By a show of hands, who is on Instagram for the sole purpose of looking at delicious food pictures?
I’m guilty for sure (and have often scolded myself for idly perusing social media late at night when I should be thinking about things a little more conducive to house-cleaning). Even if your intentions aren’t as ambitious as wanting to be a professional food photographer, most of us could stand to gain a few pointers on how to take better food photos.
I am by no means a professional, but when I teamed up with California Restaurant Month to talk about their Dine On Us In CA Contest, we thought it’d be fun to share a few of the tips on how to make your food photos really shine– whether you’re dining at a CA restaurant or just enjoying a quaint homemade meal. And just to be extra thorough I thought I’d throw in some of my favorite advice from some of my favorite food bloggers as well!
Focus on Lighting
For me the key tip that I’ve learned is that natural lighting is everything. If you’re dining in a restaurant, try to nab a seat by a window so you can capture it in the right light. If you’re at home, take your dish outside!
Natural light rules, so get outside if you can or find a window in your house that gets lots of natural light. Using a white object, like a white cloth towel, is very helpful, it helps make the food pop. Props don’t have to be expensive, look around your house for simple items like old, stained cookie sheets or crumple up a piece of parchment paper to add some texture to your background. Emily, http://www.recipestonourish.com
Turn the flash off and get your food by a window for lighting. Focus on the simplicity of the ingredients – real food is beautiful without a bunch of props and fuss. Renee, http://www.raisinggenerationnourished.com @reneekohley
Just keep moving
Not only is getting the right amount of light necessary, but once you have that part down you may want to play around with angles as well. If you’re sitting near a window, try moving around in different spots so that you can see how the rays of light effect the picture.
Pay attention to the direction of light. Light from the back, side, and front all give a different look. Front light tends to make food look flat. Take something simple, like a piece of fruit, and take photos from different directions to experiment with light. Practice is the best way to learn! Naomi, http://www.almostbananas.net
I spend a lot of time standing, kneeling, bending, climbing and jumping. Well, I don’t actually do any jumping, but you get the idea. Oftentimes the setup and position that I begin with isn’t the one that I use in the final product.
Take lots of pictures at all different angles and use the best. Heather http://thehomesteadinghippy.com @homesteadhippy
Focus on the food
Accessories are great when you see them in food magazines, but for the amateur you should just try to keep it simple. And simplicity usually means close shots of dishes and not a lot of background clutter. A simple towel or cutting board can go a long way, but skip any flashy accessories that may detract from what you’re trying to capture: beautiful, fresh food.
Keep it simple. When setting up the space where the photograph will be taken, make sure there is nothing in the background that will distract from the food you are photographing. A white or black sheet behind the dish is best, keeping the viewers eye one the object you want them to see. Alyssa http://www.puretraditions.com @puretraditions
Food doesn’t have to be complicated, as we discussed above, but throwing in little pops of color with things like fresh herbs or ribbon really makes a photo feel complete. Just remember to keep your garnishes natural.
Think about presentation. You may have the tastiest dish in town, but if it looks like a pile of mush, no one will believe you. Are you photographing a puréed soup? Add some fresh herbs for interest. Are you photographing a chickpea salad? Artfully arrange it on a bed of mixed greens. Going the extra mile is always worth it. Denine,www.weknowstuff.us.com
And here’s a bonus tip from my friend Raia. Winter is a killer for many of us food bloggers because the sun sets so early, but it’s really best to photograph food when it’s fresh (unless you have a professional light setup, which isn’t really necessary for the average photo hobbyist!)
Reheated food is unappetizing in photos. Always take your shots when your food is freshly prepared! Raia, http://raiasrecipes.com/@raiatorn