Five Easy Tips for Food Photography

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Eat what you photograph. Take this tip with a grain of salt: Do not eat too much or what you cannot stomach, but to photograph your subject, you need to know it well. Go to markets, grow vegetables, handle your ingredients, try new dishes, and of course, learn how to cook.

Use a Macro Lens

Food can be photographed in many ways, from many perspectives, but close-ups and sharp details will always be necessary, and a true 1:1 macro lens is not only a useful addition to your kit, but one that will foster experimentation, enable shallow depth of field focusing, and really force you to dig into the textures and details of the foods you shoot.

Macro Lens
Macro Lens

Natural Light

This tip fits in with the “easy” part of the headline, but using natural daylight for your food photography is a good idea not only because it’s easier than artificial light, but because it presents food in a familiar and appetizing way. Of course, easier is a relative idea, because you can control artificial light in a manner that you cannot with the sun, but using sunlight through a window in your kitchen is how many great food photographers got their start and continue to work. Also, with diffusers and other modifiers, outdoor areas around your house can become a studio without the expenses of a strobe or LED kit.

Take Notes and Make Mood Boards

This combined tip came from a conversation with food and beverage photographer Chelsea Kyle, who recommends taking composition notes (with pen or camera) when eating at restaurants or even in the grocery store. In general, this is a seemingly obvious idea, to be observant and train your eye to see forms and color, but also to be open to new ideas. Kyle utilizes the website savee.it as a place to organize her design ideas.

Use Utensils and Other Kitchen Items as Props

Fill your frame creatively and remember that plates of food and certainly preparation of food does not exist in a vacuum―the image does not have to be food only. Use spatulas, cutlery, spices, napkins, weathered tables, and other items to give your image character and to fill the open spots in your composition. I also recommend being creative with sauces and syrups and even with spills that might happen in the kitchen and help bring your image to life.

As much as any photographic discipline, food photography offers room to experiment and to “play” and, whether you are working alone or with a food stylist, the best advice is to study the work of the masters, know your gear, and then let your inspiration flow. Regarding the idea of creative play, I would recommend listening to this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast with food photographers Meika Ejiasi and Cherry Li and, while you’re at it, check out all the great articles and presentations during B&H Photo Food Photography Week.

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