Eight Tips for a Better Food Shot without involving Camera Setting

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.

This is one of my favourite shots. Taken at B.K.T

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.

This photo was taken by me about 3 or 4 years ago. I remember back then i was only snapshot-ing food instead of taking photograph. Everyone has a learning phase but definitely the food shot will be better with every practice.

#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.

A good lighting can almost turn any dish into a mouthwatering one. Photo is taken at Lady M Confections.

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.

This photo was taken at Au Chocolat. The is a typical example of strong sun light coming in from the left thus overexposing the sandwich while the right side, the fries side, was under exposed.

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.

This photo was taken at Huaplachongnonsea Bangkok. There is a blue ambiance light on the top left ceiling and the light caused a blue tint on the dishes.

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.

Before: This photo was taken at Roast Bangkok. This was the arrangement when the dish is served. I wanted the bacon to be my subject of interest so i decided to turn the plate with the bacon facing me. However, the toast don’t look as good as they ought to be as they are facing the right instead of the camera.

After: I decided that the toast was not presented nicely from this view so i decided to rearrange the toast a little bit so that it faces me instead.

#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.

This was taken at Ramen play, with all the unnecessary items in the background as well as the foreground. These item do not enhance my photo in any way.

This photo was taken at Marutama Ramen. The items at the background are arranged and placed there intentionally to make the background more interesting instead of only shooting a single bowl of ramen.

#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).

A typical kind of shot taken at about 45 degree angle. A top-down shot will not look as presentable. This shot was taken at Quince Eatery and Bar from Bangkok.

A typical top-down shot taken at a higher angle. Shot taken at Kim Gary. This kind of shot was taken to show the whole plate instead of a particular item on the plate.

A frontal shot of a Burger from Barrossa. A top-down angle shoot would not show much of the beef patty as it will be blocked by the bun.

#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.

I brought my own pair of scissors to bisect this as i previously tried cutting it using the provided knife but it became too messy due to the crispy crust.

#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.

Before: This photo was taken outside Tango Mango Bangkok. On a typical cloudy day, your photo will appears more blue than usual and looks a little different from the actual color.

After: This photo was post-processed within a minute without altering anything except increasing the exposure, increased a little bit of contrast and most importantly, there is a “temperature” option. Like our light bulb, there is a cool light option or warm light option and the “temperature” works in the same way. I pushed the setting towards the “warm” scale to bring back the yellowish colour into the photo.

#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.

This photo was taken at Big Mama. A very typical shot of a Ginseng Chicken Soup. How do we apply the rule of third for an instagram shot that uses a square crop?

Firstly, i identified the subject of interest as the shredded chicken pieces. As you can see, there are grid lines that splits the photo into nine squares. In this photo, the subject on interest is at the middle square. This shot looks very proper, normal and a typical frontal shot.

From this example, i applied the rule of third, with my subject of interest (which is the shredded chicken) at one third of the photo, that falls on the grid line instead of the center. To a certain extend, this kind of shot will be slightly more interesting to look at. Try and experiment it yourself.


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!

This was taken at Bangkok’s Mango Tango