Great food photography follows the fundamentals of the craft: Good images have strong composition, and usually fall in the rule of thirds. (Though that rule can be broken, and very successfully.) Balance is important, making sure the frame doesn’t feel too weighted to one side. Give objects some breathing room, or make sure they appropriately overlap. Less usually is more.
Fundamentals aside, there are definitely some tips to be successful with food photography — a skill that is becoming more and more necessary in social and digital marketing for food brands, bloggers and restaurants.
Bigger isn’t always better. Work small. If you take a dinner plate or bowl, it will take a lot of food to fill it, and will probably look too big. However if you go smaller it will fill quite nicely.
Advanced tip: Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. If you have a big bowl but not enough to fill it with, put a smaller bowl or half of an apple in the bottom, then fill on top of that.
Set the Scene. Of course food photography is about the food, but the scene will also influence the mood. Think about the surface, the backdrop, the lighting, and any other elements in the frame. Is it rustic or modern? Bright and airy, or dark and moody? The story you are trying to tell will help inform the mood and help you choose the right elements.
Keep color in mind as some foods can be very neutral and blah like bread, or macaroni and cheese. Not that those can’t be interesting, they certainly can. But this is when choosing your surface, backdrop, and props are even more important.
Let there be light. Great light is at the core of all good photography and food photography is no exception. There are a lot of great photographs created all with studio light, but personally I prefer natural light. It can be more challenging at times because you can only control so much and you are limited to shooting while the sun is up. This means you need to find the good light which might not be in a kitchen. Actually, most food photos are not taken in a kitchen. Natural light tends to feel more relatable, as if it’s on your kitchen table and showcases the color in foods more realistically.
Position yo’ self! Look at the food you are trying to photograph and think, what is the best angle to feature it? For example a stack of pancakes or a hamburger is not going to look nearly as interesting overhead as it will straight on or at a 45-degree angle, and a doughnut is not going to look exciting straight on or at a slight angle, but it will be much more interesting overhead.
Consider this: 45 degrees is typically the angle that we naturally view food when seated at a table.
Have fun! In the creative department here at Room 214 we believe that if you are having fun while creating the picture, it will show. Your experience creating the image aside though, it is always interesting to add some movement or a human element to the frame. Try a shot with syrup being poured or with sifted flour. A human element always adds interest such as a hand holding or cutting food.
Looking forward I believe that images will only become more important in marketing. Social media is becoming increasingly reliant on art. There will always be a place for beautiful images, but since social has been around for some time now, audiences are starting to push back on very curated/styled content and are looking for a little more of the realistic mess that life can be.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a very stylized pop art trend in food photography right now that is often minimal and full of bright colors, patterns, and at times gradients. Sonic’s recent square shakes campaign is a great example. This trend is everywhere beyond photography, such as graphic and interior design and clothing.
There are a lot of food bloggers who have started/grown with the industry and many share their insights they have learned along the way. Some highlights all with different styles are:
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. She has an ebook, as well as multiple blog posts.
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