Plates to Pixels: Food Photography Tips

Food photography is a complex and temperamental specialization, called epicurean photography. Many photographers make their living solely shooting food, as it requires precise lighting and an entire crew of support staff to insure the morsel comes out looking it's very best. A great example of this process is a video by McDonald's Canada where they show you first hand what goes into a perishable product shoot.

Food photography has been something I've been doing a lot of recently. With two downtown Kalamazoo restaurants needing photography for upcoming menu items, I've been busy picking up some techniques on the fly. If you're looking to elevate your next Instagram food shot, here's a few tips that could come in handy:

  • Lighting is everything
    Lighting your dish is the key to crafting a photograph with appealing texture and color. For best results shoot near a large window, as the large natural light source will help your exposure, white balance and present the dish well.
  • Minimize clutter, maximize composition
    When it comes to additional elements on the table, if your silverware, napkin, or the party of six in the background don't add to the photo, it will detract. Focus on what's important and lead the viewer's eye through the photo and your dish.
  • Vary your camera angle
    Try a few different angles when shooting your food items. Slightly tilting the plate, tilting the camera, shooting close to the very edge of the table, or even directly overhead are some examples of an angle change.
  • Keep the plates clean
    Plates, table and props holding the food must be clean and flawless. Since you're going to be shooting close up on your meal, any imperfections will show up and make the dish look sloppy or incomplete.
  • Be Quick
    Cold drinks sweat, greens wilt, and meat will congeal—how unappetizing. The faster you can snap your photos after the plate hits the table the fresher your food will look in the final image. 

  • Capture the five senses 
    Those five senses are: Sense of taste, smell, place, time, and authenticity. These senses will create a sense of impact and awaken your photograph to bring the viewer to the table.

Got all that down? Great, grab your favorite meal and get to shooting! I'd love to see your best food photographs. Share them with me on Facebook, or Twitter.