I’m no professional food photographer, but I do take photos of food every other day and do get asked quite frequently on how to take nice food photos. You could say it’s my hobby to capture what the people around me, and I eat on a regular basis.
While looking for free exercise classes in Singapore, I came across this local foodie who was charging an exorbitant amount for food photography classes. For that level of amateur food photography, I really wouldn’t recommend paying so much for something that you can learn for free from the Internet.
So an idea popped in my head – why not write a quick article that can benefit ordinary people with a penchant for food photography, for free?
Here are some tips on how you can take nice food photos yourself!
1. First, I’ll recommend… ditching your phone to shoot with. There are plenty of small and lightweight cameras you can invest in to really capture the beauty of food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, most professional camera out there. Let’s just say, really great food photography online is usually taken with cameras, not phones. Sometimes I like challenging myself. I always think that maybe, just maybe, my phone can give me a better photograph than my camera can. I’ll take photos of my food, one with my camera, and one with my phone. More often than not, the photos shot with my camera will turn out much better than what my phone is capable of.
2. Don’t be afraid to try different angles. Food is 3-dimensional. Which means, there are many ways you can look at food. Bird’s eye view, side view, the list goes on. If you want to show off the number of fluffy pancakes you’ve cooked up, or number of layers in a slice of mille-feuille, the hard work that goes on behind baking and cooking is best captured by snapping a side-view of the food. You want to capture the sheer height of those delicious pancakes, or super-sized cake.
3. Negative space can speak volumes. Like just how massive that pie, quiche, or cake you just baked really is! Sometimes looking at a whole, uneaten cake can be uninspiring because it’s been left untouched. Take a slice out of it, and people will start salivating. We always want what someone else is having. By that logic, cut one clean slice out of a tart and its absence will whet any appetite.
4. Opt for cool toned plates and tables. Food is usually best consumed hot or warm. A blue, turquoise or green plate will make your food look nice and hot! Likewise, when choosing a table to photograph on, a wooden table with more blue-ish hues to it will make your food look warmer in tone.
5. Warm up your photos. People are more drawn and more likely to ‘like’ more saturated, warmer photos. Make sure your food photographs don’t look dull and de-saturated or cool in temperature. Rarely do you see food photographs in black and white, so make sure to amp up the brightness, colours and vibrancy with your food photos! (But of course, don’t exaggerate it to the point it looks totally unreal, over-exposed and unappetising!)
6. Background is so important. What’s going on around the food is equally important to the food in focus. Keep the background simple and tidy. Or keep the background textured yet organised. But make sure it doesn’t overpower or distract from what your food has to offer! Clear up any messy tissues, arrange your forks and knives like you’re attending an etiquette class, and pick up any unsightly crumbs or receipts. Backgrounds can tell a story. Think of a cook book, or a guide on baking. The food photographs there are always so enticing. Show off your culinary masterpiece by decorating your table or setting with the ingredients that go into what you’ve just created. Think textures and think colour.. Sugar, flour, blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate, marble, wood, metal, cloth. All these will create an inviting and beautiful air to your photographs!
7. Cropping can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to crop, or zoom in. When you crop your food photos, the viewer is drawn immediately to what is the subject of the photograph – the food. And with no other distractions around, the main focus is on the food or drink.
8. Don’t be afraid to use a hand model. Make your food look even more enticing and delicious and hunger-inducing by getting a friend or family member to pose! They can be holding a fork or chopsticks and picking up a dumpling, or pouring chocolate sauce over ice cream and a churros waffle!
9. Use filters! Apparently, filtered photographs do better than unfiltered pictures. It offers a special, vintage aspect to the picture, which makes viewers appreciate it even more! Don’t be afraid to use filters, but use them sparingly. Adjust the filter levels to what you think is a balance between making the food look good, while making it look special, or differentiated, because of the filter!
10. Day versus night. Shooting food photos in the daytime is always easier. To make sure your food pictures turn out excellent, make sure that the camera is facing the food in the same direction as the sun is. This will ensure that the food isn’t in the shadows. As for night time, if you aren’t lucky enough to have good lighting, get a few friends to offer the magical ‘iPhone torchlight’ to shed some light on your food! I hope this post has been helpful and informative in teaching you how to take nice food photos.
[Food photographs all taken at Roosevelt’s Diner & Bar who kindly sponsored the food and drinks in this post. Try out their wine pairing and brand new all day brunch menu! I love their matcha latte, signature salted caramel milkshake, potato pancakes with slow braised beef cheek, and churros waffle! They are located at 331 New Bridge Road, right next to Outram MRT Station.]