Top 5 Tips on How to Photograph Food

Top 5 Tips on How to Photograph Food

A Guest Post by Deidra Wilson.

Food Photographer Vegas Deidra Wilson DPS

Many of you may want to step up your food photography from iPhone to fabulous, but you’re sure that it’s quite impossible to do without a food stylist and ten grand worth of gear to help you make that dish look amazing. I am living proof that that’s just not the case. If you have a team that is willing to work hard and a location that allows for great lighting, you’re more than halfway there.

1. Work with a great Team – Even if You’re the Only One on it

Since you likely don’t have a food stylist, make sure you have a chef that’s willing to go above and beyond when it comes to plating the dish. You want everything to be brightly colored and placed neatly. Any garnishes should be super fresh (no wilted greens, please!). Sauces, when used as decoration, should be bright and shiny. Since you don’t have a stylist, you’re in charge of styling the food on the plate. Look through your lens and take a few test shots. Look at the images and determine what (if anything) is detracting from the image. If there is, fix it and try again!

2. Keep it Fresh

If you must photograph for an extended period of time, you may wish to replace parts of the dish as needed. For example – melted cheese will harden quickly and no longer appear appetizing. If you are photographing any type of meat, it will likely start to release juices that will mar the plate. Re-plate it and keep shooting! It’s better to take the time to redo something, rather than try to correct it in post-production.

3. Focus on the Details

For example, if you have a piece of meat that is grilled, make sure those grill marks are beautifully straight and perfectly criss-crossed. If you have a sushi roll, make sure the pieces are placed in an appealing manner and that any details like sauces or garnishes aren’t detracting from the image. Sometimes less is better when it comes to food photography. A plate with too much going on will easily detract from the star of the image.

4. Use an Abundance of Natural Light whenever Possible

Natural daylight tends to be the most flattering for any subject, food included! I love to shoot food right next to a big window. You can either backlight it by shooting into the light, or use the available light to light your image. If you must use lights, try to use daylight-balanced hot lights or strobes (around 5000K if possible). This will nearly replicate natural light and allow you to achieve beautiful results.

5. Use a Shallow Depth of Field

This creates interest and drama in the subject and allows you to make the best of the available light. When you shoot with a shallow DOF, you’ll want to keep the focal point towards the front of the image. So, if you’re photographing a sushi roll, don’t focus on the pieces furthest from your lens – focus on the piece closest to the front and let the rest of the roll elegantly fade into a beautiful bokeh.

Overall, have fun with it! I’ve been photographing food as a commercial photographer for more than a decade. Every shoot is different and I’ve worked under nearly every condition imaginable, including completely dark rooms. Be creative, be willing to think outside the box and get ready to experiment and have fun.

Deidra Wilson is a Las Vegas Photographer who loves to make the best out of any lighting situation and create incredible images from seemingly nothing. You can follow her on Twitter at @deidraphoto

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Some Older Comments

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 7, 2012 05:22 am

    Great points!!!

  • Pramod October 27, 2012 07:06 pm

    very useful. simple easy to understand.

  • anne October 26, 2012 12:04 pm

    Great tips ! I still have a lot to learn re photographing food ! :D

  • KenP October 26, 2012 11:29 am

    Tips 3, 4 and 5 are a must for food. Here's my attempt:

  • Lianna October 26, 2012 10:16 am

    Hey, these are excellent tips for Food Photography, which I'd like to experiment with more. Natural light is my forte.

  • Nuspa October 25, 2012 07:40 pm

    here my try to photograph food !:

  • Arfa Mahmood October 21, 2012 07:24 pm

    Exceptional article Deidra, very different idea, and thanks for the tips. Will surely use these tips for capturing my food next time :)

  • Eric Heymans October 21, 2012 03:01 pm

    I'm wondering if a Tilt&Shift Lens wouldn't be also very useful for food photography ?

    I saw a couple of pictures a friend took and it looked just .. great .. :)


  • Jay October 21, 2012 02:29 am

    Nice post!
    I'm wondering if adding minimal silver (cutlery), showing just the fork tines for example, will enhance... need to try today :)

  • Jay October 21, 2012 02:29 am

    Nice pist!
    I'm wondering if adding minimal silver (cutlery), showing just the fork tines for example, will enhance... need to try today :)

  • Ron October 20, 2012 10:51 am

    Good article, howver I disagree with your last point and the picture you have attached to the article. While most of the picture is very appealing, I find the large chuck of meat in the lower right-hand corner that is out of focus to be very distracting.

  • Scottc October 20, 2012 07:03 am

    All great tips! I've tried food photography and it was a fun subject.

  • Mridula October 20, 2012 04:22 am

    I only get to photograph food that I order and most of the time the restaurants have low lights. Still have to try and liked the shallow depth of field idea.

  • Boon Koh October 20, 2012 01:55 am

    For a Canon 500D SLR, what lens would you recommend, if I'm looking mostly to take pictures of food I'm eating at restaurants? I won't have any professional equipment with me and it will literally be me sitting right in front of the food.

  • Jai Catalano October 20, 2012 01:22 am

    Now I am hungry. Overall have fun is truly the way to be because it will be challenging no matter what you do. Also not everyone is going to like what you do and that is ok. In the end of the day you have to feel great about your work and that is all the matters. Unless you have a boss or a wife :)

    By the way do you like deer?