In many of our other articles, we have encouraged you to take photos of your food for your website or digital signage. Maybe you’ve already tried snapping a few shots, but they just don’t look as good as you’d like. Some photos make food look unappealing, even if your food is actually amazing. Before you shell out cash for a professional photographer, we’d like to offer you a few quick tips on how you can take better food photography with the camera you already have. Give it a try! Not only will you save yourself the cost of a photographer, but the results can be used instantly on your website, on social media, and in your restaurant.
Food photography lighting
Natural light is always best when trying to take better photos of food. Chances are you have a window in your restaurant. Set up your photo shoot near the window for the best lighting. Natural light from the window also offers good backlighting. Built-in flashes usually make food appear washed out and overexposed. If you need to create a bit of extra light, you can use a reflector. This is as simple as holding a piece of white paper close to your dish to reflect extra light onto the food.
Many cameras have built-in stabilizers, but sometimes, especially in low light situations, that’s just not enough to take good food pictures. You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive tripod to take a better food photo – use things you already have in your restaurant. Pint glasses or coffee mugs work well. They are stable and you can rest your camera or smartphone right on top. Another method photographers use is to keep their arms in. Pressing your elbows to your sides will make your hands steadier.
The Rule of Thirds
The Rule of Thirds is a guideline that suggests an image should be divided into nine imaginary equal parts. Many smartphones and cameras have this grid built-in. The horizon of the photo sits in the lower third of the image and the subject of the photo is positioned to the left or the right, not in the centre. Let’s say you are photographing a cup of coffee on a table. To use the Rule of Thirds, you would set the horizon to where the bottom of the cup touches the table. The cup itself would be offset to the right. This trick helps you create more interesting and intriguing photos, instead of just centering a cup of coffee in the middle of the photo.
Find the best angle
This is where you need to experiment a little bit to get a better images of food. Dishes like salads often look messy if photographed from above, so why not try taking a close up to make sure a few of those freshly roasted nuts and pieces of creamy goat’s cheese make it into the photo? If your dish is intricately plated, like those typical of New Nordic cuisine, a shot from the top will capture all of the elements of the dish. Trust your instincts and try several different angles to capture the best food photo. If you take a photo from the side, be aware of what’s in the background.
Action and Movement
Some food is difficult to photograph, no matter what you do. Take a pizza, for example. Everyone knows it’s delicious, but a photo of a pizza could show otherwise. Let’s say you want to showcase the pizza on a digital sign in your restaurant’s window. What should you do? Try taking a photo of someone cutting into the pizza, or removing a slice from the pan to show the gooey cheese. Or keep the pizza whole and show one of your servers bringing it to the table. Action and movement in a food photo reminds us of the action of eating, making us just a little hungrier.
Less is more. Show your dishes just as they are, freshly prepared. Fast food chains are notorious for spending a lot of money on food styling to advertise big juicy burgers, when in fact the burger may be smaller than your hand and with minimal toppings. Here are a few quick food styling tips for better food photos:
- Soak greens in ice water for a few minutes and shake them dry just before your photograph them. They will look greener and fresher.
- You can brush a bit of oil on hot foods to make them look juicier.
- Don’t put too much dressing on your salads. It will weigh the leaves down and make it look soggy.
- Undercook the food. This will leave food colors brighter and the the dish will look more vibrant.
- Make sure everything is clean. Clean the edges of your plates. Photograph the food on clean linen with spotless cutlery.
You don’t need fancy equipment to take better food images. Sometimes you don’t even need a camera. Many of today’s smartphones are equipped with fantastic cameras, and you can download different photo editing apps for touch-ups.