Tips to improve your food photography

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE GAP BETWEEN THE BEAUTY OF YOUR FOOD AND THE IMAGES YOU TAKE


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If you own a restaurant or you are a food blogger you know how important it is to show great photos of your dishes. After all, it’s because of the images that people are drawn to your website/blog.
But how to achieve this on your own? Here are some tips to get you started.

The lighting

Forget about the idea of “the more light, the better”: lighting in photography is not about quantity, but quality. We don’t want to use the yellowish kind of artificial light you have in your home or in your restaurant, because in most cases it’s really unflattering and difficult to control. What we want is pure indirect daylight: set the table near a big window, where the sun doesn’t get directly, and turn off all the other lights.
Now take a photo and see the difference.

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Tell a story

To give more visual power to your food images you need to tell a story. For example, if you’re photographing a breakfast meal, include a beautiful cappuccino in your pic; if it’s a cake, include some utensils or egg shells. 
Garnishing your photo will also improve your image tremendously: add some raw ingredients, like a sliced lemon or some fresh herbs.

Find some interesting backdrops

Your dish might be looking great, but if you put the plate on a plastic table your food won’t look so incredible anymore. The best surfaces for food photography are wood, stone and monochromatic, depending on the mood you want to give to your images. 
Nobody says they need to be “real” wood or stone: instead of looking for expensive rustic tables, buy posters or scrapbook paper that look similar to wood or stone; you can also use cutting boards or pastry boards. 
Your food will look stunning.

Invest in a good camera/lens

To take a good photo you don’t need expensive gear, true. But it helps.
Without going into complicated technicalities, a good camera with a good lens will capture better light, will sharpen the photo and will make the colors pop. It’s an investment that can really make the difference in your food photography.

Mind the angle

What is it that you’re photographing? What’s important to highlight? Not all the food is the same, and neither is the camera angle you should use.
As a general rule, in food photography you want to place your camera between 25 and 75 degrees in relation to your subject. It’s a very versatile angle and it works most of the times. 
If you are taking photos of something flat, like a pizza, you might however take the photo from a 90 degree angle (the so-called “birds eye view”). The same goes with dishes where you want to show the layers or the height of the food, like burgers or cakes: in that case you want to place the camera at 0 degree, for a straight-on view.


Editing

To make your food look even better, learn how to use simple editing software. I personally use Adobe Lightroom, but anything will do: you just need some tools to enhance the photo, correct the lighting and adjust the contrast.


Have fun!

Personally, I believe that taking photos of food is incredibly fun. I love to play with the colors and the textures. If you don’t agree with me, then you should ask someone else to photograph your food: it takes passion to show passion.

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From day to night

I took this photo when I was in south of Italy, some weeks ago.
I was at the daily market, taking some pictures, and went for a walk along the beach, to have a look at the fishing boats. Facing the sea there is a beautiful medieval castle, built by the Hohenstaufen during the 13th century. It’s surprisingly well preserved, and despite the fact that this has always been a land of battles and occupations, time has only scratched its walls.
Anyway, when I went home and looked at this photo I saw nothing.

Was about to bin it, but then at a second look I saw some potential. 
What if I change something?
What if it was taken at night? 
But I can’t go back at night.
Then what if I make it look like it was taken at night?
So I turned my laptop on, opened my notebook, grabbed my graphic tablet and started playing around: I darkened it, I added some blue, desaturated a bit, painted the lights, the flares, the rain. Different kinds of rain, ‘cause otherwise it would look too fake. A bit of fog here and there.
I had to stop myself after a while, ‘cause the possibilities were unlimited.
It doesn't look great, it was just a fun thing to do, I didn’t even put that much effort in making it look like a very realistic scene, but it opened a whole new world of opportunities: editing photos is an art itself, and your only limit is your imagination.

The colour of sun and wheat

As a wedding photographer, there’s one thing that I notice every time I step into a church: tones and colours. 
Here in Denmark there’s a lot of white and grey, sometimes blue tiles, sometimes red bricks, and a lot of dark wood: usually, the atmosphere is quite cold.
In the warm south of Europe the dominant colour is yellow. The colour of sun and wheat.
Where I am from, it’s very common to find old buildings made of tuff: palaces and churches with big, rough, porous bricks. It looks like a soft sponge that you can squeeze. 
In some other areas, like in Sicily, the most common rock is yellow marble.
These rocks contribute to give your photos a sense of warmth that you couldn’t achieve otherwise.
And as a wedding photographer, that’s very important.