FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY: STYLING AND SETTINGS

Introduction:

One of the most challenging niches of photography is food photography. Taking eye-catching and captivating images of food goes beyond just pointing your camera and shooting. You have to carefully construct the image until you reach the perfect balance of reality and art.

Also, You have to perfectly place every piece and this can be quite challenging but rewarding if you do get it right. You are telling stories with your food images whether it is an after-party from the perfect cocktail or the homemade roasted chicken recipe on the farm. Indeed some shoots are more tasking than others.

See also: Food photography Tips

To help you cope and improve your work in food photography, here are some tips. With these tips, you will greatly improve your food photography and tell better stories.

Know Your Camera’s Settings

It is important to understand your camera settings in order to come up with the best image possible. Know what each setting does in relation to one another and how best to combine them. For example, Aperture (F-Stop) controls the amount of light entering a camera lens. The wider the aperture, the more light you will let into your camera, and the brighter your image will be. The narrower the aperture, the darker the image will be.

The most common aperture setting used for food photography is the Av mode. This mode automatically adjusts shutter speeds to find the ideal light most suitable for your subject. Shutter speed controls how fast or slows your shutter opens and closes. Faster shutter speeds will let in less light, leaving you with a darker photograph while the opposite holds true for slow shutter speeds. ISO is about a camera’s digital sensor.

It is most useful in low light settings when an open aperture may not be able to produce a clear enough image alone. For food photography, always aim for an ISO of 400 or less, and totally avoid going higher than 1600 on most commercial cameras.

Natural Light

Natural light will help illuminate your photograph very well and also transform your food photograph better than any Photoshop filter. However, not all natural light is created equal. Don’t be tempted to go shooting in a bright patch of unshaded sunlight.

See also: 10 Images That Changed the Course of Photography

The harsh direct lighting from shooting in u shaded light can give your food dark shadows. If you are photographing a snack that is naturally light in colors such as like oatmeal or mashed potatoes, exposing it to direct sunlight might cause its texture to look shapeless, and render the entire image overexposed.

When photographing food, look for an area of shade on a sunny day. A shaded window sill, tree covering, or even propping an umbrella up over your food will give you that evenly lit, textured, and defined aesthetic that separates one food photograph from the next.

Flash

Avoid the use of flash totally in food photography unless it is a stylistic choice. Using flash for food photography can create glare, giving a slice of birthday cake an animated, shiny look. Using flash can also create the confusing illusion of “floating food.”

This phenomenon results from flash bouncing off a white plate, making the plate look indistinguishable from the table, and causing your food to look like it is floating in mid-air. So, try to avoid flash at all costs when shooting food images.

You want your food images to make the viewer want to pick the food item off the plate and take a bite, the flashlight will unfortunately not make that happen as it will render you food looking too greasy or space-bound.

Composition

Composition is important if you want to create great images that will leave a lasting impression on the viewer. It is no different in food photography. If you take a look at any great food photograph, you will notice the main dish is rarely the only subject in the frame.

It is common for food photographers to style their images with background dishes, utensils, napkins, and other ingredients in a bit to draw the eye towards the main subject of the image. That way, they add interest to a picture. Apply the rule of thirds to your image. It is a well-known fact that when we look at photographs, our eyes are naturally drawn to certain intersection points of a frame.

The rule of third allows photographers to capitalize on this. To follow the Rule of Thirds, simply imagine that your frame is divided into an even nine-part grid, just like a Sudoku puzzle. Then position the main subject of the photograph either at the intersections of these lines or along them. However, the rule of thirds doesn’t have to be applied at all times such as when you just want to zoom into a piece of food to show off its delicious texture.

Also, you have to decide what angle is best to shoot your image from during composition. While a lot of food photographers like to shoot their subjects from a bird’s eye view, there are lots of other options to equally create great images. For example, for a subject that has some height to it, you may want to consider shooting from a straight or slightly tilted 45-degree angle in order to best show off its defining factors.

