Ten tips on how to ensure your food photography looks classy, not cheesy
In photography terms it should be simple. Food is an inanimate object. It can’t shuffle around like people, you’re not reliant on weather conditions and you can control the lighting and the setting.
‘Intagramming’ food is now ‘a thing’. Everyone with a phone appears to be capturing meals out or homemade delights for public consumption.
But oh boy, can it go wrong.
If your trade is a restaurant, catering or food supplier of any sort, you need to get your food photography right.
The challenge is, that usually when we judge the appeal of food, we don’t just use one sense. We use smell and taste, we’re likely to be hungry and all our senses will be shouting ‘let me eat you now’.
But when it comes to viewing photographs of food; we must rely on one sense only; sight. Many meals without the benefit of smell, taste and appetite are simply not going to cut the mustard visually.
That’s our first problem.
The second one is that the purpose of the food photography is absolutely key to the photographic style. Think kebab shop pictures vs high end restaurants. Think good affordable, chain restaurant family grub vs Michelin Star artistry.
Depending on the type of food, ambience of the establishment, audience, brand and where the photography is to be displayed; any photographic shoot involving food will require an entirely bespoke approach.
Which is where a seasoned commercial photographer comes in.
An experienced photographer will be able to advise on dinner and glassware. Lighting. Setting. Creative ideas such as showing ovens or chefs. Arrangement of food to show it off in its most appertising light. Working with dishes that may not work well in photography (think enormous portion of saucy curry; it’s the last thing most people want to look at).
So here’s my top ten tips for ensuring the food images on your website or menu make your customers’ mouths water and stomachs rumble;
1. Ensure the presentation is as good as it can possibly be. Clean table and tableware. No clutter or distracting objects in the background or foreground. Food placed carefully and beautifully on a nice plain colour table.
2. Think about the choice of dishes you use on your website. Those covered in a sauce will need to be carefully thought out to ensure they are visually attractive. A garnish or sprinkling of a topping may provide a pleasing element and variety to a dull looking (albeit delicious) dish.
3. Ensure food does not look dry or curled up; you may need to be producing food and photographing in quick succession.
4. Use crockery and portion sizes that are accurate and reflect your brand. Bustling family authentic Italian? Use Mediterranean crockery; show the portion sizes you offer, perhaps incorporate other items that support the brand such as olive oil dispensers or a bread and olive basket. Contemporary/stylish high-end cuisine? Use large size white plates. Present the food like a work of art, using the space carefully. Show off unusual dishes and features.
5. Get the lighting right. The lighting is crucial with any photography, but especially with food. Allow as much natural light as possible to set off true colours and vibrancy of the food. Check, and be aware of the lighting used in a restaurant setting. Tungsten or fluorescent lights can affect the colour balance in the camera, with unappetising orangey or blue-tinged results.
6. Accessorise in a stylish manner. A napkin here. A piece of cutlery there. Something to add a little creative touch to the scene.
7. Be careful when you hit zoom. A zoom should be a wonderful thing when it comes to food; showing off the item in all its quality and mouth-watering splendour. But you’ll need to know what you’re doing.
8. Watch your angles. A shot taken at a slight angle can cause plates to look lopsided and distract from the food. Clever use of angles however can make a tall glass look majestic; a long platter appear endlessly enticing or aerial plate shots look funky and artistic.
9. Photographing drinks or fancy cocktails? Again, artistry, style and lighting is everything. Vibrant colours, interesting background and sparkling clean glassware can make for stunning, dazzling irresistible beverages. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive drink.
10. Choose a commercial photographer who has experience in food and drink photography. It really is a specialist skill. Done well it can ensure your food products sell like hot cakes.
If you would like to see my food photography portfolio, feel free to contact me.