When I look back at my very first food post, a recipe for Pad Thai, I totally cringe at the terrible photographs I took. Sometimes I wonder whether I should delete that post as it is so embarrassing. But then I compare those photographs with my most recent food posts and I can see just how far I’ve come. I realise that I have learnt so much about food photography since I started my blog and keeping that old Pad Thai post helps me to remember just how far I’ve come.
(bad photo = too small for blog, distracting background, poor composition of items)
(bad photo = taken at night under artificial light, orange hue to image, slightly out of focus, all one colour, looks like a plate of mess)
My first forays into food blogging included awful photographs with poor lighting (halogen lights), distracting backgrounds (washing machine anyone?) and rather weird angles. The photos were too small for the post and did little entice the reader to make my recipes. This is despite the fact that the food was very tasty (I know, I’m biased). But as with all areas in Blogging, I have continued to learn and develop my skills over the years. I have spent time practising by taking photos of my food on a weekly basis and spending time researching food photography that I enjoy. The result is a vast improvement from the early days. And whilst I still have some way to go before I am entirely happy with my skills, I am pleased with some of my latest offerings.
Food photography lessons learned:
Natural light is your best friend when it comes to photography. Sometimes this means I am making a main meal in the morning to make the best of the light (it’s ok, I reheat it later for my dinner – nothing’s going to waste here!) but it is totally worth it. Photographs of food taken at night-time under a light bulb look wildly different. They often have an orange hue and look rather drab. Position your dish near a window and preferably the weather is overcast so you don’t get too much contrast (bright sunshine = high contrast). You could always use a net curtain or white drape to diffuse the light if it looks too bright. Early morning or late afternoon are prime times for natural light. Work out the best window in your house to do this and make space there to take your food photographs.
Say no to flash
Do not, I repeat, do NOT use flash. The flash flattens the image and casts an unsavoury glow over the food. It does not make for an appetising photograph. So turn off the flash and make use of natural light.
Think about the composition of the image. Remove anything distracting in the background of the photograph. Ideally you want a plain background, but do think about using pretty tablecloths too. Bear in mind the colour of your food and how this will look against your background. Switch up backgrounds, even use a plain sheet of card or fabric to hang on the wall behind the food.
Some of my favourite food photographs have been taken on my iPhone 5. It has an HD function if I’m feeling snazzy and there are a number of great photo editing apps that help make the image pop. Otherwise, I am now using a 50mm lens on a Canon DSLR and this creates a beautifully sharp image and a lovely depth of field (the blurry background). It has transformed the quality of my images, I love it.
Think about what you can add to the image to create interest. Food looks best on plain crockery, but if the colours suit try some vintage pieces too. Use flowers, napkins, chopping boards or cutlery to add interest to the photograph. Think about colours and shapes that will add interest to the final image. Experiment with angles and different arrangements.
Is your food a plain colour? Is it all brown or beige? Is the texture rather boring? You can make the food look more interesting just by adding a simple garnish such as a sprig of parsley, a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a couple of fresh chilli’s or a slice of lemon.
I have found that if I have made use of good lighting, interesting composition and nice props then there is little editing required. I use Photoshop to crop and optimize the file size for web use. I might tweak the brightness and sharpness of the image to help the food ‘pop’. And that’s it! You don’t really want to add vintage-style filters to food photography as you’ll lose the true colours that make food appetising.
That should be enough useful tips to help you make your food photography stand out. Like I said, I’m still learning every day but with perseverance I have seen a great improvement in my food photography.
Let me know if you have any great food photography tips!
And if you need more inspiration I have a Food Photography pinterest board. Check it out!
This is part of the Blog Chat series – a weekly column sharing Blogging tips and debate.