Top 6 Tips for Photographing Your Food
If you haven't tuned in to Dine Out Vancouver's takeover of our Instagram feed, click over now to join in the fun! Then immediately sign up for the Food-tography Culinary Photography Tour (happening this week!) with Vancouver Photowalks' Suzanne Rushton. Before you hit the streets, here's the inside scoop on mastering your foodie shoot.
There is a reason Instagram is so popular and 80% of the photos are of delicious food! We all love food porn, and whether you’re shooting on a mobile or DSLR, these tips will help you keep your followers salivating.
As photographers we’re always concerned with the light. Where is it, what’s the source, what direction is it coming from, how much of it is there? Generally speaking, more light is better. If it’s daytime, shoot by a window. Position yourself at the window looking inwards at the food so you are not facing your camera into the window. If it’s night, find a decent light source. More light is better than less, especially if we’re in a restaurant and only have our phones. Lately I have been using the flashlight from my mobile phone, or a friend’s phone, to light the food as I like, allowing for a brighter and sharper image. If it’s dark and you are using a flash, consider placing a napkin or other white film over your flash, to diffuse the light (similar to a studio softbox). This will create more natural looking light. Oh, and don’t forget to watch your shadow to make sure you’re not blocking the light.
Maybe we don’t need a glass or cutlery in the shot, or maybe it’s part of the shot. Check your composition and eliminate elements that don’t add to the final image. Move the item or move the camera. Try tilting your camera a bit to add a dimension of interest to the shot. Or, go the opposite direction and create symmetry. Try standing up and shooting from directly above your “subject” for the bird's eye view perspective as well.
3. Get closer!
We want to isolate the food we are shooting and remove unnecessary "noise" from the background. Food is great, because it doesn’t mind if you’re in it’s personal space. Show us the warm and melted chocolate chips, or the freshly sprinkled basil on the oven-roasted pizza. Highlight the delicious details of your dish.
4. Use colour and unique surfaces
Background elements can make an image pop! If there is a colourful placemat, use it. If the table is a rustic wood, use that. If the surface is neutral, take the opportunity to zoom in more on the food you are capturing. The background can say something about the personality of the restaurant you are in. As a rule, it’s better to shoot MORE rather than less; you can always crop, but it's impossible to add elements that weren't captured!
5. Focus and depth of field
With both our phones and cameras, we can select what we want to be in focus. Generally we want the item closest to us to be sharp and the elements further away to be slightly blurry. This is called a shallow depth of field, and you will notice it in most food photography. The point of this is to draw attention to the most interesting part of the dish.
Shoot your food before you’ve eaten half of it! When we’re on the fly, it’s important to shoot right away so the food is at its freshest: still steaming with garnishes in place. Think like a sports photographer, and be prepared for the action. Cheese hardens, spinach wilts and meat juices stain plates, so anticipate the action and be prepared to act fast.
To summarize, as soon as your food comes, take it over to a window or the best light in the house. Remove the non-essential items, face into the restaurant with your back to the window, and take a few shots from a few different angles. Try focusing on different elements of the food. Don’t forget to upload your best image, and then sit back and enjoy your meal. Repeat with dessert!
Suzanne Rushton is the founder and principal photographer at Vancouver Photowalks. She is based in Vancouver and also owns Feeling Photography and Victoria Photowalks.
by Suzanne Rushton