Eight Tips for a Better Food Shot
I had received some enquires on tips on taking a good food shot. I am no Pro myself but i thought i’d just share some of the things that I will observe or do for most of my food shots.
These are some pointers that I live by for food photography without involving the technicality of camera setting.
These are definitely not the magic formula to good food photo as I myself still got tons to learn in this aspect but these are some things that I’d comprehend through the years of casual shooting of food.
I will be bluffing myself if I say that the person behind the camera is all it matters. Indeed the person behind the camera plays a big part but I know that certain kind of shots can only be achieved by using a better equipment and to a certain extend, technical knowledge of camera setting must be involved.
However, putting the technicality aside, there are some things that I can do to make the food shot looks slightly better.
Some of us may agree or disagree with some of the pointers but feel free to feedback or to add on and let’s learn together.
And here it goes.
#1. Avoid posting bad photo
A photo can’t be a bad photo when you are the only one who have seen it.
Like selfie photo, only post those that you really like and do not do wholesale upload of food photos.
#2. Get a good table with good lighting because lighting is the key to good photo
A good food photo begins even before the food is served.
As much as possible, avoid tables with harsh spot light that cast unsightly shadow on dishes. Generally, shadow tends to hide or distort the details and texture of our dishes and this is not something we want while taking food photo.
Finding a spot that is near to window with natural light is good. But beware of strong sunlight coming from the window as it can cast shadow on one side of the plate resulting in half of your dish becoming too bright while the other half is underexposed.
Avoid table that is near any coloured light (purple, green, blue) as those light will be cast onto your food and making it looks weird or unnatural.
You’re asking what about taking food photo at very dark places? Unless you have a decent flash or mount your camera on a tripod, it’s fated that the food shot will come out not-as-good. Sorry, without lighting, there is no cure. LOL. So as much as possible, find a spot with moderate lighting in the restaurant.
#3. Chef’s food styling may not be the best for your photo
The chef may has his own unique way to style his food but unlike human eye, the camera may not capture it the same way as our human eyes perceived it to be.
If there is a need to rearrange some of the food items, do it. As much as possible, ensure the subject of interest is at the front and is facing the camera.
Sometimes plate arrangement of hawker can be very minimal so always try to do some basic styling, for example extracting the buried prawn or cockles and placing it onto the top of a plate of Char Kway Teow.
#4. Background of your food is not only background
Sometimes a small potted plant, or a cup of caffe latte can enhance your food photo but sometimes, a plate of half-eaten dish or dirty utensils at the background can spoil a food photo.
Spend a little bit of time to arrange, or at least clear the background of your dish to get a more desirable result.
#5. A good camera angle that works on a dish may not always work on a different dish
Always try out different angles while taking photos of your food and select the best among those food shots.
Generally, a flat dish (e.g. Pizza) looks better when it’s taken from a higher angle while a more 3D looking dish (e.g. Molten Lava Cake) generally looks better when shooting from the front tilted 30-45 degree towards the dish.
Full frontal shot generally works on food that are stacked up and on food where the details can only be captured from a frontal shot (e.g Burger).
#6. No half-eaten food
No one wants to see a photo of a plate of half-eaten Nasi Lemak with a half eaten chicken wing.
As much as possible, if there is a need to bisect the food to show it’s filling, use the cutlery provided.
Worst case scenario when there is no cutlery, i try to tear it using my hands.
Taking a clean bite (without the saliva) of the food is my last last resort to show the exposed fillings.
#7 Always do post processing (or also known as photo editing *not photoshop*) for your food photos
Like a lady who will at least put some light make-up when attending a ball, food photos needed that too!
There are lots of free photo editing apps in the market. Increase the exposure/brightness, increase the contrast, or even increase the sharpness, but all in moderation so that the shot will not appears fake.
You will be surprise how much difference can these simple editing enhance your photo by spending a minute or two on post processing.
And no, it’s not cheating. In fact I saved time by shooting first, and adjusting the setting later, instead of adjusting the setting first, then shoot.
#8 The rule of third (and how to crop your photo)
There is a certain rule for everything and this includes photography. Some genius invented this rule and generally photos that observe this rule should looks better. True or false? You be the judge.
Firstly, identify the subject of your dish. Then, as much as possible, ensure that your food subject is not smack in the middle of the photo but should be somewhere at a third of your photo.
I personally feel that this rule is not always true but is a good guide.
After spending four nights to craft out this post and preparing those photo samples, I hope it does help to benefit some of us out there.
I wish to add on that these tips are not extracted from anywhere but something that I figured out myself so I do not have any article or any website to prove my point.
In fact, I don’t even think that this is a need to prove any point as all of us have different shooting styles and certain things that applies to you may not be applicable for me.
To me, most importantly is to have fun during the process.
If anyone has any further enquiry or feedback, feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.
Salute to all food photography lovers out there for the sacrifices even to an extend of eating only lukewarm food instead of a piping hot one.
On behalf of all food photo enthusiasts, I would also like to thank all the black-faced friends out there for their patience who goes “Enough or not? When the hell can i start eating?!”. LOL.
Shoot First, Eat Later!