How to Shoot Food Photography?

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There is nothing worse than using the same images over and over again. Its important to have a great rotation of quality food photography images, so your social media/ print/ website is as fresh as it can be on a year round basis.

1. LIGHTING

Maximize Natural Light

Find a room with large windows, ideally on the top floor of a building, in order to take advantage of natural looking daylight.

Back Lighting

Back lighting is a key element to great food photography. It accentuates the texture of the food and highlights important details such rising steam. Your back lighting can be a wide soft source such as window light, or, it can be more direct and harsh. your choice of light should depend on the food you are photographing. This is where experience and experimentation are important. Rarely will a single light source provide the best lighting for food. At a minimum, you will need white cards to provide fill light to various parts of your plate.

2. THE SETTING

Mobile

Keep your set mobile, especially if you are dependent on window light. Create your food set on a table with wheels or a tray that you can carry around. The sun moves quickly and lighting can change within minutes. You want to be able to move your set without having to recreate the entire set.

Convey the Season

Use the background to convey the season. If you’re shooting for Martha Stewart and the article is about spring, you want light, bright, springy colours. Or if its fall, you’ll go for a darker richer feel.

Learn to white-balance your shots, either while shooting or on the computer (not bad if you shoot RAW). Nothing sadder than seeing a good looking plate of food that is all blue or orange because of this simple mistake.

Props

Professional stylists hire their props — crockery, cutlery and linen — from specialist companies. However, there are always interesting pieces knocking around in charity shops and second-hand stores. For a rustic feel, try putting your dish on a wooden board and a very simple linen tea towel. For barbecued dishes or canapés you could present little skewers of food in glasses.

3. THE FOOD

Preparing the Food

Prepare two plates that are exactly alike. Use the first plate to get your equipment set-up. Then, bring out the second plate (often referred to as “the hero”) when you are ready to shoot. If the food you are shooting is a cold dish, keep the hero in the refrigerator until you’re ready for it. If the food is a hot dish, under-cook it, and then keep it warm in the oven while you finalize your lighting. The reason you under-cook it, is because it will continue to cook on its own: even if it is just sitting on a counter. This is especially true of pastas and meats.

Oil & Water

Have two spray bottles handy. Fill one with water and the other with vegetable oil. If you have a can of cooking spray, this also works well. If you’re shooting a cold dish such as a salad, right before you shoot spritz it with water. If you’re shooting a hot dish (especially meat) spritz it with vegetable oil or cooking spray. This will give it a fresh cooked glisten. The key here is- Go lightly!

4. PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES

A Tripod

A tripod. It’s nearly impossible to photograph food without a tripod for two reasons: If you use natural light you will likely need to operate at a somewhat slow shutter speed and you cannot hand hold your camera and get perfectly sharp shots.

Depth of Field

In advertising, there is what’s called “visual priority.” When you’re shooting a commercial assignment, is to prominently feature the products strengths. Part of it is lighting, but you also have to decide where you want them to stop and stare. That should be the sharpest part of the photograph. Most food looks attractive when only a portion is in focus. Adjusting to a wider aperture, which gives you shallow depth of field.

Experiment

Get some safe shots first, covering the whole plate from above, 45 degrees and horizontal. Then get in close and take some more daring shots of details, and play with lighting to create more dramatic highlights and shadows. It is nothing to take 20 to 50 shots of a single plate of food so that you can pick the best one later.

Shoot Tethered

A very simple, yet highly effective, way to come off as a polished, professional photographer is to shoot tethered. If you’re unfamiliar with tethered shooting, it is basically the act of connecting your camera to a computer or tablet, which allows your clients to see your shots on a screen just seconds after you’ve pressed the shutter. This might sound intimidating, but it’s a very simple way to make sure that you and your client are on the same page throughout the photo shoot. It also invites your client to actively participate in the shoot and give you feedback and their own ideas. Tethered shooting is very easy to do using a USB cord or even Wi-Fi technology if your camera has this capability. If you have the means to shoot tethered, definitely consider offering this service to your clients.

Transmit Photos via Wi-fi

If you have a client who is shooting alongside you with their iPhone, chances are it’s because they want access to photos for immediate posting on social media. Do yourself and your client a favour and offer to send them images on the spot using in-camera Wi-Fi, or do a few quick edits and transmit some shots directly from your computer if you’re shooting tethered.

5. POST EDITING

Shoot RAW

Shoot RAW if at all possible; it gives you way more ability to adjust the shot on your computer later without losing detail or amplifying noise.

Colour Balance

Nothing will make your food photography look more yucky than an orange or blue cast to the food. With many forms of photography you can put the camera on auto WB, go with it and then tweak it in post. Breads, pies, and pastries are often enhanced with a slightly warmer tint. Cooked meats look yummy with a little red added. Go lightly when adjusting colour.