So you’re about to jump into the world of food photography. Here are my 5 top starters to get you on your way to shooting fantastic food shots!
1) Good Lighting
Food photography, well any photography is all about good lighting. Good lighting doesn’t mean that you go out and buy 2 studio lights, a beauty dish, a few soft boxes etc. Most of the time great lighting comes naturally, so find a nice window, one that isn’t bringing in harsh light (overcast days work best for me) and then set up as usual. Unfortunately for those who have to shoot at night, lights are your only option but if you can choose, keep it during the day.
Diffuse, bounce, do what you must to get the best lighting result. You’ll be surprised how a few adjustments can make highlights come to life. I usually carry 2-3 white boards with me to bounce light and a portable mirror. It’s surprising how handy they can come in.
2) Props and Arrangement
The thing I love most about food photography, as opposed to say wedding photography is that food never complains about having a bad side. It doesn’t move, it just sits there, but you still have to work it. Take a slice, gather the food bits together, pour it, change it up and add the right props to change it up each time. Select props that compliment in colour and style. You want the food to be the hero, and the props are there as “backup singers”. The rule I also keep in mind is less is more, so don’t over complicate it if you don’t have to.
3) Great Attention To Detail
So food doesn’t move, that doesn’t mean that you don’t act fast. Usually you only have only a few minutes before the food starts to “weep” as I call it. It sags and loses its life. Get up close, zoom in, take a few shots, adjust, take a few more, just make sure you work quickly. Remember to make the food the focus and use everything that’s around to compliment it. You have to be a devil with the details. I hear some people say “but I can Photoshop it later”, but where’s the skill in that. If you’re going to do food photography, do it well and do it with excellence. Now that’s true skill.
4) Make It Pop, And Cheat If You Must
One thing you have to remember with food photography is that you don’t have to eat it, it just has to look good. This gives you the excuse to prepare food different from the way it would be cooked – and food stylists do exactly that. Enhance grill marks with a blow torch, add cotton balls for a bit of steam, give it a bit of shine with vegetable oil, you can even use glue for milk (though I must admit I’ve never done that one)
5) Bag Of Goodies
You’re only as good as the tools you carry, so a nice set of lens is imperative. Usually a good 50mm or 35mm lens (f1.8) will work great on an entry-level SLR. Taking a step up, a 50mm (f1.4) lens or even a 100mm Macro lens is perfect for food. They shouldn’t break the bank and usually 1 or 2 jobs should easily cover the costs (especially if you’re going with the 50mm f1.8 (cheapest Canon lens ever though a little plastic)
I don’t know about you but I don’t really have steady hands. A tripod keeps things nice and level, plus it gives me the option of making adjustments without having to lose the shot as such. My Manfrotto is my best friend!