Do you get mad when people take photos of their food? Well then, we can’t be friends.
I posted this photo + caption on my instagram after attending a Food 52 x Blurb Books Food Styling event in New York City last week. We were in a beautiful Chelsea loft, surrounded by candlelit tables – styled personally by Food 52’s Art Director – filled with unique table settings, napkins and food perfectly placed for the ultimate food photo.
I was thus inspired to share a few tips on how you can take better food photographs – and believe me, there is no shame in my game. My life is a constant battle between my love for food and not wanting to get fat. But styling + taking photographs of delicious food is almost as fun as eating it afterwards.
1. Find the right lighting.
Lighting is one of the most important things when it comes to food photographs. Please note: nothing looks good in flash. If you’re in a romantic, dimly-lit restaurant, your photos of your food are most likely going to suck. That’s just the plain truth. I often don’t even bother taking photos of my food if there is not enough lighting.
I often try to get a window table, or a table directly underneath a skylight during the day to make sure that I get great lighting for a restaurant I’m documenting.
If it’s night-time or there are no windows in the restaurant, try to take note of what areas are relatively lit via lamps + candles (maybe not filled with daylight + sunshine), and shoot from an angle where the light is behind you, not behind the food. The light should be shining on your food, not casting a shadow.
Do you have a candle on your table? Move it closer to the food you want to shoot, to bring more light into the photograph.
KEEP YOUR HANDS STEADY. As steady as possible. When there is lower light, there is more chance for your photograph to be extremely blurry. To combat this, keep your camera + hand as steady as possible when taking the photo.
P.S. if you are using a DSLR, you are probably going to need less light to get a great food photo – check your settings, and increase your ISO, decrease your F stop and shutter speed to let more light into your lens and your photograph.
2. Don’t be afraid to stand on stuff.
I know. It can be incredibly embarrassing when someone is standing on a chair or even a table to get a photograph of the table spread + food, but if you take yourself seriously enough, don’t be afraid to do what you have to do to get the perfect shot.
Experiment with different angles. Move stuff around. Throw away dirty napkins or hide them outside of the frame.
But most importantly: be careful. Standing on a chair to take a photo of your food is a lot less embarrassing than falling while standing on a chair to take a photo of your food.
Here are some of my favorite food shots that I stood on a chair / table / random piece of furniture / on my tippy toes to execute:
And to top it off – every single one of those photos were shot on an iPhone! You don’t necessarily need a super expensive camera to take great food photographs. 🙂
3. Space out the items on your table.
Give your stuff some room to breathe, people!
A crowded table doesn’t always make for a better photograph. Give each piece of silverware, cup or bowl enough space to make them stand out, especially when shooting from the top – down. Pay attention to details. If there’s a dirty spoon, wipe it off and set it back down. Dirty napkin? Toss it!
4. Edit Your Photos!
Taking the photograph may seem like it’s the most important thing, but to me – it’s editing. Editing a photograph (with the right tools + eye), can make a mediocre photo into a magnificent one.
I always pay attention to the following things when editing photos:
If the bulbs inside the restaurant + venue are yellow, your photos are probably going to turn out very, very yellow. Sometimes it can be a good thing, but most of the time – I try to decrease the warmth by adding more blues to the overall hue of the photograph.
If your photo is too blurry, chances are – sharpening will only make the quality of it worse. But, if you’re happy with your photograph and want to really add detail to the subject – increase the sharpness / detail. This will make things really pop – whether it’s emphasizing the bubbles in your glass of champagne or the buttery, juicy goodness in your steak – when done correctly, sharpness can help boost your photograph in a really great way.
This is the utterly subjective part of editing photographs + finding your own vision, and it is often developed over time. But the best part about this, is that it can change very frequently depending on how you decide to express your vision through your photograph. Filters can help bring moods to your photos. Do you want to make the photograph really dark and edgy with a lot of shadows? Or do you prefer a bright, airy photograph with as much detail as possible?
I often use the VSCOcam app (it’s free!) to add filters + manipulate the mood of my photograph. Play around, experiment and try everything!
5. Make sure you have options!
There’s nothing worse than getting the perfect set-up, lighting and food, only to find out that that your only photo was blurry. Or there was a gross napkin that ruined the picture.
Take multiple photos and then look through them + edit your favorites afterwards. I can often take almost 20 photographs of the same set-up and then look through them to pick my favorite one. I can be a bit excessive about this stuff, so don’t feel like you need to take 20 photographs of the same setup, BUT – I do encourage you to play around with different spreads, dishes and styling options.
A table or a bowl or a dish can look completely different from a different angle. Maybe if you stand a little further back, you’ll be able to create a different mood. If you get out of the light, your photograph could become significantly brighter and less blurry.
Experiment. Practice. Edit. And HAVE FUN! Oh, and please make sure you eat your food before it gets cold!
Big, big thanks to Blurb Books + Food 52 for inviting me to this awesome Food Styling Event. I have always loved food and photographing + styling it, and I dream of having my own beautiful kitchen + workspace one day to mess around, bake/cook and do creative video stuff with recipes + chefs and other foodies. But until then, I’ll just keep wandering around to different restaurants to try + photograph delicious new dishes + drinks!
Blurb Books is a platform that allows you to publish your ideas into professional print books. It’s also a budding community of other creatives who have also turned their ideas into real, high-quality, beautiful books! Can’t wait to refine some of my photographs down and publish my very first photo book. If you’re looking / interested in printing books, check them out. Facebook + Instagram.