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Part 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!