Food Styling

Composing your photograph will help to add interest and focus to it no doubt but great food photography needs great food styling as well. Employing unique and creative stylistic choices will help to draw people’s interest to the main subject in the frame.

Here are some styling techniques for you to keep in mind:

• Use your best-looking plate, bowl, or serving dish.
Be bold and creative with your choices. Don’t be afraid of trying unconventional options like wooden plates, marble cutting boards, or stone bowls and see how they work for your photographs.
• Don’t forget about cutlery.
Employ the use of cutlery in your image to give the viewer the sense that they can just dive right in and eat away.
• Use fresh ingredients as background details.
Freshen up your image with fresh food ingredients such as fresh pepper.


• A cloth napkin will add color and texture to an image.
You can be creative with your choice of a napkin to further improve your image. For example, a blue linen napkin behind a roast chicken can help make the image pop while a detailed or embroidered napkin can add texture beside a bowl of soup.
• Don’t forget the garnish.
Garnishing your food can take the image a notch higher. A sprinkle of parsley, for example, can add life to a brown-hued plate of Bolognese.

Trust Your Eye

The most important tool a photographer has is his or her eyes. Achieving a good food photograph comes down to trusting yourself. If you have followed all tips for taking great food photos and still feel something isn’t right, it probably isn’t: go with your instincts and never be afraid to break the rules as every image is different.

Establish a Style

This is especially important. You want it so that people can easily pick out your work from a group of images. Create a style of your own, that way you can stand out.

Consider Extra Equipment

Investing in a ton of equipment is not a necessity for you to capture the perfect food image but with the right gear, you can get the perfect food image without relying too much on the time of day or the weather. So what sort of gears should you be looking at if you want to be able to shoot food images?

Tripod

A tripod isn’t a necessity for amateur food photographers who have their primary audience on Instagram. Professional food photographers, on the other hand, make use of the tripod for their high-profile recipe book and food magazines. Tripods help you achieve better image stabilization during a photoshoot.

Bounce Card

Another piece of gear you should consider is a bounce card. This piece of gear is quite cheap and you can own one at a cost less than $5. A bounce card is a large white surface which can be propped up to reflect light back onto a subject, thereby helping to eliminate unwanted shadows. Even if you are shooting u deer near-perfect lighting conditions, a bounce card can be extremely helpful in getting an evenly lit shot.

See also: The Choice And Use of Reflectors

Black Board

You can use a black board to absorb excess light. It is useful if you want to remove the light from an image, either to create a darker effect or ensure a photograph isn’t going to end up overexposed if you’re shooting in bright light conditions. They look like bounce cards only that they are black.

Artificial Lighting

This is necessary for a professional photographer because there is no guarantee there will be an oversized window with sunlight streaming in at every photo shoot location. So you may have to turn to artificial light to make up for this in some situations.

A very common method is to use studio lights with softbox attachments because they help mimic the natural light we all prefer. Sadly, these artificial lighting options and soft ox attachments usually don’t come cheap at all and they can be bulky. If you are unable to go for the more expensive options yet, you can improvise by placing two desk lamps on either side of a subject and use a bounce card discussed above to reflect light back onto the frame.

Post-processing

It is important to edit your image to add a few touches to it in order to improve the overall appearance of the picture. Editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom can help you turn a good picture into a great one. Although, there is equally good editing software available for download on your mobile phone, both iOS, and Android.

Some popular photo-editing mobile apps include VSCO Cam, Photo Editor by Aviary, and Snapseed. These apps all come with preset filters as well as built-in correcting features. Bear in mind that if you decide to use a pre-set filter on a food image, you should endeavor to always make the image look as natural as possible.

Using some heavy filters may leave the food looking like it’s fake or even takes away from the subject’s natural texture.

Conclusion

Tips on how to style a food photography image as well as useful camera settings have been discussed. Follow them and observe a remarkable change in results next time you attempt food photography.

Author: Arinze

A Photography enthusiastic. I work with a group of other professional photographers to provide you tips on photography

About Arinze

A Photography enthusiastic. I work with a group of other professional photographers to provide you tips on photography

View all posts by Arinze →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *