5 Tips for Mouth-Watering Food Photography
As winter winds down and spring colors are showing up on our trees and our tables here at SmugMug, we’ve put together our favorite tips for taking the best photos of your food.
1) Crop the fluff.
First and foremost, your food is your subject. Crop out any non-essentials to your scene, like salt and pepper shakers, extra chairs, and hungry guests waiting for you to put the camera away. To help with this, shoot your dish from every angle: low, head-on, even from directly above. You’ll find the perfect perspective for any palate.
2) Use soft, diffused, angled light.
Natural light is a surefire way to bring out the best in your food photos, so if you have the opportunity, shoot your food near a window. Morning light tends to be cooler in temperature than evening light, but as long as your light source is soft, bright, and off to the side, you’re ahead of the game. Don’t be afraid to overexpose and make your scene glow if it means you pick up all those tasty details in the shadows. And if it’s dark by dinnertime, try bouncing your flash off the ceiling or a wall to spread the light evenly across the scene. Done right, this can mimic the cool, tranquil light of a perfect spring morning.
Mobile tip: Use your favorite photo app that lets you pick an exposure spot, and use an image-stabilization mode if available to get the cleanest shot. Many filters also brighten the image for you when you’re stuck in low-light situations.
3) Hands off!
Take your photos before you start eating and keep your fingers out of the shot. You’re creating a moment of delicious tension when your guests are seated, the wine’s uncorked, and everything’s ready to go. It’s a perfect culinary fantasy, so why show teeth marks and someone else’s hands? Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule—like when you’re documenting the step-by-step cooking process or showing your guests having a great time.
4) Get close. REALLY close.
Fill the frame and focus on texture. There’s nothing more sad than a tiny, blurry burger in the center of a huge table. You want your food to look larger than life—the size it looks when you’re just about to take that first bite!—so get as close as your lens allows. To emphasize this, use shallow depth of field and nail the focus, or boost the bokeh by applying a background blur when editing.
5) Make it pop!
Forget black and white—is there anything more bland than monochrome food? Try to find the most festive berries, herbs, and other ingredients that add pops of color all around your shot. With bold, beautiful ingredients in season all year-round, you’re sure to have colorful elements on hand to make your photo a mouth-watering masterpiece.
Also, don’t hesitate to get creative with your presentation and dishware. Your favorite china is dying to complement your cooking by creating a neutral backdrop or by adding more visual interest to the scene.
Bonus Tip: Use your photos on recipe cards.
Why keep things to yourself? Once you’ve taken photos of your favorite creations, turn them into recipe cards using one of our 4x8 or 5x7 card templates. Recipes are a treasured, personal gift that anyone can enjoy.
Happy shooting! Here’s to good eating and fabulous photo sharing this year.
Written by Nathan Landau
Mar 16, 2020 · 4 min read