I’ve loved taking pictures for as long as I can remember. I grew a much deeper appreciation when I took a Black and White Film Photography course in College. The joy of capturing moments and still lifes has never gone away for me. I started taking pictures of my food in earnest while on the Whole30 challenge. It started as a way to chronicle and share my journey on Instagram. It turned into a passion to use my photography skills to artfully capture my plate. The interesting thing about photographing food is that you are taking pictures of both the food and the setting. So today I’m sharing a beginner’s style guide to food photography with you.
A Beginner’s Style Guide to Food Photography
As with all photography advice I must start with the most quintessential element of them all. Lighting. Natural lighting to be specific. Natural lighting is your friend. However, the key is for the light to be indirect. Harsh direct lighting on your food is not your friend. I recommend shooting were you have a good source of beautiful, natural lighting streaming in. Or even take your food outside as long as shade is available.
I generally take pictures of breakfast because I am taking advantage of the morning light. In the summer, when the days are longer, dinner gets featured as well.
Styling the Food:
- Go for a variety of color: I’m not saying you can’t go for a monochromatic color scheme, but it doesn’t really pop when it comes to shooting food. Here’s an example of how I build a plate. Let’s say I make poached eggs. Start with a bed of leafy greens, spinach or kale go great with eggs. I usually use white plates so the green creates a nice contrast between my plate and eggs or a piece of meat. Otherwise I have white on white and it’s hard to define the food against the plate. Next I add a nice vivid pop of color from a cherry red tomato or an orange sweet potato. Last to go on the plate is a sliced apple or a side of mushrooms.
- Give it a little layer: Remember that bed of leafy greens we just talked about? I love layers in photography. They bring in texture and contrast. So don’t be afraid to stack your food and let things overlap.
- Cut into it: Take a few shots of your untouched food first just in case. Then grab a fork or a knife and cut into it. I do this especially if I’m shooting eggs. Which, you may have figured out, tends to be the star of my food photos. I like eggs. Sorry, not sorry. It adds interest if you take a bite and leave the fork in the photo. Like someone is actually eating the food. And I do by the way… eat the food.
- Slice and fan things out: You can never go wrong taking fruit and veggies, slicing them up and fanning them out. You can even get fancy and make strawberry or avocado roses.
- Drizzle over it: Back with that texture and contrast. Plus it just looks pretty. I love drizzling almond or cashew butter over a sliced apple or a sliced banana. Tastes delicious too!
- Sprinkle seasoning or a garnish on top: Creates layers, dimension, texture and contrast. This can be done with things like spices, dressings, seeds, nuts and herbs.
Now, don’t worry, this isn’t a check list. Feel free to try these tips out individually or together in whatever combination you decide. Food photography, like any other photography is an art! Apply basic techniques and enjoy the styling. Before you know it your aesthetic will start to shine through.
Add props to the picture:
Now that you have a beautiful plate of food focus on the surrounding. Here’s some ideas of “props” to bring into your photos: Plants, flowers, glasses and/or mugs, silverware, napkins, books, Also try using your hands. I love bringing in that human element.
I layer smaller plates on bigger plates, use cutting boards and trays, kitchen towels, even cookie racks in my pictures.
When it comes to adding props, work with what you have on hand. See a running theme of succulents in my photos? It adds a pinch of my personality because I love succulents. And plants are pretty.
Getting the Shot:
Figure out your style. I tend to focus on a shot from above angle most of the time. My food photography is generally for Instagram so I’m usually thinking in terms of those little squares. I also use my iPhone for 99.9% of my food photography. However, when shooting for the blog I like to work with my DSLR, so for this post I did a photo shoot with my Canon, so I could share a variety of angles with you! What do you think? Do you prefer food shots from above, the side or a mixture of both?
So there’s a snapshot of how I plate my food and style my food photos! Did you find these tips helpful? I’d love it if you shared your favorite tip below.