass?

    Thank you.

  • Sandra November 27, 2012 01:16 am

    Thanks for the great tips! I reblogged this on my blog as well.

  • ccting November 26, 2012 06:28 pm

    It is an excellent article...

    Highlights + Shadow ..defines great 3D Shape
    I see .. rule of odd, forming an beautiful triangle, diagonals, rule of third from pic #1..etc

    Great control of shadows...!! Anyway, do you select the best food, and using chemicals & do some modification on those food?

    I think your lens suffer from CA...

    Great article.. thanks.

  • rich November 26, 2012 11:47 am

    I love good photos of food, although I feel a little nervous about being one of those people that takes photos of everything they eat. ;)

    Here are a few of my attempts:

  • Mei Teng November 26, 2012 11:40 am

    Great tips and beautiful food photos. For food photos photographed from a higher angle (i.e. your photo illustration under tip #4), how does one ensure all the items are sharp and in focus? I have a problem getting everything tack sharp when I photograph from a higher angle.

  • Scottc November 26, 2012 09:23 am

    Great article! Food photography is one of my favorite subjects.

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 26, 2012 08:09 am

    WOW!!! Great tips and great photographs too. I love photographing food a lot. I also love the action, tried photographing strawberry flash once but bad lighting did not bring out that much good photographs.

    BTW shot these pics with Canon EF 40mm STM Pancake lens. :)