FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY 201
Thanks to social media outlets like Instagram, food photography has become all the rage lately. While the overall style of images has changed over the years, with simple, macro photos being favored over the traditional “layout” or “spread” photos from years ago, the rules and tricks to making those images have not. This post is not a comprehensive list of how to make perfect food photographs, but rather a short list of the most common mistakes I made when I started out in this delicate, competitive branch of commercial photography. I had industry titan (and I mean that, she’s AMAZING) Sharon White as my mentor. She provided constructive critiques of every shoot I did, and taught me the following:
Lighting is EVERYTHING
Really. Improper lighting can ruin even the most carefully laid out and styled composition. The main things to remember here? Direction and diffusion. Usually a single light source (I always shoot on my kitchen floor, which you can see in some of the images above, using the natural light that comes through my glass patio doors) is enough to make it perfect. You might have to use small white cards for reflection, which are easy to prop up however you need them.
Diffusers (either in the form of a softbox or a disc) create light that is soft, with less contrast and fewer shadows. This is probably the single, most important part of making an appealing image of any kind of food. Thankfully, they are relatively inexpensive (you can buy the same 5-in-1 set I use here). The diffuser can be used as your background as well, if you get lucky enough to be able to shoot on a rainy day, when the light from the sun is already diffused by clouds.
Less is More
Sometimes, all you need to make a beautiful, successful commercial food image is the food itself. A few simple, versatile props are great things to have in storage in case you need them. My go-to’s are antique teacups purchased for $1 at a thrift store, a bamboo cutting board, white linen napkins, various styles of bar glasses and some vintage looking storage jars, like the china sugar container above. I have tried to set up commercial food shoots many times and have come armed with a car load of props, to which my mentors would say (nicely) “Don’t forget KISS! Keep it simple, stupid!” Some of the most successful still life images are shockingly so.
Composition is Key
Shoot your food images with either a long, prime macro lens (100mm) or with a telephoto lens to minimize distortion. Shoot the same thing from as many different angles as you can think of. From above, at an angle, with different apertures, with props, without props… the list goes on and on. Make sure you know what your client is looking for regarding angles and styling. Flip through food photography magazines for inspiration. Variety in images is vital when choosing which to work on in post. If you take the same shot of a macaron ten times, you will be disappointed later. Be creative. Always think outside the box!!
Photography by Bex
Find me here: [Tumblr | Facebook | Society 6 | 500px]