If you use Instagram, you’ve probably tried to compose some food photography. And it’s harder than it looks! Just like every kind of photography, there are a few rules we recommend to get started. Whether it’s choosing the right angle, avoiding hard shadows, or putting together the best background, here are some easy food photography tips for beginners that will make you say #yum.
Use Natural Light
There is one very simple rule when it comes to lighting for food photography. No flash! Flash creates harsh shadows, and makes your whole picture appear flat. Using natural light gives your subject(s) an appealing, soft look. At the same time, you want to avoid shooting in direct sunlight. Instead, we recommend shooting near a window with a sheer curtain or bounce card to balance harsh light.
Know Your Angle
We’ve all seen them – the bird’s eye food photography shots. Don’t get us wrong, we love a bird’s eye view of something delicious, but it isn’t your only angle choice. Especially with drinks, parfaits, and other vertical food items, shooting from the side offers a more appealing image. If you want to split the difference, taking a picture at an angle (from a side and a bit up) offers some beautiful depth and realism.
Consider Texture & Color
Texture and color are super important in food photography. Differentiating textures (like crunchy nuts in a silky smoothie or crisp julienned carrots in a chunky pumpkin soup) give your still life some dimension. For color, consider using the same pallet or tone. Bright, colorful desserts look great with pastels. Meanwhile, soft browns and blues can accompany grey shells in seafood. You might also electrify your image using opposite colors on the color wheel, like red and green.
Arrange Your Food
Don’t be afraid to experiment with how you arrange your food. While messy-chic is super cool, you might also consider spacing neatly. Vegetables and fruit, in particular, are fun to cut into similar shapes for visually appealing patterns. However, make sure to clean up any spills if you go this route, as patterns combined with messy-chic just looks chaotic. Leave some negative space in the image, too, to give your composition room to breathe.
Decorate Around the Food
Create a story! Adding props to your scene helps draw the audience into the image with a narrative. Fabric table clothes, marble counter tops, or repurposed wood tables are all good backgrounds to set. Spices, garnishes, and additional fruits or vegetables around the primary still life also make great decorations. Flowers or leaves, depending on the season, are another gentle touch. If you’re daring, you might also try silverware, aesthetically appealing books, or a human hand (attached to a body, of course).
Pick Your Lens
While 50mm lenses technically work well for anything, we actually recommend using a workhorse lens (we like this Canon 70-200mm zoom). This gives you the option of shifting between a classic 85mm portrait shot (because, let’s face it, a lot of food photography is basically food portraiture) and a macro shot. Get up nice and close to capture those details!
Be the envy of all your Instagram friends with delicious food photography. Be sure to consider color, texture, light, and arrangement when planning your edible still life. Plus, experiment with decorations and creative angles! While none of these techniques guarantee that your food will taste great, at least it will look like it does.