Food Photography – A Crash Course

By July 23, 2012Photography

Food Photography- A Crash Course

Now that I’m a total expert on food photography (badass), I’d like to share a few helpful tips I’ve picked up.


Know who you are shooting for and what the end goal is: What kind of restaurant is this? How would they describe their style? Are they modern? Rustic? Check out their menu and make a plan. I went online and found some photos that really portrayed the style and feel I was going for, then threw them in a slide show for the client to check out before I began shooting. I think it really helped convey what I was going for, being a lot easer than trying to describe exactly what my vision was to them. Luckily, I hit the nail on the head, all on account of the research!


I really can’t stress angles enough. Don’t shoot everything from the same position: move around, find your light, and keep your mind open! A lot of beginners make the mistake of getting too close to food which makes it difficult to tell what it is – I recommend a safe photo which for me is one straight over the dish. Standing on a ladder or a chair is also extremely helpful with this. Once you get your safe photo, go crazy, Move around the dish like a yogi! I like to stay on the same level as what I’m shooting when I move all around it, It gives the food more depth and creates more interest. I sit and lean way back in chairs or kneel on the floor (bring knee pads!) to help get me at the right level.Chances are, you’re not going to need that safe photo anyway.


Complement the dish

“Oh what a lovely dish you are! So tasty looking!” What I really mean is to add in some background filler, some props. A photo of a pizza on a white plate while on a white background is boring. Throw some ingredients that are used in the pizza around your dish, or a glass of wine or beer! Whatever would go well with what you are shooting. I also love the look of slate, bamboo, butcher block or anything other than a plain table cloth under the dish. It adds so much more character and texture – no plain Jane stuff here.


Fact is, food looks best in natural light. It’s no secret that I have a vendetta against on-camera flash, but if there were ever a time when an on camera flash should absolutely not be used, this is it. I always try to shoot near windows; not directly in the light mind you, but nearby. If one side is too dark, try using a reflector if you have one or a white/lighter colored object to help bounce the light around. I’ve used all kinds of things for this: Sheets, poster board, or even moving my subject around to a light colored wall to get the reflection of the sun.


This is my favorite part of photography and anything design related: Choosing complimentary colors. Two of my favorites are actually red and green, which I know sounds like Christmas, but they always look fantastic together. Orange/ yellow and blue are also amazing together. Play around with your props and background, don’t be afraid to try some weird combos. Check your display screen on the camera: Did that work? No? Well then try something else.