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.

January

These days everyone is talking about the cold, the snow, the storm and blablabla.
So I want to give my contribution with this photo taken a year ago, January 2016.
I had just started working with Nixonbui, a Copenhagen based menswear brand.
We were planning some fashion photographs for their website. So to reflect the brand’s philosophy, made of tribal traditions and urban attitude, we decided to simply take some clothes and go shoot outside.
In the nature. 
In the coldest days of the year.
We went to a park in Copenhagen, near Vestamager. The weather was perfect for the kind of vibe we were looking for: misty and foggy. The water was a sheet of ice and the colours were enhanced by the clouds. It was so cold though that after a while I couldn’t feel my fingers.
And yeah I got mocked all day ‘cause I was wearing sneakers in the frozen mud (I’m a city girl).
But the outcome was spectacular.

Photo reportange: Milan

I spent some beautiful days in Milan last week.
I didn’t know the city, as I hadn’t been there before, but I loved its coherence and its contradictions from the first moment: elegance, style and subtle religiousness, avant-garde and tradition, noise and silence. This is what Milan gave me.
I wanted to improve my street photography skills, and show things as I was experiencing them.
Here you can see some photos I took with my invisible compact camera.

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.

Inspirational toilets

"Don't think you have arrived, when your journey has only just begun"
(common expression in Italy)

I’ve met too many photographers that consider themselves “arrived”, as they don’t need to improve their skills. There’s so much more in visual arts than the few rules of composition we read about in photography books. And you don’t need lamps and a studio to take cool photos.
Inspiration is everywhere.
The picture below was taken at Arken Museum, near Copenhagen. But that’s not a cool corner of the building or an interesting piece of art: that’s the toilet. Me and my (weird) friend were just in line, when we saw the light wall and started being silly.
I love the outcome.

The magic number

"Number is the ruler of forms and ideas, and the cause of gods and daemons"
Cit. Pythagoras.

I started studying art when I was very young.
I couldn’t even read, but I would spend a lot of time looking at images and making drawings out of them. One thing was very clear to me, since then: 3 is a crucial number in composition.
Years later, when I could read, I found out that 3 is an important number in every field of knowledge: it’s recurring in music, in history, in mythology, in psychology, in philosophy. 
It’s the first number that forms a geometrical figure, the triangle.
It’s the number of time (part, present and future; or beginning, middle and end). 
It’s a sacred number in many religions.
In visual arts, 2 elements can be together or opposite, but 3 elements give to the image a sense of balance and structure: 3 elements are pleasing to the eye, cause they bring harmony.
So next time you take a photo with 3 elements in the composition, be aware of the sense of balance and stability you’re giving to that photograph.

Making decisions

Yesterday I met a couple getting married next year, to talk about their wedding photos. It was our first meeting, so we talked a bit of what we do and what we like, and I explained them why I love shooting weddings: because it’s very challenging. 
During a wedding you have no control over the location, the weather, the light, the rain, the mood, the development of the event. You can’t decide where and when to take photos: if it’s outdoor and in bright sun, you’ll just have to adjust to that. You can’t waste time deciding what to do, or you’ll miss the moment, and the “moment” is the very core of wedding photography. 
It’s a matter of making decisions as fast as possible.
This picture I’m showing you was taken in very poor light conditions: there was no direct light on the couple and - stupid me - I didn’t have the time to go get my flash and put it on my camera. It was so dark that my camera had issues with the focus. Luckily for me, my camera can deal pretty well with high ISO, so the only option was: high ISO, combined with the largest aperture possible. 
There.

Come home soon, love

“I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest” Helene Hanff

In photography like in every other field there’s always something new to learn, and if you want to be a skilled photographer you’ll have to study and read and keep yourself updated.
I read lots of magazines and books about photography or about art in general.
I buy books in secondhand stores, not just because it’s cheaper and good for the environment, but also because I love to find signs of other human beings: reading pages someone else has turned, finding notes in the margins and flyleaves forgotten inside the book, reading passages someone else has underlined.
So the other day I was walking in Copenhagen and found a bookstall. Saw a book called “Criticizing photographs”, by Terry Barrett, and brought it home, left it on a shelf and forgot about it. This morning, I saw it and started turning its pages when I found this lovely note: “Come home soon, love”

Nixonbui

If you don't know yet about Nixonbui, you should really look into it: it's a new menswear brand, whose values are a blend of tribal virtues and modern ideals. I have no doubt that these guys will take over Copenhagen first, and the whole Scandinavia soon: they believe in the brand and they have all the skills to make it work, and that's already half of the job.
Their energy is contagious!